Category Archives: advice

Still Waters Run Deep

Proverbs 18:4 

“The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.”

The deepest waters in our world are found in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The deepest point of the Mariana Trench is reported to be 6.831 miles below sea level. The trench has been explored during several scientific expeditions, but for most of us it is just a name on a map or chart, or an entry in Wikipedia. Despite the efforts of scientists the deepest parts of the ocean generally remain a mystery because of their inaccessibility.

rockpool 4But even a rock pool is a different world. Life is different in the water. There are strange creatures and unusual colors. To reach the best and deepest pools it is necessary to scramble out across the rocks at low tide. This is something I did regularly as a child. Although my friends and I returned often to our favorite rock pools, they were never the same. Each new tide brought changes, trapping different creatures.

And so it is necessary to explore and go deep when searching for words to use in our daily encounters with other human beings, and also with God. We have to be careful with words. We have to be wise users of language. We need to develop a wellspring of wisdom as a resource on which we can draw every time we speak.

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (2 Timothy 2:16 NIV)
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 NIV)

Don’t Hit Send

Proverbs 17:28 

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. (NLT)

Most of us have encountered fools in our lives. Some of us have been fools. One of the most annoying things in life is a fool who just won’t shut up. I have encountered a few. On one ship I served on we had an engineer cadet who was nicknamed ‘the village idiot’ because of the stupid things he said. It wasn’t that he was unintelligent, just that he never ever put his brain in gear before opening his mouth. As a cadet it was doubly stupid to make himself so visible through saying stuff that identified him as a fool. In my day cadets had to know when to speak and when not to speak.

The same thing is true for us all. We need to know when to speak, how to speak, and when to hold our tongues, however difficult that may be in a given situation. Such wisdom extends also to the written word. How easy it is to write an angry email or text message and hit the send button before we have properly considered the words we have used, and their potential impact. I once hit reply instead of forward on an email in which I had used the words ‘lazy Lenny’ to describe the Swedish individual whose email I thought I was forwarding. Imagine my shock when he replied a minute later advising me, “I am not ‘lazy Lenny lying on the beach all day drinking beer.” However, he did respond very quickly with the translation he had told me would take him at least two weeks.

So if a fool can appear wise just by keeping his mouth shut (or by not immediately hitting the send button on a mail programme or cellphone) then there is hope for all of us, especially those of us who would never consider ourselves to be foolish.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19 NIV)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12 NIV)

Grieving Parents

Proverbs 17:25 

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
Foolish children bring grief to their father and bitterness to the one who gave them birth. (NLT)

This is an easy one for me to write given the many times I brought grief to my parents. However, I could blame them. I could say that it was their fault for moving to England when I was eleven years old. Perhaps if we had remained in Guernsey I would have been a better student, and a more respectful son. The friends I left behind in the island all stayed on at school until they were eighteen, and then went to university. I don’t recall that any of them got into much trouble.

Surroundings and friends definitely played a part, but at the end of the day it was me who made the decisions. I chose to mix with the bad kids and mess around at school. I chose to start drinking alcohol at fifteen, and I chose to start smoking. I chose to bring grief to my parents. They must have been secretly relieved when I joined the Merchant Navy at sixteen. At least they could no longer see what I was getting up to. But that didn’t stop me from being a foolish son. What stopped me was the need to be responsible in a working environment that was dangerous at times.

Fast forward many years and I have four sons, one daughter, and one grandson. There may have been occasions when one or more them (but not the grandson) have caused grief, but fortunately not so many. That is something for which I am very grateful to my heavenly Father. We sometimes forget that we cause Him grief too when we act foolishly as sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. It is a huge relief to know that He made a way for fools to be forgiven, and foolish behavior forgotten.


It’s Healthy To Be Happy

Proverbs 17:22 

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Happy Health

Her name is Kay, and she’s my mother-in-law, and without a doubt she’s the happiest person I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  Kay’s happiness is contagious.  There would have to be ice flowing in your veins not to break into a grin when Kay enters the room.  Over the years as my mother-in-law has been deeply transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ, a sincere and powerful love for people has grown inside her, a cheerful love that embraces all and disarms all.  Whether Kay’s changing a baby’s diaper or greeting one of the great potentates of industry (and she does both regularly), the same hearty chuckle wells up from within.  And you can’t help but smile along.

The first half of today’s proverb is one of the most quoted of all the Proverbs, and its verity is universally recognized.  Cheerfulness is good for the body.   It’s healthy to be happy.  The second half of the proverb, though not as well known, nonetheless does contain an equally recognized psychological principal.  A crushed spirit or melancholy disposition will tend to manifest itself in physical infirmity.  However, please remember that the proverbs are to be interpreted as principles, and not as promises.  Cheerful people do become ill, and depressed people can be (otherwise) physically healthy.  But those exceptions merely serve to prove the general rule that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Pharmacists of Cheerfulness

Granted, we come into this world with variations in temperament.  Some people tend toward cheerfulness, while others tend toward melancholy.  I count myself in that latter group!  That’s why I need people like Kay in my life.  We need those pharmacists of the merry heart to dispense the good medicine of cheerfulness for its psychological as well as physical benefits. To the reader who would describe herself or himself as a melancholy, I urge you to prayerfully and intentionally seek out friendships with Christian brothers and sisters who have the merry heart.  We need them!

Christ’s Joy and Our Responsibility

Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  This verse is found in the context of Jesus telling the disciples that He is the True Vine, and we are the branches.  In a vital, dynamic relationship of faith with the Son of God, His joy overflows to us.

However, to return to the metaphor of the pharmacy, it’s our responsibility to drop off the Rx and pick up the meds.  Is the marrow drying from your bones? Take some time alone with Jesus.  Remember, re-claim, and re-apply the promises of the gospel to your life.  Make a list of the things that are good in your life, for which you are grateful to God.  Pray for a fresh anointing of His joy.

Recommended Reading

For further study, order yourself a copy of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure.

Father God:  I pray for the reader whose spirit is broken, and the marrow of joy has dried within.  Touch the reader with the unconditional love of the Lord Jesus, and renew his or her joy this day.  May cheerful, Godly laughter overflow.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.    


Six, or Half a Dozen

Proverbs 17:15

“He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.”

My Daddy Used to Say

Down here in the southern United States it is common to hear someone say, “Like my daddy used to say…” What did my dad use to say? He said a lot of wise things. Here are a few examples…

  • daddy“You haven’t really worked until you’ve shed some blood.”
  • “It’s colder than a witch’s upper torso outside.”
  • “I love your soul, but I’m gonna woop your flesh.”
  • “I brought you into this world; I can take you out” (he borrowed that from Bill Cosby…before the scandal).
  • “Right before God does something, the devil will always try to mess it up. So, if something bad is happening, God’s just about to do something.”

But when I read this proverb, the first thing that came to my mind was something else my father used to say all the time: “Six of one, half-a-dozen of another.” In other words, one thing meant about as much as another thing.

My God Says

Well, my Abba Father has said a lot of wise things, too. And when it comes to people who either justify the wicked (say what they are doing is OK) or condemn the just (say what is right is wrong), His disgust with them is about “six of one, half-a-dozen of another.” God despises them both equally.

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”


Flood of Trouble

Proverbs 17:14

“The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” – NIV

Flood Gates

Not far from where I used to live is the Tennessee River. When it rains for days on end, as it did not long ago, the river level rises, which causes the dams across the river to have to open their gates. I have seen the water come through those gates with ferocious power.

Sometimes dams fail. When that happens, depending on the size of the dam, lots of property is damaged and people are killed. When the Kaloko Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania burst in 1889, a whole town was washed away, along with 2,200 lives.

In some cases, human error was the cause of dams bursting. And according to Solomon, it’s not always water that destroys.

Dam Meddler

People who start arguments for no reason, or keep one going when it could have faded away, are like those who meddle with a weak dam. If nothing else, they are as those who would open a floodgate, but not know how to shut it.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Just back away and count to ten?” I wonder how many lives could have been saved had they heeded Solomon’s warning?

You never know what hell is waiting to be unleashed when a quarrel is started. It is far, far better to simply walk away than to chip away at a crack in the dam. Drowning in the waters of strife is for fools.

The above video was taken at the Chickamauga Dam, Chattanooga. It was finished in 1939 and President Roosevelt was there for the dedication. But even though this video is impressive, I’ve seen it when all the gates were all the way open. On a normal day, the water’s not too rough below the dam. But on days like this, the power can shake your bones.

What a sobering reminder of how dangerous meddling can be. 


The Bear Facts about Fools

Proverbs 17:12

“Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.”

“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.” – ESV

Dangerous Bears

There are a lot of people who go hiking in forests where big, furry, and not-so-cuddly bears live. There are also people who swim in the ocean where razor-toothed guppies the size of cars hunt surfboards. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Personally, I prefer to swim in chlorinated kiddie pools rather than in a shark’s kitchen. And when it comes to hiking, well, I prefer forests where the bears ain’t. Otherwise, I’m taking a 12 gauge with slugs in it.

You see, it’s like this: bears are dangerous. They especially don’t like it when people pretend to be Goldilocks and mess with baby bear. Believe me, it’s better to stay away from Little Red Riding Hood’s back yard unless you seriously know what you are doing; otherwise, you may end up Pooh poo.

Dangerous Fools

But no matter how dangerous a she-bear is, Fuzzy Wuzzilina is nothing compared to a fool caught in his foolishness.

The fool is terribly fond of his lustful pursuits and passions, more so than a bear of her cubs. Threaten them, or take them away, and what you have on your hands is an angry, ferocious, indignant enemy determined to destroy.

Many years ago, when I was young, my father worked for a man who was having an affair. When my father and another employee witnessed the business owner having sex with his mistress at work, the man admitted what he was doing was wrong. However, as time went on, the businessman became indignant, hateful, and angry over the thought of giving up his relationships.

I still remember the drive-by shooting, the attempt to gun down my father behind the pulpit, and the phone calls saying, “I know where your wife and kids are, and when you’re not looking…

Eventually, as my father warned, sin’s payday would come. Sure enough, the husband of the mistress found my dad’s boss and the woman and killed them both.

Stay Away

Solomon must have had some experience with fools. Maybe we should heed his warning.

“A person who can accept criticism has an approachable personality and can function well in social interaction. People who cannot accept a rebuke, however, cause chaos in the public arena. It would be better to try to deal with an angry bear in search of her cubs!”*

*Duane A. Garrett, vol. 14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 161.