In modern times, we sometimes hear the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig.” I wonder if it is simply a more modernized version of Proverbs 11:22, which says, A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig's snout.” [CSB]  The NIV puts it like this “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” This word, discretion, means “Without a taste for judgement, discernment, reason.”

Whichever phrase we use, the message is that making superficial or cosmetic changes does not change the nature of something or someone. 

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A couple of nights ago, right after sundown, I was out in my yard and heard the yipping of a pack of coyotes in the woods beside my home. We have a nice, 6-foot fence, so they did not worry me and I find their distinguishing call to be kind of cute – at least when I know they cannot get to me. 

Coyotes, like wolves, and many others of their genus, hunt in packs. 

The idea of “pack mentality” has a negative connotation in this day and age – and rightfully so. Wikipedia has this to say, “Herd mentality, mob mentality and pack mentality, also lesser known as gang mentality, describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.” Throughout man’s history pack mentality has been a factor in many instances of mankind acting badly. 

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What do you see when you look in the mirror? Wrinkles? A crooked smile? Laugh lines? Someone too old, too young, too pale, too dark? For me, unless I am wearing my glasses, I don’t see anything clearly. It’s all a bit fuzzy around the edges. I’ve arrived at that age where I require a magnifying mirror to put on my makeup properly. 

What if that mirror, instead of reflecting your DNA, your years of experience, your mother’s smile, your father’s nose, reflected your soul? Would you see a heart of love? A spirit of hope? A mind of steadfastness? A soul of patience? 

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Control Panel

Ever had a klutzy moment where you trip, essentially on your own feet, and looked around to see if there was something you could blame it on? I have. You might be interested to know that Solomon had something to say about tripping yourself. 

Proverbs 11:5-6 [ESV] The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.

Your own faults and sins will be your undoing. We trip ourselves up. Solomon was passionate enough about this point to repeat himself in verses 5 and 6. We’ve really got no one to blame but ourselves. 

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My devotional (Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson –– Zondervan – Copyright 2018 – Day 39) quoted this scripture: “Take of your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 Batterson wrote, “no place is devoid of God’s presence.” And reminded his readers that anywhere God is – that is holy ground. 

This reminds me of something that happened to Peter, which changed the course of the early New Testament church.

In Acts 9:10-16, we are told about a vision Peter had about a sheet full of unclean animals, which the Lord told him to kill and eat. When Peter refuses, he is told this: "What God has made clean, do not call common." [Acts 10:15 ESV] 

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Revelation 12:11 [NIV] They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…

I don’t think any of us would question that we triumph by the blood of the Lamb. Without that cleansing blood, we know we would fail – remaining in our sins and estranged from the Father without hope of changing that. We triumph daily by that blood. Can I get an “amen?”

However, when a recent devotional I read* put the emphasis on “by the word of their testimony” I began to wonder about the idea that our own testimony has any part in triumphing over Satan. 

To be sure, our personal triumph is linked to the blood of the Lamb. Perhaps, though, the triumph of the Body of Christ as a whole and as individual believers is also dependent upon the word of our testimony. 

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In my humble opinion, Solomon’s “wisdom” here is completely out of synch with society today. Perhaps his world worked differently than our modern one. Probably, he could not foresee the kind of world we live in now – one where it is more difficult to get ahead by honest gains and where ill-gotten gains (or “treasures of wickedness” as it is translated in the King James Version) seem to, in fact, be the best way to achieve money, fame and success. 

We live in a world that rewards the kind of bad behavior that many reality shows produce with money and fame. We live in a world where we just accept that all or nearly all of the most powerful politicians are corrupt and not trustworthy. We live in a world where we just expect that major corporations are run on the greed of the leaders who choose profit over people and cut corners to line their own pockets. 

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In the song The Rose, part of her album of the same title, Bette Midler offers some ideas about what “some” say about love. “Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed. Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed. Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.” Not a pretty picture. I don’t know who these “some” are, but, clearly, they have been hurt by “love.” I say, that river, that razor, that hunger – that isn’t love. I believe the Word of God backs me up on this. 

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives it to us straight about what love is and what it isn’t: 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. [NLT]

Those who don’t understand God’s definition of love might think that love doesn’t apply in certain situations – that maybe you need something, some action or positioning that is often seen as opposed to love, like strength or self-preservation – especially when you’ve been attacked by gossip, when a friend has been untrue, when you are arguing or being persecuted. 

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I used to occasionally watch a show called “What Not to Wear,” which took people (nominated by their friends) who had a terrible sense of style (or none at all) and helped them gain a better sense of how to pick clothes that were right for them. The style team explained why the person’s choices on attire were inappropriate or even ugly and, then, taught them how to pick clothes more appropriate for their age, figure and job. Then they gave them $5,000 to spend on a new wardrobe and sent them shopping in New York City! 

