The Legacy of Faith (Proverbs 22:6,15)

Proverbs is full of principles of living that are generally but not always true. Work hard and you will prosper, says Proverbs, but be lazy and you will become poor. Control your tongue and you will make peace, says Proverbs, but talk too much and you will get into trouble. Tell lies and you will eventually get caught and face punishment, says Proverbs, but speak truth and live with integrity and God will protect and honor you. These are general principles of life that even nonChristians must admit are usually true. However, as we saw in yesterday’s post (“Trust in the Lord and Do Good”), God is sovereign and His plans are not always what we would expect. God may allow sinful, foolish people to be successful and allow godly people to suffer. The purpose of Proverbs is not to guarantee what will always happen in life, but to encourage us to be wise and choose God’s ways no matter what. We will often see rewards in this life for godly character and actions, but not always in the ways that we hope or expect and not always in our timing.

Today’s pair of verses from Proverbs 22 show us that godly parenting will usually (but not always) lead to children becoming godly adults. Verse 6 is well-known to Christian parents and teachers: “Train up a child in the way he [or she] should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The concept here is simple to understand but takes lots of hard work over many years of faithfulness to apply. The Bible is saying that Christian parents should teach their children to love and obey the Lord from infancy into young adulthood. This includes modeling the Christian life, leading family devotions, talking with children throughout daily activities about the Lord and His ways, bringing children to church, and overall just communicating a biblical worldview while living for Jesus in the home and the world.

Verse 15 then shows us that training up a child includes correcting or disciplining him or her when they disobey: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him [or her].” The Bible is saying here that all children are born with a sin nature, an inherent tendency to worship self instead of God and a desire to want to be independent of authority. But parents must start training this out of the child through communication and consequences as soon as the child is old enough to respond to commands with some version of that awful two-letter word: “No!” Once the child is old enough to consciously choose to disobey what they know their parents are telling them to do or not do (definitely by age 2, usually even sooner), it is time to begin correcting. As Christian child psychologist Dr. James Dobson has famously said (paraphrase), “There is a battle of the wills between the child and the parent. The parent must win this battle, and win it decisively. Otherwise the child will grow up to be a little tyrant who thinks that he or she can do whatever they want.” By learning to obey their parents in childhood, children are being prepared to learn to obey God as adults.

As a parent, I know that what the Bible is telling me to do in today’s verses is very difficult. But I also know what the statistics have been saying for decades about the importance of the parents in forming the faith of the children. If the mother is a practicing (Bible-reading, praying, church-attending, growing) Christian, there is a 50% chance that the child will grow up to become a practicing Christian. If the father is a practicing Christian, that chance rises to a whopping 90%! That tells me that I have a big job to do in leading my family spiritually. I know that I have made many mistakes as a husband and father, but I also know that God will keep giving me the grace to do the job if I keep seeking His help each day. God is more concerned that I am moving in the right direction than with my past failures. I cannot guarantee the spiritual success of my daughter and son, but if they don’t follow Christ as adults, it won’t be because I didn’t try my best to show them the way.

For you as students, there are two key points of application from today’s verses. First, if your parents are following the Lord, then let them train you up to follow Christ. Listen to their teachings, do what they say the first time, and accept their discipline and correction as God’s good for your life. Be thankful for your Christian parent or parents and do not try to buck their authority. Second, if your parents are not practicing Christians, do your absolute best to model Christ to them. Honor and obey them from a submissive heart. Read your Bible and pray and seek Christian fellowship. If they won’t take you to church or let you go with a friend or neighbor, then listen to online sermons on the weekend. And determine in your heart that when you grow up, you will beat the statistics and be a practicing Christian husband and father or wife and mother. God will give you a legacy of faith if you really want it.

The Text (Proverbs 22:6,15)

6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.

15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

Questions to Think About

  1. How are you doing with honoring and obeying your parents right now? Is it hard or easy for you to submit to their authority? Why?
  2. What are you doing right now to prepare yourself to be a godly Christian parent and spouse when you have your own family one day?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Trust in the Lord and Do Good (Proverbs 20:22-21:3)

God is in control. The theological words for this concept are the “sovereignty” or “providence” of God. We make plans, but God is the one who ultimately directs our steps (Proverbs 20:24). Our job is to love God and to try to live according to His revealed commands in the Bible (like the Ten Commandments). God is especially concerned that we live honestly and are just and fair in how we deal with other people (20:23; 21:3). The Lord sees into our hearts, so He wants us to be pure in our motives and desires and not just in our outward behaviors and words (20:27,30; 21:2).

