Covering up?

He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy. ~Proverbs 28:13 NKJV

WatergateAfter the Watergate scandal subsided in 1974, many political pundits observed that President Richard Nixon’s resignation was inevitable – not because of the crimes other people committed, but because Nixon had participated in a cover-up designed to prevent anyone from learning the truth about the Watergate break-in.

“The cover-up is always worse than the crime” became conventional wisdom. Sort of like “He who covers his sins will not prosper,” don’t you think?

Israel’s King David once thought he could hide his own despicable actions. 2 Samuel 11 tells the story of how David became entangled in an illicit affair with Bathsheba. To cover up his involvement with a married woman, David had her husband murdered.

But God knew what had happened, and sent the prophet Nathan to confront the king. Nathan told David a story about a wealthy man who had committed a great injustice. The king became angry, declaring that the one who had done such a thing deserved to die. Nathan then extended a finger in David’s direction and declared in 2 Samuel 12:7, “You are that man.”

In 2 Samuel 12:13, David confessed his disobedience, and received immediate assurance that his sin would be forgiven:

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”

There were other consequences for King David, though. In the following verses, Nathan prophesies about many bad things that would happen to David and his family as a result of his selfishness, lust, greed, and an act of murder.

Everyone has sin in their lives. In fact, scripture says people who deny this are liars. God knows everything you have ever done, said, or thought. There’s no use trying to cover it up.

As you study the living, active word of God today, remember to admit to God where you have missed the mark. You, too, can experience the mercy spoken of by the apostle John in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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What’s the gossip?

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. ~Proverbs 26:20-22 NIV

GossipAre you a person tempted to gossip? Or perhaps you are one who thrills to hear the words of a gossip? The Lord compares gossip to fire in these verses, as well as food. As you share gossip, it’s as if you are adding fuel to a fire. Or it is like delicious food that deeply satisfies you when you hear it. And the result is strife, kindled by the fuel of gossip. People who trade in rumors and innuendo are considered to be troublemakers – quarrelsome.

If sin weren’t attractive and enticing, would you be all that enthralled by it? Probably not. For some, gossip is almost irresistible. Almost, because God himself promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that you can resist the temptation to gossip:

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

If you are a person given to talking too much about other people, ask the Lord to purify you of this habit. Pray today that God will give you the eyes and ears to see and hear this in your own life for what it is, and agree with the Lord that this behavior is sinful disobedience.

Pray for inner strength to resist the temptation to speak of others, unless your words meet God’s standards for your speech in Ephesians 4:29:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

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Good news!

As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country. ~Proverbs 25:25 NKJV

Supernatural 8x03 (1897).jpgHave you ever experienced receiving good news from family or friends who are living far away? Not so many years ago, it might take weeks or even months for a letter to make its way a few thousand miles. Today, with electronic communication, we can stay in touch almost instantaneously with people living on the opposite side of the world. It’s always a relief to hear that your loved ones are healthy and doing well, isn’t it?

The phrase “good news” appears more than 25 times in the Old and New Testaments, including Isaiah 61:1-3, which Jesus quoted as he began his public ministry:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, Because the Lord has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

God the Father appointed Jesus as the one to bring good news to us. About 2,000 years ago, an angel announced “good news” from far away to a small group of shepherds near Bethlehem. The story is told in the second chapter of the book of Luke. Verses 8-11 detail the announcement:

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus came to earth from a far-away country – heaven. His birth, death, and resurrection are the very hope of mankind – good news, indeed.

As you spend time with the Lord today, give him thanks for sending good news to you from far away. Ask him for opportunities to share the good news of eternal life in Jesus.

Think long-term

Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked; For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out. ~Proverbs 24:19-20 NASB

SchemerGod takes a long view of things. His perspective has no beginning and no end. Unlike our finite minds, which tend to be hampered by linear thinking in the Western world, the Lord sees everything. Psalm 55:8-9 clarifies this:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

We see only today, barely recall yesterday, and can only dream of tomorrow. The Lord sees all three – and clearly. He assures you here that there is no future for those who are in rebellion against God. Their lamp will be put out – not meaning their existence will cease, but indicating that their existence will be eternally dark.

People can be distracted by “evildoers.” We tend to become unhappy or dissatisfied with things in the world, forgetting that God’s understanding of the situation is eternal. Are you frustrated by the evil you see taking place?

These verses from Proverbs 24 encourage you not to get overly disturbed or consumed with worry about what the wicked are doing. More importantly, it is not for you to be envious of such people. God will surely deal with them, eventually. Leave that in his capable hands.

