Proverbs 31d

Some New Year’s Eve Advice.

“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed.” – Proverbs 31:4-5 NET

There is no other day more associated with drinking and alcohol consumption than New Year’s Day, and as we stand on the cusp of yet another year-end celebration, it’s interesting that our Proverb for today carries a warning against the consumption of alcohol.

While the Scriptures do not completely prohibit the use of alcohol, there are plenty of verses that warn against it. Yes, there are some religious groups that abuse and misinterpret those verses, but there are just as many that ignore them altogether. In our desire to justify our use of alcohol, we tend to portray the Scriptures as seemingly silent on the topic. But repeatedly in the Book of Proverbs we have seen Solomon warn his sons, and vicariously, us as well, about the inherent dangers of alcohol consumption. In Proverbs 31, King Lemuel is warned against the guzzling of wine. This passage isn’t prohibiting the use of alcohol, but the abuse of it. To deny the use of alcohol in the court of a king in those days would have been unheard of. It would have been absurd. But excessive use of alcohol should be avoided at all times, especially by those who hold positions of responsibility and authority over the lives of others. The problem is that alcohol distorts the senses, muddies the mind and can lead to poor decision making. Whether you’re a king, national leader, company president, or parent, the last thing you should want is to have your mind clouded by alcohol, rendering your judgment impaired and your ability to perform your responsibilities diminished.

I have had far too many conversations with the wives of husbands who have a drinking problem. These men, while in most cases, hard workers and loving husbands and fathers, allow alcohol to destroy their ability to lead and protect as they should. As Lemuel is warned, when they drink, “they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed.” They lose their moral bearings, their sense of right and wrong, their understanding of justice. In the end, they make unwise decisions and put their families at risk – financially, emotionally and even physically. Alcohol in all its forms can be deadly and deadening. Solomon warns us, “Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise” (Proverbs 20:1 NLT). Here are a few of the other admonitions about wine and alcohol in the Book of Proverbs:

“Those who love pleasure become poor; those who love wine and luxury will never be rich.” – Proverbs 21:17 NLT

“Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” – Proverbs 20:1 NLT

“Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper.” – Proverbs 23:30-32 NLT

In Proverbs, wine and mixed drinks are closely associated with the wicked and with the immoral woman. It is almost always used in the sense of excess and over-indulgence. It appeals to the senses and the sensual side of man. It can dull our senses and feed the sinful side of our sensual nature. There is a need for wisdom when it comes to the use of alcohol. We must be fully aware of its dangers. We must acknowledge its ability to impact and impair our judgment. It is a mind-altering, mood-enhancing substance that, if used wisely and appropriately, can have positive benefits. But it can also be misused and abused. It can destroy and divide. It can be used to escape reality and avoid responsibility. It can bring pleasure but it can also produce immoral behavior.

As we get ready to celebrate another New Year, alcohol will be a major player in many of the parties we attend. There will be the temptation to drink, and with it will come the risk of getting drunk. As a result, under the influence of alcohol, things will be said and done that would normally never take place. Guards will be let down, inhibitions will be let go of, and regrets will be many when it is all said and done. “Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise” (Proverbs 20:1 NLT). Be careful out there! And Happy New Year!

Father, we need wisdom. Give us insight and understanding that we might make wise decisions when it comes to the use of alcohol in all its forms. Open our eyes to its uses and abuses. Don’t let us think we can escape its dangers or that we are above its negative influences. We see the destructive nature of it in our society on a daily basis – lives ruined and even ended. In our pursuit of personal rights and pleasure, we tend to lose sight of reality and jettison our need for wisdom and understanding. Protect us from ourselves. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 28d

And Justice For All.

“Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.” – Proverbs 28:5 NLT

Those four simple words are part of the United State’s pledge of allegiance. As children, many of us recited them each day in the classroom in some bygone era. But what do they mean? What would justice for all look like and does it ever really happen? The verse for today tells us that justice is understood only by those who follow the Lord. Those who are wicked, evil, bad, or simply choose to reject the way of the Lord have no understanding of what justice is. They tend to see it from their own perspective and define it for their own good. But according to the NET Study Bible, the Hebrew word for justice used in this verse (mishpat), refers to the legal rights of people, decisions that are equitable in the community. It has a communal aspect to it. It’s not just about MY rights, but the rights of all. And those who follow the Lord will understand justice from that perspective because God is concerned about justice for all. He is concerned for the rights and welfare of the poor, needy, disenfranchised, neglected, abused, and all those who lack representation and protection. God cares about the alien and foreigner, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the servant, the falsely accused and the unfairly treated. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus simply said, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind,’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT). Love God. Love others. There it is. We are just as obligated to love others as we are to love God, because to fail to express love to those made in the likeness and image of God by the very hand of God is a slap in the face of their creator.

A big part of expressing love to others is through our efforts in assuring that they receive justice. It is making sure that their rights are protected and their status as one of God’s creatures is maintained. Justice is not just an arbitrary requirement placed on man by God. It is part of His very nature, His character. God is just and righteous and always does what is right – every time, all the time. So God expects His people to love justice just as much as He does. He requires them, as His representatives, to make sure that all men receive justice. One way we do this is by ensuring that just and righteous men and women are elected to high offices in our nation. Otherwise, we will experience exactly what Proverbs 28 warns us about. “A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear” (Proverbs 28:15 NLT). “A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people” (Proverbs 28:16 NLT). “When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding” (Proverbs 28:12 NLT).

Justice is an expression of God’s character. Injustice is anti-God. Ignoring the needs, rights, and concerns of others is selfish and, ultimately, sinful. It is ungodly, unrighteous, unloving, un-Christlike, and unacceptable in the life of a believer. To love others as we love ourselves is to do whatever we can to protect them, provide for them, and speak for them when necessary. Injustice is all around us, because sin and Satan thrive on it. Sin and Satan prey on the weak, pitting the strong against them. Our enemy’s objective is to divide and conquer. Rather than community, he strives to create disunity. He breeds selfishness and self-centeredness. He thrives in an atmosphere filled with narcissism and self-gratification. He lulls mankind into a self-centered stupor that becomes insensitive and, eventually, oblivious to the injustice taking place all around us. But God calls for justice. He demands love expressed in actions. He calls us to love others as much as we love Him, as an expression of our love for Him. That’s quite a calling. And it’s one we have ignored for far too long.

Father, as Your followers, we of all people should be screaming for justice. And we should be expressing it through our love and actions. Open our eyes to all the injustice taking place around us. Give us Your heart and the fortitude to enforce Your justice in the world today. Let it begin in our own spheres of influence. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 27e

Worth Reflecting On.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” – Proverbs 27:19 NLT

What’s the state of your heart today? Not the organ that pumps blood through your body, but your inner man. The word “heart” is the Hebrew word leb, and it refers to man’s mind, will, heart, and understanding. It has to do with that inner part of us that drives us, motivates us and determines who we are and what we do. The heart is the seat of our emotions, the center of our decision-making, and the determiner of our actions. That’s why this proverb compares looking into our heart to see who we are really like to looking at our reflection in a calm body of water. It is when we take a long, honest look at out heart – and closely examine our will, choices, loves, decisions, and attitudes, that we will gain a true picture of who we really are. But too often we ignore the condition of the heart, in ourselves and in others. Instead, we judge one another based on externals. We judge based on what we see on the surface. But that can be deceptive and dangerous. We have the capacity to manufacture outward behavior that is designed to influence what others think of us. We can come across as self-confident, happy, successful, with all our proverbial ducks in a row. We can fool others into thinking that we have our act together. But on the inside, we can be a fractured mess. We can be a muddled mix of discontentment, anger, resentment, depression, fear, and anxiety. Our hearts can be far from God, but we have learned to sleep-walk our way through life, going through the motions and faking a form of piety that is purely surface-based, lacking any kind of depth or basis in reality. Others look at us and see us as having it together. But in time, the truth will come out. Our hearts will get exposed.

