Category Archives: advice

It’s Black and White

Proverbs 19:16

“He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.”

Black

When we boil some things down to the basics we find that there are, in the bottom of every pot, little things called “black and whites.” Believe it or not, even though we live in a world of fifty shades of gray, blacks and whites are always among us.

It is not easy to label all the “blacks.” Nevertheless, some of the blacks have horrible consequences. When a man chooses not to keep the commandments of God he runs the real risk losing everything, including his life.

When will men and women ever learn that choosing to “despise” God’s way is not only selfish, but shows how messed up our priorities and preferences must be. How crazy is it that men will purchase destruction with their own rebellion?

Black and White

A wise man understands that there is a great price to pay when he breaks God’s commandments. The wise man keeps the Word of God because he knows his soul is more valuable than any temporary pleasures.

IMG_4120It is not always easy to tell between black and white, but God gave us his Word – in black and white. On those pages we can read what leads to life. We are warned of the things that lead to death. Yet, the fools of the world often choose to blur the letters on the page, smudging the ink until the page is gray and anything goes.

Dear God, we may not always keep your commandments, but we repent and ask for help to do what is right and holy. Even though we may fail at times, give us a heart with a desire to keep your Word, not despise it.


The Only Way to Pass a Polygraph

Proverbs 19:5 

“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.” (NIV)

There are people in prison today who are there because someone has falsely testified against them. Sometimes we read in the press about terrible miscarriages of justice that have taken place because one person gave false witness against another. While giving false witness is a terrible thing, even the smallest of lies usually has consequences. The trouble with lies is that they entrap us. When we are untruthful it is often the case that one lie leads to another. Although we are always hopeful of improving a situation through lying, lies are eventually discovered and those who lie or bear false witness have to face up to the consequences of lying.

I learned the lesson early in life. I had been forbidden to walk home from school, but one day I did. When I arrived home my mother asked if I had traveled home on the school bus. I told her that I had. Then she asked who I had sat next to on the bus. That stumped me momentarily, until I managed to pluck a name out of the air. Then my mother asked me if I had disobeyed her and walked home. I insisted that I had been on the bus. Unfortunately for me my mother had watched the bus stop outside our house ten minutes earlier and she knew I hadn’t been on the bus. I went to bed early that night. It gave me plenty of time to think about what I had done.

God is very clear regarding what He thinks about lies and false witness. The trouble with false witness is that it is bad witness. God calls His people to demonstrate His eternal investment in them through the way that they live their lives. Lying is not an acceptable component of a life surrendered to God. Jesus warned a group of Pharisees about the fruit of the mouth, and His teaching applies equally to us.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV)


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.


The Painful Truth

Proverbs 19:1

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool. (NLT)

Perverting the Course of Justice

A former senior politician is currently serving a prison sentence in the UK. He is a wealthy man, and a man who was so driven by ambition that when clocked by a speed camera for the umpteenth time he persuaded his wife to tell the authorities that she was driving. She duly complied and took the points on her licence so that her husband could keep his. Some years later she discovered that her husband’s dishonesty extended to matters of the bedroom, and she leaked his past misdemeanor to the press, claiming that she perverted the course of justice only because of marital coercion. The jury did not accept her defense, and she was also imprisoned, but only after many months of her former husband denying the charges. He eventually admitted that he had been driving. He will still have his wealth when released from prison, but his integrity is in tatters and will be difficult to rebuild.

The Challenge

The challenge to be honest in all things is one that most of us face daily in a variety of situations. I remember being given too much change in a restaurant. It was 1976. I was home on leave and taking a holiday in my childhood home of Guernsey. I was also running out of funds, and a week or two away from payday. I knew when the waitress handed me my change that there were two brand new £5 notes stuck together. I got halfway to the door, but as much as I wanted that other £5 I could not bring myself to knowingly take what wasn’t mine. I turned around and went back to the waitress. When I explained that she had given me too much change she was overwhelmed. She told me that if I had not returned that £5 note it would have been deducted from her wages. I wanted to feel good about myself, but I couldn’t because I knew that I had wanted to leave the restaurant without returning what wasn’t mine.

Dishonesty Hurts

In both the above examples it is evident that dishonesty has consequences. It hurts us when we are dishonest, and it hurts others. There can be no differentiation between dishonest acts and dishonest words. Dishonesty hurts. Likewise, there is never any wisdom attached to dishonesty. Dishonesty almost always catches up with the dishonest. Ask a certain British politician and his wife.

