Today’s reading: Proverbs 5

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 5:8 Stay away from her!
Don’t go near the door of her house!

Today’s Focus: Guarding against sin

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Sin doesn’t “just happen.” Temptation arises everywhere, but many times, before the temptation comes, we’ll find we’ve placed ourselves where we shouldn’t be or have exposed ourselves to something we shouldn’t have.

If you are or have been a parent, you probably remember how diligently you guarded your child/children, especially when they were young. You Hear no evilmonitored what they watched on television and took a special interest in who their friends were. In yesterday’s devotion, written by Delia Latham, she reminded us of the need to guard our hearts with the same diligence.

Today I encourage you to guard not only your hearts, but your steps as well.

Affairs don’t just happen, and no one is immune.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul warns us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

And in Matthew 26:41, Jesus urges us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Or, in other words, to be on guard for the pitfalls of our flesh.

Pause for a moment to consider the warnings in Proverbs 5 in light of your own life and marriage. What are the dangers of thinking we we won’t sin?

What are some ways to guard ourselves against infidelity?

Pause for a moment to think back to Proverbs chapters 1-4. What role does the heart and ming–what we think about–play in sin?

Let’s talk about this! You can join the conversation by leaving comments below or by joining our Yahoo study group.

Click to join ProverbsStudy

Join us tomorrow when my sweet friend and one of our Yahoo Proverbs study members discusses this further.

Proverbs 4:26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.

We live in the midwest. (That’s my claim, anyway. Although according to those Midwest bloggers at the Barn Door, I’m out of the “zone.”) But we get nasty blizzards, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and have hot, humid summers. I’ve even seen a few Toto’s running around our neighborhood. To me, a native westerner, all signs of the Midwest. We’ve also got the beautiful deciduous trees with thick trunks and branches. Which means, we’ve got roots–the ones that wiggle beneath sidewalks, uplifting big chunks of cement. These ruts and raises turn an easy jog into quite an obstacle course.

Most times I navigate over the bumps and crevices with no problem, but every once in a while, when I’m tired or lost in thought, the raised cement catches me off guard and sends me flying. Not a pretty sight. In fact, I’ve been known to stop traffic, and not in a good way. (Nothing like seeing a thirtysomething howl like a toddler before falling prostrate on the cement. Yep. Attractive.) So I pick myself up off the ground, tell the gawkers I’m okay, and glance back at the mammoth boulder I tripped over. Heat sears my cheeks as I realize I stumbled over not a boulder, but the tiniest of cracks.

After one particularly embarrassing fall, I decided to choose my route a bit more carefully. I forewent the raised slabs of cement, opting for a smooth roadway instead.

I think our spiritual life is like this sometimes. Often we can traipse through life without a bump or a stumble. During those times, it’s easy to get over-confident. Sin will never happen to us. We’re strong. But then, when we least expect it, we trip over a bump in the road. Might not even be a big bump. But it’s big enough to send us flying.

God knows this about us and has provided warnings in His Word, like the one quoted at the beginning of this post. He wants us to choose level paths–to live with intentionality. This level path we choose might look different for each of us. If we struggle with drinking, it means no hanging out in bars. If we struggle with impure thoughts, we probably need to avoid many of today’s secular novels, movies, and television shows. If we struggle with disinterment, we might need to toss out those clothing catalogs. If we struggle with gossip, we might need to be selective about who we spend our time with. I know. Sounds restrictive. Perhaps even unnecessary, but take it from a fellow pavement-eater, choosing level paths is much more pleasant than loosing skin.

What about you? Any rerouting God might want to do in your life? Maybe you’ve already made a hard right, veering on a new, smooth course. We’d love to hear about it. Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about ways to avoid that rather embarrassing fall.

Today’s post, written by my devo-writing partner and dear friend, Joanne Sher, challenges us to search deep in our hearts, past the superficial, laying all of us at the cleansing alter of Christ. Make sure to stop by her blog to leave an encouraging word and show your support.

Anything Hiding Behind Camouflage by Joanne Sher

We’re coming up to that time of year when it’s a good idea to watch yourself when you’re out in the woods–especially if you’re Bambi.

Firearm Deer Hunting Season will be starting in just a few months here in Michigan, and those hunters could be anywhere.

