Are You Stumbling & Struggling? Here's the Antidote

The Bible repeatedly tells us where our identity should be placed — and that’s in God.

But we live in a world where living that out can be quite difficult, especially in a culture that’s filled with temptation and distraction.

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Unfortunately, life has a way of “getting” us. Many times we are well intentioned; we set out with our focus on God, but after just a few days the “shiny” things all around us start to divert our attention — and slowly lead us away from the “best” path onto a meandering street.

We start to stumble. We start to compare ourselves to others. We start to allow jealousy or discouragement to take form. We start living in “the world” and forget that this life is temporary — and that real success has little to do with money, praise and riches.

Can you relate? Sometimes I get so caught up in the chaos of life — work, tasks, commitments, goals, dreams — that I forget the one thing that truly matters most: my relationship with Christ.

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I know only God holds the answers, yet I allow myself get consumed by my own whims and the here and now. Instead of asking God where He wants me and taking the steps to embark on His journey for my life, I attempt to chisel through the tough complexities of life on my own.

This too often leads to frustration, problems and minor annoyances; something just feels off when faith and reliance aren’t in check. Then, when I get back on track and read my Bible and pray regularly again I feel great — until the next shiny thing distracts me.

We all need spiritual consistency, but how do we build a biblical worldview amid a sea of chaos? We can start by reading the Bible daily, engaging in prayer every morning and throughout the day — and taking steps to love God and love others in practice.

“The Bible tells us that God comes close to us when we draw nearer to Him — a simple concept that applies to any and all relationships,” I wrote in a recent piece for PureFlix.com. “James 4:8 (NIV) reads: ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.’”

Let’s all take steps to be closer to the Lord today. Here are some other scriptures to reflect on:

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” - Matthew 16:25-26 (NIV)

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” - 1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” - Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

The One Thing You Read Today That Might Leave You Feeling Convicted

No one wants to be seen as a fool, yet it’s quite likely that each of us act (or have behaved) — sometimes routinely — in a pretty foolish manner. After all, we're all sinners who are absolutely and unequivocally unable to attain perfection here on Earth.

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So, what are the markers of foolishness, you ask? Solomon dove right into the symptoms, writing in Proverbs 18:2 that a fool takes no interest in understanding — and merely wants to hear his or her own voice. Ring a bell for anyone? I know I've been pretty guilty of it...

In the age of social media rants, TV news battles and selfie obsession, Solomon’s pointed proclamation is pretty convicting: “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” - Proverbs‬ ‭18:2‬ ‭(NIV‬‬)

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Everyone knows at least one “big mouth” — and the term “loose lips sink ships” has become part of our vernacular, but it seems the problem of the tongue isn’t anything new, as Solomon warned about this foolishness well before Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were on the scene.

In Proverbs 18:6, he wrote, “The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating,” continuing with the following in verse 7: “The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives.”

Solomon’s concern also centered on the importance of listening before answering, proclaiming that uttering responses before having the proper details is “folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

The steady stream of Solomon’s perspective on wisdom and foolishness can be summarized in verse 15, which focuses on the importance of looking for knowledge — something that is done by discerning and wise individuals. He writes, "The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out." 

In the end, a lot of us like to hear ourselves talk more than we like to listen. And even when we seem to be sitting patiently and waiting our turn while someone else talks, we're many times really just quietly formulating what we plan to say in our heads.

Listening has become a lost art in our culture, which is why we see so much splintering and ideological chaos. We need to be better.

Proverbs 18 carries with it a lesson that is found in other parts of the Bible as well: what comes out of the mouth impacts the heart, body and soul: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” - Proverbs‬ ‭18:21‬ ‭(NIV‬‬)

We should be lovers of truth and goodness — and our words (and deeds) should reflect that reality.

Feelings Can Be Deceiving

It’s no secret that change is afoot in our culture, with increased secularization ushering in confusion, uncertainty and moral chaos.