As believers, we must learn to look at the heart. That is where God focuses His attention. Back when God had sent the prophet Samuel to look for a candidate to replace Saul as king of Israel, He gave Samuel a piece of important advice: “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 NLT). The Lord looks at the heart. He isn’t impressed with outward appearances. He is not swayed by our swagger or blown away by our pious play-acting. He looks right into our hearts and sees what we’re really like. And we need to learn to do the same thing. But to do so is going to require a level of honesty and self-evaluation that is scary. We will have to use the Word of God to expose us for what we truly are. We are going to have to ask God to reveal all the flaws and faults that reside inside us. Rather than make excuses for our behavior, we will have to take the time to see what really motivated us to do what we did or say what we said. Instead of passing blame, we will have to consider the state of our own heart. Because the heart is the key to all that we do. The circumstances of life do not cause our behavior, they simply reveal what’s inside. A man with anger and resentment in his heart does not need much to trigger and release what’s inside. He will explode at the least little provocation. A fearful person does not require much for his fear to find its way to the surface. His fear will leak out at the least little sign of danger. The lustful person will find himself struggling with lust in the most unlikely of scenarios, because his problem is internal, not external.

Taking a long, hard look at the heart is a scary proposition. It requires a degree of honesty and transparency that is unheard of and uncommon in our day. We don’t want to see what’s in there. We don’t want to have to expose the hidden areas inside us that are the true motivator behind our attitudes and actions. We would much rather pass blame, make excuses, and continue our charade of false piety. But God looks at the heart. He examines and exposes its true condition. And He wants to change us from the inside out. So He goes to the source. He deals with the root problem. And so should we.

Father, give me the gumption to take a long, hard look at my heart. Help me see it as You do. I can’t see it without Your help. Open my eyes and help me see its true condition. Then give me the strength to change, through the power of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 26e

No Honor For Fools.

“Honor is no more associated with fools than snow with summer or rain with harvest.” – Proverbs 26:1 NLT

Why would you praise someone who is essentially worthless and unworthy? Why in the world would you elevate to high position someone who has shown themselves incapable of making wise decisions and using sound judgment? According the the NET Study Bible, “‘Honor’ in this passage probably means respect, external recognition of worth, accolades, advancement to high position, etc.” It seems ludicrous that anyone would want to bestow honor on someone who is undeserving, but the truth is, we do it all the time. A few areas in our society where it is rampant are professional sports, politics and entertainment. Every day we see young men being honored, praised and rewarded for their athletic prowess, while they live like fools. They are children in the bodies of grown men. They lack discernment, common sense, understanding and wisdom. They live as if they are invincible and spend their money like it is inexhaustible. We cringe at their antics and demand that they be role models for our children, but they lack the capacity. We cheer them, pay good money to watch them, and pin our sports hopes on them. Then we are shocked and disappointed when we read of their latest escapades. How about politics? As a society, we regularly elevate men and women to high positions who, while perhaps better educated, are just as foolish and lacking in wisdom as any professional athlete. Some of these career politicians have perfected the art of lying and, while elected as representatives of the people, have become much more concerned about their own well-being than the needs and wants of their constituents. They are self-aggrandizing, power-hungry fools who have no desire to rule according to God’s terms and in keeping with His commands. Yet we regularly re-elect them and give them another chance to prove their foolishness.

And then there is the entertainment world, filled with countless individuals who model the life of foolishness, living in a fantasy world filled with money, power, and popularity. Their lives are followed faithfully by adoring fans who watch their every move and listen to every word that comes out of their mouths, as if they were oracles spouting wisdom directly from the throne of God. Yet their lives are marked by lack of self-control, poor decision making, promiscuity, selfishness and self-centeredness, broken relationships, financial mismanagement, emotional instability and more. And yet, we honor and esteem them. We hold them up as icons of virtue and wisdom. We listen intently as they share their opinions on everything from gun control to world peace. They are rich and influential, but they lack wisdom, common sense, and discernment. And yet, we honor them.

