Category Archives: Paths of Life

Looking Inside the Pot

Proverbs 26:23 

Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross.
Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. (NLT)

This is the first of several proverbs dealing with the subject of hypocrisy. Loosely defined this is saying one thing and doing another. Jesus warned about hypocrisy when he spoke about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees in Matthew 23 verses 1-7:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 

“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

The Pharisees liked to dress up in fancy clothes and have the place of honor wherever they went. They constantly sought respect from the people of Israel, yet had a reputation for not practicing what they preached. The dressing up bit is mentioned in this proverb where it refers to covering an ordinary clay pot with silver. It isn’t what the pot looks like on the outside that matters – it is what it looks like on the inside.

The Apostle Paul taught that we should examine ourselves, especially before participating in communion (1 Corinthians 11:28-31). Communion in my church is scheduled twice monthly. What about the rest of the time? The fact is that we should be constantly checking up on ourselves. Portraying Jesus Christ is not an easy task. But we owe it to Jesus to do our best at following His example.

It is possible that Jesus appeared drab when standing close to the Pharisees, but only if you looked at what they were all wearing. When I read Scripture and look into Jesus I see the most beautiful person who ever lived. The problem is that He calls me to live like Him. If I claim to follow Jesus then I have to try and make that evident through the way that I live, not through what I am wearing, what I earn, what I drive, my position in church or any other thing. Jesus has to be visible in how I act, through the words that I speak, and in the thoughts behind the words that might not betray me to people, but are completely visible to God. I hate the thought of being a hypocrite. It is up to me to something about it.


Money for Nothing

Proverbs 26:15 

The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom; it grieveth him to bring it again to his mouth.
A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth. (NIV)

This is the third verse in a row in which Solomon focuses on the lazy, with one more to follow. For some reason Solomon is really hammering home the point about laziness. I simply can’t imagine a person so lazy that he is unable to lift food from a dish to his mouth, but the point being made here about laziness is that it is completely unacceptable.

Right now in the UK we have a government that is trying to deal with a culture of living on benefits that appears to have become the norm for a proportion of society. If you believe the politicians and the press we have families where more than one generation has never worked in this country. While there are obviously other reasons for unemployment than laziness, the fact remains that there are folk who are quite happy to sit back and live on handouts. Some even call these handouts their wages! That is quite an insult to those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives.

My third son James graduated from University in 2009. He decided to spend a year working to save money to add to what he had already saved so that he could take a masters degree. He got an invite to live with his eldest brother and his wife, and set about looking for work. Having worked two jobs while studying for his BA he thought that this would be a simple matter. It wasn’t. Recession had kicked in and there wasn’t much work around. He refused to claim benefits and carried on searching, doing jobs around the house to compensate his brother and sister-in-law for feeding him. It took a few weeks, but James found two part-time jobs. He had to leave those jobs to return to University but managed to start another job before he completed his masters. Now that impresses the pants off me, not just because James is my son, but because he has shown what is possible despite the dire condition of the economy. I am proud of my son for not choosing the path of laziness.


Don’t Pretend You Don’t Know

Proverbs 24:11-12

If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? – NIV

Feelings

I had to read these verses a few times before the meaning really sank in. And when it did, well…let’s just say I didn’t feel “blessed” by God’s Word. The best word to describe how I felt was “convicted.”

You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Sometimes we read the Bible and find ourselves encouraged after being down and depressed. Other times we go to Scripture to find peace in the middle of a storm. This time, however, was one of those times when the truth was painful to accept. This time I felt worse after I read the Bible than before!

Either/Or

The KJV renders this proverb in the form of a hypothetical “if,” while the NIV renders this proverb as a command. One version says, “Do this”; the other says, “If, then…” It really doesn’t matter too much, however; the idea is still the same: God knows what we know, even when we deny it.

The KJV says: “If you don’t help, then say, ‘I didn’t know,’ you will have a hard time explaining your lack of action to the One who knows and keeps your soul.” The NIV says, “Rescue the innocent, because you know as well as God does you’re aware of the need.”

The Victims

I can’t help but think of the German citizens of WWII who told the Allies they never knew Jews were being led to the slaughter. They benefited from how the Jews were being treated, went along with everything, then feigned ignorance as human ash from the ovens floated down from the sky.

Genocide is taking place in Nigeria; Christians are being killed in Egypt; innocents are being beheaded as they walk down the streets of England; yet, those who could do something say, “I don’t know why this is happening.”

Thousands of innocents are butchered every day for a fee, yet the average Christian does little.

Millions of youth are staggering toward a spiritual slaughter, while parents convince themselves it’s natural and healthy.

Families are falling apart, marriages are failing, while we look in another direction. All the while thugs roam the streets killing old veterans and joggers for fun. Why?

Rescue Them!

We must ask ourselves this question: “What does God know about my heart that I am not willing to admit?”

You see, we know why many of the evils in our world are taking place. We observe the paths many are taking, yet say nothing. We watch, seemingly helpless, as the slaughter takes place. Deep inside we know what we could do, but the doing is hard; denying is easy.

Just remember, God knows our hearts. “Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?”


Parents’ Joy

Proverbs 23:24-25

24 The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
25 Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.

My Testimony

Today, I begin a new chapter in my theological journey at Phoenix Seminary.

My parents are very proud to see me pursuing ministry for God so diligently and wholeheartedly.

My parents raised me to be respectful. I was also taught to be open-minded yet reasonable.

When I first began attending a local church, they were not enthused. They were worried I might be indoctrinated with bigoted ideas and a judgmental attitude.