There’s a general sense in the world that whatever works for a person or feels good should be the path worth exploring and embracing. 

On the surface, such a worldview sounds right, good and personally fruitful — but the Bible warns us that there’s a major difference between the world’s standards and God’s. Sometimes, something seems right and decent, but reality might paint a very different picture.

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This, of course, is hardly a new paradigm. Solomon dealt with this deceptive dynamic nearly 3,000 years ago when he wrote Proverbs 14:12, which reads: “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

Plainly stated: Feelings can deceive us. And that's a fact. The best way to check ourselves is to take our feelings, whims and struggles to God (in prayer).

We no doubt live in a culture that tends to shun Truth, or to, at the least, scoff at it. Solomon also addresses this dynamic, writing in Proverbs 14:9 that “fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.”

In the end, it’s up to us to take our concerns to God and to be discerning about the circumstances we find ourselves in. This can be difficult in today’s culture, which is why daily Bible reading and prayer are essential to keeping us in touch with God’s will for our lives.

Being discerning is simple; I just takes some effort on our part. Seeking knowledge is key: “The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning.” (Proverbs 14:6). Verse 15 goes on to reaffirm this message, telling us that "the simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps."

Are you giving thoughts to your steps forward today? Pause, pray and ask God for guidance.

Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1Proverbs 2Proverbs 3Proverbs 4Proverbs 5Proverbs 6Proverbs 7Proverbs 8Proverbs 9Proverbs 10Proverbs 11Proverbs 12Proverbs 13Proverbs 14 and Proverbs 15And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.

Navigating (and Surviving) the 'Upsidedown'

In an upsidedown culture, positive and enriching behavior is too often ignored or rejected.

Just look at the rise and prevalence of reality TV — an entertainment genre that is many times characterized by a lack of self-control, bizarre behavior and negative commentary.

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While it's encouraging to see more positive options in entertainment, the reality is that much of what's on TV and in theaters is increasingly getting darker. And everything — from our everyday interactions to our politics — has been impacted by the madness.

What's most striking about Proverbs 15 are the parallels between the warnings and guidance Solomon gives and the current state of our entertainment, particularly reality-based television.

Proverbs 15 opens with a proclamation: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

This is common sense, but many of the TV shows that dominate popular networks thrive off of negative behavior, anger, fighting, booze-infused rage and a plethora of related behaviors.

We reward insane statements and actions in entertainment...and then wonder why they are increasingly manifesting themselves in the real world. The reality is: we're not meant to behave or speak that way.

Don't believe me? Solomon sprinkles in some other related advice that's worth exploring:

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. - Proverbs 15:18 (NIV)

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil. - Proverbs 15:28 (NIV)

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4 (NIV)

The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not upright. - Proverbs 15:7

Reading and reflecting on these verses is essential, especially for a culture that is increasingly hostile, divisive, chaotic and disconnected.

People will debate how much impact our entertainment has had on our civility, but the reality is: much of what is being presented is either encouraging, praising — or at least representing — unrestrained behaviors that run in opposition to goodness.

As we encourage people to act foolish and to serve themselves — all for our entertainment's sake — we forget that Solomon offers up a dire warning in Proverbs 15:10: "Stern discipline awaits anyone who leaves the path; the one who hates correction will die."

In the end, wisdom should be our goal — not rage, not unrestrained behavior, not setting our own standards. And wisdom can only come from one place: the Lord. Everything we take in and everything we consume has an impact, not only on us, but on our culture at large.

But even if we argue that we're mature adults who aren't really colored by what we're watching or listening to and that we're merely enjoying ourselves by consuming this content, there's a convicting question worth asking: Should we really take joy from others' poor behaviors?

We can't control what Hollywood chooses to put out there, but we can manage what we're willing to let into our minds and hearts. Just some food for thought.

I'll leave you with this (Proverbs 15:33 - NIV): "Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor."

P.S.: I'm not perfect, I don't always watch what I should — and this is a struggle for me too.

Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1Proverbs 2Proverbs 3Proverbs 4Proverbs 5Proverbs 6Proverbs 7Proverbs 8Proverbs 9Proverbs 10Proverbs 11Proverbs 12Proverbs 13 and Proverbs 14And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.

LIFE HACK: How to Save Ourselves (and Our Country)

There's a lot of talk about civility these days, with concerns over our divided and tattered social and political dialogue reaching a fever pitch. The quest to be "right" and to win the argument has led too many of us to look past our ideological opponents' humanity — and it must stop.

Proverbs 13, much like previous chapters, addresses the importance of self-control and, more specifically, of watching what comes out of our mouths. The chapter opens with a powerful theme that continues from Chapter 12: "the fruit" of our lips.

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Verses 2-3 (NIV) should be simultaneously convicting and thought-provoking for us all: 

"From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence. Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin."

Somehow, politics and echo-chambers have taken the place of goodness and the quest to pursue, fulfill and progress what is right. Kindness has been thrown out the window in exchange for brashness — and it's a problem on all sides of the political aisle.

Solomon tells us in Proverbs 13:17 that a wise person seeks to bring healing: "A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing."

So, which are we? The wicked messenger or the trustworthy envoy? Unfortunately, too many of us are prone to be the latter, while ignoring our call to be the former. Some of us even relish in it, but amid an era of dysfunctional politics, we have to watch ourselves more than ever.

Righteousness, as Proverbs 13:6 proclaims, "guards the person of integrity." Unfortunately, this same verse tells us that "wickedness overthrows the sinner." We need discernment in an era in which discernment and self-control are increasingly treated like disfavored relics of days past. 

In the end, Solomon's advice is sound. Social chaos is, in many ways, rooted in human pride. And, "where there is strife, there is pride" (Proverbs 13:10).

To help stem the tide of chaos, we can ask ourselves some key questions:

  • What are we contributing to the chaos?
  • Are we part of the solution?
  • Are we associating with people of good intent?
  • Rather than respond harshly, are we thinking through the end results of our comments?

In the end, we're called to embrace the gospel, not a political party or ideology. And who we associate with — and what we tolerate as "normal" — matters. I'll leave you with Proverbs 13:20: "Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm."

Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1Proverbs 2Proverbs 3Proverbs 4Proverbs 5Proverbs 6Proverbs 7Proverbs 8Proverbs 9Proverbs 10Proverbs 11 and Proverbs 12And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.

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Nothing New Under the Sun

As the old adage goes: "There's nothing new under the sun." This proclamation is, in fact, based on scripture. Ecclesiastes 1:9 reads: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."

There are two things worth noting here: The Bible is stunningly timeless — and human nature hasn't really changed. Don't believe me? Just consider that the things Solomon wrote about in Proverbs 11 are still totally and utterly applicable today, nearly 3,000 years later.

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From mistruths and pride to unfaithfulness, gossiping and the mistreatment of others, humans are still dealing with our fallen nature. 

Luckily, we have an excellent guide from which to operate (i.e. the Bible).

Proverbs 11 is, in fact, one of the most sweeping chapters in terms of the moral scope of what's covered. Solomon opens with a discussion about truth, pride and integrity. Verses 1-3 read:

"The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity."

The message is simple: keep our eyes on the prize, follow God's path and keep ourselves in check. Wealth and goodness are also addressed, with the text proclaiming that money is of no worth "in the day of wrath" and that "righteousness" is what really matters.

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And Solomon doesn't stop there. He also notes the importance of generosity. Verse 25 reads:

"A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed."

Beyond that, Solomon reminds us of the importance of watching what comes out of our mouths — an important lesson that I need from time to time.

He writes that anyone who "derides their neighbor has no sense" and that "the one who has understanding holds their tongue." Gossip, too, is frowned upon. Some of us are probably reading this with some guilt, but it's never too late to be better.