I’m not a hunter, as much as that may (or may not) surprise you. Nobody in my or my husband’s immediate family is either (that I know of, anyway). I don’t know that I quite get the fascination that folks have with heading out with their gun and shooting animals.

But camouflage I get (and if you’re curious, I JUST learned how to spell that word!). If you’re gonna be out among wildlife, you definitely do NOT want to be noticed. I’m not sure how smart deer are, but if I’d seen some strange two-legged creature walking through the forest with a stick and my deer friend suddenly fell to the ground beside me, I’d want to avoid those “two-legged creatures” from then on.

But if you are camouflaged (like this… um… handsome guy to the left, for example), the prey have no reason to fear–or at least they don’t think they do. The deer will put their guard down, and before they know it: bang bang, fall down, venison jerky.

This reminds me of the sin in our lives. Sometimes, it’s pretty obvious, and all we have to do is run the other way to avoid it.

But that isn’t always the case.

Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15

Satan, and sin, is often difficult to distinguish from the day-to-day stuff we do, and even the things that are glorifying to God. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still wrong. Doing too much of a good thing can also be sin.

So, when things look fine, don’t let your guard down. Sin is out there, disguised as fun or “not so bad” or something else equally harmless-looking. Watch for the camouflage.

Joanne Sher is a Jew by birth, a Christian by rebirth, and a writer by gift. A native Southern Californian, she now lives happily in West Michigan with her husbad and two school-aged children.

Her first book, still seeking a home, explores God’s preparation, protection and provision through her husband’s serious health issues. She is also working on a biblical fiction set during King Saul’s reign and centered around the handmaiden of Saul’s daughter Michal.

She is also a blogger, not only at her own site,but at the FaithWriters blog, where she posts daily. She also posts monthly at Jewels of Encouragement, The Barn Door, and Internet Cafe Devotions.


My post title appears to be one of the most frequently asked questions in Christianity. It’s an important question and one that should always be on the forefront of our minds every moment of every day, but if we’re not careful, this question can render us ineffective. I think it’s easy to slip into perpetual spin mode. If we spend more time seeking God’s will than doing it, before long, spiders will spin cobwebs in our hair.

And most of the time, when we ask that question, we’re not looking for an answer to the here and now. We want the ten-year plan. We want reassurance that God will use us, or fix us, or fix the problem we’re dealing with. But as I’ve said before, I think God often operates on a “need to know” basis. Meaning, He shows us step B once we’ve completed step A. Why? Because He’s more concerned with the condition of our heart than our location on the journey. He wants us completely dependent on Him and knows if He gives us too much information, we’ll drop His hand and take off running.

So what do we do if we’re in the waiting stage? We draw near, pray, trust and obey.

Draw Near

We make it a habit to spend time with God, and in so doing, learn to distinguish His voice. We grow accustomed to His presence, allowing His Spirit to do whatever is necessary in us to bring about His good, pleasing and perfect will.

We Pray

We make our communication with God our top priority, but we don’t pray just for ourselves. We pray for others and God’s kingdom. As we pray that God’s kingdom be expanded, God aligns our hearts to His kingdom goal.

We trust

Throughout Scripture God has promised to lead, guide, transform, and equip us. The question then is not, will God show us His will, but instead, will we obey it when He does?

Which leads me to my final step–We obey

I believe we know God’s will more than we care to admit. We want the big plan–the plan to lead a county-wide outreach event or a promotion or some other “one day” event, but God wants us to obey now, in the little things. And when we are faithful with the little things–showing respect, love and patience to our spouses; spending time daily in God’s Word; serving in areas we may never receive praise for–God begins to expand our boundaries and our reach. But never so we can become inflated. In fact, whenever our pride begins to grow, we can probably count on a dose of pride-dashing humility because pride gets in the way. Effectiveness comes from full, humble, surrender.

I’m going to leave you with a passage from Psalm. As you read it, lay your angst aside and go forward with your day, knowing God will guide you in His perfect timing. In fact, He is guiding you now. Make sure you don’t get so focused on the what-ifs of tomorrow you lose sight on what God is doing today.

And, as you ask God to show you His will, ask yourself this question: am I ready to obey without question or hesitation, no matter what God asks me to do? Because God doesn’t need more commandos. He needs more Toto’s.

Psalm 25 (NIV–emphasis, shown in parenthesis, mine)

In you, (not our schedule, ten-year plan or bank account) LORD my God,
   I put my trust.

