Category Archives: advice

Marriage Guidance

Proverbs 21:9 

It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.
It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home. (NLT)

I have been married for thirty-four years and I am pleased to report that my wife is neither a brawler, nor quarrelsome. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in such a marriage, and I can’t believe that a marriage would survive for very long if either marriage partner behaved in such a way. But I can understand that it would be preferable to live alone in the smallest and dirtiest of places, rather than share the most beautiful of homes with a contentious marriage partner.

While this proverb points the finger at a woman, it could just as easily be a man. Regardless of whether it is husband or wife whose behavior in their relationship is unacceptable, the fact remains that it generally takes two to tango! Where there are problems in a relationship both partners may need to examine their behavior and consider whether they have played a part in provoking such an extreme reaction.

IMG_4624This weekend I spent two days camping in a field in the south of England with 1,000 other men while attending an event arranged by Christian Vision for Men (CVM) called The Gathering. There was only one female speaker, a lady called Tania Bright-Cook. The fact that Tania is a very special lady was evident in the number of men who attended her seminar, which was entitled ‘What Women Wish Men Would Do.’ One aim of the seminar was to enlighten menfolk, thereby reducing the possibility of marital tension. Here are some of the points Tania raised:

  • Admit vulnerability.
  • Keep promises.
  • Rate the art of loving deeply.
  • Be emotionally honest.
  • Model discipleship.
  • Be affirming.

The question to all of us is what could we be doing differently or better in our relationships with our husbands, wives, children, friends, etc.? Or would we rather be holed up in a small corner of the attic because a relationship is not working?


A Question of Attitude

Proverbs 21:4 

An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart– the unplowed field of the wicked – produce sin. (NIV)

ploughed fieldIs an unplowed field equivalent to an untidy bedroom? If it is my kids are in trouble! After parenting five with two still at home I cannot recall any of them keeping tidy bedrooms ever, although it seems to be a different story when they have their own homes. While a tidy bedroom is not high on the list of priorities for your average teenager, you would expect that the owner of a field would keep it plowed to ensure the best environment for his crops.

But this proverb is not really about plowed fields and it certainly isn’t about untidy bedrooms, so what is the link? The link is attitude. This is something that each of us needs to consider regularly. How is our attitude? How and why do we do certain things, and why are there things we try to avoid doing at all costs? How are we doing with the pride issue? Are we too proud? Or does humility come easy?

The more I read this proverb the more I realize that it is about hearts not actions. It is sinful to do something with the wrong attitude, or to fail to do something we consider beneath us. Need an example? Here’s one. I am the Sunday Ministry deacon at church. I organise rosters for duty deacons and stewards, and anything the pastor wants arranged on any particular Sunday. The first task is always to make sure the forecourt is tidy, which as our city center church is surrounded by nightclubs and pubs is not always the case. But one Sunday morning the problem wasn’t leftover fast food and empty beer cans, it was confetti. There had been a wedding the day before and it had rained. The wet confetti stuck to the paving slabs as if it was glued. The guy who leads our men’s ministry gave me a hand to clean the confetti and other items from the forecourt. All but one person going into church walked past us, most of them with a witty comment. Only one person saw what we were doing and without saying anything went to the cleaning cupboard to fetch a broom so that she could help us. I don’t want to point the finger at the funny guys who walked past, but perhaps this proverb was written for them?


It’ll be Okay, Right?

Proverbs 21:2 

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.”
“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” ESV

Sadie:  Come on, Alison! It’s nothing that will hurt you.
Alison:  Sadie, I was told not to smoke it.
Sadie:  Who told you not to smoke it?
Alison:  My parents did, and if they find out I was here I’m dead!
Sadie:  Seriously? You are going to listen to them? Alison, it’s just a plant! What harm could it really do? Besides, you can’t trust your parents all the time.
Alison: They told me that it is dangerous.
Sadie:  I have been doing it for a long time and I’m still here! Look at me! I am living proof that its okay!
Alison:  Well…
Sadie:  Just try it one time. Trust me. I promise you that it is worth it.
Alison:  …Alright… I guess it won’t hurt to do it just this once.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think about this situation? Do you think it is fairly obvious that what Sadie is trying to get Alison to do is wrong? Well, she thinks it’s okay, and as far as Alison knows, Sadie was telling the truth and there was really nothing wrong with burning and inhaling the smoke from the “plant”.