The struggle is real, but let's remember: Solomon wrote these words nearly three millennia ago. People were just as messed up, disconnected and dysfunctional back then as they are now. Our circumstances have changed, but our nature is the same. 

Truth. Goodness. Kindness. Generosity. Humility. These are values to aspire to. How are you measuring up? Personally, I know I've got some work to do.

Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1Proverbs 2Proverbs 3Proverbs 4Proverbs 5Proverbs 6Proverbs 7Proverbs 8Proverbs 9 and Proverbs 10And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.

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Visit Pure Flix for access to thousands of faith and family friendly movies and TV shows. You can get a free, one-month trial here.

The Quest for Wisdom: Finding Truth Is Simple — but Are You Embracing It?

The definitions of wisdom range from "good sense" to the "ability to discern inner qualities and relationships" — to "a wise attitude, belief, or course of action."

All of us aspire to have wisdom, but a central question remains: what is the source of our beliefs and how do those perspectives impact our attitudes and actions?

Proverbs 9 makes it clear that God is the ultimate source of truth and wisdom and that He, alone, is the baseline for wisdom and knowledge.

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Sadly, culture sings a totally different tune, though, and many of us are so distracted by what we're taking in and by our own emotional whims that we totally forget or ignore this reality. Wisdom becomes a fluid concept rather than a bedrock — and we end up lost.

But that's not how it's supposed to work. Proverbs 9:1-6 frames "wisdom" in a truly fascinating and easy-to-discern way. In the text, Solomon encourages people to leave their own simple ways and to, instead, seek God's holy wisdom:

"'Let all who are simple come to my house!' To those who have no sense she says, 'Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.'"

As the chapter moves on, Solomon makes the roots and realities of wisdom even clearer. In verse 10 he writes, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

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Wisdom, Solomon writes, allows peoples' days "to be many," with rewards flowing from it. In the end, it's a simple concept: the best way to live is God's way; the best morals to follow flow from God. Good choices yield the best possible life; bad choices can usher in chaos. 

Where does your wisdom flow from?

Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1Proverbs 2Proverbs 3Proverbs 4Proverbs 5Proverbs 6Proverbs 7 and Proverbs 8And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.

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Visit Pure Flix for access to thousands of faith and family friendly movies and TV shows. You can get a free, one-month trial here.

No, You Absolutely Shouldn't 'Follow Your Heart'

There's a lot of talk today about "following your heart." The generally spouted mantras are "be true to yourself" and "be who you want to be," but there's an important reality that these feel-good slogans fail to take into account: we must first be who God wants us to be.

Proverbs 4 implores believers not to merely "follow" their hearts, but to guard them. Verses 23-24 (NIV) read:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips."

Those words "above all else" are fascinating, as they seem to indicate that it's of the utmost importance that we each keep careful watch over our own hearts and minds, while also exercising self-control over what we say and do.

In many ways, this call is the opposite of merely "following" one's heart. We're called to start with God, then move forward from there. 

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The latter piece about keeping corrupt talk from our lips is convicting as well, especially in an era that encourages divisive social media chatter and debate — elements that turn dark when we don't monitor ourselves before we tweet and Facebook.

So, how do we guard our hearts? As we've explored in the first three chapters of Proverbs, it all boils down to a reliance on God to discern His wisdom. Proverbs 4:5 encourages people to "get wisdom" and to "get understanding." And verse 6 further expands on this:

"Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you."

In the end, it's not about following our own whims; it's about discovering God's heart and asking Him to guide our paths. If we trust only in ourselves, we're on shaky ground. 

I'll leave you with Proverbs 4:26, which encourages us to think carefully about what we're doing in our lives:

"Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways."

Start with the Bible, prayer and a reliance on God; everything else will come together.

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Be sure to also check out my quick devotions and reflections on Proverbs 1, Proverbs 2 and Proverbs 3.

And...curious about what all this means? Looking to better understand who God is? Take the next step.