But as private Christian citizens, it is not out place to execute justice or vengeance against others when they wrong us (20:22). Instead, God has appointed governing authorities to punish law and rule breakers (20:26,28). This meant kings in ancient times, but for us today it would mean police in our society at large and on the small scale of our school, teachers and principals. In your homes, God has given your parents this job of correcting your and your siblings’ disobedience. While we and even they may not always realize it, God is behind the scenes directing governing authorities as they administer justice (21:1). This is His orderly blueprint for human societies.

All of these truths from today’s passage should humble us to trust in God’s just and good plans for our lives. We should press forward in loving and obeying God, but be careful about what we promise and plan to do because we don’t know everything that God is doing (20:25). As young people (myself included!), we dream big and think we are very strong to do many great things, even for God, but older people have gained the wisdom of trusting more in God’s power than their own (20:29). This means we ought to talk less about what we are going to do and pray more to see what God wants to do. May we all trust in the Lord and do good in His name today.

The Text (Proverbs 20:22-21:3)

20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense [pay back] evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.

23 Diverse weights are an abomination to the Lord, And dishonest scales are not good.

24 A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?

25 It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, And afterward to reconsider his vows.

26 A wise king sifts out the wicked, And brings the threshing wheel over them.

27 The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the inner depths of his heart.

28 Mercy and truth preserve the king, And by lovingkindness he upholds his throne.

29 The glory of young men is their strength, And the splendor of old men is their gray head.

30 Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, As do stripes the inner depths of the heart.

21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.

2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.

3 To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Questions to Think About

  1. How are you doing with trusting in God’s plans for your life right now? What are you struggling the most to trust God about?
  2. Do you have trouble trusting and obeying the authorities in your life (like your parents and teachers)? Why or why not?
  3. Do you tend to focus more on outward or inward (heartfelt) obedience to God and His commands? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Beware the Scoffer (Proverbs 19:25 – 20:1)

In the Bible, being a “scoffer” is a very bad thing. Also called “mockers,” such people are God haters. They laugh and make fun of the Bible’s teachings and reject the ways of God. Their hearts are so hardened against the conviction of the Holy Spirit that they sin openly, without any remorse or sorrow. They want nothing to do with godly Christians. Punishments from parents, teachers, or other authorities do not bring them to repentance but only make them more clever and determined in their sin (Proverbs 19:25). They rebel against the command to honor and obey their fathers and mothers (19:26). Scoffers or mockers will not listen to the voice of wisdom that God is trying to pour into their lives through Christian influences (19:27). They do not love truth and justice as God and His people do (19:28). Punishments were actually created because of these law rejectors (19:29), yet they are fools who will not learn no matter how much the consequences of their sins make them suffer. Finally, many of these people turn to alcohol abuse, which only increases their rebellious attitudes and sinful actions (20:1). The case of the scoffer or mocker is truly heartbreaking to watch.

The main point of today’s warning from Proverbs is that we must ever guard our hearts against the mindset of the scoffer / mocker. We want to maintain soft hearts before God. We want to stay sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in our consciences. We want to keep reading God’s Word each day, hiding it in our hearts that we might not sin against our Lord. We want to keep depending on God each day in prayer. We want to keep out the wicked voices of the world that tempt us to doubt and hate our God. We want to keep loving Jesus more than all the stuff that He has given us. And when your parents or other authorities correct you, listen and repent quickly. Keep short accounts of sin through daily confession and accountability with your parents and/or other Christian mentors. Don’t let the attitude of the scoffer / mocker creep into your soul.

A second but also important application from this passage is that we should be careful about the friends we choose to hang out with, in person and online. The words and thoughts of your friends will influence you, whether you believe it or not. The mindset of the mocker is all around us. It has always been part of sinful human nature. But in our increasingly anti-Christian society, we must recognize that the scoffer’s lies are constantly pouring into our lives today through our screens and unbelieving neighbors. If your friends are not actively reading their Bibles and seeking the Lord’s truth, they are being led into falsehood by the lies of the world. Be a good witness to the lost, but you should spend more time with friends who share your commitment to having the mind of Christ. As it says elsewhere in Proverbs, “He who walks with wise men [and women] will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (13:20).

The Text (Proverbs 19:25-20:1)

19:25 Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge.

26 He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach.

27 Cease listening to instruction, my son, And you will stray from the words of knowledge.

28 A disreputable witness scorns justice, And the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.

29 Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And beatings for the backs of fools.

