Category Archives: advice

Sleeping and Eating

Proverbs 20:13 

Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
Do not love sleep or you will grow poor; stay awake and you will have food to spare. (NIV)

A young secretary at a company where I worked in the late 1980s was regularly late for work. She had a great line in excuses, many of which were hard to believe. One of the best was that the electricity meter ran out of credit overnight, meaning that the power was cut to her radio alarm clock causing her to oversleep. I have never lived with an electricity meter that needed to be fed with coins, although people do. If I did I am certain I would make sure that the meter was loaded before I went to bed. For this particular young woman her inability to arrive at work on time eventually resulted in her dismissal. I do not recall how quickly she found alternative employment, but her love of sleep had the potential to bring her to poverty.

Society requires that we work if there is to be food on the table. I don’t know what it is like to be really hungry and unable to provide food for my family. The only time I have gone without food for a long period was when I was in hospital for surgery, and unable to eat. Because I am self-employed I cannot afford to take time off work, and I had to plan my ten-day stay in hospital around my work. I took on extra projects before going into hospital, and then wrote up the reports as I recovered at home from the surgery. It was slow going at first, but even when I was confined to bed I was able to keep my business ticking over and ensure that there was provision for my family.

There is a time and a place for everything, including sleep. We need sleep, but sleep too long and nothing will get done. Solomon was very good at putting things into perspective. He didn’t dictate how many hours sleep we need at night, he simply advised that it was foolish to love sleep. There is another aspect to sleeping late. Surely it is better to rise early and spend time in God’s presence at the start of each day?


Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Proverbs 20:8 

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
When a king sits in judgment, he weighs all the evidence, distinguishing the bad from the good. (NLT)

Regal Decision-Making

Solomon was writing from personal experience here. He knew all about sitting in judgment, and the need to carefully distinguish between the bad and the good. While this is no longer the task of earthly kings, those who lead nations need to be discerning given the importance of their decisions. Leaders need to weigh the evidence carefully, but recent history suggests that some world leaders have been poorly advised, or simply misled. This in turn has affected their decision-making, with consequences that have been devastating for whole nations, not to mention our world.

Daily Judgments

We may not be kings or world leaders, but we are involved in decision-making and judgments daily. This proverb is a reminder that when making important decisions we need to weigh the evidence carefully, and not jump in with our eyes closed. A decision could be minor, such as which route to take to work, but even that should be based on evidence and experience of traffic flows at different times of day, road works, etc. Life also involves many major decisions, such as getting married, finding somewhere to live, starting a family, or changing career. Do we really weigh the evidence carefully before making important decisions? How is our judgment?

Taking Advice

Then there are decisions with eternal implications. Do we believe in God, Jesus, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, etc.? What is the evidence that God even exists? Solomon didn’t need any evidence. He had a relationship with God in which he spoke with God and he heard God’s voice. But even Solomon went on to make some poor decisions later in his life. Weighing the evidence and living our lives in relationship with God does not remove the need to continually make judgment calls. But if we are living in relationship with God then He provides a supply of endless wisdom to help us in our daily decision-making. Furthermore, like any parent, He loves to be asked for advice.


Well Water (Cool Counsel)

Proverbs 20:5

“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Well Water

Once when I was on a mission trip to Romania, a few of us spent a couple of days in a little town called Beuj. I remember not having a canteen or thermos (water bottle) to carry with me as we traversed the little roads around a farm in 90+ temperatures. We could only go so far away from a well.

You see, there was this little well in the town. We knew that we could walk a mile or two away, but only a mile or two. Any more and we would die of thirst before we got back. We were walking around handing out Bibles and hymnals, along with invitations to a community service at which I was going to preach. That well water was so cool and refreshing in that summer heat of 1992.

Cool Counsel

well-w-bucketThere is refreshing counsel deep inside a wise man or woman, and there are many dry and thirsty souls who need it. Sadly, many of those would-be wells of wisdom are covered, blocked, or labeled “unworthy” by the wells themselves.

