Category Archives: counsel

Innocent As Children?

Proverbs 20:11

11 Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.

I can remember growing up hearing “Why did you that? You know better!” whenever I would misbehave. It started around the age of four years or so. It was always said in response to something I had previously done or went against common sense, even for a child.

As a culture we seem to have a certain expectation of children, that they are sweet, innocent little angels who become corrupted by age and experience. Even at a young age we expect our children to behave a certain way, and when they do not they need to be corrected and reprimanded.

If our children have the expectation to do what is right, how much more should we expect teens and adults to do what is right?

You know better!

How do we know we have these expectations of people? We all seem to have an innate understanding of what is right and wrong.

It is seen every time we get upset with someone for doing something stupid or that hurts someone else.

It is seen every time someone does something considered morally wrong. All religions and atheists admit to a moral code.

All people fall short at some point, and it always seems as though we can hear someone saying “You know better!”

We have God’s Word to reveal to us how we each have gone astray from what is right. Honestly, it is put in such simple terms that children can understand it.

Yet we fail time and again.

But God helps us and changes us through His Holy Spirit.

Even children know how to do what is right if they are told.

God has shown us. May we, as His children, listen.

Heavenly Father, You are so holy and amazing. May Your Kingdom be lived out through our lives, that the world may glorify You.  Let our actions speak of Your perfect will and grace, that the world may know what is pure and right: You.


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)


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.


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 Art of Studying

Proverbs 18:17

He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him. (KJV)
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (ESV)

Berean-ness

In the book of Acts, Luke tells us about the Jews in Berea: “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts, 17:11, NIV)

They heard the message, and it was intriguing! Yet, they were careful enough to study what was being sold to them as truth.

Of Cults and Purchases

A big reason Protestant and Evangelical Christians have pushed reading and knowing the Bible so much is because of what may come from an uninformed people.

If someone gives information backed with enough facts and it sounds exciting, people are willing to listen. Especially in a hurting and broken world, news of hope and peace  can be easily and eagerly lapped up by the hurting masses.

This is why heresies and cults are able to arise so easily. Even though there is a blatant lie (such as Jesus being the highest of angels, from Jehovah’s Witnesses, or some people can attain godhood, from the Latter-Day Saints [Mormon]), an uneducated mind  is willing to accept it. It is only by studying the facts that the truth is revealed.

Having been in sales and retail most of my adult life, I can tell you how true this is on the most basic of levels. A crafty salesman can convince a person that they need a particular item, and many people fall for this. Someone else must clean up the mess when the customer comes back complaining and needing to return the product.

They were sold something they thought they needed, what they were told they needed, and not what was best for them.

Studying God

Are we seeking truth or simply what we want to hear?

We cannot simply take what is told to us as truth. There are enough people out there who will twist the gospel for their own purposes. (To be fair, some pastors and speakers misquote and take out of context on accident. Then it is important to study to help keep the message pure!)

When these people “states his case” about God, through Scripture God is the One who examines them.
“He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them.” (Psalm 11:4)

Lord, help us listen to truth and not be deceived. On a daily basis, may our prayer to You be “Test me, Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 23:2). May we be found honest and find truth through You.


Greasing the Skids

Proverbs 18:16

“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”

Wise Investing

You have seen it done in the movies, and maybe in real life. A man walks in to a nice restaurant and finds that no tables are available, but when he pulls out a $50 bill all of a sudden a place is found. That is more like bribery, not what Solomon is talking about here.

What Solomon is telling us in this verse is that gifts can be a wise investment – investments that can offer great returns in the form of privilege and audience. And it’s not about bribery but common decency, respect, manners, and wisdom.

Playing Smart

There is nothing wrong or un-biblical about playing smart. In many ways life is a game, and the ones who play by the rules are more likely to come out ahead in the end. It doesn’t always work out, but acting with intentional respect can have a road-paving effect on one’s life and career.