 2 I trust in you; (If we truly trust God to do what He says He’ll do and be who He says He is, then what is there to fear or worry about?)
   do not let me be put to shame,
   nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one who hopes in you
   will ever be put to shame, (I believe this may be because as you draw near to God, He removes the “I” from us. When we have died to ourselves, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Because really, it’s not about us and as I’ve said before, dead men don’t bleed. )

but shame will come on those
   who are treacherous without cause.

 4 Show me your ways, LORD,
   teach me your paths.

(Notice David asks God to teach him. Each day of our faith walk is like stepping into a giant classroom. As we move closer to God, He molds us and teaches us to do His will as He prepares us to complete the next step in our faith journey. Remember algebra from school? The teacher didn’t show you geometry until you’d mastered the basic steps of algebra. You want to be used by God? Then master what He’s showing you now by living each day in full surrendered obedience.)

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long. (Guide me–walk beside me, step by step, moment by moment.)
6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
   for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
   and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
   for you, LORD, are good.

 8 Good and upright is the LORD;
   therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
   and teaches them his way.

(Because we know God is good, loving, faithful, and true, we can relax and enjoy the journey knowing He will guide us and teach us. Our job is to draw near and obey. His job is to teach, guide, and bless His plan.)

10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
   toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, LORD,
   forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

 12 Who, then, are those who fear the LORD?
   He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.
13 They will spend their days in prosperity,
   and their descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him; (This is one of the most beautiful passages in Scripture. It speaks of intimacy.) he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
   for only he will release my feet from the snare. (This verse makes me think of a blind man trusting in his guide for each step, so in tune to his guide’s footsteps, the man senses the slightest turn. May we be so in tune with God, ever looking to Him, we allow Him to direct each and every step of our journey.)

 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
   for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart
   and free me from my anguish.
18 Look on my affliction and my distress 
   and take away all my sins.  (This is the third time David asked God to forgive, forget, or remove his sins. Sin is the greatest barrier to hearing God’s will. If we want to hear God and live in intimate fellowship with Him, we must be diligent about removing all sin from our life.) 
19 See how numerous are my enemies
   and how fiercely they hate me!

 20 Guard my life and rescue me;
   do not let me be put to shame,
   for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
   because my hope, LORD, is in you.

 22 Deliver Israel, O God,
   from all their troubles!

Sorry to all my subscribers for the double posting today, but I promised I’d route you over to Nicole Miller’s blog so you could read a little about the story behind my Operation First Novel finalist, Breaking Free, formerly known as Impossible Choices. Last night I watched a DVD my editor at Christ to the World, Art Criscoe, produced and in it, he talked about the beauty and freedom of grace. He used two illustrations that were very powerful: One was that of a bird in a cage. The bird represents us, enslaved by sin, prior to Christ. But then, he opened the cage and although he didn’t use a live bird, the audience could envision this previously caged animal suddenly taking flight and soaring on the wind. Next, he had the audience sing the first line in Amazing Grace. Do you remember it? “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Then he paused and asked a very heart-pricking question: What does grace sound like? And in answer, he picked up a long metal chain and dropped it in a box.

What does grace sound like? It sounds like wings taking flight. It sounds like a melody released from a once bound throat. It sounds like chains falling as the redeemed step out to walk in newness of life.

Earlier today one of my friends asked a question that seems to swirl around the Christian writing community. What can writers write about and just how real should our novels be? In my story, Breaking Free, I write about the enslaved, and God’s love for them. Because truly, we’re all in need of grace. Or, as I wrote on my one sheet, we’ve all got inner demons. Some just scream louder than others. But the good news is God is bigger than our sin and when Christ sets us free, we are free indeed!

Once we’ve been set free, our job is to show others where to go to find that same freedom. Jesus alone offers freedom.

Visit Nicole Miller’s To the Heart of History to find out more.

(If you are interested in watching the DVD, shoot me an email and I’ll see what I can do.)

Last night a large group of men and women from Set Free Ministries came to our church to share their testimonies. The pews were packed, and the celebration was high. These people cherished their new life in Christ. They understood what it means to be set free.

