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Farewell Message from Pastor Wells

Paul’s farewell sermon to the Ephesian elders is a moving description of what it means to be a pastor—and (I say it humbly) you almost need to be a pastor to understand.  He talks about trials (Acts 20.18-19), about faithfulness in preaching (vv. 20-21), about purity and selflessness (vv. 33-35). He talks about uncertainties and hardships that lie ahead (vv. 22-23), and his heart desire to finish strong (v. 24).  And then—and here our emotions begin to rise—he speaks the unwelcome truth: I know that none of you . . . will see my face again (v. 25). Thus the...

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Bad Battle Plans

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. Proverbs 23:9     The press has a field day when Christian leaders fall.  And sometimes when they stand.   Some twenty years ago, a raft of ministries and denominations called for a boycott of Disney for promoting the homosexual agenda.  The media loved it—self-righteous hayseeds have decided to boycott Mickey Mouse!  The boycott never had any teeth, and a decade later it all ended.  Homosexual groups hailed its demise as “a victory for our community.”   There was no scandal here, just well-intentioned believers attempting to speak truth...

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The Banquet

She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. Proverbs 9:2         Since ancient times and still today, a banquet sends a message.  About the host!  A father who goes all out for his daughter’s wedding may be showing his love, or trying to impress people!  King Ahasuerus hosted a banquet to show the splendor and pomp of his greatness (Est. 1:4); but Mathew the tax collector made a feast so his friends could hear Jesus (Luke 5:29), and Isaiah prophesied God’s great day of salvation when the Lord of hosts will make for all...

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Daydreamers in St. Louis

  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding Proverbs 2:6     Is wisdom a gift or an achievement?  Here, we read, the Lord gives wisdom.  (Read 1 Kings 4:29; James 1:5.)  But elsewhere in this very same chapter, Solomon puts conditions on wisdom: if you receive my words (v. 1); if you call out for insight (v. 3); if you seek it [wisdom] like silver (v. 4).   How is it that wisdom can be both—a gift and an achievement?    Maybe this will help.  In 1876, 10,000 people lived in Hill City, South Dakota.  They had come by the thousands,...

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Answering a Fool

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5     Reading these two proverbs might leave you scratching your head.  Do you or do you not answer a fool according to his folly?  Well, “yes, and no,” or rather “no, and yes.”  For these are actually two very different cases.   In the first case, the fool threatens to entangle you in his web of foolishness.  He attacks and you strike back.  He talks nonsense and you dignify it with debate.  Better not to...

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Soup with Cyanide

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.  Proverbs 19:2     We’ve all heard the one about a pilot who announces some “bad news and some good news.”  The bad news, he says, is that our instruments have malfunctioned and we don’t know where we’re going.  The good news is that we have a strong tail wind and we’re making excellent time!  That’s today’s proverb in a picture.   Pay close attention to each half of the proverb.  The first half pictures a man who wants something, but without knowledge.  Not that he himself doesn’t know what...

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Adding Question Marks

The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.  Proverbs 12:5     Life is full of question marks.  Do this . . . or that?  Should I?  Could I? Can I?  Or not?       Yes—but truth be told, sometimes we put question marks where they don’t belong.  A man I knew some years ago excused his divorce by saying, “I know what the Bible says about divorce, but I believe God wants me to be happy.”  Like Satan in the Garden he had put a question mark where it didn’t belong.  He changed the declarative, God has said, to...

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The Man of Heat

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention Proverbs 15:18     Anger has many faces—the high school recluse who shocks the world with a rampage; the husband who vents on his wife with an acid tongue; the wife who “gets back” by turning cold.  Or those who turn their anger outside in—into ulcers, depression, or crabbiness.   Then there is the classic “hothead.”  Proverbs calls him hot-tempered (in Hebrew, the man of heat).  We all know him.  Even small things can “set him off,” we say, he “flies off the handle,” he “loses his temper,” he “goes ballistic.”   Of course,...

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Wisdom Hates

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.  Proverbs 8:13     Do you have a heart for God?  How would you know?  Would you have warm feelings for God, enjoy going to church, or read the Bible through every year?  Would you share your faith, teach Sunday School, work in the nursery, or sing in the choir?  Would you pray before meals in public, lead your family in worship, join an accountability group?  Well, yes, you might do any number of these things if you had a heart for...

more...

The Rain That Falls in Florida

to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. Proverbs 1:6     The springs of Central Florida are an attraction all their own.  They form countless lakes and rivers, all fed by underground water that works its way through miles of limestone before bubbling up at a perfect 72˚ and drinkable right from the tap!  Scientists estimate that the famous Silver Springs, e.g., gets water from more than 400 square miles of aquifers, and that some of the water takes more than 100 years to reach the spring!     God gives wisdom, just as God causes the rain...

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Honey and Wisdom

My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of  the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.  Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off. Proverbs 24:13-14     Long before modern science discovered its extraordinary benefits, the ancients knew that honey is good and good for you: sweetness to the soul and health to the body, as Solomon says in another place (Prov. 16:24).  And likewise here: My son, eat honey, for it is good and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to...

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The Magic Stone

A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.  Proverbs 17:8     Though set in Japan, Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous Mikado was actually a satire on British politics—which helps explain the character “Pooh-Bah,” the self-important holder of numerous offices (“Lord High Everything Else”) who offers all his services for a price.  So when Nanki-Po (the Emperor’s son in disguise) asks about the woman he loves, Pooh-Bah calls it a “state secret.”  Nanki-Po takes the hint and pays the bribe to learn about his beloved.   Whether in Britain or Japan, or anywhere else on...

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A Name That Rots

The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. Proverbs 10:7     For any number of reasons, I suppose, we don’t give much thought to our legacy.  We should.  The writer of Hebrews, e. g., commends the heroes of the faith as worthy examples (Heb. 11:2).  And Scripture is full of encouragements to live so that others honor our lives: A good name is better than precious ointment (Eccl. 7:1).   Whether it matters to us or not, we will certainly leave a legacy—for good or ill: The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of...

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Iron Sharpens Iron

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.  A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:14-17     These verses describe three very different ways of relating to people.  Take your pick.  First the Idle Flatterer (v. 14), who seeks favor for himself by oiling his relationships with compliments, flattery, and ostentatious friendliness (rather than genuine good will or caring good works).  He...

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Deep Water

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5     A truism in counseling is that the presenting problem is never the problem!  There is always something more, something deeper, something hidden.  Solomon had it precisely right: The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water.     This sort of hidden purpose runs the gamut.  Secret sins and lifelong dreams.  Temptations we fear to own; fears we fear to name.  We love to talk about ourselves—but superficially!  The deep things we keep to ourselves.   It takes real wisdom to bring them into the...

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Wait Till the Pie Is Done

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Proverbs 13:19     This may come as a shock to some—but God wants you to be happy.  God Himself gave us a longing for happiness in the first place, and He is the only One who can satisfy that longing in life.  Not only “can” satisfy, but “wants to.”   This is what Solomon has in mind here.  God has made provision for our happiness in His Word.  True happiness.  Sweet-to-the-soul happiness.  He graciously satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts—and desire fulfilled is sweet to the...

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Commitments that Compromise

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself . . . Proverbs 6:1-3     The Brown-eyed Baby and I got started in home ownership because my Dad co-signed the note.  It was a very small mortgage, to be sure, but without his name on the dotted line it might as well have been a million bucks a month.  So I read Solomon’s stern warning here and wonder—what...

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Say No to Knee-Jerk

A fool gives full vent to this spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11     There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7).  Wisdom is knowing which is which.  The fool doesn’t know, or doesn’t care.  A fool gives full vent to his spirit.  And the world enables him.  The world says, “speak your mind;” the world says, “get it out (you’ll feel better);” the world says, “let ‘em have it!”  God says, fool.   Of course, there are times to speak—when silence itself would be sin.  Jeremiah wanted to stop prophesying, but he couldn’t—there...

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The End of Strife

Drive out the scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. Proverbs 22:10     In any church, or any organization for that matter—a class, a team, a family, a club—one person with an attitude can ruin everything.  The classic case is Diotrephes (3 John), who loved to put himself first, talked wicked nonsense against the Apostle John, and kept the church from doing Kingdom work.  John pledges to bring up what he is doing, because either the scoffer must either (a) repent, or (b) he must go.  Hear Solomon well: You can’t manage a scoffer, you must drive him...

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Fightin' Words

A soft answer turns away wrath,  but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1     On June 6, 1966, civil rights leader James Meredith was shot dead in Hernando, Mississippi.  Hearing the news in far off New York, a man named Sydney Street took to the street with Old Glory—which he publicly set afire, shouting, “we don’t need an American flag.”  As the saying goes, “them’s fightin’ words” —and sure enough, Sydney Street was arrested for disturbing the public peace: a harsh word stirs up anger.    But a soft answer turns away wrath.  The word for wrath is different than the word for...

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Hatred of Sin

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil (Prov. 8:13).   The “fear of the Lord” runs like a golden thread through the Proverbs.  The fear of the Lord, of course, is the beginning of wisdom (1:7; 9:10), and in the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (14:26).  The fear of the Lord prolongs life (10:27), and leads to life (19:23), and the reward for humility and the fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life (22:4).   But among all the positives, the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. We’re fine with that in theory, of...

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The Longing to Belong

Throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse. Proverbs 1:14     Some years ago, I attended a conference in a major city.  Early one morning I awoke to loud voices on the street below—it was a gang fight.  West Side Story without singing or dancing.    To middle-class suburbanites, gang life looks like Milton’s “hell broke loose,” but for a down and out kid it can feel like home.  Here he belongs.  Here he matters.  Here he counts.  The human heart longs to belong, so the words of this proverb strike a chord, don’t they?  Throw in your lot with...

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Slinking from First Class

Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. Proverbs 25:6-7     We had boarded the plane.  When the boarding door closed, a man behind me slipped up to an empty first class seat.  Flight attendants are trained to spot guerilla tactics.  No sooner had he buckled his first class seat belt and pretended to read than he had her stern and courteous presence in his face: “Sir, what is your seat assignment?” ...

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Letting It Rot

Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Proverbs 18:9     The Hebrew word for work here originally referred to a “commission” or a “charge”—in other words, a responsibility for something.  A good question to ask right now is, “what is my ‘work?’”  What does God want you to do and to be?  He wants you to be a godly man or woman, of course, a godly husband or wife, father or grandfather, mother or grandmother, a godly young person.  But beyond that, God has gifted you as a believer to serve Him, and He has placed you...

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A Sure Bet

The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. Proverbs 11:18     In the skeptical 17th century, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)—scientist, mathematician, inventor of the calculator, and Christian philosopher—put forth what today we call “Pascal’s wager.”  It starts like this.  Either God exists or he doesn’t, and either you believe or you don’t.  (You can’t really be an agnostic, Pascal said, because eventually you die, and then, “I don’t know” becomes “no!”)  So here’s the wager.  If you believe, and you’re right, “you gain all.”  And if you’re wrong, “you lose nothing.”  But if you don’t believe, you gain...

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Good for You

Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. Proverbs 4:10       This proverb is literally true.   Two British physicians, Alex Bunn and David Randall, examined some 1200 studies and 400 reviews on the relationship between faith and health.  Conclusion?  Faith is associated with “a number of positive health benefits, including protection from illness, coping with illness, and faster recovery from it.”      That same British study reported that faith enhances mental health as well as physical health.  Drs. Bunn and Randall write, “religious investment is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction.”  They cite a long...

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God and Anthony Flew

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2     The late Oxford philosopher Antony Flew made a career of atheism.  That is, until January 2004, when he announced that he now believed in God.  The scientific evidence for Intelligent Design had become too compelling to ignore.  DNA—the genetic code at the center of life—was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  DNA makes mincemeat of Darwin.   Antony Flew’s conversion is a case study of a great truth: It is the glory of God to conceal things.  In his book, The Hidden Face...

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Self-seeking and Sound Judgment

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1     Richard Mouw tells of a Catholic priest from New Jersey visiting the South for the first time.  On his first morning, scanning the hotel breakfast menu, he notices that quintessential Southern delicacy, “grits.”  When the waitress arrives, he asks her: “Miss, what is a grit?”  She replies, “Honey, they don’t come by themselves!”   Neither do Christians.  In the words of Professor Mouw, “Like grits, ‘Christian’ is a plural thing.”       But lots of folk don’t think that way.  Their only interest is their own interest, their peculiar pleasures,...

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Dad's Scales

   A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. Proverbs 11:1   My dad ran a country store when I was a boy, and I still remember the scales he used to weigh out a customer’s order.  Not much different from the scales in this proverb—weights on one end, meat or meal on the other.  My Dad’s scales assured customers that they got what they paid for.     And his scales honored the Lord.  For God loves justice and hates injustice.  Woe to you who desire the day of Lord, the prophet Amos declares (Amos 5:18). ...

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Bold as a Lion

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1     In her fascinating history of the telegraph, Linda Rosenkrantz relates that Mark Twain reputedly sent a telegram to twelve friends with the message: “Flee at once—all is discovered.”  And supposedly all twelve left town within twenty-four hours!  She reports that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did the same thing in London—with the same result.        We may not be absolutely certain these things happened—we don’t have documentation—but they most certainly could have happened.  For a guilty conscience is a fountain of fear.  The wicked flee when no...

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A Mansion and a Marriage

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.  Proverbs 21:9     This proverb will give fodder to the skeptics and faultfinders, for whom the Bible is hopelessly out-of-touch.  “Well, of course,” they will sneer, “the Bible was written by men and for men, and you Bible thumpers love anything that keeps women in their place.”  As if Solomon meant to say that “woman is the root of all evil.”   But Solomon meant nothing of the sort.  We know that because (pay attention) almost all of Proverbs is addressed, in-your-face, to men, not...

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The Apple of Your Eye

Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye . . . to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words. Proverbs 7:2,5     Proverbs 7 is a case study in temptation.  The main character is a young man, and the temptation is sexual sin, but the principles apply to all of us and all the temptations that are sure to come our way (Luke 17:1).    Note this—temptation always involves a test.  Some principle, some commitment, some standard is at stake—whether it’s the forbidden woman who threatens our marriage vow, the cream pie...

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Older Posts

Farewell Message from Pastor Wells

Paul’s farewell sermon to the Ephesian elders is a moving description of what it means to be a pastor—and (I say it humbly) you almost need to be a pastor to understand.  He talks about trials (Acts 20.18-19), about faithfulness in preaching (vv. 20-21), about purity and selflessness (vv. 33-35). He talks about uncertainties and hardships that lie ahead (vv. 22-23), and his heart desire to finish strong (v. 24).  And then—and here our emotions begin to rise—he speaks the unwelcome truth: I know that none of you . . . will see my face again (v. 25). Thus the...

more...

Bad Battle Plans

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. Proverbs 23:9     The press has a field day when Christian leaders fall.  And sometimes when they stand.   Some twenty years ago, a raft of ministries and denominations called for a boycott of Disney for promoting the homosexual agenda.  The media loved it—self-righteous hayseeds have decided to boycott Mickey Mouse!  The boycott never had any teeth, and a decade later it all ended.  Homosexual groups hailed its demise as “a victory for our community.”   There was no scandal here, just well-intentioned believers attempting to speak truth...

more...

The Banquet

She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. Proverbs 9:2         Since ancient times and still today, a banquet sends a message.  About the host!  A father who goes all out for his daughter’s wedding may be showing his love, or trying to impress people!  King Ahasuerus hosted a banquet to show the splendor and pomp of his greatness (Est. 1:4); but Mathew the tax collector made a feast so his friends could hear Jesus (Luke 5:29), and Isaiah prophesied God’s great day of salvation when the Lord of hosts will make for all...

more...

Daydreamers in St. Louis

  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding Proverbs 2:6     Is wisdom a gift or an achievement?  Here, we read, the Lord gives wisdom.  (Read 1 Kings 4:29; James 1:5.)  But elsewhere in this very same chapter, Solomon puts conditions on wisdom: if you receive my words (v. 1); if you call out for insight (v. 3); if you seek it [wisdom] like silver (v. 4).   How is it that wisdom can be both—a gift and an achievement?    Maybe this will help.  In 1876, 10,000 people lived in Hill City, South Dakota.  They had come by the thousands,...

more...

Answering a Fool

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 26:4-5     Reading these two proverbs might leave you scratching your head.  Do you or do you not answer a fool according to his folly?  Well, “yes, and no,” or rather “no, and yes.”  For these are actually two very different cases.   In the first case, the fool threatens to entangle you in his web of foolishness.  He attacks and you strike back.  He talks nonsense and you dignify it with debate.  Better not to...

more...

Soup with Cyanide

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.  Proverbs 19:2     We’ve all heard the one about a pilot who announces some “bad news and some good news.”  The bad news, he says, is that our instruments have malfunctioned and we don’t know where we’re going.  The good news is that we have a strong tail wind and we’re making excellent time!  That’s today’s proverb in a picture.   Pay close attention to each half of the proverb.  The first half pictures a man who wants something, but without knowledge.  Not that he himself doesn’t know what...

more...

Adding Question Marks

The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.  Proverbs 12:5     Life is full of question marks.  Do this . . . or that?  Should I?  Could I? Can I?  Or not?       Yes—but truth be told, sometimes we put question marks where they don’t belong.  A man I knew some years ago excused his divorce by saying, “I know what the Bible says about divorce, but I believe God wants me to be happy.”  Like Satan in the Garden he had put a question mark where it didn’t belong.  He changed the declarative, God has said, to...

more...

The Man of Heat

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention Proverbs 15:18     Anger has many faces—the high school recluse who shocks the world with a rampage; the husband who vents on his wife with an acid tongue; the wife who “gets back” by turning cold.  Or those who turn their anger outside in—into ulcers, depression, or crabbiness.   Then there is the classic “hothead.”  Proverbs calls him hot-tempered (in Hebrew, the man of heat).  We all know him.  Even small things can “set him off,” we say, he “flies off the handle,” he “loses his temper,” he “goes ballistic.”   Of course,...

more...

Wisdom Hates

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.  Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.  Proverbs 8:13     Do you have a heart for God?  How would you know?  Would you have warm feelings for God, enjoy going to church, or read the Bible through every year?  Would you share your faith, teach Sunday School, work in the nursery, or sing in the choir?  Would you pray before meals in public, lead your family in worship, join an accountability group?  Well, yes, you might do any number of these things if you had a heart for...

more...

The Rain That Falls in Florida

to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. Proverbs 1:6     The springs of Central Florida are an attraction all their own.  They form countless lakes and rivers, all fed by underground water that works its way through miles of limestone before bubbling up at a perfect 72˚ and drinkable right from the tap!  Scientists estimate that the famous Silver Springs, e.g., gets water from more than 400 square miles of aquifers, and that some of the water takes more than 100 years to reach the spring!     God gives wisdom, just as God causes the rain...

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