Category Archives: advice

Hope Springs Eternal

Proverbs 14:32

The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.

The word ‘hope’ leaps out at me from the above verse, and I have had to stop and consider where my hope lies. At the time of writing I am on the opposite side of the Atlantic to home, but hoping to be back home in about thirty-six hours time. I hope that I can find some time to spend with my family this Christmas despite the intense pressure of my workload.

As Christmas approaches many people will be hoping they receive gifts they desire. In our consumer driven western society advertisements shout loudly about the things we can have. We easily forget those who have little hope. Equally, it is easy to ignore the wickedness we see plastered across our television screens be it wrong lifestyles, victims of conflict, big business acting fraudulently, dishonest politicians, etc.

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who chose to ignore the wickedness of society that left a starving diseased beggar outside his house. The beggar possessed one thing the rich man did not have. The beggar had hope. It was probably his only possession. You can read the story in Luke 16:19-31.

My worry is that we can become blind like the rich man to the extent that our possessions become more important than our hope, and the promise of eternal life in exchange for a life surrendered to our Father in Heaven. The danger increases at Christmas to the extent that we may not even notice the starving diseased beggar, whoever or whatever he or she may be.

What are you hoping for this Christmas?

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

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Friends and Neighbors

Proverbs 14:20

“The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.”

Definition of a Neighbor

An expert in the law once asked Jesus the question: “Who is my neighbor?” This man knew that the law told him to love his neighbor, but while the purpose of the question was to test Jesus, it is doubtful that he was head over heels in love with all his neighbors. So Jesus told a story and put the expert in the law on the spot. The story involved a Samaritan, a person the expert in the law was least likely to want as his next-door neighbor. At the end of the story the legal expert begrudgingly accepted that out of three people, the Samaritan was the only true neighbor to the injured Jew in the illustration provided by Jesus. The mercy, compassion and love showed by the Samaritan enriched him as the giver, and the injured Jew as the receiver. It must also have enriched the innkeeper.

Poor Neighbor or Good?

While mercy, compassion and love bring enrichment, the process of hating another human being brings impoverishment to all parties. Hate is a strong and unpleasant word, but if there is a person or group of people we despise, don’t like, disrespect, look down on, etc., then is that any better than hate? What gives us the right to judge ourselves better than another human being? Are we good neighbors or poor neighbors? Are we rich in mercy, compassion and love? Should we be friends of the rich or good neighbors to the poor?

Who are Your Friends?

It is said that we can choose our friends but not our families. Similarly, it is not possible to choose our neighbors, especially if we consider how Jesus defined neighbors. Jesus quite deliberately spent much of his time with the impoverished of society, rather than with rich people, famous people, or clever people. His friends were fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, and the like. Jesus wasn’t intimidated by learning, wealth or position, He looked at the heart. So when a rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. By enriching the lives of others in this way this young man would have become wealthy in a different way, with riches that would last forever.

Who is your neighbor?


Don’t Be Gullible

Proverbs 14:15

“The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.”
Ah, the Stories…

There are so many stories I could tell about the stories I can tell. To paraphrase a saying, “So many stories, so little time.” Therefore, when I read this proverb, I immediately began to think of a couple of good examples.

Example One:

Back in the 1990’s I worked in the sporting goods section of a major retailer. One day a couple asked for my advice about a football. They wanted to know which would be better to buy, the one made of leather, or the one made of “Durahyde,” a synthetic, man-made material.

For some reason I started with this nonsense about how the Dura was going extinct and how only the young duras were used because of their fur-less pelts. The more I talked, the more they seemed to believe me, so a vicious circle of humor-gone-bad and gullibility took over.

“So what do you recommend?” they asked. “Buy the leather,” I suggested. “It might be a little more expensive, but I just can’t approve of the way they kill those young, little duras for their pelts.”

The more I talked the more it became evident that some people will believe anything, no matter how outrageous. In retrospect, I am ashamed that I forgot to tell them I was only kidding.

I was just so stunned that they actually believed me! (Note: the leather ball was the better choice, and that was what they wanted.)

Example Two:

It was a Christmas dinner, and my mother-in-law (we could stop right there, I suppose) was complaining that someone had made meatloaf. “Why did [she] make meatloaf? Since when was meatloaf a traditional Christmas dish?”

