Category Archives: Faithfulness

Vision or Fantasy?

Proverbs 12:11

“He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.”
Uh Oh

Hmmm. This is a proverb I usually avoid. Why? Because I have been labelled as a bit of a dreamer. Some have called me a visionary. That might sound great, but visionaries are often the one’s with ideas who never seen them through to completion! Who wants that?

Vision vs Fantasies

I guess there has to be a distinction between vision and fantasy. The Bible tells us that without vision the people perish. But how do we know that we have the right vision? Vision will give you food, and abundant food, it will also involve work – work for you to do.

But what if you are chasing the wrong vision? A man-made fantasy? Then there will be no pay of any real value. It will provide no sustenance. You will spend your days chasing one fantasy after another to try and find your fill, to make your million, and all to no avail.

Leaning on Webs

What about the times when we are pretty sure we have a God given vision and yet seem to be making no progress? Does that mean we are chasing fantasy? Don’t ask me! Go back to the source – ask God.

Have you stopped trusting in Him? Have you moved the goal posts? Cherish the vision He has given you. Work at it and never stop trusting.

“Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
    so perishes the hope of the godless.
What he trusts in is fragile;
    what he relies on is a spider’s web.
 He leans on his web, but it gives way;
    he clings to it, but it does not hold.” – Job 8:13-15 (NIV, edited)

Lean on God.


No Servant, No Problem

Proverbs 12:9

“[He that is] despised, and hath a servant, [is] better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.”

Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant
    than pretend to be somebody and have no food. – NIV

Nobody Has a Servant!

This proverb had me musing for a while. Not many people I know have servants these days, even the well known ones. But digging a bit deeper and flicking across the translations we find a few varieties. The essence remains the same, and ends up sounding a bit like “count your blessings.”

What do You Have?

When Moses first got acquainted with God it’s safe to say old Mo’ was a bit insecure. God reminds him of a few things and then asks Moses what he has in his hand. Moses looks and sees his staff. Nothing special there he thinks, after all it’s just a tool I use everyday. But maybe that’s the point?

We think so much about what we don’t have, about the ways we could be blessed, that we miss the obvious – the ways we have already been blessed.

The Pretender

And then we fall into the trap revealed in the second part of the proverb – we start to pretend. Pretend we are more than we are, we have more than we are, we like what we don’t, we value what we despise, but yet what we actually have is nothing.

Lord, help us to look not to what we don’t have, but instead to the things You have already given us, and in doing so give glory and gratitude to You. 


Sometimes Unity Isn’t Enough

Proverbs 11:21

“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”
Not Enough Space

Honestly, there is not enough space allowed in this entry to adequately cover all the things that could be gleaned from this proverb. Because we desire that these posts be published one day, if every “thought” was a thousand words, the final book would look like the Encyclopedia Britannica.

At the time of this writing, it is a Sunday evening, and I just preached a forty-five minute sermon on this very text. It was such a blessing, and the result was that a young lady came forward tonight and asked if I could show her how to be saved.  If I were to go into all that I preached, I don’t know how long this post would be.

So, what I am going to do is share some highlights. I would encourage you to take the time, as with all these verses in Proverbs, to study them for yourself.

“We are the World”

Do you remember that Michael Jackson classic, We are the World? Have you seen all the different organizations and activist groups that use pictures of people holding hands to send a message of unity? Have you ever played the game where kids stood in a line with their arms locked together and said, “Red rover, red rover, send some idiot right over?”

Well, the wicked of this world have the idea that if they stand together in a united front against the True God of the universe, all will go their way. You can see it plastered across all the news networks. Flames are rising around the planet as followers of a false god rise up against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and against Christianity.

They are united. They are hand in hand. They are the world.

Won’t Make a Difference

But even though the wicked stand hand in hand, it won’t make the outcome any different. The whole world joined together in one voice before the Deluge, yet they still drowned. Their unity couldn’t hold back the judgment of God.

Even now, militants are rising up, seeking the destruction of the righteous, but, “The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psa. 37:13).

The Promise

Many look at history and ask, “If God’s word is true, then why do the righteous die as martyrs? Why are Christians persecuted and killed? Why does it look like the ‘wicked’ are getting their way?”

Here’s the answer: it ain’t over, yet.

Isa 27:13 ESV – “And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”

Deliverance may not come in the way we think it should, but it will come. It may not even be in this life, but it will come. And one day, when that “great trumpet will be blown,” the righteous will all worship on His holy mountain in Jerusalem.


Liked, or Liked Less

Proverbs 11:16

“A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain riches.”

To over-simplify things, there are two kind of people in this world: those whom are liked and those not liked as much. (To be fair, there tends to be a third group: the rest of us, we who seem to get by with little notice from most other people. We have our friends and co-workers, and that is about it.)