If God has done a work in your life, let the Holy Spirit use you, your past, and your insight. God never wastes a tear. The pain you have gone through may have produced a deep well a struggling soul may need to make it another mile.


Fighting Talk

Proverbs 20:3 

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling. (NLT)

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

I have seen a few fights in my time. Firstly at school when the shout of FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, would result in a circle of boys around the two boys who were slugging it out. The shout of fight and the obvious circle of jeering boys in the playground also attracted the attention of teachers. They would wade in and separate the antagonists, who would then be dragged away to face punishment.

Why Fight?

There were occasional fights while I was serving at sea, even in the officers’ quarters. Alcohol often played a part, especially when combined with the stress of many months away from family and friends, working seven days a week. Disputes usually began with quarrels, often over the most trivial things. Even a game of Monopoly caused a fight after a one-month voyage across the Pacific followed by several weeks slowly discharging grain in the then Soviet Far East.

Why Quarrel?

While many quarrels at sea did not lead to fist fights, there was an easy way to predict those that might. Prior to moving from a quarrel to a full-blown fight, most seafarers remove their wristwatches. Why? Because when I was at sea there was an obsession with expensive Seiko watches, and jack tar didn’t want to get his watch broken in a punch-up. So why even get that far? Why be a fool and insist on quarrelling and come to the brink of physical violence? Why indeed? The message of this proverb is not only to avoid strife and fights, but to avoid the quarrels that lead to fights. Kenny Rogers sang about it back in the late 70s when I was still at sea:

“Promise me, son, not to do the things I’ve done.
Walk away from trouble if you can.
It won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek.
I hope you’re old enough to understand:
Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man.”

(Lyrics taken from ‘Coward of the County’ released by Kenny Rogers in 1979)


No Need for Stripes

Proverbs 19:29

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.”

Reality Shows

Have you ever watched reality television? “Reality shows,” as they are called, are television programs that seek to entertain the viewer with the craziness of other peoples’ lives. Reality television is usually anything but true reality, however. But what happened last night while I was preaching was anything but fake.

Before I get into the details of this post, it has been pointed out by more than one person that our family needs to star in its own reality TV show. The only problem is that no one would believe it.

It Happened During Church

(The following happened in 2013) Just after 9 p.m. I got a phone call from a concerned church member: “Pastor, are you all right? You OK?” “Well…yeah…I guess,” was my reply. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Come to find out, a lady across the street from our church wrote on Facebook that bounty hunters had shot at a man, chased him, and arrested him in our church parking lot – while church was going on! No one inside the church knew a thing! But what is even more amazing is that the man had come to visit our church, and his wife was in the sanctuary. She never knew her husband was taken away!

Why did all this happen? Evidently, the man was wanted for a parole violation, and they followed him to church. He and his wife had been in trouble many times, but they had visited Sunday morning and felt that it was time for a change. That is why they came back last night.

Judgments and Stripes

There is more to the above story, most of which is sad, but I told it in order to help make a point. You see, actions have consequences. Sin has a price. Even though this poor couple realized that they needed God in their lives, judgment caught up with them.

All is not lost, however. Many times God’s judgment is what it takes to open the eyes of the sinner. As I prayed with the woman whose husband was hauled away, I reminded her that the road ahead would be very hard, but that God loves her, and her husband.

By His Strips

This might be a good time to point out that wounded people need to be loved. Too many people feel unworthy to come to church, and it’s all because they feel like they will be judged, like everyone else is “better” than them. The fact is that we are all sinners, but Jesus bore the punishment for our crimes, so our job is to love each other as Christ loved us.

This man and woman may have to pay a temporal price for the sins they have committed. It may mean jail time. But there is no need for them, or you, to suffer the eternal penalty for sin – separation from God. Jesus took upon Himself our sins and bore them to the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). There He was “wounded for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).”

Don’t continue to be a “scorner.” Don’t be a “fool.” 

