Having A Good Name? Priceless! (Proverbs 22:1-5)

A reputation must be earned over months and years. It cannot be purchased with all the money in the world. Rich and poor alike, we are each only given one brief life by our Creator. We can choose to live a life that honors Him. We can choose to trust in the Lord each day and let Him produce humility and godliness in our soul. Who we are really becoming on the inside will eventually begin to show up in our many words and choices over time. If we keep choosing the path of life, we will earn a good name as a true follower of Christ. If we ignore the way of wisdom, we will continually walk into the pitfalls of sin. Through our bad choices, we will ruin our souls a little more each day. We are each slowly becoming someone. We are either becoming more holy and kind and loving like Jesus, or more selfish and proud and evil like Satan.

What kind of name are you earning right now? By trusting in Jesus Christ each day, you can continue to become the person God wants you to be. Then others will see God’s work in you, and you can testify with both your words and your name to the goodness of your Lord and Savior.

The Text (Proverbs 22:1-5)

1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,

Loving favor rather than silver and gold.

2 The rich and the poor have this in common,

The Lord is the maker of them all.

3 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,

But the simple pass on and are punished.

4 By humility and the fear of the Lord

Are riches and honor and life.

5 Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;

He who guards his soul will be far from them.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you know your spiritual reputation? Do people think of you as someone who walks with Jesus? Why or why not?
  2. If you do not have a good name right now, what changes do you need to make this summer to start becoming more like Jesus and change your reputation at NRCA?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

The Way of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)

Welcome to our summer study of Proverbs! Today’s devotion will introduce you to the main theme of the book, namely that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It will be the last full-length devotion intended for homeroom use. Beginning next Tuesday, I will be posting shorter devotions on weekdays continuing through the summer corresponding with the days of the month. This Tuesday will be May 22nd, so you will be encouraged to read the first half of Proverbs chapter 22 and I will pull out a verse or two for explanation and application to help you learn how to read and grow from the this very practical book of the Bible. Wednesday’s post will be from Proverbs chapter 23, and so forth. I won’t post on weekends or holidays. Our prayer as teachers is that you will use these devotions or something similar to stay engaged with the Word of God this summer. As I told our 6th and 7th grade boys at lunchtime discipleship this week, Jesus taught in John 15:1-17 that He is the vine and we as Christians are the branches. If we want to continue bearing fruit like love and joy and peace in our lives, then we must continue to abide in Christ this summer. We abide or rest in Jesus by meditating on His book, the Bible, and trying to do what it says, by communing with Jesus in daily prayer, and by enjoying regular fellowship with other fruit-bearing Christians.

Since spring of last school year, I have been preaching and writing and laboring to help restore the fear of the Lord to NRCA. When I read our Class of 2023 spiritual surveys in March of 2017, I discovered many students who were very apathetic and lukewarm about following Christ. They didn’t care very much about knowing Jesus intimately and doing what He said, and what was really scary was that they didn’t care that they didn’t care. I was totally broken. After reading my own homeroom’s surveys at the end of Life Skills that first day of surveying, I remember weeping bitterly before God at my desk. The next day, I began to really watch how my homeroom students acted during the Thru the Word devotions that I played for them each morning. I became more broken as I watched these students ignoring and acting disinterested and unengaged during the teaching of God’s Word. I began to notice the many students sleeping, talking, laughing, and looking around during chapel preaching. I began to notice sinful words and actions in the hallways and cafeteria that were symptoms of hearts hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. I began to notice the many idols that our students were serving instead of the Lord. God showed me a lot of sin and idolatry in my own life. I realized that many of our students were in fact lost and did not even know it (Chair/Person 3), while others were backslidden or immature believers who knew the Lord but were not growing in Christ (Chair/Person 2). God convicted me very hard that we had a lot of fools unknowingly following the wide road to their own spiritual destruction. What many of our students needed was to be confronted with the biblical “fear of the Lord.” Our teachers realized that only the strong, “We-love-you-enough-to-punch-you-in-the-nose” preaching and teaching of God’s Word paired with lots and lots of prayer would help our students to turn from their sins, be healed, and find the narrow road that leads to life. We turned to the power of God’s Word and Spirit, and He has been answering our prayers through many public salvations and rededications, first in the Class of 2023 last spring and then in the Class of 2024 throughout this school year. There is still a long road to go for our school, but we believe that progress is being made.

Now, many students in theses upcoming 8th and 7th grade classes fear the Lord and are ready for the wisdom of Proverbs this summer. God has done the initial difficult work of heart changing by His grace. These students now want to love Jesus instead of sin. They now want to know and do God’s will. And in Proverbs, they can learn how this summer. As Proverbs 1:1-7 promises, these words of divine wisdom can warn us against the common sins and temptations that young (and oldish) people face. At the same time, the Proverbs will show us the better way of life that God has for us, a way of wisdom that God will empower us to walk in by the Holy Spirit who lives in our hearts. My prayer is that studying Proverbs this summer will help our middle school continue to experience the truth that “the fear of the Lord” really is “the beginning of wisdom.”

The Text (Proverbs 1:1-7)

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:

2 To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,

3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity;

4 To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—

5 A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,

6 To understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have your ever memorized or studied verses from the Proverbs? What do you already know about this book of the Bible?
  2. Would you say that you take God more seriously now than you did a year ago? How can you tell?
  3. Do you want to act more wisely this summer than you did last summer? Why or why not?
  4. What is your battle plan to stay on track with Jesus this summer?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Do You Have Compassion, Jonah? (Jonah 4)

Note: This is the final post for the book of Jonah. Beginning Saturday, I will be posting shorter daily devotions from the book of Proverbs to carry on through the summer. More on that next time.

Jonah’s autobiography ends on a strange note. We might think that the story would have ended with the repentance and salvation of Nineveh, an incredible miracle of God’s mercy and grace towards a whole city. Instead, a final chapter shows us an angry Jonah pouting in the wilderness as he looks with regret upon the great city below him. It seems that Jonah wanted Nineveh to be destroyed, yet he knew deep down that God planned to save them if they turned from their evil ways. Why is Jonah so upset?

Well, it may be that Jonah was concerned about the honor of God and the trustworthiness of His word. The salvation of Nineveh made Jonah look like a false prophet, he may have thought, because God did not bring the promised judgment upon the city. It is also possible that as he saw the repentance and salvation of this very wicked, lost metropolis, he was reminded of Israel’s own stubborn refusal to repent themselves. Either way, Jonah’s passion for God’s name and God’s people made him forget about God’s love and kindness. As the final verse tells us, God cared about the thousands of lost souls in Nineveh, even about their animals. He cared enough to send Jonah to warn them of the coming judgment, that they might have a chance to repent and believe in Him and be saved. And God wanted Jonah to care about lost people, too.

The takeaway for us is clear: Do we have compassion for the souls of other people? Do we care about the totally lost, spiritually clueless people who walk through our lives everyday? If we say we care, what are we doing about it? What are we doing to reach people in our school, our neighborhoods, our families, and on our teams with the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ? God ends the book of Jonah with a question for all of us: Shouldn’t we share His great compassion for the lost?

The Text (Jonah 4)

1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. 2 So he prayed to the Lord, and said, “Ah, Lord, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. 3 Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”

4 Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

5 So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. 6 And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 7 But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. 8 And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”

10 But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. 11 And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you have compassion for your lost friends, family, and teammates? How can you tell?
  2. For whose salvation are you praying right now? With whom are you sharing the gospel?
  3. What can you do to help your church reach the lost people in your community?

Notes

  • We must not be too hard on Jonah. Having a zeal or passion for God’s honor and name is a great quality. However, God is also love, and we need to balance our passion for biblical truth and God’s honor with compassion for people. Our enemies are sin, the world, and the devil – not the unsaved. Jesus died for sinners, among whom each of us is the worst.
  • As the great British preacher Charles Spurgeon observed, God taught Jonah some important truths in this final chapter with a few visual object lessons. God provided a plant to remind Jonah and us of to be thankful for all of our blessings. God then sent the worm to eat the plant to show us that He has the right to take things away from us. Finally, God sent the fierce hot wind to show us that He has the right to send hard trials our way. Most of all, however, God wanted Jonah and us to understand that people are infinitely more valuable than stuff. Do we live like that is true?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Nineveh to God: “Message Received!” (Jonah 3:5-10)

In God’s providence, this devotion is being written the day after a strong message on sin and repentance was received and acted upon by many in the Class of 2024. For the Healthy Heart Day devotion, I (Mr. Reel) had the solemn responsibility of bringing a sobering challenge from Psalm 51 to our current sixth grade. It was an open air sermon that called on the students to acknowledge the sins in their lives, confess and turn from those sins, and pray for God to give them clean hearts and spiritual renewal. I recorded the message in Notability on my iPad and hope that other students may have the opportunity to hear it before the school year ends. We (the sixth grade teachers) believe that the Holy Spirit was working powerfully. Two sixth grade girls came forward for salvation and several other boys and girls rededicated. About 30 already believing students came down out of the bleachers by the football field for prayer and counsel to help them in their walks with Christ. My gut says that there may be a few others who respond in repentance and faith in the next week after the message sits heavy upon them this weekend. As sixth grade teachers, that is our hope and prayer.

We are also praying for sustained change and growth, the fruits of repentance, for all of our students this summer. I will be blogging each day with short posts from the book of Proverbs to help our students to stay in the Word. Remember, persistent, consistent Bible study is the most important thing people must do to grow in their relationships with Jesus.

I will also continue to plead with our families to be active members of healthy area churches. For all those who understand the dire importance of the local church to our spiritual health as Christians, I beg you to pray continually and pray hard that God will move the hearts of all of our families to commit themselves to active attendance and service in local churches, for the sakes of the parents and their children. If families are out of town a lot, pray that they can find churches where they are (there are churches at the beach, near the lake, and in the mountains).