Rich or poor?

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. ~Proverbs 22:7 NIV

Gold MoneyThis verse states a harsh truth: Wealthy people in this world exert tremendous power and influence over those who have less. People who have little material wealth must be prepared to be treated by the rich as if they are slaves. It isn’t fair, or right, or proper, but it is true.

However, the Lord urges you to remember that whether someone is fabulously rich, middle class, or truly destitute, people are only people; they are not God. Just prior to this verse, Proverbs 22:2 reads:

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.

Don’t be tempted to think that your wealth somehow gains you favor with God. It won’t. Neither will your lack of material possessions. It is not inherently more spiritual to be either poor or rich.

In the New Testament, the Lord gives clear instructions to both slaves and masters who have decided to follow Jesus. To the slave (the borrower), he says in Ephesians 6:5-6:

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.

According to this passage, a slave (a borrower) should be obedient. Keep your promises; pay on time. And obey knowing that your real master is Jesus Christ. It is him you seek to honor by living up to the terms of your agreement.

Are you among the wealthy who “rule over the poor?” As a master (or lender), Ephesians 4:1 must be your guide for living:

Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.

Justice and fairness can be elusive, but as a wealthy person, the Lord expects you to extend a measure of grace to others – perhaps especially those who are indebted to you. How do you respond when someone pleads, “Be patient with me?”

God has already shown you enough unmerited favor that you can enter heaven – undeservedly. Keep that in mind as you consider how you treat other people less fortunate than you.

Listen

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. ~Proverbs 21:13 ESV

PovertyThis verse is a simple reminder of a basic obligation to mankind. And it’s one that the apostle Paul fully embraces in Galatians 2:10:

They only asked us to remember the poor — the very thing I also was eager to do.

Poverty is persistent. Although the Bible includes many references to your obligation to care for the truly needy, it never suggests that we should (or that we can) eradicate poverty. Jesus teaches in Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8 that “the poor will always be with you.”

So what are you supposed to do about people in need? Consider this brief excerpt from The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision:

I don’t want to suggest that all true followers of Christ must forsake everything to bring comfort and justice to the poor. I only propose that a genuine concern for “the least of these” that finds tangible expression must be woven into the pattern of their lives and faith. That expression might involve small but regular gifts to compassion ministries, advocating on behalf of the poor to government representatives, or regularly volunteering at a soup kitchen, the local nursing home… Even Jesus did not spend every waking hour helping the poor. He dined with the wealthy, celebrated at weddings and feasts, taught in the synagogue, and perhaps even did a bit of carpentry. Still, there is no question that His love for the poor found consistent and concrete expression in His life and ministry. The question for you and me is this: will Christ find evidence of our genuine concern for His beloved poor when He looks at the fruit of our lives on that day? Further, what might He be calling you to do today? What new steps of faith might you take to demonstrate your own concern for “the least of these?”

Proverbs 21:13 makes it clear that the Lord expects you to pay attention to the plight of people in need. As you study God’s word and pray today, remember to pray for those in need. More importantly, determine before God what it is that you will do to show a tangible expression of Christ’s love for “the poor.”

Leave a legacy

A righteous man who walks in his integrity — How blessed are his sons after him. ~Proverbs 20:7 NASB

Fist BumpAccording to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word “integrity” can mean:

  1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
  2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
  3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.

So a man of integrity is one who lives a disciplined life guided by a moral code, or whose life isn’t one of divided loyalties, or who can be described as a spiritually whole, healthy person.

If you are a parent – whether a mother or father – you are imparting a legacy to your children. This is especially true of the father-son relationship. Fathers have significant influence over their sons. Children from fatherless homes:

  • are 70% of those in juvenile detention
  • are twice as likely to end up in jail
  • represent 63% of teen suicides
  • are 71% of all high school dropouts
  • are 90% of homeless and runaway children

Even if you’re not a parent, you are someone’s son or daughter. What kind of reputation did/do your parents have? Have you ever realized that you somehow enjoyed favor with other people because they held your parent in high regard?

If you are a father, this verse may be just for you today. Are you walking in integrity, setting a good example for your son? Are you really who you say you are? Are you the person other people think you are? Will your son enjoy the benefits of your good reputation?

God knows everything about you, including the inconsistencies between your beliefs and your behaviors. He isn’t fooled by your smooth words. He sees everything you think is a secret. So be honest with the Lord today. If you’re struggling to be a man of integrity, ask God for help. If you’re walking consistently with him, invite him to reveal areas of your life where you can improve.

You and your children will both benefit from your decision to live a more self-disciplined life.