But Solomon warns us, “Honoring a fool is as foolish as tying a stone to a slingshot” (Proverbs 26:8 NLT). What a vivid picture. Imagine the stupidity of tying a stone to a slingshot and expecting anything useful to happen as a result. It would be idiotic. And that’s exactly his point. When we honor those who are undeserving of honor, we are making a mockery of not only honor, but of the value of wisdom. The entire Book of Proverbs is filled with admonitions and reminders about the value of wisdom and it’s non-negotiable role in our lives. It is the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of this world. It is understanding, insight, discipline, discernment, common sense and wise living right from the throne of God Himself. Those who reject it are not to be honored and esteemed. They are not to be given places of responsibility and power. We shouldn’t elect fools or employ them. “An employer who hires a fool or a bystander is like an archer who shoots at random” (Proverbs 26:10 NLT). Fools are a menace to society. They are a danger to themselves and dishonoring to God. We are not to honor them, esteem them, elevate them, or to desire to be like them. Wisdom is God’s measuring stick. It is His standard of judgment. And it should be ours.

Father, forgive us for honoring fools in our lives. We make a mockery of wisdom every time we do. Give us the determination to live wisely and to look for others who do the same. Help us raise the standard and expect more from those who lead us. May we be a wise people who value wise living. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 24e

The Intimacy of Honesty.

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.” – Proverbs 24:26 NIV

Honesty is in short supply these days. We live in a world mired in half-truths and deception. Oh, we have plenty of people who claim to “tell it like it is.” But this is usually just another way of saying that they have an opinion and aren’t afraid to share it – no matter how many people they hurt along the way. Honesty in the Hebrew scriptures is about much more than bluntness or frankness of speech. It’s not just speaking your mind or getting something off your chest. It has to do with saying the right or equitable thing. There is an aspect of appropriateness and timeliness to honesty. It entails a certain degree of sensitivity and intimacy. Thus, the comparison in the passage to a kiss on the lips. In Solomon’s day, a kiss on the lips carried a lot of meaning. It was not something done lightly or flippantly. It signified love, devotion, sincerity, and commitment. It was a visible expression of what was in the heart. To kiss someone insincerely would have been unacceptable. To kiss someone on the lips would have given them the impression that you cared for them and that your relationship with them was close. But to do so insincerely, but without meaning it, would have been as unacceptable as lying to them.

When we are honest with someone, it is an expression of love. It shows that we care for them. But it is NOT just a willingness to be blunt with them, telling them whatever is on our heart without any regard for their feelings. Honesty involves intimacy. Honesty requires love. We lovingly express what is on our heart because we care and desire the best for them. We think about how best to say what is on our heart, so that those with whom we sharing will receive it well. Our motivation is love. Our desire is that they will benefit from our honesty, not be devastated by it. Sometimes we can attempt to be honest, but our motivation is to hurt, not help. We can say what is on our mind, simply out of anger or in an attempt to teach the other person a lesson. But the honesty Solomon is talking about is always for the good of the other. It has the other person’s best interest at heart, because it comes from the heart. It is honesty that aims at building the other person up, not tearing them down. It is honesty that is selfless, not selfish. We share what we share because we wish to make the other person better, not because we’re out to prove a point or voice our opinion. An honest answer is a loving answer. It is saying what needs to be said because you care for someone deeply.

Father, give us the capacity to be honest with one another because we truly care for one another. Teach us to share intimately and honestly out of love. Reveal to us any selfishness or self-centeredness that may be getting in the way. Help us to see when we our attempts at honesty are nothing more than poorly veiled efforts to hurt the other person. May our honesty always be motivated by love and focused on the well-being of the other person. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 21d

No Contest.