One man took the mic and talked about how God had taken him from the streets, out of his mind and hooked on drugs, to victorious living. Addiction had robbed him of his family, but God set him free and gave him a wife. Another man followed, and gave a similar story. He was enslaved to addiction, and was losing his mind, but God set him free. Then a woman stood up. She looked to be seven or eight months pregnant, and as she talked about spending time in prison with no concern for herself or anyone else, then transitioned to the joy of sobriety and bringing a baby girl to term, I marveled at the peace evident in her features–how could such a soft woman have been so hard?

Testimony after testimony said the same thing: I was enslaved but God set me free. Many had lost their families, but God had provided a new family among their fellowship of believers. And yet, many of them had reconciled with their families. Moms, who’d lost their children to the state because of addiction, regained their children. Those who once slept on the streets now found employment and were now reaching out to others still buried in the mire.

We hear stories like these quite often, although, perhaps not often enough, because for every freed Christian, there appears to be many still clinging to their old life of sin. I say still clinging because it’s never an issue of ability. According to the Bible, if you’ve given your life to Jesus, you have been made new. Sin no longer holds you. You’ve been set free. Perhaps we just aren’t aware of our freedom.

According to Tony Evans, author of Free At Last, our struggles come because we’ve forgotten, or failed to fully grasp, our identity in Christ. True, there’s still a healthy dose of Adam in us, threatening to rear its ugly head when we’re spiritually unprepared, but our God is bigger, remember? Our God is stronger. Sin is broken. He has saved us.

I am reminded of a passage in Luke 17:1-10:

 1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.

   “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

 6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

   7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

We like the verse that talks about faith, right? And we’ll use it when praying for something we desire, but notice the entire passage. Jesus isn’t talking about uprooting mulburry trees. He’s talking about forgiving someone when they’ve wronged us.

By saying, “Increase our faith!” the apostle was saying, “I can’t do this!” But Jesus said, “Oh, yes you can. You have all the faith you need.”

Notice the rest of the passage. Oh, how we like to pat ourselves on the back when we offer forgiveness to someone, especially if they’ve hurt us deeply. Or if someone gets in our face and we take the high road. As if our obedience somehow makes us super Christians. That kind of thinking only keeps us rooted in sin, making it appear as if we’ve somehow done something great by obeying God.

As I said when we first began our series on intentional living, the first thing that needs to go is, “I can’t help it,” type thinking.

Either God is sovereign or He’s not. Either we’re new creations or were not. Either we’ve been given the mind of Christ or we haven’t. It’s not like we get a small dose of the Holy Spirit when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. Those brothers and sisters in Christ who shared their testimonies at my church last night didn’t get an extra serving of God.

Christ lives within us and has given us everything we need to live victorious, peace-filled lives. It appears then, when we aren’t living in victory, the problem lies within us. And I would wager, it has a lot to do with our thought processes. This week I want to focus on taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ.

In the meantime, the next time you are tempted to say, “But I can’t help it!” meditate on this verse:

Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Jesus Christ, Creator of the universe, lives inside you. He’s given you everything you need to live a victorious life, an abundant life.

(And spend some time reading through Romans 6)

Lately I’ve become increasingly aware of my capacity to sin. If you’re a writer, I’m sure to some extent you understand. There’s a fine line between being marketable and selling your soul–between ministering to others and living to please the world. For me, it’s often an instant gratification thing, and I’m never void of opportunities to choose the path of least resistance. The more “line in the sand” moments arise, the more alert I am of my sinful nature. As my mentor says, the older we grow, the more we realize we are just one decision away from falling into sin. One quick decision away.

As my daughter grows older, our conversations are becoming more and more intense. And intentional. I know she’s going to face numerous occasions to sin along her journey from childhood to adulthood. The stronger she thinks she is, the more apt she will be to fall. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? Perhaps ironic–if she thinks she’s strong, she’ll likely fall. Not sure if the context is right, but I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

The Bible tells us God’s strength is made perfect when we are weak–when we are completely dependent on God, surrounded by His protective arms and clinging to Him and His promises. The allure of sin dwindles in the presence of the Almighty.

Before Jesus died, He told His disciples to watch and pray–to be alert.

Mark 14:38 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Be alert, self-controlled, intentional. Abide. Pray. Recognize your capacity for evil and choose the good instead.

My greatest struggle is pride, but often I won’t even recognize this ugly monster until it’s upon me in full force–when it’s much harder to fight. So often my sin lies dormant, tucked deep within my heart, until trouble arises. It is then–when my fight for self breaks forth–that I see my true nature. Only then, I’m caught off guard, swept away in the moment.

