Category Archives: advice

Difficult Children

Proverbs 19:26 

He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach.
Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace. (NLT)

Bad Parents

This teaching is so basic that it featured in the Ten Commandments. There is only one problem. What if the son who mistreats his father or chases away his mother, is only following an example set through poor parenting? Bad parenting has devastating effects when it carries down through the generations. Biblical examples of bad parents include a whole range of kings and queens. Even King David set a bad example at times.

I wonder what Solomon thought of the way in which David came to marry his mother? Did this cause Solomon to be equally blind when it came to the matter of matrimony? Yes! The Bible records that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Some of these relationships led to Solomon turning a blind eye to idolatry, and then building shrines to false gods. 1 Kings 11 records that God was very angry with Solomon because of the condition of his heart. After Solomon died the kingdom was divided, and Solomon’s son demonstrated none of the wisdom of his father.

What About Us?

It is easy to judge parents because of their children. We probably do it several times a week at the very least. When we see badly behaved children in a shopping mall, for instance, it is easy to assume that the children are merely following a poor example provided by their parents. But what about us? It is not just our children who are watching us.

If we claim faith in Jesus Christ, then the world is watching us. When followers of Jesus fall from grace and set a bad example to the world, it could be said that as children of God they have behaved in the manner described in this proverb. How we behave in our daily lives paints a picture of God our Father to a watching world. What sort of picture are you painting?


Playing Safe or Understanding

Proverbs 19:25

25 Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.

The Line

I have worked with many people in my relatively short thirty years on this earth.

Some of these people did the bare minimum of the required work to get by while complaining about the work, the environment, or other employees and/or supervisors.

When another employee, one who does the bare minimum and complains about everything, gets reprimanded or fired, they get quiet for a few days or weeks. They might even learn how to cover their tracks a little better or when to complain.

The consider themselves smart for avoiding trouble. The know where the line of disobedience is, and they toe it carefully to avoid crossing it.

I and others preferred to go the other route. We have tried to do the best work we can with as little complaining as possible. If we did our job in such a way that required reprimanding (a talking-to, a write-up, a pay cut, etcetera), we would attempt to be better and do better.

We were given more knowledge to help us understand our job better and be better at it.

Walking It Out

When Jesus died on the cross, there were two men on either side of him. Both were guilty and deserving of punishment. One looked to Jesus and, while dying for his crime, mocked Jesus. The other criminal talked with Jesus and gained the knowledge that He is the Son of God.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was God telling us we cannot live up to His standards, and we need His help.

Most of us take that warning as simply a call to live a better and more moral life, or we simply just mock Him and call His standard backward, archaic, or illogical.

Some of us look to the cross and gain the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our only way to measure up before God.

Gracious God, give us the wisdom to accept correction, the strength to change, and the power to grow. Draw us closer to You that as our knowledge and understanding grow, we may help lead others to the saving knowledge of Your Son.


The Best Laid Plans

Proverbs 19:21 

There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.
You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. (NLT)

The Jonah Syndrome

Back in 1998, I heard God speak very clearly to me about a gift He wanted me to make. A young man in ministry needed to replace his car, but this was something he could not afford. I argued with God for a while because I felt that the sum in question was too large. I was prepared to make a gift, but on my terms, not God’s.

It was at this time that my eldest son (Nick) was fundraising to join the Baptist Missionary Society for a gap year between school and university. He needed to raise £2,400. One retired lady at our church gave him a check for £100 one Sunday. When I found out about her generosity I went to thank her.

Tears welled in her eyes as she told me that God had instructed her to make this gift, but that she had argued with God that she could not afford to give Nick £100. My heart sank right down into my shoes.

I went home and wrote a check for the amount God had placed on my heart and I sent it to the young man God had identified. He duly wrote back and thanked me for my generosity. But I didn’t feel generous. I didn’t feel anything but that horrible feeling you get when you have done something wrong and been caught out.

A Question of Attitude

Obedience brings blessing, but usually only if the timing is right. When Jonah disobeyed God he had to face the consequences. Time spent in the belly of the fish resulted in a change of mind, but not attitude. He duly obeyed God and delivered God’s message to Nineveh.

Amazingly the King and the people of Nineveh listened to Jonah. They decided to change their ways, and God responded with forgiveness. Did this make the messenger happy? Did Jonah feel blessed? Not at all. In fact, Jonah chose to sulk.

To be blessed, we need to be obedient. To receive a blessing we need to listen to God, and do as He asks when He asks. Not several weeks later because we feel bad about our failure to act.

His plans, not ours. His timing, not ours.


Listen To Me Please!

Proverbs 19:20

“Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”

listen-to-me-pleaseI have one child. She is currently eight years old going on 16 and she already knows everything! I am sure that most parents have been in this situation at one time or another.

I have found myself more and more saying to her, “Just listen to me, please! I have been there before and I am trying to help you, so just listen to me”. (I know my parents have a smile of their face about right now)

Just the other day, we were working on some math homework for school. She was convinced that the answer that she had come up with was the correct answer and that nothing else could be right. As I proceeded to help her, I was met with the look on her face that told me that I was stupid and that I did not know what I was talking about.