“No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord.” – Proverbs 21:30 NLT

If God were the petty and petulant type, I could almost hear Him say, “Oh, you think you’re so smart! Well go ahead, do it your way and let’s see how that works out for you!” This would be His response on those far too numerous occasions when I have decided to follow my own advice or put my own plan into action, all while rejecting anything He might have for me to do. But of course, God is not petty or petulant. He is patient. He is long-suffering and He simply allows us to learn our lessons the hard way – through experience. The simple truth is that there is NO human wisdom or understanding or plan that can stand against the Lord. But wait, you say, who in their right mind would want to stand against the Lord? Who would be dumb enough to go mano y mano with their Maker? Just every single person who has ever walked the face of this earth. Every one of us have stood against the Lord every time we have done things our way, instead of His. We have stood against the Lord when we have refused to seek out His will through time spent in His Word. Each time we have made a decision without consulting God or seeking His input, we have stood against Him. To stand against the Lord does not require a raised fist, a defiant gaze, and a declaration of war. It is not just the atheist or agnostic who stands against God, but every individual who chooses to reject His sovereign will and replace it with their own. Whenever I know what God would have me do and I willfully choose not to do it, I am taking a stand against God. And I will learn that my wisdom, understanding and plan is no match for Him. I will discover the hard way that His way is the best way, bar none.

There is another way in which we stand against God. When we listen to the lies of this world and accept the prevailing wisdom of the day. It could be something as simple as subtly succumbing to the if-it-feels-good-do-it mentality of our society. If we give into the pleasure-at-any-price mindset that dominates our culture, we are standing against God. If we worship work, idolize entertainment, make money our god, or seek satisfaction in anything or anyone other than God, we stand against Him. This world shakes its fist in the face of God and says, “We will do it our way!” It rejects His will, His way, and His Word. It relies on a wisdom that is neither godly or good. It depends on an understanding that is faulty, flawed and highly limited in its perspective. It makes plans that are short-sighted and self-centered, ultimately designed to elevate man to the role of god, making him the center of the universe.

But ultimately we all will learn that God’s wisdom, understanding and plan are not just optional, but mandatory. They are without match and incapable of being replicated or replaced. Regardless of whether our stand against God is subtle or arrogantly stubborn, the outcome is the same: We will fail. We will suffer defeat. We will discover our brand of wisdom is a cheap, unreliable knock-off of the real thing. We will find out that our understanding is limited and a lousy replacement for His. And we will become painfully aware that our plans are a poor substitute for He has sovereignly, lovingly created for us. It may take us a while, but we will learn.

Father, why is it that we so often have to learn our lessons the hard way? Why are we wired to have to do things according to our own plan, trying to depend on our own wisdom and relying on our limited understanding? All the while we have Your wisdom, will and Word available to us. Forgive us of our stubbornness and stupidity and thank You for Your unbelievable patience. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 20e

The Detestability of Dishonesty.

“The Lord detests double standards; he is not pleased with dishonest scales.” – Proverbs 20:23 NLT

Dishonesty has become a comfortable, close friend to a lot of us. No, we would never admit it and some of us may not even be able to recognize it. But if the truth be known, dishonesty has become a natural and normal part of our lives. It’s a subtle thing. We don’t think of ourselves as liars or cheats. We don’t try to take advantage of others by twisting the truth or falsifying information. But there is a tinge of dishonesty in our dealings with others and even in our relationship with God. And that should scare us, because Solomon warns us twice in this Proverb about God’s disdain and dislike for dishonesty in all its forms. Yes, he seems to be talking about financial dealings or dishonesty in commerce, but God’s hatred for double standards goes well beyond just false weights and unequal measures. If we deal with this passage so literally, we will all escape unscathed because none of us use actual scales and measures anymore. Those are antiquated business tools that no longer apply, but the heart behind them does. These verses are dealing with an attitude of dishonesty and deception in the heart of an individual that causes him to use any and all means at his disposal to take advantage of others for his own selfish gain. God despises it. He detests it.

While most of us would never think of cheating someone in a business transaction, we have probably fudged the facts slightly in order to make a sale or close a deal. We have withheld important information that we believe might hurt the negotiations. We may have not disclosed some income on our taxes or we might have over-estimated our income when applying for a loan. And what’s interesting is that we would be the first ones to scream, “Injustice!” if someone had done those same things to us. We would cry foul and demand restitution. That’s a double standard and God hates it. It flies counter to the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is why God hates dishonesty. It is disingenuous and incredibly self-centered. It reveals an attitude and heart that is self-focused and cares little for the well-being of others.