“Well,” I said, “meatloaf is a very traditional Christmas dish, as a matter of fact.” “Really?” she asked. “Yes, it goes way back to around the year 1260 in England.” I went on to tell her that long ago there was a good king who prepared a great feast for all the peasants in his kingdom. Each Christmas he would invite all of them to come in and take part in a Christmas meal, the centerpiece being a large animal cooked over a fire.

As the story went, one year things got really bad. There was great poverty throughout the land, and when it came time for the annual Christmas feast, the king had no cattle, dear, or any such animal to offer. Saddened, the people of the local villages rallied together and decided to save the good king from embarrassment. They killed and cooked chicken, rabbit, and pheasant, combined them all together in to a large “loaf,” and offered it as a gift to the king who had been so good to them.

I told my mother-in-law, “That is why meatloaf is probably the MOST traditional of all dishes served at Christmastime.” “Is that so? I never knew that! Wow!” was her reply. “I guess I shouldn’t have gotten so upset,” she said (Then my wife had to spoil everything by telling her I was only joking).

Be Prudent

I believe Solomon was the first to say, “Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see on television.” He did say that, didn’t he?

Don’t get me wrong, I love to joke around with people, but I hate lying. My stories are meant to eventually be understood as told in fun – like a grandfather who insists he has pulled a quarter from your ear. Nevertheless, it’s better to follow the words of Paul and “prove all things” (1 Th 5:21).

The gullible believe everything without question, and there are those who will take advantage of them. The prudent (wise), therefore, learn to check sources.

Let God be true, and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).


Playing God

Proverbs 14:12

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”

Marco Polo

Growing up, I played a lot of “Marco Polo” during the summer at my grandparent’s pool. If you are not familiar with the game, let me explain. It is a game that you play in water. One person is “Marco” and everyone else is “Polo”. The person that is “Marco” must keep their eyes closed while they swim around in the pool. They would call out “Marco” and everyone else must answer “Polo” and the one that is “Marco” has to listen to where the voices come from and try to swim and tag the “Polos”. Got it?

Well, one day, my brother and I were out in our neighborhood playing with a group of friends when someone suggested we play “Marco Polo”. I had never played outside of water before and was very interested in how the game would unfold. We decided to play in between my parent’s brick/concrete home and my neighbor’s brick/concrete home. It was a very small area with a downward slope toward my neighbor’s house.

The group of kids that were playing were all older than me, so you can guess who got to be “Marco” first. You guest it…me! Instead of us just keeping our eyes closed, the game rules were that the “Marco” had to wear a paper grocery bag over their heads. I took the bag and placed it over my head and quickly removed it and looked straight at my brother and said, “If I go down the slope and straight to the neighbor’s house, you better yell at me and stop me”.

You might be able to finish the story from here, but I will continue. The game was only a few minutes old when I just knew that I heard a voice straight ahead of me. Instead of trying to be aware of my surroundings, I just took off running toward the voice. I did not even think about the fact that I was running down the slope and straight toward my neighbor’s house.

The voice was right in front of me and then it happened. I ran straight into the neighbor’s house.  I then heard my brother call out, “Jason, watch out for the wall”.

Needless to say, a trip to the doctor’s office and the diagnosis of a concussion kept me from playing anymore “Marco Polo” that day.

Playing God

Why did I tell you the story about me playing “Marco Polo”? Because I just knew that the voice that I was hearing was coming from straight in front of me and that I was heading in the right direction. Was I? No, but I thought I was.

What happened? Remember how I told you that where we were playing was a small area between two homes? Well, what I did not take into consideration was in a small area between two concrete homes, there was going to be an echo. My friends were all calling out “Polo” and the echoes were bouncing off the walls and coming straight at me.

This verse reminds me of the day I got my concussion. I thought that I was heading in the right direction. I thought that I heard voices right in front of me. I thought, and that was the problem. We think that we know better and that our way is the best way and we just know for sure that “the voice is coming from this direction”! What does it come down to? We are playing God, and we think we know what is best for our lives.

Solomon is warning us to make sure that we do not try to do things our way, but depend upon God for everything. He is telling us if we decide to take things into our own hands that death will be the result.

My brother yelled at me after I hit the concrete wall. Solomon is yelling out to us before we experience death and trying to tell us to listen and follow what God wants for us because it is so much better than our plans or ideas for our lives.

Lord, help us to listen to You. Keep our eyes focused on You and may our hearts be soft enough that when You begin to talk and move us that we would hear Your voice and heed Your words.