Essentially, if you want to be included in certain circles or have audiences before “great men,” being selfish, stingy, and arrogant is not a good first step in the right direction. One can “grease the skids” with a little gift and a nice card. Even a kind deed done on one’s behalf is a gift that may prove beneficial in the future. Consider the following story…

Mordecai’s Good Deed

“During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.” – Esther 2:21-22 NIV

Later…

“That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked. “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.” – Esther 6:1-3 NIV

Mordecai’s gift of honesty and bravery was rewarded when the time was right. Room was made for him as he was brought before great men.

Key to Giving

But there is one very important thing to remember: when you do give gifts, don’t expect anything in return. A bribe is not a gift. A true gift is not a bribe.


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)

A People of Understanding

Proverbs 18:2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Time after time the book of Proverbs has given us characteristics of a fool:

  • Fools despise wisdom & instruction (Proverbs 1:7) 
  • Fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22)
  • Fools slander (Proverbs 10:18)
  • Fools cause mischief (Proverbs 10:23)
  • Fools are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8)

Our verse today adds one more characteristics – a fool is someone who does not want to understand.

Bla_Bla_Bla_by_explosiv22I knew a guy in college that was never wrong, even when he was wrong. He did not want to even consider the possibility of being wrong. He knew everything and had the answer to ever question that has ever been asked.

You know the type of person that I am talking about! They have no interest in hearing the truth but are speaking to hear themselves talk and to show others just how much they know.

The New Living says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Fools want to talk all of the time and tell other people their opinions and how things should be done but don’t want to hear any instructions themselves because they know best. Many times, these people talk just to hear themselves, and all that the other people are hearing is “BLA, BLA, BLA”.

FULL CIRCLE

There are several verses in Proverbs that do this, but I believe that our verse today comes full circle with the whole theme of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

As Christians, how can we expect to fear the Lord and grow in knowledge when we want to live our lives the way we want to and aren’t willing to submit to HIS will for our lives. We are saying to Him that I just don’t want to understand Your ways and I think that I can do better. If we are living our lives this way, we are nothing but fools, but I do it all the time!

Lord, I pray that you would help me and others to live our lives in such a way that we would not be fools with our lives. I pray that we would be willing to submit ourselves to you and understand Your ways. 


Stepping on Snakes

Proverbs 17:24

“Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”

If It Had Been a Snake

I have heard this saying all my life: “If it had been a snake, it would have bit you.” What exactly does that mean?

One time I heard it after I had been searching for a water hose in some tall grass I should have mowed earlier. My dad and I had to look for the missing hose, so when my foot slipped on the round rubber tube, my dad said, “If it’a been a snake, it would’a bit ya’.”

The meaning is that sometimes we miss the most obvious things, even though they may be right in front of our face.

It Was a Snake

800px-Copperhead05

Credit: Wikipedia

Because we lived next to the woods and near the Tennessee River when I was younger, rattle snakes and copperheads (venomous snakes) were common. One day, when a friend of mine came to visit for the evening, he walked in front of me to the front door of our house. What he failed to see stretched out on the ground in front of him, right below the door, was a 3-foot copperhead. He didn’t see it, but I did – just in time – so I threw him (my friend) off the porch and into the yard (I guess it was the adrenalin).

The reason my friend did not see the snake was because he was looking other places.

Not a Snake

Wisdom is not a snake, but you probably knew that. Yet, why is wisdom so hard for some to recognize? Solomon previously described Wisdom as even crying out in the streets (Prov. 1:20). It’s not like we can call wisdom elusive, can we?

I am reminded of what God said through Moses,

11 “This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach. 12 It is not in heaven so that you have to ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 13 And it is not across the sea so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea, get it for us, and proclaim it to us so that we may follow it?’ 14 But the message is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, so that you may follow it.[1]

Wisdom is as close as our face, if we would just pay attention. All it would really take is for one to want to see it.

The Fool Will Get Bitten

Unlike the man with understanding, the fool has his eyes looking around for anything and everything that doesn’t matter.  Instead of recognizing what is in front of his face, he looks up to the stars and across the seas.

In the end, it won’t be wisdom that bites, but another kind of Serpent.


[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Dt 30:11–14.