Let’s face it, without God, most humans put on the wrong behavioral attire every day. Galatians 5:19-21 [ESV] spells it out pretty clearly: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

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The morning after my family’s two-day Thanksgiving gathering, it is quiet in the house and the cleanup begins. This was a mild and quiet Thanksgiving for us, since not even half the family was in town. I hope those of you who celebrated the US Thanksgiving (at home or abroad) this year, also had a day filled with family and friends, good food and great conversation. 

Even though we had a significantly smaller group than usual this year, there was still a pile of laundry to do (I think every potholder and dishtowel was dirty), trash to empty and leftovers to be dealt with – not to mention photos to post and a few extra pounds to shed.

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It’s Thanksgiving time in the USA. Time for great debates like: “stuffing or dressing?”; “pea-can pie or pea-con pie?”; “frosting or icing?” and “fresh cranberries or canned?” 

I much prefer these debates to the political ones raging online and on TV. But, frankly, I’m going to eat my fill of the foods I like, whatever you call them. I like all the traditional foods of the American Thanksgiving holiday. My family has special dishes we only make this time of year. And we stuff ourselves with all the good and bountiful food that God has blessed us with each year.

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Many of you will be familiar with the song titled “Thy Word,” written by Amy Grant. I particularly like its chorus: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

The words are pulled from Proverbs 6:23. As beautiful and poignant as the son’gs message is, I believe it misses a key point from the scripture.

The full text, as given in the King James Version, is: For the commandment [is] a lamp; and the law [is] light; and reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life:

The NIV puts it like this: For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life,

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Last week, I wrote about the promise that no weapon formed or forged against us can prosper. But, if your life is anything like mine, you know that these weapons will sometime pummel you like a Cat 4 hurricane, roaring in at you with winds over 150 miles per hour. They will sometimes shake you like a rag doll. I’ve been through a few of these trials in my lifetime. How about you?

After Hurricane Michael (a Category 4 hurricane when it hit the Florida panhandle) decimated much of Mexico Beach, Florida, the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach was the last house standing among the beachfront homes on its block. In an article in the New York Times, published on October 15, 2018, I read the story about the amazing home the Dr. Lebron Lackey and his uncle, Russel King built and named the Sand Palace of Mexico Beach.* 

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Often, in the midst of trail, we can be comforted by Isaiah 54:17 [KJV], which says, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue [that] shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This [is] the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness [is] of me, saith the LORD.”

Often, in prayer for someone struggling with a serious trial or temptation, we remind God of His promise that “no weapon formed against us will prosper.” 

But, what does it mean that no weapon formed against us will prosper? What exactly is God guaranteeing in Isaiah 54:17?

The NIV puts it this way, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me," declares the LORD.

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In 2015, Hyundai undertook the task of helping Stephanie write a letter to her father. What’s the big deal about that? It was written in the sand on Nevada's Delamar Dry Lake, so that Steph’s father, Astronaut Terry Virts, commander of Expedition 43 at the time, could see it from the International Space Station. The image measured 59,808,480.26 square feet.

My brother, David, works for Hyundai and he told me about this recently when we got together for dinner. Along the lines of things that can be seen from space, David also mentioned the ancient drawings, which some people claim could only have been made by aliens and not by the people of that day.

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We believers look up to see the glory of God and understand His majesty. Psalm 19:1 [NIV] tells us, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 

We look up because we know that is where our help comes from. Psalm 121:1-2 [ESV] …I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.

Jesus often looked toward heaven when He prayed. Luke 9:16 [KJV] Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. John 17:1 [NIV] After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. So, we often do too. Luke 18:13 [ESV] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'

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Ants have colonized almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands. Ants thrive in most ecosystems and may form 15–25% of the terrestrial animal biomass. Their success in so many environments has been attributed to their social organization and their ability to modify habitats, tap resources, and defend themselves. Some species, such as the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), are regarded as invasive species, establishing themselves in areas where they have been introduced accidentally.

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Fire ants! I spent another summer trying to rid my yard of them. Sometimes I think that there is just one big catacomb underground, connecting all around my yard and maybe even the whole world. This would explain why when I kill one mound, another one pops up, seemingly overnight. It’s like a game of “whack-a-mole.”

But ants have a lot to teach us. 

What parent has neglected to quote Proverbs 6:6-8 [NIV], by way of encouraging a child to be industrious and hard working? Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

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Ideas for blogs come to me in all sorts of ways. This one came to me for no discernable reason at all, in the middle of the night after being awakened by a leg cramp. I clearly recall, as the cramping subsided, “prism.” And then I went back to sleep.

The crazy thing is that I remembered it the next morning and that the idea has continued to rumble around in my brain. Seems like it is a message I am compelled to write at this time of the year as many of us head off to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (See Deut. 16:13-15)

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Proverbs 5:15-18 [CSB] Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well.  Should your springs flow in the streets, streams in the public squares?  They should be for you alone and not for you to share with strangers.  Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth.

These scriptures are clearly focused on fidelity in marriage. But it speaks to us about contentment – an important piece of advice for all of God’s blessings, including a happy marriage.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 expands on contentment: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. [CSB]

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