The Truth.

Truthfully, we all think our wrong actions are right from time to time. The Lord, however, knows what is good; He knows what is right. This story didn’t have to be about drugs. It could have been about drinking, lies, sex, or anything else that has consequences. Any one of those topics have heartache as one of the side-effects, but the way of the Lord leads to heart-help.

And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God. – Luke 16:15 (NASB95)


Using a Legacy

Proverbs 20:21 

An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
An inheritance obtained too early in life is not a blessing in the end. (NLT)

Jesus taught about early inheritances in the Parable of Prodigal Son. Interestingly, in our society an inheritance is no longer guaranteed. People are living longer, and many are tempted by schemes that release equity in their properties to help them remain financially secure during retirement. This often means that there is very little left to pass down to the next generation.

We received a small inheritance of £1,000 back in 1983 when my grandmother died. It was very welcome and we used it to purchase items we desperately needed for our home, such as a washing machine (we were getting by with a handed down twenty-year old twin tub at the time). That £1,000 didn’t last long, but it was used wisely. We knew where it had gone.

IMG_4574When the end was in sight for my mother-in-law she changed her will to leave each of her grandchildren £5,000 (the sum had originally been £1,000). We asked her to state in her will that these sums should be invested and released on the marriage of each grandchild, or when they had reached twenty-five years of age. Mother-in-law felt that her grandchildren should receive their legacies at eighteen years of age. Two of our children, and our nephew and niece had already reached that milestone. Sadly, not all of the grandchildren used their inheritances wisely. Perhaps it would have been better if the money held been held in trust until they were older and wiser.

CIMG1917Receiving an inheritance when we are young in age or lacking in wisdom is not necessarily a good thing. To use an inheritance foolishly is also disrespectful to the memory of the person who left that inheritance. When I think back to my mother-in-law’s passing the real inheritance was visible in the village church where we held a service of thanksgiving for her life. This woman who had been tragically widowed in 1979 lived the next twenty-four years of her life actively serving others. When I stood at the front of the church to talk about her life I was amazed to see the church so full that people were standing in the aisles and in the entrance. What a legacy to have touched so many lives. What a witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit in my mother-in-law’s life. And what a challenge to follow the example she set by following the example provided 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ.

Relevant Posts: Leaving a Legacy


Watch Your Mouth or Get Your Lights Turned Out

Proverbs 20:20

“Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.”

My Daddy Used to Say

My father has been mentioned before, but I am going to talk about him again. You see, my dad had a very simple way with words – he said what he meant and he meant what he said. I rarely heard him raise his voice, and I didn’t want to.

One of the things my father used to say was based on the stand-up comedy of Bill Cosby (before he became infamous). He would tell me, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.” But unlike modern children who never hear talk like that, I believed him.  And believe me, he was very capable.

Respect

Once I said something disrespectful to my mother and quickly regretted it. Another time, when doing some martial arts sparring, I struck my dad a little too hard in the jaw (doing the “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” routine). That was a big mistake.

I loved my daddy. He was my best friend and my hero. But my dad was quick to remind me that he was my father. He expected and demanded respect for both my mother and himself, and I gave it. I would have never considered “cursing” either one of them.

Cursing

When we look closer at the word “curseth,” we see that the meaning has more to do with making little of, or showing contempt for one’s parents, which is more than simply hurling bad words. Cursing one’s parents is showing utter disrespect.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where children think they have the right to fire off obscenities and make demands of their parents, like parents were meant to be their slaves. And what makes it worse, many laws encourage this type of “cursing” by punishing parents who exercise any discipline.

Consequences

Galatians 6:7 says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” The “cursing” that Solomon mentions, then, is seed which will one day reap a harvest of darkness.

Irony can be a wonderful tool, and Solomon uses it beautifully in this proverb. Just take a moment and think about it: the cursing children wouldn’t even exist without the parents they deem so invaluable, so who needs a progeny with no predecessors?

Our Father in heaven brought us into this world, and He can surely take us out.


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