I begged her to please listen to me because for one, I had done this type of math before and I knew how to get the right answer and number 2, I knew that I was right!

Long story short, after a long, hard battle of trying to show her that I was right, she finally looked at me and said that I guess you do know what you are talking about. Later that day she told me that the way I showed her how to get the answer was a much easier way.

This is exactly what Solomon was talking about in our verse today. He is telling us that while we are young, we need to listen to people who have been through different experiences and learn from them. Whether someone has gone through a good experience or a bad experience, there is always something that we can learn from them in how they handled the situation.

Solomon is telling us that when we listen to instructions and advice, that when we are older we will be wise in how we handle things.

Lord, give us ears that are open to advice and instructions and give us wisdom and understanding to compare them with Your Word. We pray that when we are young that we would listen to godly advice and instructions and when we are older, that that same godly advice would be passed down to the next generation.


Chasten Thy Son

Proverbs 19:18

“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”

Mouths of Babes

Several years ago, when I was vice president of a local Kiwanis Club, I would go read to young children at a Head Start day care program. These children were around 4 or 5 years of age.

One day I took my two young daughters with me. They observed the unruliness of several children in the class and later commented. Haley, who was only around 5 or 6 herself, asked, “Daddy, why won’t that teacher just spank those kids?”

“Because that’s against the law, Haley. Teachers can’t do that,” I replied.

“Well,” Haley huffed, “those children need a whipp’n, so somebody needs to change the rules!” Out of the mouths of babes, people. Out of the mouths of babes.

Chastening

I know that many of you reading this will disagree, but there is only one way this verse can be interpreted – and it has nothing to do with “time outs” or being grounded. For example, consider these other verses…

“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.”Proverbs 22:15

“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”Proverbs 29:15

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” – Hebrews 12:7

Spanking is something that is frowned on, if not illegal in today’s society. Child psychologists, with all their worldly wisdom (and that’s key), urge parents to never physically discipline their children. Government agencies even control parents with the threat of prosecution. But what is biblical? What is wise?

While There Is Hope

As one who works with children of all ages, I can testify that a lack of discipline is at the root of most unruly behavior. Our school systems are completely helpless in the face of youth who have no fear of punishment.

Solomon says, however, that chastening a child is one way to ensure a better future, even if the child, at the moment, cries out in protest. The great Matthew Henry said, “It is better that he should cry under thy rod than under the sword of the magistrate, or, which is more fearful, that of divine vengeance.”* How many teens are in jail today because parents were to timid to use the “rod of correction?” How many instead have fallen under the “sword of the magistrate?”

While there is hope, learn to say “NO!” While there is still hope, take away the phone and video games. While there is still hope, take away the keys. While there is still hope, don’t buy those designer clothes. While there is still hope, don’t be afraid to chasten.

Be the parent, and chasten when necessary – while there is still hope.

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 19:18.


It’s Black and White

Proverbs 19:16

“He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his own soul; but he that despiseth his ways shall die.”

Black

When we boil some things down to the basics we find that there are, in the bottom of every pot, little things called “black and whites.” Believe it or not, even though we live in a world of fifty shades of gray, blacks and whites are always among us.

It is not easy to label all the “blacks.” Nevertheless, some of the blacks have horrible consequences. When a man chooses not to keep the commandments of God he runs the real risk losing everything, including his life.

When will men and women ever learn that choosing to “despise” God’s way is not only selfish, but shows how messed up our priorities and preferences must be. How crazy is it that men will purchase destruction with their own rebellion?

Black and White

A wise man understands that there is a great price to pay when he breaks God’s commandments. The wise man keeps the Word of God because he knows his soul is more valuable than any temporary pleasures.

IMG_4120It is not always easy to tell between black and white, but God gave us his Word – in black and white. On those pages we can read what leads to life. We are warned of the things that lead to death. Yet, the fools of the world often choose to blur the letters on the page, smudging the ink until the page is gray and anything goes.

Dear God, we may not always keep your commandments, but we repent and ask for help to do what is right and holy. Even though we may fail at times, give us a heart with a desire to keep your Word, not despise it.


The Only Way to Pass a Polygraph

Proverbs 19:5 

“A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.”
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.” (NIV)

There are people in prison today who are there because someone has falsely testified against them. Sometimes we read in the press about terrible miscarriages of justice that have taken place because one person gave false witness against another. While giving false witness is a terrible thing, even the smallest of lies usually has consequences. The trouble with lies is that they entrap us. When we are untruthful it is often the case that one lie leads to another. Although we are always hopeful of improving a situation through lying, lies are eventually discovered and those who lie or bear false witness have to face up to the consequences of lying.