“This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10 NLT

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 KJV

 

 


Difficult Children

Proverbs 19:26 

He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach.
Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace. (NLT)

Bad Parents

This teaching is so basic that it featured in the Ten Commandments. There is only one problem. What if the son who mistreats his father or chases away his mother, is only following an example set through poor parenting? Bad parenting has devastating effects when it carries down through the generations. Biblical examples of bad parents include a whole range of kings and queens. Even King David set a bad example at times.

I wonder what Solomon thought of the way in which David came to marry his mother? Did this cause Solomon to be equally blind when it came to the matter of matrimony? Yes! The Bible records that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Some of these relationships led to Solomon turning a blind eye to idolatry, and then building shrines to false gods. 1 Kings 11 records that God was very angry with Solomon because of the condition of his heart. After Solomon died the kingdom was divided, and Solomon’s son demonstrated none of the wisdom of his father.

What About Us?

It is easy to judge parents because of their children. We probably do it several times a week at the very least. When we see badly behaved children in a shopping mall, for instance, it is easy to assume that the children are merely following a poor example provided by their parents. But what about us? It is not just our children who are watching us.

If we claim faith in Jesus Christ, then the world is watching us. When followers of Jesus fall from grace and set a bad example to the world, it could be said that as children of God they have behaved in the manner described in this proverb. How we behave in our daily lives paints a picture of God our Father to a watching world. What sort of picture are you painting?


Playing Safe or Understanding

Proverbs 19:25

25 Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.

The Line

I have worked with many people in my relatively short thirty years on this earth.

Some of these people did the bare minimum of the required work to get by while complaining about the work, the environment, or other employees and/or supervisors.

When another employee, one who does the bare minimum and complains about everything, gets reprimanded or fired, they get quiet for a few days or weeks. They might even learn how to cover their tracks a little better or when to complain.

The consider themselves smart for avoiding trouble. The know where the line of disobedience is, and they toe it carefully to avoid crossing it.

I and others preferred to go the other route. We have tried to do the best work we can with as little complaining as possible. If we did our job in such a way that required reprimanding (a talking-to, a write-up, a pay cut, etcetera), we would attempt to be better and do better.

We were given more knowledge to help us understand our job better and be better at it.

Walking It Out

When Jesus died on the cross, there were two men on either side of him. Both were guilty and deserving of punishment. One looked to Jesus and, while dying for his crime, mocked Jesus. The other criminal talked with Jesus and gained the knowledge that He is the Son of God.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was God telling us we cannot live up to His standards, and we need His help.

Most of us take that warning as simply a call to live a better and more moral life, or we simply just mock Him and call His standard backward, archaic, or illogical.

Some of us look to the cross and gain the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our only way to measure up before God.

Gracious God, give us the wisdom to accept correction, the strength to change, and the power to grow. Draw us closer to You that as our knowledge and understanding grow, we may help lead others to the saving knowledge of Your Son.


The Best Laid Plans

Proverbs 19:21 

There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.
You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. (NLT)

The Jonah Syndrome

Back in 1998, I heard God speak very clearly to me about a gift He wanted me to make. A young man in ministry needed to replace his car, but this was something he could not afford. I argued with God for a while because I felt that the sum in question was too large. I was prepared to make a gift, but on my terms, not God’s.

It was at this time that my eldest son (Nick) was fundraising to join the Baptist Missionary Society for a gap year between school and university. He needed to raise £2,400. One retired lady at our church gave him a check for £100 one Sunday. When I found out about her generosity I went to thank her.

Tears welled in her eyes as she told me that God had instructed her to make this gift, but that she had argued with God that she could not afford to give Nick £100. My heart sank right down into my shoes.

I went home and wrote a check for the amount God had placed on my heart and I sent it to the young man God had identified. He duly wrote back and thanked me for my generosity. But I didn’t feel generous. I didn’t feel anything but that horrible feeling you get when you have done something wrong and been caught out.

A Question of Attitude

Obedience brings blessing, but usually only if the timing is right. When Jonah disobeyed God he had to face the consequences. Time spent in the belly of the fish resulted in a change of mind, but not attitude. He duly obeyed God and delivered God’s message to Nineveh.

