Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 NLT
Today’s verse comes from chapter 4 of the book of Proverbs. This chapter is “A Father’s Wise Advice”, so it seems quite fitting to be mentioned after having just celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend.
I want to focus this morning on the phrase “above all else”.
It seems that when giving or receiving advice that we should pay most attention to the phrase “above all else”. As long as it isn’t over used (there should really only be one “above all else” if used properly) it should be effective in highlighting THE most important thing, ONE most important thing, a SINGLE most important thing.
And here, we see what that is — our heart, that we should guard it “above all else”.
It is our heart that is either surrendered to God in trust and in gratitude and respect (and yes, even in “Godly fear” like we studied yesterday) — our that is hardened to only be led by our own feelings and desires. When surrendered, we can stand firm and walk straight ahead, because there is One Way along the narrow path that leads us through an abundant life of purpose. But when we are blown back and forth by temptations, circumstances, and our own personal feelings and desires, we will waste so much effort and lose so much progress.
I read recently that with runners, swimmers, and other athletes, that any energy spent moving outside the plane of their intended travel is completely wasted and steals from their capability (for example, arms flailing out to the sides while running instead of pulling efficiently back and forth in the direction of travel). In sports science for professional athletes, they will even take videos of the athletes in action in order to identify the motions that are counterproductive towards improving their progress. Athletes must be single minded with a singular purpose and put all effort in that direction in order to reach their full capabilities and continue to break their own personal best records.
And this is so true of our lives, my friends. We must guard our hearts because this is the engine that will drive our everything today.
Do we not fully believe and trust in God and the fatherly wisdom that He has provided in The Word? Then we should decide today fully whether or not we will run this rave, whether or not we will follow in The Way. Because we are heading somewhere with our choices, decisions, words, and actions today — and it will influence and impact more than just ourselves. It matters.
Lord, help us today to be mindful of the critical importance of guarding our hearts, of choosing to believe and trust you, because it determines not only our day, but the direction of our lives. In Jesus Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
I learned about Mark Wahlberg’s daily schedule last night and began rethinking my own, so I read my chapters for today before bed and “slept on it” instead of reading it first thing. I took an intentional step last night to better prepare me for the day ahead — just like establishing and implementing a plan for exercise (both physical and spiritual) will better prepare me for the days ahead.
As I read Genesis 6, Psalm 6, and Joshua 6 last night, I found Noah finding safety from the world in his task of building the Ark, and David finding mercy in a time of trouble through prayer, and Rahab finding safety when Jericho fell because of her choosing to help the people of Israel — and this was a stark contrast to the depravity of mankind to be destroyed in the flood, the enemies who will turn back ashamed and horrified at what they have done to David, and the city of Jericho and everything in it utterly destroyed as a tribute to the Lord.
There was a clear contrast in each reading between what led these intentionally into safety, while others continued on unmodified towards their own destruction. And there is the same for us today.
Benjamin Franklin put this wisdom into easily accessible and non- religious words when he said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” And we also have some great quotable that we can pull from scripture about planning, about being intentional, and for aligning our purpose with God’s will:
Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
Proverbs 16:3 Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Luke 14:28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
We are choosing today to intentionally receive this word into our minds to be written upon our hearts. We ask our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who prays on our behalf at the right hand of God the Father, that our purpose and plan would established one step at a time in His will and His purpose. In that, we find safety not damger, and mercy not shame, and deliverance not destruction. We are no better than Noah the drunk, David the adulterous murderer, or Rahab the prostitute in our own sinfulness, so we rely upon the mercies, grace and blessings of the Lord just as they have. And just as they are no longer called drunk, murderer, and whore neither are we. By His blood and through the faith we have been granted, we are children of God. Safe in our Heavenly Father’s arms. Amen.
The worker who is careless with their tasks and idle with their time is poor and brings poverty to their people, While another worker’s diligence, resourcefulness, and efficiency makes himself and others rich.
This is even more true of their hearts and lives than their material wealth.
Be purposeful and drive forward with an intent to do great work — because diligence itself is an even greater reward than the honor, title, or compensation it might gain you.
Be attentive to opportunities, to lessons learned, and to solutions — because resourcefulness is an even greater reward than the honor, title, or compensation it might gain you.
Be mindful of your time and how your efforts might be maximized through sorting, prioritization, automation and delegation– because efficiency is an even greater reward than the honor, title, or compensation it might gain you.
Instead of seeking honor, title, compensation, or even a good reputation from others, focus on building for yourself a life of character — and those lesser things will follow.
Poor is he who works with a negligent and idle hand, But the hand of the diligent makes him rich. Pro 10:4 AMP
Integrity is not only doing the right thing when no one is looking — but it is doing the right thing when those who oppose you are looking and it will cost you more than you want to pay.