The problem with dishonesty is that it can become a habit. We can do it for so long and so well, that we even end up deceiving ourselves. We begin justifying our actions as acceptable and understandable, given the circumstances. We become sly and subtle in our dishonesty. And it can take on all kinds of forms. One of the most common is our tendency to act as if we’re something we’re not. We put on a facade and pretend to be something or someone other than who we really are. We act more successful than we are. We pretend to be more sophisticated than we actually happen to be. We try to give off the impression we are financially better off than our bank account might reveal. These are all forms of deception and dishonesty. Another common form of dishonesty is our unwillingness to be transparent and open with one another. Our lives could be cratering and falling apart, but we will put on the happy face and muster up the energy to try and fool all those who know us, just so they won’t know the truth about us. God hates it when we do this. It’s dishonest and deceptive. It is untruthful, and when exposed, causes those who know us to lose trust in us. People lose faith in us because we refuse to be honest with them about who we are and what we are going through.

One of the realities about dishonesty is that we may fool others, but we can never fool God. “The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive” (Proverbs 20:27 NLT). God sees all. He knows all. He is aware of every occurrence of dishonesty in our lives. He knows when we lie. He is aware every time we withhold the truth in any form or in any way. He is never deceived by our deception. And He despises, dislikes and disdains it when we attempt to cover up, hide, fake it, or live our lives dishonestly or deceptively. He is a God of truth. He longs to see His people live in integrity. The biblical concept of integrity is wholeness or completeness. It carries the idea of a life with no compartmentalization. There are no hidden areas. Not skeletons in the closet. We live our lives in integrity before God when we recognize that He sees all and so we stop trying to hide anything from Him. We wholly and holy before Him. No deceit, deception or dishonesty.

Father, help me to live openly and honestly before You. Show me when I am being dishonest because sometimes I think I have grown so accustomed to it that I don’t recognize it anymore. Don’t allow me to live in dishonesty and deceit. Remind me daily that You see the motives of my heart. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 19e

An Unexpected Outcome.

“Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace.” – Proverbs 19:26 NLT

A rebellious child. Nobody plans for one. But they also don’t just happen. At the same time, there is no magic elixir or five-step strategy that will guarantee you won’t have one. While we must do all we can to discipline our children while they are young and attempt to raise them in a godly atmosphere, there is no assurance that our children will never stray, never disappoint us or never become an embarrassment and a public disgrace. While our children are young and pliable, we must do all we can to teach them the truth of God’s Word and model for them the life of wisdom and righteousness that God desires. But as our children grow older, they also grow increasingly more independent, until they reach that inevitable point at which they must determine and decide their own faith and what they are going to do with all that they have been taught. What happens at that point has as much to do with their personality and the way they’re wired than anything else. Two children raised in the same home by the same parents and under the same set of rules can turn out completely different from one another – solely based on their personality profile.

Every day, countless parents ask the pain-filled, guilt-ridden questions, “Where did we go wrong?” “What could we have done differently?” “How could we have prevented this from happening?” No doubt, there are always answers to those questions. There are inevitably some things we could have done differently, better, or not at all. None of us are perfect parents. We make mistakes. We sin against our children. We overlook some sins in our children and overreact to others. We are inconsistent and non-perfect parents. But there are those times when our children turn out differently than we had hoped our dreamed, not so much because of our shortcomings as parents, but because of choices our children have made along the way. That is why Solomon cries out to his sons to listen to his instruction. He begs them to listen to what he is trying to tell them about wisdom and the life of righteousness. “If you stop listening to my instructions, my child, you will turn your back on knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27 NLT). “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life” (Proverbs 19:20 NLT).