In Psalm 139:23 David says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

This is a pro-active prayer. One that meets the trouble head on and places it where it belongs, in the hands of the Father.

Search me, O God. Examine the deep recesses of my heart, the places only you can see, and remove everything that gets in your way. Lead me in the way everlasting.


If you peruse the isles of any grocery store long enough, you’ll quickly recognize American’s love-hate relationship with salt. In the crackers and chips isle, your blood pressure will rise just staring at all the labels. One ounce of potato chips have 186 mg of sodium. And believe it or not, pretzels are even worse! Most pretzels pack a whopping 500 mg of sodium per ounce. Then there’s spaghetti sauces, cheeses, peanut butter (my personal favorite) and cottage cheese. Yep, even cottage cheese. It has 450 mg of sodium in every half cup serving. We have become so saturated with salt, “low-sodium” has become the latest buzz word. In fact, according to the NY Daily News, researchers from PepsiCo and Frito-Lay are working to reduce the amount of salt in potato chips by changing the shape of its crystals.

In our day and age, salt has become so prevalent, it can be hard to understand why Jesus talked so much about its importance, but in Bible times, salt played a crucial role. It added flavor, preserved food and was even used medicinally. Salt was so important, in fact, that it was often used as money. Our word “salary” arose from the phrase  “salarium argentum” which means “salt money”. In ancient Rome, soldiers were given salt as part of their pay.  So when Jesus talks about His followers being the salt of the earth, He is telling us to add flavor to our surroundings and preserve what is good in our culture. (IMHO)

With my bags of potato chips, pretzels and sodium-loaded sauces (salsa’s my favorite) I understand this analogy. I can actually visualize flavor-producing “salt” pouring from my Spirit-filled being, but what I couldn’t understand for the longest time was how to keep my salt from losing it’s saltiness. (Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”)

I know salt. I’ve been using salt, in one way or another, for–oh, do I really want to age myself? Let’s just say, for a long time.  I’ve dissolved it, re-crystalized it, looked at it under a microscope, stuck my tongue on halite (rock salt–for a college Earth Science class) and I’ve got to tell you, the flavor doesn’t change.

I understood the concept. Flavorless salt would be bland, ineffective and basically worthless. The same is true of a flavorless Christian. And I certainly don’t want to be bland, but how in the world can I keep my witness spicy?

Last Sunday as I read a footnote in my new study Bible (It’s an archaeological study Bible and I love it!) I had an ah-ha moment. Most of the salt used in Israel came from the Dead Sea and was full of impurities. These impurities caused the salt to lose some of its flavor.

So now that I understand the historical context of this verse, it is easier to see how it might apply to my spiritual walk. Just as impurities weaken salt’s flavor, impurities in our lives, known as sin, weaken our witness for Christ. We talk about the love of God in one breath, and in the next, gossip about our neighbor. We share how great life is with Christ, and then complain about our jobs or doing the laundry or chasing after energetic two year olds. We say God is loving and in control, and then we fret endlessly about our finances. We talk about the power of the Holy Spirit and then allow our emotions to control us. And to the non-Christian world, this can be very confusing.

For me, my greatest impurity is selfishness. My selfishness weakens my witness, takes away my flavor and, and when left unchecked, reduces my words, no matter how heart-felt, to flavorless powder. It is my selfishness that hurries past an old lady working to get groceries in her car instead of stopping to help. It is my selfishness that dashes into line while a fellow shopper struggles with her shopping cart so that I can get to my car a whole five minutes faster. And it is time that I act on the conviction God sparked on Monday. (To find out more, read my Death by Wheat Squares post) And maybe now that I recognize this flavor-sapping impurity (one of many, I’m sure.) I’ll be more diligent in my flavor-preservation.

Today, as a first step effort, I’m going to focus on the needs of others by asking them for specific ways I can help or serve them. Waiting for them to come to me is too easy. Today I’m going to beat them to the punch. (Feel free to hold me accountable by checking back with me tomorrow. -grin-)

Wanna join me? What is your greatest “impurity” and what are some steps you can take to purge that sin from your salt?

PS, this post may seem to contradict my previous one on transparency, but understand, there is a difference between being real with one another and just plain griping.