Let us look to Nineveh for inspiration. These wicked people knew nothing of the Lord, His Word, or His ways. Yet they repented fully and immediately at the very short and confrontational message that God sent them through Jonah. They made no excuses for their sins. They did not try to blame anyone else. They did not tell God that they were too busy to obey Him. They did not try to hang onto the false gods of wealth and comfort and power that they had served all their lives. They did not let their great pride keep them from repenting. No, they immediately did everything they possibly could to show God that they were really sorry for their sins. They fasted, they covered themselves in hot and itchy sackcloth, they wept, and they turned from their wicked ways. They made particular effort to turn from the sin that was their biggest problem – violence. And when God saw that Nineveh truly repented, He forgave them and showed mercy and grace. He stands willing to do the same for us now if we will just come to Him in honest repentance and faith. Believe Him today – He is strong and good and able to save you to the uttermost if you let Him!

The Text (Jonah 3:5-10)

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Questions to Think About

  1. Why do you think that the people of Nineveh believed God so greatly and immediately after Jonah’s preaching?
  2. Based on your own testimony and the testimonies that you’ve heard from your classmates, what do you think are the most important factors that lead people to come to Jesus Christ for salvation?
  3. Do you want to see God bring a revival to NRCA? Do you want God to bring revival in your own life? Why or why not?
  4. What are your greatest sins that God wants you to repent of today?

Notes

  • Nineveh can definitely remind us of the importance of what the Bible calls “the fear of the Lord.” For the unsaved, the fear of God should lead them to dread His wrath and judgment so much that they repent and trust in Christ for salvation as soon as possible. For the believers, the fear of God should be a healthy reverence, like children for their fathers. We should be ever thankful that God has forgiven us for all of our sins and always seek to live humble and thankful lives that honor Jesus. When we read passages like this, we should be moved to tears of gratitude for the miracle of our own salvation and prayers for God to save others. We should recognize that as our Father, God will discipline us when we ignore and disobey Him. Better to trust and obey now before God forces us to do it through His hand of correction.
  • We should not miss the fact that it was only after Nineveh actually turned from their sins that God recognized their repentance as genuine and showed them mercy. Walking forward at an invitation and crying tears over sin is confession, and that is a very good thing. But confession must be paired with repentance – a resolve and plan to change, to stop sinning and start obeying God from a heart that loves Him. This is the living sacrifice that pleases God (see Romans 12:1-2).

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Keep It Simple, Jonah (Jonah 3:1-4)

Have you ever heard of the K.I.S.S. principle? It’s been popular in all levels of sports for a long time – “Keep It Simple Stupid” (the modern PC version ends with “Silly” instead). The idea is that sometimes the plainest, most straightforward and simple strategy is the best.

Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh is a prime example of K.I.S.S. at its finest. He had one very simple sermon point – “Your city is about to be destroyed.” No fancy words, no elaborate illustrations or stories, no jokes about his family – just a powerful message from God of certain judgment. He did not need to tell Nineveh why they were about be overthrown. As we will see in the next post, they did not need an explanation. As soon as they heard the words from this stomach-bleached prophet who had survived three days inside a giant fish, their own hearts condemned them. They clearly realized that they had filled up the measure of their sins; they had been weighed by the one true God and found wanting. In 40 days, they would finally pay the just penalty for their sins. They had only one faint ray of hope – repent at once of all of their evil deeds and throw themselves down upon God’s mercy and grace in the hope that maybe, just maybe, He would let them live.

Jonah’s sermon would not have been popular in most church and chapel services today. It may have been longer than one line; the Bible does not tell us one way or the other. But God preserved through Jonah’s own writing the heart of the message that He wanted us to know. The application for us is clear: the power of God is more important in our witness for Christ than having all the right words or telling the most interesting stories. Jonah had just spent three days alone with God. His heart, mind, and soul had been purified by God’s holy work in his life. Nineveh saw this in Jonah’s preaching, and God’s Holy Spirit went to work on them right away. If we want to see more of our friends and family won to Christ, we must spend more time with Him ourselves. We must first repent of our own sins ourselves before we can call on others to do the same. We must be holy as God is holy. People can tell when we have been transformed by Jesus. Let Him give us power as His witnesses today.

The Text (Jonah 3:1-4)

1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Questions to Think About

  1. When was the last time that you remember hearing a strong sermon about specific sins that ended with a call for you to repent of those sins and get right with God? How did it affect you?
  2. Do you think that sermons like Jonah’s are common in church and chapel services today? Why or why not?
  3. Do you want to be holy like Jesus? Why or or why not?

Notes

  • When God tells Jonah to “arise” and head to Nineveh, it’s possible that He said that because Jonah had gone home for awhile after escaping the fish. Of course, Jonah could have just been lying down on the beach exhausted and then gotten the word from God right away. Either way, the most important fact it that this time, Jonah obeyed the Lord immediately. A major theme of Jonah is “obey the Lord or else!”
  • Nineveh was definitely a gigantic city for its time. Some scholars estimate that by being “a three-day journey in extent,” the Bible means that the greater Nineveh area (including surrounding villages and towns) was almost 60 miles in circumference! Many of the people probably did not hear Jonah’s preaching directly, but got the message from neighbors and friends. Because the people believed the warning so strongly, they were quick to spread the word once Jonah arrived.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel