Category Archives: advice

Fear Pressure

Proverbs 29:25 

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.
Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety. (NLT)

There are occasions when we speak (or fail to speak) from a position of fear, rather than from wisdom. Mostly this involves other human beings and our relationships with family, friends, colleagues, folk at church, etc. We can end up walking on eggshells for fear of causing offence, when actually we need to take a stand, and perhaps even speak out, even though such action may make us unpopular.

There may also be occasions when we act from a position of fear, particularly when peer pressure is involved. The challenge is often one of fitting in, as opposed to being the odd one out. I remember such pressures from my seafaring days when the temptations were many, and the desire to be the same as others rather than different could be overpowering.

The fear of human opinion is indeed a dangerous trap, as stated in this proverb. We may not wish to conform, but we feel a need to be part of the crowd. We don’t want to be left out. In my school days that meant hanging around with the bad kids, much to the displeasure of my teachers and my parents. One of my school reports stated a correlation between my poor academic performance and the company I was keeping.

The solution to the problem is quite simply to trust God. This involves more than praying for forgiveness and asking God for a passport to heaven. Trusting God means living in a daily relationship with Him and consulting Him about all things, even the apparently mundane. It also means not being ashamed to be called His child, even if this makes us stand out as different to those around us.

We need to remember the example of Jesus who lived a life that was completely different to the norm. Such a life soon attracted the attention of those who took offence at the way Jesus lived, mainly because it highlighted the failures and hypocrisy of their own lives. But never once did Jesus indicate that He was afraid of these people. If Jesus had been afraid would He have turned over the tables of the moneychangers in the temple courts? If Jesus had been afraid would He have put himself in a position of betrayal leading to arrest, torture and ultimately death? We have to be different because Jesus was different. We have no choice but to live in this world, but we most certainly do not have to conform to its ways because of fear.

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Fast Talk

Proverbs 29:20 

Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.
There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. (NLT) 

The problem with words issued in haste is that they cannot be withdrawn. In this day and age the warning in this proverb should also apply to email. I speak from experience. Several years ago I hit the send button on an email I thought I was forwarding, without checking the email properly, or considering what I had written. I was frustrated with a certain Swedish individual by the name of Lennart who had just informed that he would be unable to translate a couple of documents for at least two weeks. These documents were vital to a report I was required to submit in less than two weeks. In my frustration, I forwarded the email to my boss with the comment; ‘Lazy Lenny says he can’t translate our statements!”

To my surprise, I received a reply almost immediately. Incredibly it was not from my boss but from Lazy Lenny. I couldn’t understand how he had accessed my email, but I felt my face starting to glow and radiate extreme amounts of heat as I read the words; “I am not Lazy Lenny sitting on the beach all day drinking beer!” Various excuses as to why he could not translate the documents sooner were also included. When I looked through the email more carefully I realized my error. I had hit the reply button instead of forward.

My email did spur Lazy Lenny into action and I had my translations later that day, but the point is that I wrote words that were rude in haste. I learned a massive lesson that day: The wisdom of Scripture is as important in our modern electronic age as it was thousands of years ago.

But most of all, my brothers and sisters, never take an oath, by heaven or earth or anything else. Just say a simple yes or no, so that you will not sin and be condemned. (James 5:12 NLT)


Doing a Good Job

Proverbs 29:5 

A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.

Flattery will get you everywhere – or so they say. But what about the person on the receiving end of the flattery – where will it get them? Is flattery a good thing, or is bad? Is it clever to flatter, or is it stupid? For instance, should a husband who has just worked his way through another awful meal tell his wife she is a wonderful cook? Or should the wife of a lazy husband who does little to help her around the home tell him what a fantastic husband he is?

My wife Marilyn was asked to help with the children’s work soon after we joined our present church. Marilyn knew that this wasn’t her calling, but she initially agreed. When she found out that it would involve leading some of the sessions she panicked. Flattery based on Marilyn’s success as mother to five children might have persuaded her that she would make a brilliant Sunday School teacher. Such flattery would have been misguided. Fortunately a wise lady suggested serving elsewhere. Nowadays Marilyn does occasionally help in Sunday School, but she is also a vital member of the church catering team serving where she thinks she can’t be seen. Despite hiding away in the church kitchen, Marilyn’s reputation for cake making means that she is much in demand. When people tell her how good her cakes are it is not flattery, but praise (and possibly a hint that more cakes would be appreciated).

As ever, this proverb is about wisdom, specifically the wise use of words of praise, and perhaps also the ways in which criticism can be provided constructively. If a person is continually on the end of undeserved flattery they may come to believe that they are something that they are not. Flattery has the potential to stack up problems for the person who is flattered to the point where they believe they can do something outside of their gifting or skill set.

God took great pleasure in making us all different, and in giving us different gifts and skills. Yes, it is important to be told when we have done a good job. But we also need to receive guidance and direction when we have not, especially if the reason is that we are in the wrong job. Telling a person they are good at something when they are not will eventually end in tears.


Rejoice or Mourn, but Don’t Settle

Proverbs 29:2

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

‘Ocracies

It would seem like never before in the history of man has it been possible for atheists and all those antagonistic to Christianity, the Bible, faith, or whatever, to have their voices be heard. Of course, I may be wrong and even over-exaggerating a little, but thanks to the media and easy access to the internet, angry voices condemning leaders with morals are screaming from every direction.

This proverb should not be interpreted as saying, “Christians should be in authority everywhere!” No, the idea is more along the lines of promoting wise leadership, honest leadership, or simply men and women with integrity and moral fortitude. Yet, even when and if true Christians were to assume authority, very few would have any thoughts of promoting a “theocracy.” But listen to the atheists and you’d think that the “righteous” would start hanging unbelievers tomorrow, if they could.

The fact is that at it’s founding, when the most Christians (including deists) where in authority in America, that is when they founded a constitutional republic, NOT a theocracy.

Righteous Rule

When the righteous rule, the people rejoice. Why is that? Could it be that the people are treated fairly? The righteous wouldn’t take more than they need in taxes. The righteous wouldn’t lie about issues in order to get elected. The righteous would be responsible with resources. The righteous wouldn’t seek office to obtain power, but to serve others. The righteous wouldn’t compromise his beliefs, but he would work together with his fellow man in search of the common good.

Sadly, many in our society mourn when the righteous are considered for leadership. Many recoil at the thought of a man or woman with integrity, faith, and morals. They see these potential leaders as threats – not to freedom, but to unrestrained behavior.

Wicked Rule

Why do the people mourn when the wicked rule? Because the wicked think only of themselves; they care nothing about the people under their authority.

Do we have wicked leaders, or are our leaders righteous, looking out for all of us? Do those in authority serve, or do they accumulate power in order to manipulate the masses? The answer will be different and vary in intensity wherever you go, but this much is true: there are far fewer righteous leaders than wicked ones.

The Undecided

But then there are those who can’t decide whether to rejoice or mourn. They have been treated so poorly for so long that they have come to accept wicked leadership as the norm.

If you think otherwise, just consider the following defense of President Obama by L.Z. Granderson on CNN:

“Now with president Obama, it is true, he should have been more forthright with how the Affordable Care Act was going to impact the country. But with that being said, all Americans know politicians lie. The question is: which lies can you live with? And time and time again Americans have said, “We can deal with the lies that President Obama tells us, because we believe in his heart – he has the best interests for the American people. Every president’s gonna lie to you. Every politician is gonna lie to you. The question is: which lies can you live with?” – Source

Sounds more like when the wicked rule, the people give up caring. God help us.


Are You Blind?

Proverbs 28:22

“He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.”

Are You Blind?

The first thing that came to mind when I read this proverb was the term “get rich schemes.” But, after a few moments of pondering, a question which I have heard asked many times popped into my head: “Are you blind?”

If you have ever driven in a large, metropolitan city, especially one like New York, then I’m sure you have probably heard someone yell out a colloquial version of, “Hey buddy, ya’ blind!?” Maybe you were asked that question when you turned in front of a taxi. Or, maybe you have asked your child that question after being whacked in the head with a kitchen cabinet door. “Sweetie! Are you blind? Didn’t you see me standing here?”

Bad Vision

Maybe the one who turned in front of the taxi driver had a glass eye? Maybe the child that trips over stuff in the floor needs glasses? Sometimes people have accidents because they are not able to see clearly, like their eyes aren’t working properly.

In the same way, Solomon suggests that the one who rushes to get rich must have a bad (evil) eye. It’s not that his eye is intentionally trying to cause him harm; it must be handicapped. Why else would any sane, logical person with any common sense make haste towards poverty? Could it be the result of a character flaw? Poor instruction? Bad advice? Or, could it be that the one hastening to get rich lacks the ability to see down the road?

Get an Eye Exam

lensesThere is evidently something wrong with one’s vision if he thinks “get rich schemes” are the way to go. Yet, turn on the television, especially late at night (when smart people should be asleep), and you will find all kinds of infomercials promoting some new scheme that promises wealth with little or no effort. And what is one of the things the hosts of the commercials say? “Act now!Hurry, before this opportunity passes you by! This is a limited-time offer!”

What the get-rich-quick-er has a hard time seeing is the road ahead. He cannot see the turns in the road, the holes in the pavement, and brick wall of poverty which will certainly end his journey.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” – Matthew 6:22-23 ESV

So, before you rush to riches, make sure you get an “eye” exam.


How Are You Walking?

Proverbs 28:18

“Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.”
“Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” ESV

Not What You Might Think

The first part of this proverb could give the wrong impression if one’s not careful. It reads, “Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved.” However, this is not talking about a “works salvation,” as some would content. Our “walk” does not save us; only the grace of God through faith in Christ.

The second part of this proverb could also be misread or misunderstood, thereby making it seem like God’s word is untrue. At first glance it may seem that anyone who does wrong will immediately suffer the consequences, which we all know may or may not happen.

The promise and warning of this proverb has more to do with the moment that will eventually come – the moment in which one’s walk will determine the outcome.

Persistence and Faithfulness

Be persistent in your walk, dear friend. Remain faithful, even when the way is hard. When the time comes, you will be grateful for the trials you went through and the obstacles you overcame.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” – Galatians 6:9

Stay on the “straight and narrow” and trust God to deliver you in the moment of testing or the hour of need. Let Him guide you and “direct your paths.”

A Sudden Fall

When we walk “perversely” or “crooked,” never following the way lined with warning signs, we are only asking for trouble. The second part of this proverb warns us of such.

Some think that there is no God, that His word is useless, and that life should be lived without restraint. Others, the ones who watch the godless as they travel, often wonder why nothing bad ever happens. They may even get discouraged, thinking that they are missing out on all the fun, especially since there never seems to be any pits, traps, or snares in the way.

But God’s word IS true; there is pleasure in sin for a season (Heb. 11:25), but the ultimate end is death…a sudden fall. When the moment comes, it will come “at once,” possibly without warning, and without help from the God who’s direction was snubbed.


Lions and Bears

Proverbs 28:15

“As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.”
“A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear.” – NLT

Tyrants

Plenty of tyrants have no regard for their subjects. One only has to review the last one hundred years of history to come up with scores of individuals who preyed on the poor, helpless, defenseless masses; each one a mad, blood-thirsty animal.

“[They are] brutish, barbarous, and blood-thirsty; [they are] rather to be put among the beasts of prey, the wildest and most savage, than to be reckoned of that noble rank of beings whose glory is reason and humanity.”[1]

Lion

Lion (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Even worse are the kind that convince their victims that the carnage being inflicted is supposedly for their own good. As self-proclaimed kings of the beasts, they claim it is their right to thin the herd, to remove the weak, so the strong can survive. But they are only hungry animals, void of compassion, fulfilling their natural desires.

Tyrant Topplers

To many it would seem like lions and bears are unstoppable. To be sure, those who value life run in fear from them, or at the very least give them what they want whenever they growl. But lions and bears are not invincible.

“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.” – 1 Samuel 17:34-35 KJV

Lest the tyrants become to smug and confident in their power, it would be wise of them to remember all it takes to topple them is nothing more than a little boy with a big God.


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1018.