But ultimately, every child must come to the point where they begin making their own choices and deciding what it is they believe. They must choose to listen to all that they have been taught and begin obeying it, not because they have to, but because they want to. Their faith must become a choice of the will, not an act of submission to their parents’ wishes. Watching your son or daughter choose to reject the faith you have tried to instill in them is a painful thing to endure. It is gut-wrenching. The word “mistreat” in this verse is probably a poor choice to convey the thought behind the original Hebrew word. It means, “to devastate, ruin or violently destroy.” This pictures a son or daughter who does some serious damage to their father. It could be financially, physically or even just emotionally. They devastate their father. Their actions bring him down, knocking the props out from under him. And they end up chasing or driving away their own mother. They want nothing to do with her. And as a result, they become an embarrassment and a public disgrace to their parents. How difficult it is to have to watch your children live ungodly lives in front of all who know you. Their lifestyle is in plain view of all and a constant reminder of what you could easily interpret as your own failure as a parent.

But at the end of the day, we must place our children in the hands of God. We are stewards, and not their saviors. We cannot make our children godly. We cannot make them righteous. All we can do is teach them the truth of God’s Word and model for them the life of faith and godliness. But ultimately, they will have to choose for themselves. They are free-will creatures who must one day choose God and accept His will for their lives. Many do, but some do not. Like the father of the prodigal son in scripture, we must continue to pray for them, looking for their ultimate return. We must turn them over to God and ask Him to do what only He can do. Only He can soften their heart and convict them of their rebellion. Because their sin, while painful to us as parents, is ultimately against God, not us. They are rejecting Him, not us. And only God can restore them to a right relationship with Himself. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Father, parenting can be a blessing, but it can also be hard work. There are times when it is difficult and things don’t turn out quite like we expected or wanted. Give us the faith to trust You even when things look dark and our children appear to have rejected us. Help us to recognize that their rebellion is against You and only You can restore them. Give us faith to trust You with the lives of our children, even when they don’t turn out the way we planned. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 18d

Crushed In Spirit.

“The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?” – Proverbs 18:14 NLT

We’ve all been amazed to watch other individuals endure unimaginable pain and suffering as a result of a debilitating disease or injury. We’ve observed them as they somehow managed to smile and maintain their composure even as they were going through seemingly unendurable tragedy. We wondered how they could do it. We questioned where they got the strength to go through so much and not give in to defeat. This verse tells us that the human spirit is a powerful resource in times of pain. It is life-sustaining and energy-giving, providing much-needed stamina and stability even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable circumstances. The very word “spirit” in the Hebrew language means “life or breath.” It is the essence of who we are as human beings. At creation, God “breathed” into man his life or spirit. It is God-given and therefore powerful. Our spirit is the very thing that sustains us through all of life.

But what happens when our spirit gets crushed? What do we do when the very thing that sustains us becomes broken and incapable of enduring? It can and does happen, and when it does, we find ourselves in a dangerous place, completely susceptible to the attacks of the enemy and open to his lies: “You are not loved!” “Nobody cares about you!” “Life is not worth living!” “God has abandoned you!” “Things are just going to get worse!” “Just give up!”

It is at those times that we must recognize that our spirits, because they are God-given, must also be God-sustained. We must look to Him for help and healing. As we read in Proverbs 17:22, “a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Without a healthy, whole spirit, we begin to find that our entire life, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, begins to suffer. We can easily lose our determination to endure, and ultimately, our will to live. In the Old Testament story of Job, he found himself in a place where he had lost everything – his health, his wealth and all of his children. But he somehow was able to endure, because his spirit sustained him. He was able to look at his dire circumstances and see God in the middle of them. He told his wife, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10 NLT). But there came a time, thanks to the incessant “counsel” of his friends, that Job began to lose heart. His spirit was slowly crushed under the staggering weight of their accusations of guilt. He began to lose hope and the will to live. He took his eyes off of the goodness of God and his spirit began to shrivel up inside of him.

It’s interesting that in His Sermon on the Mount, the very first thing Jesus said was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3 NIV). The poor in spirit are those who recognize the deficiencies of their hearts and turn to God for help. God came to heal our spirits and restore our souls. Without Him and without the death of Christ on the cross, our spirits were crushed, lifeless and incapable of sustaining us. But the kingdom of God was designed for just such people. The death of Christ was intended to deliver those whose spirits were crushed and dead. And He still gives life to our spirits today. When we feel down, defeated, and disheartened because of the events of life, we can turn to Him. God, who breathed life in us at creation, can breathe life into us spiritually. He can and will restore and revive us. Like Job, we will be able to say, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (Job 42:5 NLT). We will experience the life-giving, spirit-sustaining power of God first-hand and be able to say, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you” (Job 42:2 NLT).