Gracious

The first person most people in our world think about when asked to name a person full of grace is Mother Teresa.

Many consider Mother Teresa to be one of the greatest women in history. She confessed hurts, pains, depressions, doubts, and weak faith.

Yet people still loved her … still love her to this day, even though she died in 1997.

Why?

She loved. She showed grace. She was devoted to serving others.

Rich

The first person most people in our world think about when asked to name a person who is rich is someone mentioned a couple of weeks ago: Donald Trump.

Many consider Donald Trump one of the wealthiest and most arrogant men in history. He has built a financial empire, built impressive buildings, hosted his own reality television series, and made a lot of money.

And many people can barely stand the guy.

Why?

He is blunt to a fault. He alienates others for the sake of profit. He is devoted to the bottom line.

Us

As mentioned above, most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

The downside is that we can fall into the trap of chasing something so hard that we alienate others and miss God. We end up with … nothing.

The plus side is that we can be like Mother Teresa. If we pursue God wholeheartedly, if we are desperate for His glory, we, too, can be known as people of grace remembered for our love.

The choice is ours.

The choice is yours.

Great God, give us Your grace. Fill us with Your love. Create in us a passion for Your glory, that we may not finish this race empty-handed and hated.


Irritating Sluggards

Proverbs 10:26

“As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him.”

Dressings and Fire

I am a great fan of sauces and dressings. I used to be one who drowned everything in them.

My two favorite dressings are Catalina (like French) and Honey Mustard (not all, as some are just not good). Immediately after those are vinegar based dressings: Italian, various vinaigrettes, a family recipe affectionately called Dad’s Dressing, a good Balsamic, etcetera.

I also enjoy sitting by a good fire (though not to close, as I am a warm person generally). I enjoy the sight of the flames licking at wood and coals, the sound of the crackling and hissing as the fibers are pulled apart in the heat, and the smell of the freshly carbon-ated air (get it?).

I also enjoy the fellowship to be had over a good meal and around a good fire.

The downside is that too much vinegar starts to irritate my teeth and stomach. The downside is that sometimes the wind changes direction, and I have smoke in my eyes, burning and irritating.

Irritating

Have you ever had to work along side another person who will not work?

In 2002 I worked at a McDonald’s with a man who bragged about everything.  He wrote some songs for Scott Stapp of the band Creed; he boasted of his girlfriend, the model; he went on about his career in the Marines; and he even shared tales of his amazing Christian feats with me. Nevertheless, I was the one who got in trouble for his lack of work on the line!

I’ve also been the one who has hired people who looked good on paper, and talked a good game, but forced me to do almost all the work I assigned them (for the two weeks they were each employed by me).

I have been a student working in a group, and had one, or all, of my group members fail to do their part. However, to be fair, I have been that worker and student a time or two, also.

But every time it is irritating.

Every time it takes at least twice the work to get things done.

Just a food for thought: How many times have you been called by God to do something … and not done it?

Jesus, thank You for Your patience and grace. Thank You for Your strength. Help us do the work we are to do, to be pleasing in Your sight and with others. Help us have the same grace, patience, and strength to live with our fellow sluggards.


Grow from Instruction

Proverbs 10:17

“He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.”

Customer Service

I worked in some capacity of customer service in the retail world for nearly a decade. I am pretty good at it, because I so enjoy interacting with people.

While the height of customer service is keeping people happy, I must admit to times I did not want to live by that standard (and must confess to not always upholding that standard, but I also know the saying “the customer is always right” was stated by fools!). Yet, I mostly did stick to making customers happy.

As an employee and an employer, I have worked with people of all ages who saw no point in making others happy.

You would think, after being corrected time and again, even being required to do the most mundane (and sometimes humiliating) tasks as punishment, would convince them to change, but no.

You would think losing hours and therefore money would convince them to change, but no.

You would think the threat of losing their jobs would convince them to change, but no.

They did not seem to care about others, or for anything.

Painful Growth

Those of us who persevered and kept our jobs (usually until we moved on to something else!), as I confessed above, had our own share of mistakes and problems. There are two main differences between us and those who refused to listen:

  1. We would not complain about how unfair everything was, but more importantly,
  2. When corrected, we sought to change wrong or ignorant behavior.

Nobody likes to hear they have messed up. Nobody likes to be told they are wrong. It hurts our feelings. It hurts our pride.

But we grow from that experience and pain.

It is the same in our walk with God.

God does not call us to leave behind our desires, our wants, and our sins to hurt us, though it does hurt when we leave them. God call us because He knows that when we persevere through the pain we prove we are truly His.

“Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (5) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: (6) For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. … (11) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” – Hebrews 12:4-6, 11

Great God, thank You for Your rebukes and correction. Help us to be obedient, to love Your instruction. Keep us from the foolishness of refusing wisdom and Your will.


What Kind of Well?

Proverbs 10:11 

“The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”

Righteous

The word righteous is probably not one that many of us would wish to use if describing ourselves. But how do we become righteous? The simple answer is that nothing on earth, and nothing we can do in our own strength, will ever make us righteous. That’s the bad news. The good news is that God provided a way to achieve righteousness.

God sent Jesus, His righteous Son, who willingly gave His life for us, the unrighteous. Although God knew that we could never achieve the righteousness He desires in us, His love for humanity was so great that He made a Way. But it came at a price.

How can we repay the debt that each of us owes to God? One answer is contained in this verse. If we accept the gift of God’s grace, then we must be changed. Our lives must increasingly reflect the life of Jesus. Our friends and family should be able to see Jesus in us, and we should be able to see them through His eyes.

Be the Well

When we speak, our mouths become like wells. The words that come from deep within should bring life to others. Therefore, our words should mark us as different.

It should be easy to tell the believer apart from those who have not accepted the gift of grace that God gave in Jesus. But sadly, many times what comes out of their mouths tells a different story. The challenge for those who have received the gift of grace is to be easily distinguishable from those who have not.


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.


Source of All Royalty

Proverbs 8:15-16

“By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.”

The Apostle Paul wrote about earthly authorities in Romans 13: 1-2 (NIV):

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Wisdom Reigns

It is a fact that kings, princes, nobles and judges are not always viewed favorably by their subjects. Queen Elizabeth II is a notable exception. Incredibly she has served, rather than ruled, the United Kingdom for sixty years. At the age of eighty-six she is still faithfully serving her country, and working harder than many of her much younger subjects. Even Britons who are not Royalists cannot deny that the Queen has served her country well and with great wisdom.

The Faith of a Queen

One thing that is very evident in the Queen’s life is her faith, which she sometimes mentions in her yearly broadcast to the nation on Christmas Day. Towards the end of her Christmas 2011 speech the Queen said the following:

Queen Elizabeth II“Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.’

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Savior, with the power to forgive.

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.

In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”

Words of wisdom such as these can only originate from the Source of all wisdom. If only such faith and wisdom was found in kings, queens, presidents, and prime ministers throughout the world. If only such faith and wisdom was found in us.

 

7/8


Never Underestimate Jealousy

Proverbs 6:34-35

“For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.”

These two verses are stocked full of practical insight which is lost on the man who fools around with a married woman. The wisdom of Solomon should be heeded, for nothing good comes from making a married man jealous. But there is also wisdom to be had for the woman.

Foolish Games

I recently read an article on a website called Selfgrowth.com entitled “How to Make a Guy Jealous – 5 Teasing Ways to Make Him Want You More.” In that article, written for girls, the writer suggests that “jealousy can also be good – just as long as it’s not destructive.” Really, what kind of wisdom is that? Well, I guess one should consider the source. Just read the author’s bio:

“Steffi Hall is a seduction and attraction expert who teaches men how to attract and pick up beautiful women. As a former model who has been sought after by many men, Steffi has the experience in passing on the skill of attraction, since she was a target of many men herself. There is no better teacher then the target itself, learn from the source.”

Do verses 25 and 26 of this chapter ring a bell? Why would anyone want to learn about relationships from a self-proclaimed seducer? How wise is it to tell your current man “about your other guy friends and what you usually do when you hangout,” or how your ex “was such a great kisser?”

Jealousy is a foolish game to play, for jealousy often leads to rage.

Rage Against Fools

Proverbs 6:27 and 28 talk about getting “burned.” Verse 33 talks about getting “wounds.” No wonder Solomon says in verse 32 that a man who commits adultery with a woman “lacketh understanding.” Aside from having no “heart,” the man is a fool. Does he ever stop to consider that the husband may want revenge?

I have personally known of several men who had their wives betray them.  In one of those cases the husband killed the adulterer and the adulteress with a shotgun. In another, the husband killed his wife, then himself. The rage that results from being betrayed by a spouse in very dangerous, and in these two cases what Solomon warned came to pass – the husbands did not “spare in the day of vengeance.”

Fool’s Gold

Even if adultery doesn’t end in murder, it usually ends in divorce. What kind of fool thinks he can lay with another man’s wife and then smooth everything over with money and gifts? Evidently, some do. Some think they can bribe themselves out of any situation.

Solomon warns that a jealous man is one who cannot be bought off or placated with money or things. If money can’t buy love, it can’t replace love betrayed.