Jesus once said to the Pharisees: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 NIV


Come Dine With Me

Proverbs 18:20 

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. (NLT)

A Good Meal

Picture 817_3744_thmb4I visited Pristina in Kosovo for the first time recently. I found the locals exceptionally welcoming and friendly, despite their recent troubles, and the obvious lack of wealth in the country. It was a pleasure to be taken out one evening for a meal in traditional restaurant where there was no menu. Instead of choosing our food, it was chosen for us, and a variety of dishes were brought to the table until none of us could eat any more.

The food was superb and I returned to my hotel extremely satisfied. I don’t know if I will ever go back to Pristina, but I will never forget that meal, or the kind people of Kosovo.

Right Words

Just as a good meal brings satisfaction, so it is with wise words. You know when you have said the right thing to someone, a word of encouragement perhaps, or a word of appreciation. The knowledge that the right thing has been said at the right time brings satisfaction to both the speaker and the listener.

Before I left Kosovo my main local contact thanked me for the way in which I had conducted my review of his organization. Apparently my approach was very different to that of auditors in his company, and he appreciated it. I, in turn, thanked him for his time, for his hospitality, and for the effort he put into preparing for my visit. I also expressed my appreciation of his professional knowledge and expertise. He encouraged me, and I encouraged him. Right words, good words, wise words.

Words are so important. We have the power to bless and build others with our words. Let’s aim to bring satisfaction to others with our words every day. May our words be words that will never be forgotten – for the right reason.


Practical Advice

Proverbs 18:18 

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty. 
Flipping a coin can end arguments; it settles disputes between powerful opponents. (NLT)

Practical Advice

 The first thing I thought as I read this verse was, “Huh?” Or, to put it in more biblical language, “What doth thou mean, dear brother Solomon? Hath thou gone over the deepeth endeth?

Then, after a little “proverbial thinking,” it became clear: this is nothing more than simple wisdom. It is practical advice from a dad to his son.

Dad’s Advice

My dad always had practical advice to share with me. He knew that wisdom was useful in all areas of life: from auto maintenance to dating; from fishing to dealing with a policeman in a bad mood. Try these words of advice on for size…

  • Never hit a girl (unless she comes at you with a hammer).
  • Don’t drive recklessly with a “Clergy” sticker on your bumper.
  • Put the toilet seat down.
  • Never say, “You throw the first punch,” or you may never get a chance to throw the second.
  • Check the oil before you go on a trip.

In this proverb we read the words of a father, Solomon, who says, “It is better to flip a coin than get into a fight.” That’s pretty practical.

Our Father’s Advice

Never let us forget that the Bible is a letter written from the Father to his children. And just because we usually associate it with spiritual matters, never forget that much of its content is meant to instruct us in daily living.

Consider these practical words of advice from God: don’t steal; don’t cheat; don’t lie; don’t commit adultery; don’t talk bad about other people; give generously; speak kindly to others; turn the other cheek. If we did all those things, don’t you think it would be a much better world?

He even says, “If need be, just flip a coin.”

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV

 


Greasing the Skids

Proverbs 18:16

“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”

Wise Investing

You have seen it done in the movies, and maybe in real life. A man walks in to a nice restaurant and finds that no tables are available, but when he pulls out a $50 bill all of a sudden a place is found. That is more like bribery, not what Solomon is talking about here.

What Solomon is telling us in this verse is that gifts can be a wise investment – investments that can offer great returns in the form of privilege and audience. And it’s not about bribery but common decency, respect, manners, and wisdom.

Playing Smart

There is nothing wrong or un-biblical about playing smart. In many ways life is a game, and the ones who play by the rules are more likely to come out ahead in the end. It doesn’t always work out, but acting with intentional respect can have a road-paving effect on one’s life and career.

Essentially, if you want to be included in certain circles or have audiences before “great men,” being selfish, stingy, and arrogant is not a good first step in the right direction. One can “grease the skids” with a little gift and a nice card. Even a kind deed done on one’s behalf is a gift that may prove beneficial in the future. Consider the following story…

Mordecai’s Good Deed

“During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.” – Esther 2:21-22 NIV

Later…

“That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked. “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.” – Esther 6:1-3 NIV

Mordecai’s gift of honesty and bravery was rewarded when the time was right. Room was made for him as he was brought before great men.

Key to Giving

But there is one very important thing to remember: when you do give gifts, don’t expect anything in return. A bribe is not a gift. A true gift is not a bribe.