Father, I find myself in a place where my spirit is crushed and broken. There is a sadness that threatens to overwhelm me, but I know I can come to you in my brokenness and receive hope and healing. You are my sustainer and strength. Help me keep my eyes focused on you and not my circumstances. Replace my sadness with joy and my despair with delight. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

Proverbs 17e

Correctly Handling Correction.

“A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool.” – Proverbs 17:10 NLT

How do you handle correction? When someone critiques your work or criticizes your efforts, do you get mad, upset, frustrated, lash out, throw it back at them, or simply clam up and turn away in hurt and disappointment? None of us actually like to be corrected, but how we handle it says a lot about the condition of our heart and the degree of our wisdom. You see, a wise person, one who sees things from God’s perspective and attempts to live in obedience to and dependent upon God for all that he does – that person tends to see correction as beneficial and an opportunity to reflect on his life and learn from it. If correction makes us mad, it is usually due to pride and a reluctance to want to see any fault in our lives. We don’t like to have our faults exposed. We don’t like to have our shortcomings made known. We spend a lot of time erecting our facade of respectability and reliability, so when someone corrects or criticizes us, we can naturally react in anger and resentment. But the truly wise person is fully aware of his weaknesses, even when he can’t see them. He knows he is not perfect, but is a work in process – he is constantly being transformed by God through a slow, steady process that requires the revealing of sin so that it might be confessed and forgiven, and the “putting on” of his new nature, the very nature of Christ Himself.

Here’s a simple test. The next time someone critiques or criticizes you, watch your reaction. Do you get angry? Ask yourself why. Take time to determine the cause of your anger. Are you angry because they exposed a mistake and made you look bad? Are you upset because they made you look silly in front of your peers? The truth is, even if their criticism of you is unwarranted and undeserved, if you get angry, there is something being revealed in your life that you need to see and learn from. Criticism oftentimes reveals the condition of our heart. While the person may be exposing a flaw in something we said or did, our reaction to it is revealing a problem with the condition of our heart. Our anger, resentment, desire for revenge, or tendency to pull away in self-pity, all reflect a heart condition. A person of understanding has the capacity to learn from moments like this. He is able to assess and accept the criticism and learn from it. A fool simply gets mad gets even. In fact, this verse tells us that you could beat a fool or give him a whipping of a hundred lashes, and he still won’t learn anything. But a person of understanding will learn from a single word of correction.

Wise people are always learning. They’re always open to critique – in fact, they invite it. They know they are works in process and appreciate any help they can get that helps them see areas of weakness in their lives. They have the capacity to take even correction given in anger as potentially positive, because they view it as if from the very hand of God. This all reminds me of a an incident in the life of King David. His son, Absalom, had taken over his kingdom and David was escaping from Jerusalem in an attempt to save his own life. On his way, a man named Shimei, began throwing stones at David, cursing him and calling him a murderer. David’s men wanted to kill him, but David’s reaction was interesting. He said, “No! Leave him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to do it. And perhaps the Lord will see that I am being wronged and will bless me because of these curses today” (2 Samuel 17:11-12 NLT). David took the words of this man as from the Lord Himself. He viewed the entire affair from a divine perspective. God was in control and God was fully aware of all that was going on. So David was content to let God teach him what he needed to learn through this situation.

How we handle criticism and correction reveals a lot about our relationship with the Lord. If the correction is accurate, we can learn from it. If it is wrong, and yet we still get angry, we can examine our reaction to it and see if there is something in our hearts that needs to be corrected. But either way, we can learn to correctly handle correction, and grow from it.

Father, help me learn to take correction well. Thank You that you are always exposing weaknesses in my life. I am always in need of correction. And I need to be open to critique. Otherwise, I can grow complacent or overly confident, seeing myself as better than I am. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men