20:1 Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Questions to Think About

  1. Have you ever become painfully aware of the attitude of the scoffer or mocker in your own life? What happened?
  2. How are you actively protecting yourself this summer from hardening your heart against God?
  3. Do you have any friends who are displaying the mindset of the scoffer or mocker right now? What should you do about these friends? Have you talked to your parents about your concerns for these friends?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Different Problems, Same Solution (Proverbs 18:23-19:10)

The poor face many troubles in this present world, the Bible says. They are often ignored by those with power (Proverbs 18:23) and abandoned by would-be friends (Proverbs 19:4,7). Certainly many students at NRCA feel left out and mistreated because their families are not rich. Their parents can’t buy them the expensive clothes and technology and trips that they see other students enjoy. Of course, compared to most people from most of history, even the poorest of modern Americans is ridiculously rich. Our standard of living is unbelievably awesome when you compare it to people with who lives with just a couple sets of clothes, a hut the size of your bedroom, and rarely enough food to get full. Just getting perspective can help all of us a lot. But you can’t avoid seeing others at school having what you don’t and feeling like you are less important than them. Proverbs tells you who feel poor today that having integrity (19:1,5,9), real friends who like you for who you really are (18:24), and the wisdom of walking closely with Christ (19:2,8) are what really matter in life

But while today’s passage speaks most directly to the poor, there is a message implied in it for the rich, too. The rich struggle with gaining false friends through their wealth rather than their personalities, interests, and character (19:4). How many times have those of you with a lot of money wondered if certain “friends” just wanted to hang with you or come over to your house to use your stuff? At the same time, those with lots of money can often buy opportunities rather than earn them (19:6,10), which costs them chances to see their true capabilities. The modern “pay-to-play” travel sports phenomenon, for example, is built on everyone’s desire to be a sports superstar. Many people are making a lot of money by feeding middle school students’ dreams of collegiate and professional success whether they have the required talent or not. Proverbs tells those of you with much by the world’s standards not to put too much stock in your earthy wealth and what it can do for you. Instead, focus on seeking the same things that your less wealthy classmates are encouraged to seek: personal honesty and hard work, trustworthy and kind friends, and a deep personal relationship with the Lord.

The Text (Proverbs 18:23 – 19:10)

18:23 The poor man uses entreaties, But the rich answers roughly.

24 A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

19:1 Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, And he sins who hastens with his feet.

3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the Lord.

4 Wealth makes many friends, But the poor is separated from his friend.

5 A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who speaks lies will not escape.

6 Many entreat the favor of the nobility, And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.

7 All the brothers of the poor hate him; How much more do his friends go far from him! He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him.

8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.

9 A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who speaks lies shall perish.

10 Luxury is not fitting for a fool, Much less for a servant to rule over princes.

Questions to Think About

  1. After reading today’s devotion, do you think that you identify more with the problems of the poor or the rich? Why?
  2. How might NRCA be a different school if the poorer and richer students both focused on loving Jesus and each other instead of comparing what stuff their parents can buy them?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Let Our Words Be Few (Proverbs 17:27-18:4)

Talking too much will get you into trouble, while choosing your words carefully will improve your relationships with others and protect you from sin. This is a consistent truth found in Proverbs, the gospels, the New Testament letters, and really the whole Bible. As young men and women, a common temptation is running your mouth too much. People who talk a lot often end up hurting others with their words. When in doubt, stay quiet. It’s better to listen to others more than you try to tell them what’s on your mind. You don’t learn by talking, but by listening. This is what today’s passage, which connects the end of Proverbs 17 with the beginning of Proverbs 18, is teaching us. You will rarely regret not saying something, but chances are that there have been many times when you said something to a friend or family member that you later regretted deeply, either immediately or sometime when you thought back on the conversation. Your mouth is a spring that can either pour forth encouragement and praise or bitterness and meanness. Start learning now to control your tongue. God will help you to “let your words be few” if you sincerely ask Him to.

I can speak from experience on this issue. As someone who likes to talk a lot, I know that I have done great damage to others and myself with my words. This is a sin issue for me that I need God’s help with every day. When I am out fellowship with the Lord, I immediately notice more harshness and volume (more total words and more loudness, too) in my talking. But when heart is right before God, I experience the power of the His Spirit giving me control over what I am saying. If you struggle with taming the tongue, there is hope for you. But you have to want to beat this sin – it won’t just happen. You have to hate your ugly words enough to want to change, and then call out to Jesus each day for His strength in winning the battle.

The Text (Proverbs 17:27-18:4)

17:27 He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.

28 Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.

18:1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.

2 A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart.

3 When the wicked comes, contempt comes also; And with dishonor comes reproach.

4 The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; The wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook.

Questions to Think About

  1. Are you known as a person who talks a lot or someone who is more quiet? Explain.
  2. Can you think of some things that you said to friends last school year that you wished you didn’t? You can’t go back in time to change your past (and if you could, no one else would know that you did anyways…that’s how time travel works), but you can change your future. If you start learning this summer how to let God tame your tongue, then next school year you can expect fewer regrettable conversations.
  3. Are you getting better at listening to others instead of just wanting to say what’s on your mind? How can becoming a better listener improve your relationships with family and friends?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel