Author Archives: Nick

About Nick

Nick lives in Scarborough with his wife, Anna, and Little Welford, their adopted son. Nick is currently a Baptist Minister in Training with an Anglican placement!

The Eyes Have It

Proverbs 27:20

“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
“Death and destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes.” – NIV

I, I

I enjoy video games. I have done for a long long time. I have worked in a video game shop. When a new big game comes out I find it hard to resist: I want to play it, to experience it. I knew the latest Grand Theft Auto would be a well deserved 18: but I am a sensible deserving adult, right? However upon playing a portion of the game I just simply decided that I didn’t want this kind of thing in my life. I can appreciate that it is a good game: the mechanics work well but for me the mechanics are implemented in a dark fashion. So I got rid of it. To be honest it was a sacrifice. I enjoyed most elements of the game but when it forces me in a direction that I don’t want to go in and have no chance to skip, I have to make a choice.

Why? Because what I fill my life with dominates it. What I let my eyes see affects my actions. Or as Jesus put it: what I fill my heart with will eventually come to the surface. Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting that playing dark or violent video games will turn a person into a killer: just that at some point, on some level, it will have an impact on their mood and outlook. That’s why despite me enjoying parts of the game, especially the chance to play online with friends, I have decided it’s not for me. I guess it crossed a line that I didn’t want to. Now I still have games in my collection that involve things like shooting so what does this verse have to say about them?

Balance in Favour of God

The eyes are never satisfied. They take everything in and the more they see of one thing the more they want it. Be that video games, films, porn or purity. People talk about our lives being in balance but for me the key is to make sure your eyes see enough of God that they just keep wanting more. The times I have genuinely spent focusing on God are the times when all other things in my life take a back seat. You may not like video games but I guarantee there is something in your life that is your go to thing when God is not central. The thing you spend most of your time doing, or thinking about when you aren’t doing it. If we could make God that thing, a lot of our other problems would fade into insignificance.

Matthew 6:33 ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’

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Kiss Me Kill Me

Proverbs 27:6

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
    but an enemy multiplies kisses.

It Makes Sense

This is one of those proverbs we can look at and agree with. We all know it makes sense. It is much better to have friends who will be honest with us even when it hurts, then friends who will just pamper and flatter us even when we are clearly in the wrong.

The trouble is something making sense doesn’t guarantee we will follow the advice. In this case there are multiple reasons why we ignore this advice, our society is much more comfortable with flattery, even when it’s false, than truth; it can be hard to receive truth from a friend; we can find it difficult to speak truthfully to our friends in case they decide to ditch us.

First Things Firsts

To see more meaningful relationships we need to be ready to be examples. We need to be people who are good at taking criticism, and also brave enough to give it. Many people misread the plank in the eye parable. They use the excuse that as they will never be perfect, and therefore always have impaired vision, they cannot challenge other’s behaviour. I have even heard parents say that they cannot challenge their wayward ward because they were just as bad when they were children. But we only need to read to the end of the parable to see Jesus intention –

Matthew 7:5 (emphasis mine) ‘You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.’ 

We are to be wounded and we are to wound. And all the better our friendships shall be for it.


Red Mist vs The Green Eye Monster

Proverbs 27:4

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
    but who can stand before jealousy?

Ch Ch Ch Changes…

I was never that bothered about hitting 30. I just thought it would be a birthday like any other, the only significance being what others placed on it. I was wrong. Since hitting 30 my memory has declined, I can no longer stay up past midnight and operate the next day, sprained ankles take months to recover rather than days… you get the picture and it’s a grim one. I also noticed I was rapidly becoming a grumpy old man.

Red Mist

I decided to cheer up a bit, I couldn’t change some of the physical stuff but I could change the grumpiness, and I was doing so, and then we adopted a three year old boy! There is nothing that challenges patience greater than a child! I certainly look back on my own childhood now with a slightly different perspective! Raising a child certainly shows me the truth of the first part of this verse. For my son his anger can strike at any time with no obvious reasons and it cripples him. When I get angry it’s easier to spot the reasons but just as hard not to be overwhelmed and suddenly flip into hulk mode. Anger is overwhelming, but anger passes. Losing control is not comfortable, but it usually dissipates fairly quickly. The chemical reaction in our body does its work and then we come down. Our son certainly bounces back quickly, the events seemingly left in the past.

Green Eye Monsters

Just as we all experience anger, we all certainly recognise the pangs of envy. The writer of this proverb seems to be implying that jealousy is worse than anger. I wonder if it is because of jealousy’s lingering nature. Jealous leads us to be consumed by something we don’t yet have. At worst it can make us plot and plan devious schemes to obtain said items, at best it can lead to restless nights consumed with thoughts of our supposed ‘need’.

So What?

We may all agree with the verse in question but so what? Should we favour anger over jealousy? Anger and jealousy are both things that we are told God has experienced – so what is this verse all about? Well firstly I think there is a recognition that anger and jealousy are very much part of the human experience – there will be a day when they are gone, but for now we are stuck with them. But that doesn’t mean we have to indulge in them especially when they are both potentially destructive. This verse hints that we may not be able to control when they hit, but we can certainly limit the damage they cause.

Self Control

The problem is a lack of self control, we are encouraged to revel in our feelings as long as they make us feel better. This is world’s apart from the way of life Jesus choose, a life of self control and sacrifice benefiting others before himself. If we want to be more like Him we need to spend more time with Him drawing from His reserves of love, being strengthened to be self controlled and disciplined and getting grace when we invariably mess it up.

Philippians 2:1-11 (The Message) ‘If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.’


Head vs Heart

Proverbs 19:2

‘Desire without knowledge is not good –
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!’

Desirable

It’s good to be passionate, to have strong desires to be love and to care. Without it life would be very boring, but as this Proverb hints at heart without a bit of head can lead us to miss the real path.

Unbalanced

A lot of people these days are driven purely by emotion. They go after things they want with reckless abandon. When we are totally driven by emotion we often end up making bad decisions and hurting people in the process. People driven by emotion will throw away relationships on a whim because they have seen the next best thing, they will chase promotions at the expense of colleagues, they will attempt to satisfy every whim and fancy in any way possible, and worst of all usually be blind to the trail of destruction in their wake. Our emotions need to submit to our common sense, and both need to submit to Jesus.

Counting the Cost

We need both desire and knowledge to make our decisions as we do not want to miss the way. Consider the words of Jesus:

Luke 14:28-33 ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’

May we learn the power of passion and desire guided by wisdom and knowledge.


Are You Afraid?

Proverbs 15:33

“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor.”

What is Fear?

We see lots of mention of fear in the Old Testament. It’s a word that doesn’t fit well with our modern mindset, and so many people who speak about these verses reduce fear to something else. They tell us it is more like awe or respect. Yet even these words have been diluted by our present culture.

When I was a child and did something wrong, I feared the consequences, I feared my parents and the discipline they would bring, the telling off I would receive. Today children seem to fear very few things, and the ideas of respect and awe are replaced by individualism.

Real Fear

But what if fear means fear? What if there is reason to fear God, and this reason makes the grace He shows us all the more amazing?

In the Old Testament the Israelites were afraid to approach the mountain that God met Moses on, Jacob comments on how he came face to face with God and lived.  Maybe fear is the beginning of all wisdom because when we realize that God could do anything He wants at any time, He could make our lives miserable and full of suffering, He could punish us for our sins.

And yet he doesn’t.

Instead He pours grace upon us, and in Jesus shows us how humility comes before honor.


Sacri-nice

Proverbs 15:8

“The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
    but the prayer of the upright pleases him.”

What God Wants…

God hates the sacrifice of the wicked, but he isn’t to keen on the sacrifice of the righteous either, especially when it becomes the be all and end all. Countless times in the Bible God makes the point that He isn’t interested in sacrifices, the idea of coming and making a payment for your transgressions. No, what He is interested in is your behavior, how you will respond to His grace and forgiveness in your own life, and how that will inspire you to treat others.

Inspired by?

In Matthew 18 we see the story of a servant who owes his master a huge amount of money. He’s panicking, how will he pay this back? What will happen to his family? He goes before the master and begs for more time, and incredibly the master let’s him off. Scot free. Let’s not miss the huge significance of this – this is truly incredible and as counter cultural now as it was then.

I sometimes watch Undercover Boss, now I am not naive I know it’s probably scripted, but I can’t help but be moved when some big CEO enters the life of a low level employee, sees their struggles and their debt, and does something about it. What we never see is how this affects the person in question. They seem very grateful in the moment, but we never see the lasting change.

Not so with this servant. The Bible tells us that straight away he went looking for another servant who owed him a considerably smaller amount. We’d be entitled to think that he had in mind to set this servant free from his debt, to share the grace he had experienced. But in fact all he wants is the money owed to him. How sad that this servant was even more enslaved to money than he originally thought.

Washing feet

At the opposite end of the spectrum we find Jesus. Jesus the entirety of God squeezed into man form, denying His deity to inspire humanity, relying fully on the Father to further the future of the broken. We all know Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, we all know this should blow our tiny minds, but I’ll be honest it was just one of those things I accepted, until I reread the account and came to these verses in John 13:3-5 ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.’ 

Why did Jesus do this? BECAUSE He knew who he was. Because He wanted to show the world a powerful image of what happens when we take the lowest place.

Prayer

All very good and well you may say but how’s this connected to the proverb? Prayer changes everything. If you want to be a person who shares grace rather than shrugs grace then you need to start on your knees.


The Evil Dead

Proverbs 14:19

‘Evil men will bow down in the presence of the good,
    and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.’

Slim Consolation

The Bible is full of good honest people asking the question, “Why do bad people prosper, and good people suffer?” This is a question that still haunts us now. The song writer Josh Garrels quips in his song ‘Farther Along’ – ‘Tempted and tried, I wonder why the good man dies, bad man thrives and Jesus cries cus He loves them both.’ The Bible also tells us that the bad, or evil will get their comeuppance. But when we are seeing the evil thrive very close to home while we also struggle to live the way we’d like, not to mention all our brothers and sisters all over the world facing persecution for Christ, this can be hard to swallow. This verse may provide some comfort in the thought that one day things will be made right, but what about now?

The Inconvenient Truth

Romans 11 verse 14 tells us that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, whether they want to or not! One day you may be falling to your knees in worship while the person next to you is having an uncomfortable moment of realisation and regret. What will you think in that moment? Will you be glad that the evil are finally about to get their just desserts? Or will you be wishing you had done more to help people see Jesus in this life so they are not surprised in the next?