Category Archives: advice

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.

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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.


The Father In the Window

Proverbs 7:6-9 

“[6] For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, [7] And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, [8] Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, [9] In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:”

The Science of Sin    

In the New Testament epistle of James, chapter 1, verses 14 & 15, the author outlines the process of someone falling into sin.  In that passage James the Just tells how it begins with an “evil desire” by which the individual is “dragged away and enticed”.  Once that desire is conceived, says James, “it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death”.

In a similar way, the Father (7:1) assumes the viewpoint of an intelligent observer of sin in today’s verses.  The Father watches from his window, not with voyeuristic delight, but as one who wants to see what lessons can be deduced from the sad spectacle in front of him.  Sin can be observed, studied, and understood.  There are definable, universal patterns at work in the fallen human nature leading to sin, and the wise son can and should learn from the costly mistakes of others.  If you skim on through the rest of the chapter, you see that ultimately the foolish youth being observed is “dragged away and enticed” by the adulteress (v. 21).  How did this tragic moral failure occur?  Proverbs 7:6-9 provides a case study in a young man taking three downward steps into the sin of adultery.

Step 1:  “I Know What’s Best for Me.”

            The young man is described as a “simple one” and “void of understanding”.  Here is a youth who feels no need for the blessings of moral instruction.   Were you to ask him if he thinks of himself as “void of understanding,” he would flatly deny it.  “No,” he would say, “I know how life works; I know what’s best for me; and I know how to achieve my goals.”  Were you to offer him counsel, he would scoff at the seriousness of your concerns.

Step 2:  “After All, I Can Come Close to the Sin Without Sinning.” 

Notice how the young man just happens to be walking in the neighborhood of the adulteress.  As he is “passing through the street near her corner” (v. 8).  He tells himself that he’s not walking anywhere in particular; no, he’s just out for an evening stroll.  Oh, how deceptive is the human heart!  Readers, how many times have we wandered into sin’s neighborhood, with one side of our mind rationalizing that we are fully under control and will not fall this time; all the while knowing deep inside exactly where we’re headed, and what we intend to do when we get there.

Step 3:  “I Can Manage This Sin and its Consequences.” 

            By the second half of verse 8, the foolish youth is no longer kidding himself.  Tonight, he’s going to the adulteress’s house.  He’s crossed the line of no return.  Does he recognize sin for what it is?  Of course he does.  He’s bears the Creator’s image, and his conscience screams for him to turn around.  But now, he is no longer merely entertaining the notion of sin; rather, he’s determined that he’s going into the situation full steam ahead, because, he believes, he can manage the sin and its consequences.  The lady’s husband?  He’s out of town (v. 19).  Witnesses to the immorality?  There’s no one watching, thinks the youth.

Ah, but here he’s wrong.  There is one watching – the Father in the window!

The Watcher in the Window

Is there a sense in which the narrator of the passage (the Father in the window) is a type of Jesus Christ?  If we take the narrator to be Solomon (and we have every reason to do so), and Solomon is a son of David, could Solomon here in a particular way be pointing us to David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ?

I tend to think so.  King Jesus allows us to make our own choices.  It’s difficult for us to get our puny minds around, but the Bible teaches both that Jesus is our Sovereign King with all authority at his disposal (Matthew 28:18), and yet we make our choices and we act freely, without coercion from God.  Dear reader, perhaps you are an adulterer or adulteress; then again, perhaps your sin of choice is of a different variety—gossip, slander, hatred, greed, and the like.  Whatever your sin is, Jesus knows exactly what’s going on.  He doesn’t coerce you into sin (James 1:13); no, you have chosen to walk those downward steps all on your own.  But neither does he typically leap in and interfere with the situation.  For many years Proverbs 7 troubled me:  Why doesn’t the observer in the window stop the foolish youth from rushing to destruction?  It has only been as I’ve come to recognize how many thousands of times Christ has watched me taking those downward steps – 1, 2, 3 – all the while gazing at me with love and sadness, that I’ve begun to understand.

The Good News

The good news is that the Watcher in the Window DID come down, not heroically to stop a foolish youth from his own stupidity, but to bear the guilt and shame of that youth for his sin and stupidity.  On Calvary’s Cross, Jesus died for all of our sin, guilt, and shame.  Yes, even for that sin that has just come to your mind, the one that you think nobody knows about, the one that makes you blush or break out in a cold sweat.  He did not come down to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved (John 3:17).  When you place faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone for salvation and turning away from sin, the most curious thing then begins to happen.  You begin to change from the inside out.  You find that you are still free to do what you want, but your “wants” begin to change.  You no longer “want” to sneak down the dark alley and knock on sin’s door.  You no longer “want” to eat another bite of the forbidden fruit.  What you want, is to be in fellowship with Jesus, the one who came down from heaven, and lived and died for you.

In tomorrow’s posting, we return to the sad saga of the foolish young man and the adulteress.  Hope to see you then!

Father God, forgive this writer the many times he has walked those familiar steps outlined above.  Be merciful and gracious to us, Father, for the sake of your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Transform us deep within, that we might truly hate sin and love righteousness.  And may we never forget that it is not our righteousness, but the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, by which we have this relationship with you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


Shine the Torch

Proverbs 4:18-19

“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.”

Submitted by Rev Ken Welford (Father of David)

Needing a Torch

Wouldn’t it be good if we never went astray? Even SatNav has a reputation for getting it wrong, and sometimes leading people astray. Recently a huge truck got stuck between two houses in a narrow English village street, simply because the driver blindly followed the directions of the SatNav.