I learned the lesson early in life. I had been forbidden to walk home from school, but one day I did. When I arrived home my mother asked if I had traveled home on the school bus. I told her that I had. Then she asked who I had sat next to on the bus. That stumped me momentarily, until I managed to pluck a name out of the air. Then my mother asked me if I had disobeyed her and walked home. I insisted that I had been on the bus. Unfortunately for me my mother had watched the bus stop outside our house ten minutes earlier and she knew I hadn’t been on the bus. I went to bed early that night. It gave me plenty of time to think about what I had done.

God is very clear regarding what He thinks about lies and false witness. The trouble with false witness is that it is bad witness. God calls His people to demonstrate His eternal investment in them through the way that they live their lives. Lying is not an acceptable component of a life surrendered to God. Jesus warned a group of Pharisees about the fruit of the mouth, and His teaching applies equally to us.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NIV)


Head vs Heart

Proverbs 19:2

‘Desire without knowledge is not good –
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!’

Desirable

It’s good to be passionate, to have strong desires to be love and to care. Without it life would be very boring, but as this Proverb hints at heart without a bit of head can lead us to miss the real path.

Unbalanced

A lot of people these days are driven purely by emotion. They go after things they want with reckless abandon. When we are totally driven by emotion we often end up making bad decisions and hurting people in the process. People driven by emotion will throw away relationships on a whim because they have seen the next best thing, they will chase promotions at the expense of colleagues, they will attempt to satisfy every whim and fancy in any way possible, and worst of all usually be blind to the trail of destruction in their wake. Our emotions need to submit to our common sense, and both need to submit to Jesus.

Counting the Cost

We need both desire and knowledge to make our decisions as we do not want to miss the way. Consider the words of Jesus:

Luke 14:28-33 ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’

May we learn the power of passion and desire guided by wisdom and knowledge.


The Painful Truth

Proverbs 19:1

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.
Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool. (NLT)

Perverting the Course of Justice

A former senior politician is currently serving a prison sentence in the UK. He is a wealthy man, and a man who was so driven by ambition that when clocked by a speed camera for the umpteenth time he persuaded his wife to tell the authorities that she was driving. She duly complied and took the points on her licence so that her husband could keep his. Some years later she discovered that her husband’s dishonesty extended to matters of the bedroom, and she leaked his past misdemeanor to the press, claiming that she perverted the course of justice only because of marital coercion. The jury did not accept her defense, and she was also imprisoned, but only after many months of her former husband denying the charges. He eventually admitted that he had been driving. He will still have his wealth when released from prison, but his integrity is in tatters and will be difficult to rebuild.

The Challenge

The challenge to be honest in all things is one that most of us face daily in a variety of situations. I remember being given too much change in a restaurant. It was 1976. I was home on leave and taking a holiday in my childhood home of Guernsey. I was also running out of funds, and a week or two away from payday. I knew when the waitress handed me my change that there were two brand new £5 notes stuck together. I got halfway to the door, but as much as I wanted that other £5 I could not bring myself to knowingly take what wasn’t mine. I turned around and went back to the waitress. When I explained that she had given me too much change she was overwhelmed. She told me that if I had not returned that £5 note it would have been deducted from her wages. I wanted to feel good about myself, but I couldn’t because I knew that I had wanted to leave the restaurant without returning what wasn’t mine.

Dishonesty Hurts

In both the above examples it is evident that dishonesty has consequences. It hurts us when we are dishonest, and it hurts others. There can be no differentiation between dishonest acts and dishonest words. Dishonesty hurts. Likewise, there is never any wisdom attached to dishonesty. Dishonesty almost always catches up with the dishonest. Ask a certain British politician and his wife.

Jesus once said to the Pharisees: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44 NIV


Come Dine With Me

Proverbs 18:20 

A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. (NLT)

A Good Meal

Picture 817_3744_thmb4I visited Pristina in Kosovo for the first time recently. I found the locals exceptionally welcoming and friendly, despite their recent troubles, and the obvious lack of wealth in the country. It was a pleasure to be taken out one evening for a meal in traditional restaurant where there was no menu. Instead of choosing our food, it was chosen for us, and a variety of dishes were brought to the table until none of us could eat any more.

The food was superb and I returned to my hotel extremely satisfied. I don’t know if I will ever go back to Pristina, but I will never forget that meal, or the kind people of Kosovo.

Right Words

Just as a good meal brings satisfaction, so it is with wise words. You know when you have said the right thing to someone, a word of encouragement perhaps, or a word of appreciation. The knowledge that the right thing has been said at the right time brings satisfaction to both the speaker and the listener.

Before I left Kosovo my main local contact thanked me for the way in which I had conducted my review of his organization. Apparently my approach was very different to that of auditors in his company, and he appreciated it. I, in turn, thanked him for his time, for his hospitality, and for the effort he put into preparing for my visit. I also expressed my appreciation of his professional knowledge and expertise. He encouraged me, and I encouraged him. Right words, good words, wise words.

Words are so important. We have the power to bless and build others with our words. Let’s aim to bring satisfaction to others with our words every day. May our words be words that will never be forgotten – for the right reason.