Amazingly the King and the people of Nineveh listened to Jonah. They decided to change their ways, and God responded with forgiveness. Did this make the messenger happy? Did Jonah feel blessed? Not at all. In fact, Jonah chose to sulk.

To be blessed, we need to be obedient. To receive a blessing we need to listen to God, and do as He asks when He asks. Not several weeks later because we feel bad about our failure to act.

His plans, not ours. His timing, not ours.


Listen To Me Please!

Proverbs 19:20

“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”

listen-to-me-pleaseI have one child. She is currently eight years old going on 16 and she already knows everything! I am sure that most parents have been in this situation at one time or another.

I have found myself more and more saying to her, “Just listen to me, please! I have been there before and I am trying to help you, so just listen to me”. (I know my parents have a smile of their face about right now)

Just the other day, we were working on some math homework for school. She was convinced that the answer that she had come up with was the correct answer and that nothing else could be right. As I proceeded to help her, I was met with the look on her face that told me that I was stupid and that I did not know what I was talking about.

I begged her to please listen to me because for one, I had done this type of math before and I knew how to get the right answer and number 2, I knew that I was right!

Long story short, after a long, hard battle of trying to show her that I was right, she finally looked at me and said that I guess you do know what you are talking about. Later that day she told me that the way I showed her how to get the answer was a much easier way.

This is exactly what Solomon was talking about in our verse today. He is telling us that while we are young, we need to listen to people who have been through different experiences and learn from them. Whether someone has gone through a good experience or a bad experience, there is always something that we can learn from them in how they handled the situation.

Solomon is telling us that when we listen to instructions and advice, that when we are older we will be wise in how we handle things.

Lord, give us ears that are open to advice and instructions and give us wisdom and understanding to compare them with Your Word. We pray that when we are young that we would listen to godly advice and instructions and when we are older, that that same godly advice would be passed down to the next generation.


Chasten Thy Son

Proverbs 19:18

“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

Mouths of Babes

Several years ago, when I was vice president of a local Kiwanis Club, I would go read to young children at a Head Start day care program. These children were around 4 or 5 years of age.

One day I took my two young daughters with me. They observed the unruliness of several children in the class and later commented. Haley, who was only around 5 or 6 herself, asked, “Daddy, why won’t that teacher just spank those kids?”

“Because that’s against the law, Haley. Teachers can’t do that,” I replied.

“Well,” Haley huffed, “those children need a whipp’n, so somebody needs to change the rules!” Out of the mouths of babes, people. Out of the mouths of babes.

Chastening

I know that many of you reading this will disagree, but there is only one way this verse can be interpreted – and it has nothing to do with “time outs” or being grounded. For example, consider these other verses…

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”Proverbs 22:15

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”Proverbs 29:15

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” – Hebrews 12:7

Spanking is something that is frowned on, if not illegal in today’s society. Child psychologists, with all their worldly wisdom (and that’s key), urge parents to never physically discipline their children. Government agencies even control parents with the threat of prosecution. But what is biblical? What is wise?

While There Is Hope

As one who works with children of all ages, I can testify that a lack of discipline is at the root of most unruly behavior. Our school systems are completely helpless in the face of youth who have no fear of punishment.

Solomon says, however, that chastening a child is one way to ensure a better future, even if the child, at the moment, cries out in protest. The great Matthew Henry said, “It is better that he should cry under thy rod than under the sword of the magistrate, or, which is more fearful, that of divine vengeance.”* How many teens are in jail today because parents were to timid to use the “rod of correction?” How many instead have fallen under the “sword of the magistrate?”

While there is hope, learn to say “NO!” While there is still hope, take away the phone and video games. While there is still hope, take away the keys. While there is still hope, don’t buy those designer clothes. While there is still hope, don’t be afraid to chasten.

Be the parent, and chasten when necessary – while there is still hope.

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 19:18.