I use a torch (flashlight) for the last short walk of the day with our dog. I need to look ahead for possible obstacles, and most recently I have been engaged in a minor ‘rescue mission’ directed towards the common toad. These silly creatures sit in the middle of our driveway/minor road waiting to be squashed by passing traffic. They have to be removed from the danger area and taken to a place of safety.

Three Things

Proverbs 4:18 speaks about “the path of the just” (or righteous) being like the shining sun – that shines brighter unto the perfect day. This is contrasted (v 19) with the way of the wicked, which is totally in the dark.

Three things stand out – the path of the just is an illuminated pathway. Illuminated by the PERFECT RAY for the sunshine of God’s love shines strongly on the pathway of God Seekers. It shows the way ahead in some detail, and reveals the PERFECT WAY. This is the way that leads in the right direction, and will eventually bring us to the right destination. Jesus is the Way to Life, and the only way to get us there intact. That leads to the PERFECT DAY, where God’s love shines so brightly that we are delivered from the possible perils of darkness, into the full sunshine of His presence.

Delivered

Going back to my toads – they seem to have little sense of direction, and sit waiting in the dark for the worst to happen. Paralyzed and unable to move to a place of safety on their own, the light of my torch picks them out, and I lift them up and place them in comparative safety away from the roadway. To them, I am perhaps savior and deliverer (although I guess they don’t know that). When we find ourselves ‘in the dark’, we too need someone to help us discover the right path. To lift us out of danger and darkness, and to set us free to live to our full potential.

Proverbs 14:12 says ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death’. We need, not only the RIGHT WAY, but the BRIGHT WAY, illuminated by God’s love in the Lord Jesus Christ, who says ‘this is the way, walk in it’ (Isaiah 30:21).

Light of the World

My torch offers only pretty feeble illumination on our driveway, and can only shine on one small area at a time. However, it helps me in total darkness to avoid obstacles (and particularly, stepping on toads). The light of the world brings in a mega-beam, which disperses darkness, so that we can walk continually in the light. It means that we need never stumble for we can see the way ahead, and we walk with Him to LIFE.

The old chorus puts it like this: “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, what a glory He sheds on our way” – this is the true essence of that light – it’s GLORY, the glory of the risen Lord Jesus.

Ken served as a Baptist Minister from 1956-1978. He was subsequently employed by The Leprosy Mission and The Far Eastern Broadcasting Association (FEBA). Although he retired in 1996 Ken continues to preach in his local Methodist circuit in the coastal town of Teignmouth in the UK.


Don’t Wait to Give

Proverbs 3:27-28

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”

The Call to Give

In 1998 my eldest son Nick was accepted onto a Baptist Missionary Society gap year scheme that required him to raise £2,400 ($3,700) to cover his costs. He carried out some fund raising, but also received gifts from various individuals and organizations. It was around this time that I heard God tell me very clearly to make a specific financial gift to a person serving in full time ministry who needed to purchase a new car. I refused. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the money, it just sounded too much to give. Every day in my quiet time I heard God repeat Himself, but still I held back.

One Sunday morning after church a retired nurse from our congregation gave Nick a gift of £100 ($155) towards his gap year. When Nick told me, I went to thank her. She didn’t welcome my thanks, but told me that when God told her to make this gift her response was, “I couldn’t possibly give that much. I am just a pensioner.” But God repeated His instruction until she obeyed. As she related the background behind her gift I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I was challenged by my own disobedience.

As soon as I arrived home I wrote out a cheque (check) for the amount God had told me to give and posted it. I soon received a letter of grateful thanks, but had to write back and admit that I should have sent the gift three months earlier. That young man and his family are now serving God in Africa, but their need right then in 1998 was for a car so that they could continue to serve Him in the UK.

The Blessing of the Gift

What did that £100 and all the other gifts mean to Nick? It meant that he could spend six months in Trinidad working without pay as an assistant teacher in a poorly resourced Baptist school. Trinidad changed Nick’s career plans and it changed his life. Instead of looking to a career in journalism he next spent a year as a Youth for Christ volunteer, followed by three years training for youth ministry. Nick is currently serving as youth pastor at a church in the north of England.

The Message translation of Proverbs 3:27 says: ‘Never walk away from someone who deserves help. Your hand is God’s hand for that person.’ We may never see the true benefits of our gifts of help, time, or money. What matters is that we are obedient to God when He tells us to give. The blessing of the gift is that it blesses others, not just the immediate recipient.

And it pleases God.


Focus!

Proverbs 3:21-23

“My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.”

 

If we trust and obey, God will direct our path (Proverbs 3:6) into the blessings He has planned for us. We have seen over the past several days the different ways that God will bless us if we search and find wisdom and understanding. Today is no exception.

Stay Focused

Have you ever met one of those people who right in the middle of doing something, they remember that they have to do something else?  They drop the first to attend to the second. They then are working on the second when a third items comes to mind and then the second is dropped so the work can begin on item number three. Ever met someone like that? Well, if you have not – let me introduce myself to you! This is so me! I have to purposefully make myself stay focused or I will get side-tracked by other things.

As people born with a sinful nature, we have this same tendency. This is what Solomon is telling us, don’t take your eyes off wisdom and discretion. Stay focused and don’t wander off on things that don’t matter and won’t bring you blessings.

Prone to Wander

In keeping our eyes on wisdom, God has promised us that not only will HE gives us His providential care (walk in thy way safely) but that He will also not cause our feet to stumble.

In 1757, Robert Robinson wrote the song “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” and one of the last stanzas in the song says the following:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

A prayer for my life is that I would constantly – and purposefully – keep my eyes focused on God. That I would not wander and take my eyes off of Him. When I do, that is when I will stumble and fall.