Category Archives: advice

Guard Your Mouth

Proverbs 13:3

“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: [but] he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.”

Big Mouth

What can be said about this proverb that is not painfully obvious? Would it help if we read it in another translation?

The Holman (HCSB) puts it, “The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin.” The ESV says, “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” I’d say the message is the same, wouldn’t you?

A big mouth will get you into serious trouble. It may even cost your life.

Loose Lips

There used to be a saying back in the 1940’s: “Loose lips sink ships.” During World War II enemy spies were known to make friends with the families of soldiers and sailors. Knowing the tendency for proud parents, spouses, and children to talk about letters from the front, the enemy would listen and take note.

Many times, without even knowing it, something was said that gave details of secret missions. Lives were lost when people said more than they should.

Sometimes people get into serious trouble because they can’t keep secrets. Some people say things they don’t mean to say. Some people open their big mouths without thinking, then destruction comes.

Post a Guard

If you have a tendency to say things you shouldn’t, you may need to erect some barriers, or even post a security guard in front of your mouth. You can never be too safe when you know you possess something so dangerous.

Look back at the proverb; it says, “he that keepeth..” That means “to put a guard around.” A wise man will have in place a guard – a mental guard – that checks his words before they cross his lips.

Guard:  Good evening, Mr. Word. Going out for a stroll, tonight?

Mr. Word:  Actually, Mr. Security Guard, it’s none of your business where I am going.

Guard:  Oh, most certainly it is! If you don’t provide a good reason for leaving the premises, I must ask you to return.

Mr. Word:  All right, then. I was about to tell my wife that dress looks better on the hanger than her.

Guard:  (Speaking into a radio microphone) I need backup, immediately  Get back sir! Get away from the gate! You are a danger to all of us!

A Real Danger

If you don’t think your words are worth guarding, consider what James said about the tongue…

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” – James 1:26 NLT

Now, consider the words of the Apostle Peter…

“For the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.'” – 1 Peter 3:10-11 NLT

Be careful what you say.

 

 

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Listen Like a Wise Son

Proverbs 13:1

“A wise son heareth his father’s instruction: but a scorner heareth not rebuke.”

The Hot Pot and Life

When I was a child, my parents warned me not to touch a pot sitting on the stove. “It is hot, and it will burn you,” they told me. (To test this, I waited until a few minutes after they shut off the burner under the pot, then I touched it. It was very, very warm!)

When my sister was told this same bit of information, she still reached for that hot pot. She was burned, because she did not listen.

As we grew older, our parents continued to give us advice and warnings about things. Sometimes it meant they had to punish us for not listening to them (such as taking a cookie after being told to wait until after dinner).

Many times, I avoided some things that would have caused pain or grief, because my parents warned me of the dangers, such as doing drugs, avoiding certain “goods” or services, and hanging out with certain crowds. (It does not mean I always listened, and it led to grief. Remember my examples with a young woman.)

A Loving Father

God is our Heavenly Father who has sent us warnings and guidance (Prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus’ Disciples, the Bible) about who we are by nature and the consequences of following our nature (sin) over Him.

If we are wise, we will listen to the Father’s instructions and live well.

If we scorn His teachings, we must deal His rebuke. Often times, His rebukes come about as the natural consequences of our sinful choices. Sometimes He denies us things we want, such as jobs, promotions, transportation, time with loved ones, and on and on.

Too many times we default to “God is punishing me! He must hate me!” The truth is that He is allowing us to live with our choices, because He loves us enough to give us what we want: Not Him.

Because that is what we are really choosing when we rebel.

Choose wisdom. Choose God.

Merciful God, thank You for Your Word and guidance. Give us the wisdom to choose You, and help us hear Your rebuke when we fail. Help us to live wisely with each other.


Unstooping the Back

Proverbs 12:25

“Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.”

Pain & Sadness

When I was engaged to be married to a woman who was not quite right for me, it dragged us both down. When I knew God did not want me with that woman, I knew I had to end the relationship.

The bad news is that I did not want to. This led to a deep depression. My heart was so heavy that it held me in place, emotionally and physically. I was practically useless for a couple of weeks and literally useless for a few days, those last days of which I sat slouched on a couch not moving except to go to the bathroom.

My heavy heart literally made me stoop and slouch.

I was in mourning for a relationship that had yet to end.

Good Words

It seemed that nothing anyone said could help.

The thing that did it was a dear brother in the Lord saying “God loves you. Show Him you love Him, too.”

It made me realize how to live out Jesus’ words: “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

I needed to show God that I loved Him more than anything or anyone else. It took a friend’s words to lift me up and make me move.

Kindness & Love

It is a great kindness to share a good word with someone with a heavy heart full of pain and/or sadness. It should be done with love, and that love should be the love of God.

Someone can offer a kind word, even a good word, to someone, but if it is done at the wrong time or in the wrong way it can have the opposite effect.

Sometimes, the best thing to say is nothing at all. It is just to sit there, to be there.

God of mercy and kindness, thank You for leading us to and through those times of pain and sadness. Thank You that You also provide us with those people and words that can lift us up to gladness, again. Give us a heart to share that love and kindness to others, and give us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to simply be there.


Zee Doctor Vill See You

Proverbs 12:20

“Deceit [is] in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace [is] joy.”

The Evil Psychiatrist

Try to imaging an evil psychiatrist. Can you? Picture in your mind a tall, slick-haired, skinny man in a long, white lab coat. In one eye is a spectacle, the other a creepy glare.

Now, just imagine this guy asking you to come into his office. He offers you a quasi-comfortable couch on which to recline, then pulls out a yellow pad and pencil to take notes – notes of your deepest, darkest secrets.

When your hour is up, you have talked about your parents, your dead dog, a lost love interest, and your lack of self worth. What do you get in return? The Doctor says,

“I zink vee hav made much progress, but vee hav much fartha to go, yes? You take dis book I vrote, ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ and pay de receptionist on the vay out, yes? Today vill be $120 – the book vill be $30.”

The Caring Counselor

Now, think of someone who wants nothing in return for simple, good advice. This person is caring, can see the end of the road you’re traveling, and wants what is best for you.

You go to this person, pour out your soul, problems and all, and in return you get both sympathy and solid guidance. You are not made to feel like an idiot, but your own words are used to point towards better choices to be made. Hopefully, you can see the difference between the two, yes? No? Vhat iz vrong vid you?

“Imagine Evil” vs “Joy”

One point of today’s proverb is that there are some who would offer counsel for their own selfish desires, while there are others who do it for the joy of bringing about peace. The operative word in the verse is “counselors.”

As a pastor, I have to counsel people all the time. Unlike a psychiatrist, however, I don’t get paid lots of money for my advice.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the advice of both, but if the intent of either is selfish, then the advice is evil – free or not.

What Goes Around…

But there is even more to this verse. The idea is that the reason for the advice one gives will ultimately come back upon him. The great Matthew Henry wrote:

Those that devise mischief contrive, for the accomplishing of it, how to impose upon others; but it will prove, in the end, that they deceive themselves.*

If you want to experience joy, then give “peaceful” counsel. If you want to be fooled, then seek to fool others.

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 12:20.

 


Whose Lips Matter Most?

Proverbs 10:8

The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall. 

Open to Instruction

As of this writing, I am about to enter into a new phase of life, a new field of ministry, a place for which I feel a tad bit (maybe more) under-prepared. At the very least, I know that in this new position I will be faced with responsibilities and challenges I’ve yet to encounter; therefore, I have been seeking advice from other pastors who have personal experience.

If there is anything I’ve learned in life, it’s to not think I know everything. If I’m willing to admit I need advice, there’s a good possibility I will be successful in my future endeavors. But advice and counsel are not exactly what is being discussed in the above verse/proverb; we’re talking about “commandments.”

Receiving Commandments

Commandments are not “advice,” but prescriptions for life. They are not given with options; they are our orders – period.

As a matter of fact, they are so important that Solomon (the preacher) tells us in Ecclesiastes that other than fearing God, nothing is more important than keeping his commandments…

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. – Ecclesiastes 12:13

The difference between being open to advice and receiving commandments can be huge! Being open to the wise instruction of others is not the same as being humble and obedient. It’s not all about us; it’s all about God.

Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. – Deuteronomy 13:4

Prating and Falling

When we examine the word “prating” in today’s proverb, what we find is that it means “to open the lips, i.e. to begin to talk”* and carries with it the idea of someone running off at the mouth with as much understanding as the babbling of a brook.

The “wise in heart,” or those whose character is humble enough to know that there’s One who knows all, stands (ironically) in stark contrast to the fool who is so confident in himself that he runs off at the mouth without any regard for the commands of God.

So he falls. Or, rather, is made to fall.

The wise in heart knows he can’t stand in his own strength, but obeys the One who will help him to stand. The prating fool is too busy listening to his own lips that he can’t even hear his Creator, so the fall is not by accident.

LORD, give is a wise heart that listens to and obey Your commands. 


*Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 793.


Gather Now!

Proverbs 10:5

“He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame.”

Of Ants and Grasshoppers and Men

Many have heard of Aesop’s fable about an ant and a grasshopper. The grasshopper spends the summer having fun and not working. (My wife and I can understand that, as we both currently work in schools with summers off!) The ant works hard all summer saving up food for the winter months. When winter comes, the grasshopper is starving while the ant is thriving. Some versions show the message of grace by having the ant share some of its food with the grasshopper. (Darker versions only have the ant rebuking the grasshopper … who dies.)

The moral is that idleness and laziness can lead to ruin, but hard work pays off for tomorrow.

One of the problems of the so-called welfare state, in which the government covers most or all of individuals’ needs, is that many people become, well, lazy and dependent. This is the main reason most political conservatives distrust government programs which support people, such as prolonged unemployment benefits.

God’s Thoughts

One of my favorite passages from the Bible, Matthew 25,  includes the parables of the Ten Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep and the Goats. They all have the same point: do not spend your time fooling around, but be prepared.

Sure, we are commanded to not worry about tomorrow, but the best way to not worry is to be prepared!

This is a good time to remind us all that these parables, and therefore today’s proverb, tell us that we cannot rest with an understanding that we are safe, that “I am saved!”

Jesus came to seek and save the lost, sure, but it came with a call: love others. A Christian’s salvation is evidenced by showing love to others; by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked; by weeping with the broken-hearted and healing the hurt; by seeking and reaching out to the lost; by preparing our hearts by drawing near to Him.

Great Lord, we thank You for having a plan for and saving us. Help us to not only prepare for our near future, to be good stewards of what You have given us, but also help us to prepare for eternity. Grow Your love in us, that we may love as You love.


A Timely Missing Post

Proverbs 9:6

“Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.”

A while back, in the process of re-posting entries, I found that Proverbs 9:6 was not only left off the blog, but out of the book! (click here to purchase) That’s terribly embarrassing, especially since all the editing that had been done. Therefore, this post is what you could call a “web exclusive!


Forsaking

The first word in this verse is an imperative: forsake.  It’s not a word that suggests temporarily turning away, but abandonment. To forsake something is like saying “to heck with you,” turning on one’s heels, walking out the door, slamming it, going to the airport, buying a plane ticket, arriving at the destination, then burning one’s passport.

Why are simple words hard to understand?

Foolish

If you have been reading Proverbs at all, even the least bit, you should be aware what foolishness is. Foolishness is man’s wisdom, not God’s. Foolishness is acting stupidly, even when you know there is a better way. Foolishness is rebellion, selfishness, seeking one’s own way, and never caring where the road leads, just as long as the trip is fun.

The “foolish” we’re commanded to forsake could be a combination of things. The “foolish” could be people, ideas, actions, philosophies, worldviews, attitudes, etc. There are foolish friends, foolish plans, foolish job opportunities, foolish desires, and foolish dreams – all of which lead down a bad road.

Forsake the foolish, and you might survive; don’t, and you’re in trouble.

The Way

The “way of understanding” can be interpreted as the “right” way, or even the way on which wisdom has already walked. It is the way in which people walk who walk in wisdom, seek wisdom, and love wisdom.

When we walk in the “way of understanding” we consider the consequences of each step and the direction we are going. The direction is a 180 away from foolishness.

Living

But why is it that so many are more likely to hold on to the “foolish” rather than travel in the way of understanding? Instead of walking out the door and leaving the old ways behind, why is it that so many are more apt to slam the door from the inside, lock it, and turn up the music? The reason is based on one’s understanding of “living.”

playstationOne beer company is famous for touting the “high life.” Another shows people partying away the night saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” Everything from hotels to video game systems have encouraged consumers by promising, “This is living!”

Funny. Even kind of ironic, I must say. It’s hard to go down any path when you’ve locked yourself inside with computer game.

Timely?

Yes, this post is technically 2 years late. On the other hand, God knew exactly who would be writing it and what would be going on. As my daughter Katie looked over my shoulder and read the proverb about which I was to write, she said, “Well, that’s timely…”

This week we’ve dealt with foolishness, the foolish, and an unwillingness to forsake it. I have personally witnessed a close family member, blinded by a lack of wisdom, detail a specific plan for destruction. I’ve even faced down a foolish physical threat. Foolishness…simply foolishness.

There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. – Proverbs 16:25

Forsake foolishness and live, or shut the door and die. The way is up to you.