Bittersweet Testimony

Proverbs 14:10

“Each heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no one else can share its joy.”

Know Thy Self

The only person who knows your heart better than God is you. You know how it feels to be you. You know what what it feels like to hurt like you hurt. You and God are the only ones who know the depth of the bitterness contained in your own heart. Other people might have been through similar things, they might have some level of understanding but the only other person to know the full picture is God.

All by Myself

So is this proverb suggesting we should shut up shop, keeping our bitterness and joy to ourselves? I would like to suggest not. This proverb isn’t saying no one should share it’s joy, it is just making the observation that the natural state of play is that no one knows what is truly going on in someone’s heart (except God) unless we learn to share our hearts with others.

Grieving and Rejoicing Together

Romans 12:15 tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This is only possible if we open our hearts to others. Now I am not saying we should share our intimate secrets with all and sundry but it is healthy to have a few trusted confidants to open our hearts to.

Extended Family

When we first found out that I had a low sperm count we had to decide whether to keep this news to ourselves or share it with our church family. When I got up and told our church I said something like this: “I tell you this now not for your pity, but so that as you grieve with us presently you will rejoice with us when we have our children.”


Seeing Your Map

Proverbs 14:8

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.”

Asking Directions

One of the most common jokes in the Western Culture (primarily North America and Europe) is that men are not good at asking directions. There is much truth in this.

Men feel sufficient in their ability to find their way around if they have a map … and many time they may even forgo the map! Sometimes, it is because of their pride that they can not admit to not understanding the map.

In other words, they often end up even more lost as they lie about what they do not actually know.

And men are not alone. I have known several women just as guilty of this as many men.

Only after properly consulting the map or asking for directions can someone who is lost find their destination.

Your map

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way …

A wise person would heed the call of the gospel message: we are all guilty of sin; we all think we are on our way to happiness (or at least that it can not get much worse than this life), but we are on our way to eternal sorrow and destruction; and God stepped down in the Person Jesus of Nazareth to save us from our sin by dying on the cross and raising back to life three days later.

A wise person would realize he or she is lost and accept the offer of directions. The map of our lives is entirely in God’s hands, but we choose our path.

The foolish person will never admit to being lost and will settle on the lie that, if there is a map, we are in complete control of our own destiny and make our own map. This person settles on the lie that we can be our own gods, or that there is no God, or that god is whatever we make of it.

We can either understand our way or live in the lie, deceiving ourselves to our doom.

Are you wise or foolish?

Heavenly Father, break through our lies and deceit. Help us to see the truth of who You are and who we are. Help us overcome our folly and our sin and understand our need for You, that You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.


Walk Away from Stupid

Proverbs 14:7

“Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.”

Product Labels

Some proverbs, such as this one, are pretty simple and straightforward. But on the other hand, as some product warning labels make abundantly clear, what should be obvious to most needs to be spelled out to others. Here are some examples:

  • “Don’t drive with shade in place” (warning on inside of cardboard sunscreen).
  • “Not for drying pets” (warning for microwave).
  • “Surface may be hot when turned on” (stove instruction manual).
  • “May cause a fire” (warning on box of matches).

If there were no stupid people in the world, the above warnings would be unnecessary. However, I am sure there have been people amazed when their hands were burned on a stove eye or by a match. I am positive that someone tried to sue a company because the microwave killed her wet cat.

Stupid People

In this proverb God has placed a warning label on stupid people. Yes, I said “stupid” people, for that is what the word translated “foolish” (סִיל kesil) actually implies.[1] The Lord wants us to know that it is not good to just stand and listen to what fools have to say, especially when you realize that what they are saying is void of any knowledge.

So, to put this proverb another way, “When you find yourself in the presence of a stupid idiot, don’t bother listening to what he has to say; walk away.”

Now, it may seem ridiculous to make such a statement, but consider why it is important to not listen to what a fool has to say:

  • A fool does not accept instruction, so arguing with him is pointless.
  • A fool would love to frustrate you and make you angry as you try to argue your point.
  • If you listen to a fool long enough you might begin to believe the stupidity he preaches.

A Prayer

Lord, we need wisdom to be discerning. Help us to recognize those who lack words of knowledge. Help us to know when to contend and when to walk away. Help us to know the difference between a fool and someone who is open to the truth.


[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000), 493.