In the Old Testament Bible, Daniel didn’t make a big show of his own integrity, but his integrity was so much a part of his character — that those who hated him and wanted to usurp him knew that his integrity was the only guaranteed way that they could trap him. So they laid their plans in place for their trap, but the lions that they expected to kill him destroyed and devoured them and their families instead.
Lord, that enemy that roams around like a lion looking for someone to devour, may his mouth be shut towards your children who walk in integrity even when the cost is high — and may his mouth be open to devour and destroy those who make schemes, plot against and hate those who stand firm and true.
Many times I have failed you Lord, but I pray that I will never be found laying traps for the innocent and the upright intentionally. I pray that when my ignorance and foolishness has stumbled others that it was through my own negligence and not anything malicious or with evil intent.
But I do not even trust my own heart to have not deceived me in such things, Lord. Because there are those who I believe have wronged me, and treated me unfairly, and accused me strongly — those who my flesh cries out against them for justice, for retribution, for revenge — those who nevertheless, I must hand over to you in hopes that they might repent.
Even a man who wishes for “satisfaction” in this life has no longing for his enemy to face death, hell and eternal separation from God. And if I can wish that the whole of a man’s sin be forgiven to save him from the wrath of God, shouldn’t I also wish that his few wrongs towards me personally be forgiven? How prideful would it be to believe that another man’s sins towards me were worthy of lasting bitterness — but his sins against God were somehow “less” concern to me?
So integrity is also laying down our “rightful claims” against our enemies to pray for their salvation rather than their destruction — choosing to be a witness giving the benefit of doubt to our neighbor, rather than an accuser and and enemy of our brothers and sisters.
So if I cry out for justice, let it be against those powers and principalities working from the shadows against your people, Lord. Let me cry out against those enemies that are not flesh and blood and see those true enemies shackled and defeated — while the once captive children of God are set “free indeed” in Christ Jesus!
So, Lord, help us to walk in integrity — with little thought to reward, cost, or revenge — but trusting that you know better than we do when and how to open and shut the mouths of the lions. Amen.
People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed. Proverbs 10:9 NLT
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich. Proverbs 28:6 NLT
13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! 1 Peter 3:13-17 NLT
3 Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. 4 Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. 5 So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” Daniel 6:3-5 NLT
9 So King Darius signed the law. 10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. 11 Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. 13 Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.” 14 Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament. 15 In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.” 16 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” 17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. 19 Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. 20 When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “Long live the king! 22 My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” 23 The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. 24 Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den. 25 Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! 26 “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. 27 He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:9-11, 13-28 NLT
— teaches people to live disciplined and successful lives
— helps them do what is right, just, and fair
#MeaningfulGoals #Proverbs1_3 #WalkTheLivingWord
We aren’t going to get it perfect every time, but if we don’t aim for the target, we are guaranteed to miss.
Our decisions, our words, and our actions today will not only bring us personal consequences, but they will influence lives around us — and leave the world “changed”.
You are a “world changer” with everything you do.
What change are you bringing today?
These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:1-7 NLT ( https://bible.com/bible/116/pro.1.1-7.NLT )
12 To learn, you must love discipline;
it is stupid to hate correction.
2 The Lord approves of those who are good,
but he condemns those who plan wickedness.
3 Wickedness never brings stability,
but the godly have deep roots.
4 A worthy wife is a crown for her husband,
but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.
5 The plans of the godly are just;
the advice of the wicked is treacherous.
6 The words of the wicked are like a murderous ambush,
but the words of the godly save lives.
7 The wicked die and disappear,
but the family of the godly stands firm.
8 A sensible person wins admiration,
but a warped mind is despised.
9 Better to be an ordinary person with a servant
than to be self-important but have no food.
10 The godly care for their animals,
but the wicked are always cruel.
11 A hard worker has plenty of food,
but a person who chases fantasies has no sense.
12 Thieves are jealous of each other’s loot,
but the godly are well rooted and bear their own fruit.
13 The wicked are trapped by their own words,
but the godly escape such trouble.
14 Wise words bring many benefits,
and hard work brings rewards.
15 Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others.
16 A fool is quick-tempered,
but a wise person stays calm when insulted.
17 An honest witness tells the truth;
a false witness tells lies.
18 Some people make cutting remarks,
but the words of the wise bring healing.
19 Truthful words stand the test of time,
but lies are soon exposed.
20 Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
joy fills hearts that are planning peace!
21 No harm comes to the godly,
but the wicked have their fill of trouble.
22 The Lord detests lying lips,
but he delights in those who tell the truth.
23 The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
but fools broadcast their foolishness.
24 Work hard and become a leader;
be lazy and become a slave.
25 Worry weighs a person down;
an encouraging word cheers a person up.
26 The godly give good advice to their friends;
the wicked lead them astray.
27 Lazy people don’t even cook the game they catch,
but the diligent make use of everything they find.
28 The way of the godly leads to life;
that path does not lead to death.
11 The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales,
but he delights in accurate weights.
2 Pride leads to disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom.
3 Honesty guides good people;
dishonesty destroys treacherous people.
4 Riches won’t help on the day of judgment,
but right living can save you from death.
5 The godly are directed by honesty;
the wicked fall beneath their load of sin.
6 The godliness of good people rescues them;
the ambition of treacherous people traps them.
7 When the wicked die, their hopes die with them,
for they rely on their own feeble strength.
8 The godly are rescued from trouble,
and it falls on the wicked instead.
9 With their words, the godless destroy their friends,
but knowledge will rescue the righteous.
10 The whole city celebrates when the godly succeed;
they shout for joy when the wicked die.
11 Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper,
but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.
12 It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor;
a sensible person keeps quiet.
13 A gossip goes around telling secrets,
but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.
14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls;
there is safety in having many advisers.
15 There’s danger in putting up security for a stranger’s debt;
it’s safer not to guarantee another person’s debt.
16 A gracious woman gains respect,
but ruthless men gain only wealth.
17 Your kindness will reward you,
but your cruelty will destroy you.
18 Evil people get rich for the moment,
but the reward of the godly will last.
19 Godly people find life;
evil people find death.
20 The Lord detests people with crooked hearts,
but he delights in those with integrity.
21 Evil people will surely be punished,
but the children of the godly will go free.
22 A beautiful woman who lacks discretion
is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
23 The godly can look forward to a reward,
while the wicked can expect only judgment.
24 Give freely and become more wealthy;
be stingy and lose everything.
25 The generous will prosper;
those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
26 People curse those who hoard their grain,
but they bless the one who sells in time of need.
27 If you search for good, you will find favor;
but if you search for evil, it will find you!
28 Trust in your money and down you go!
But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.
29 Those who bring trouble on their families inherit the wind.
The fool will be a servant to the wise.
30 The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life;
a wise person wins friends.
31 If the righteous are rewarded here on earth,
what will happen to wicked sinners?
Everyone who will read this is part of my community of friends. Everyone who reads what you post is part of your community of friends.
I wonder how often we consider the impact our words have on that community of friends?
When we reach out with our words of anger, of offense, of forgiveness, of confession, of love, of truth — do we consider that there are ears to hear and hearts to receive what we are pouring out?
Or is more important that we have an outlet and a platform to be heard and seen, no matter the cost?
“With their words, the godless destroy their friends,
but knowledge will rescue the righteous.
The whole city celebrates when the godly succeed;
they shout for joy when the wicked die.
Upright citizens are good for a city and make it prosper,
but the talk of the wicked tears it apart.
It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor;
a sensible person keeps quiet.
A gossip goes around telling secrets,
but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” – Proverbs 11:9-13 NLT
Even if you are not yet a believer in Christ Jesus, you cannot deny in your heart the truth, guidance, and instruction found in His Word, even if your mind fights to excuse it, dismiss it, and ignore it.
“Professing Christian”, if you are foolish and will not listen, if you will not receive correction, if you have chosen your sin over God’s instruction, remember that we are told they those who receive His correction are his children, but those who do not are illegitimate and are not children of God (Hebrews 12:8). I say these things while there is time for you to truly turn to God and learn to love God (Joshua 24:15). If you do what is right and trust and believe the Lord, you will be accepted and forgiven — but if not, sin and death wait at the door to devour you (Hebrews 10:26-27).
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2:37-47 ESV
9 Wisdom has built her house; she has carved its seven columns. 2 She has prepared a great banquet, mixed the wines, and set the table. 3 She has sent her servants to invite everyone to come. She calls out from the heights overlooking the city. 4 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, 5 “Come, eat my food, and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways behind, and begin to live; learn to use good judgment.”
7 Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. 8 So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. 9 Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.
10 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.
Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
11 Wisdom will multiply your days
and add years to your life. 12 If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit.
If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.
Folly Calls for a Hearing
13 The woman named Folly is brash.
She is ignorant and doesn’t know it. 14 She sits in her doorway
on the heights overlooking the city. 15 She calls out to men going by
who are minding their own business. 16 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple.
To those who lack good judgment, she says, 17 “Stolen water is refreshing;
food eaten in secret tastes the best!” 18 But little do they know that the dead are there.
Her guests are in the depths of the grave.