Instead, I began to believe what I was taught about the Bible and Jesus of Nazareth. That little Church of the Nazarene congregation helped me see the truth of love and grace and the need of a Lord and Savior.

In less than a year of my believing, of my life being changed, of the Holy Spirit moving through to me to act in wisdom and righteousness, my parents believed in the same Savior.

God the Father sent His Son to die, and then He sent my parents’ son to show them His Son.

It was none of my own righteousness and wisdom that won them over. It was seeing the righteousness and wisdom of the Father – Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit – that drew them to glorify His name!

They found true joy and the true reason to rejoice through me, thanks to our Lord!

A responsible and intelligent child can bring much joy to his or her parents. The greatest joy comes from seeing God manifested in the life of their child, and that is only true if God is manifested in their lives, as well!

Heavenly Father, gracious God, help us to seek You diligently. Live in us and through us that our parents and our children may see Your glory and turn to You. Make our joy complete as Your joy is made complete in us through Your Son.


Don’t Follow Your Heart

Proverbs 23:19-21

“Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe [a man] with rags.”

Stay Away from These

The first thing many people will pick and choose out of these verses is a condemnation of drinking alcohol. Like many I have known in my life, the point many will immediately deduce is that drinking will lead to ruin, poverty, rags, etc. The last thing most will conclude is that eating will lead to destruction and ruin. No, the only thing many will see is, “stay away from those social drinkers and drunks.

Why is it that little is ever said about gluttony? Why is it that gluttony is a sin, but eating isn’t? Unfortunately for the legalists among us, this proverb has nothing to say about eating and drinking, but gluttony and drunkenness. Take that for what it’s worth.

What Solomon is really telling us to stay away from are people who will most likely influence us to act like they do. We should stay away from those who eat and drink simply for pleasure because their self-indulgent spirits will lead not only to their own destruction, but also to the ruin of those who follow.

A Heart Issue

Drunkenness, gluttony, and drowsiness are certainly dangerous characteristics, but the initial command in this passage, a warning, is to “guide thine heart in the way.” Much like as in Proverbs 23:12, the idea is that the heart must be forced to do what is in its best interest.

How many times have you heard it said, “Just follow your heart”? Solomon is warning against that advice by cluing us in to what the heart desires. The Prophet Jeremiah said that the heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). The way that the heart wants to go is where the “winbibbers” and  “riotous eaters” are.

Wisdom should guide the heart, not the other way around.

What of the Other?

Alcohol is no different than carbohydrates and fat; both are amoral. In other words, there is no more inherent sin in a bottle of Jack Daniels than there is a Big Mac and a large fry or a banana split. Some people can eat what they need to stay fit without over-indulging, while others will pig out and clog their arteries…all in the name of a church social.

Some people can consume alcohol without becoming drunkards, too. However, many who consume are proven to be fools.

Simply put, an unguided heart will go in the way that numbs pain, fills voids, and distracts from reality. The wise son will guide his heart down a different, disciplined path which leads to provision, not poverty; robes, not rags.


The Meaning of Life

Proverbs 23:17-18.

“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.” (KJV). 

I often say that Proverbs is God’s wisdom for daily living. But lest we think that the book is limited only to the here and now, Solomon reminds us to look towards the future as well. The NKJV version of that verse says, “For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.” Translation = this life is not all there is! There is life after death, and after we live our lives on planet Earth, we have the hope of everlasting life in Heaven.

I’ll never forget the fall after I graduated from high school. I was at an all-nighter drive-in with some friends and sat down with one of them and said, “You know, there’s got to be more to life than just partying, getting drunk, and dating girls.” Less than a month later, I had a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus that was the beginning of my Christian walk.

Another book that Solomon wrote is Ecclesiastes, where he takes his readers on a search to find the meaning of life. He writes:

“I said to myself, “Come now, let’s give pleasure a try. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless… After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. While still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I hoped to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world. I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves… I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire! So I became greater than any of the kings who ruled in Jerusalem before me. And with it all, I remained clear-eyed so that I could evaluate all these things… I did not restrain myself from any joy. I even found great pleasure in hard work, an additional reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless. It was like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.” (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11).

Solomon looked for meaning and satisfaction in pleasure, drinking, possessions, money and hard work, but didn’t find it there. After twelve chapters searching for the meaning of life, he writes: “Here is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).


Full Rewards

Note: A special extra post today to cover a precious missed verse in our lineup.
~Daniel

Proverbs 22:4

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life. (KJV)
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. (ESV)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was killed by the Nazis, based his ministry and teachings off of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapters 5-7.

Why mention a man who was killed over 70 years earlier and his favorite teaching?

The most obvious understanding of today’s verse is that with humility and the fear of the Lord, you can become wealthy, be respected, and live well.

Pastor Bonhoeffer came from a wealthy, respected family, and he became a pastor, theologian, and college and seminary professor, willing to work with anyone from any walk of life. That sounds great, but we must remember that he spent the last two years of his life in prison and was hanged by the Third Reich.

The ultimate teaching he lived out and taught includes humility (5:1-12) and seeking God’s righteousness (6:19-33).

In fact, here are three passages to fully understand the rewards of Proverbs 22:4:

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Matthew 6:33

Let it be summarized:

For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
Romans 14:18

We must seek the riches and honor of God, the Author and Giver of Life, above the riches and honor of this world. He will bless us more than we can ever understand. The greatest blessing is the reward of eternal life through Christ.

Great God, give us all that we need, and help us to seek your righteousness  approval above all else.