Category Archives: Paths of Life

Paranoid?

Proverbs 21:8

“The way of man is froward and strange: but as for the pure, his work is right.”
“The way of the guilty is crooked, but the conduct of the pure is upright.” ESV

Paranoid?

Have you ever known someone who was paranoid? People who suffer from paranoia exhibit irrational, unwarranted fears that others are out to get them. They act evasive, stealthy, and cautious. For example, some people wear aluminum caps on their heads in order to keep space aliens from reading their minds. Little do they realize space aliens have better things to do.

foil hatBut…one is only paranoid if his fears are unfounded. It’s not paranoia if someone’s really out to get you. Those who were afraid to use cell phones because the government might be listening aren’t considered paranoid anymore, are they?

Dodging

Some people may act a little paranoid, but they could have real reasons to fear. The one who is running from the law is always the one dodging and swerving, constantly on the lookout for blue lights and unmarked cars.

I used to know a guy who never drove on main roads. Every time he went anywhere he always took back roads, “short cuts”, and scenic routes. The reason was because his driver’s license had been revoked. He wanted to stay off the main roads because he knew the police were after him. He was not paranoid; he was guilty.

The man being described in this proverb has something to hide. He moves in “forward and strange” ways, not because he is crazy, but because he is trying to avoid being caught. His evasiveness is a dead giveaway.

In the Open

The guilty are always sneaking, shifting, and dodging in and out of arguments, discussions, responsibilities, and obligations. The pure of heart, however, are predictable and straight, never having to fear being found out. They know that God “is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), so they have nothing to hide.

It is so much better to live in righteousness. Doing what is right allows one to take the main roads, the straight roads, and the visible-to-all roads.

“Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined, but the wicked shall act wickedly. And none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” – Daniel 12:10 ESV

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8 ESV

Walk in grace and truth and it won’t matter who’s looking over your shoulder.


Come to the River

Proverbs 21:1

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him. (NIV)

One of the first things taught in school geography lessons is the hydrologic or water cycle. This is because water is vital to life. Without water we die, which is why wars may be triggered by access to water in the future. Just last week the media reported that certain Egyptian politicians had voiced opinions that military action could be justified against Ethiopia because the Ethiopians refuse to halt a dam/hydroelectric project that might restrict future downstream flows of water in the River Nile.

The River Nile has always been important to Egypt, but with a growing population the country has become increasingly reliant on the Nile due to its dependence on agriculture. Wikipedia suggests that the River Nile has been used to irrigate crop-growing areas for five thousand years. The translation in Strong’s of the Hebrew word used in Proverbs 21:1 for rivers refers to irrigation channels. Such manmade channels are still in use around the world to direct precious flows of water to sustain crops and bring them to the point where they can be harvested. While different methods may be used in more intensive agriculture the principle remains the same. For crops to grow and mature, water and nutrients are essential.

The parallels with spiritual growth are obvious. In Psalm 1:1-3 the Psalmist talks of the joy of those who turn their back on the world and delight in doing what God wants.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. (Psalm 1:3 NLT).

In John 4:1-13 Jesus tells a Samaritan woman about living water, stating in verses 13-14

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

In John 7:38-39 Jesus speaks again about living water stating:

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It isn’t rocket science. Just like crops need a constant supply of water to grow, so we need to drink of the living water that Jesus Christ offers. We need to be irrigated by this living water, and we need it to become a spring of life welling up inside of us. A constant and endless supply of this living water is available to all, living water that will not only flow into us, but out of us.


The Potter’s Hand

Proverbs 20:24 

Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?
The LORD directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? (NLT)

A non-believer might challenge this verse on the basis that if God gave us free will then why is He still pushing buttons somewhere that control our daily comings and goings? Most believers on the other hand are probably grateful for this one line reminder that God is watching over each one of us. The challenge comes when we don’t understand the things that take place around us, be they global, local or personal events. The prophet Isaiah was given an explanation, which he wrote down for us:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)

There are people who would like to mold God to fit their image of Him. It is not possible for any human to mold God, but if we allow Him, He will mold us. This is the challenge that we face daily – to be completely surrendered to our loving Father God to the extent that His will for us translates into His direction of every single step we take, regardless of our understanding of the process. We could use the words of a Darlene Zschech song as a daily prayer of submission to our Heavenly Father:

Beautiful Lord, Wonderful savior
I know for sure all of my days are held in your hands
Crafted into your perfect plans
 
You gently called me into your presence
Guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life
Through your eyes
 
I’m captured by your holy calling
Set me apart. I know You’re drawing me to Yourself
Lead me, Lord. I pray
 
Oh take me, mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand
 
http://youtu.be/VH6uHnxGQNM

The Art of War

Proverbs 20:18 

Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice. (NLT)

A Chinese General by the name of Sun Tzu is attributed with authorship of a book called the ‘Art of War.’ It is widely believed that Sun Tzu lived several hundred years before Jesus Christ. While there is some controversy over the identity of Sun Tzu, scholars have established that The Art of War has been in existence for at least 2,200 years. It is a book is that is studied by those in the corporate world, as well as those in the military.

The Wikipedia entry for The Art of War states: Sun Tzu considered war as a necessary evil that must be avoided whenever possible. In the introduction to my copy the translator writes: As in the story of the ancient healers, in Sun Tzu’s philosophy the peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict altogether unnecessary: “To overcome others’ armies without fighting is the best of skills.”

Reading such statements reminds me of the way that Jesus lived. Prophecies about Jesus were recorded before The Art of War was written. In Isaiah 53 the prophet speaks of One who would be oppressed and afflicted, but not open His mouth in resistance. These Old Testament writings appeared to be lost on their readership, for the Messiah that the Jewish race expected was a mighty military leader who would crush their oppressors, not One who would be oppressed.

Ordinarily, the execution of one man 2,000 years ago should not have made a mark on history, but the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ changed history forever. Imagine what the world would be like if Jesus had never lived. The fact that He lived, died and rose again gives all humanity hope for tomorrow. If the corporate world can use the writings of an ancient Chinese general to formulate strategy, then how is it that the world continues largely to ignore the teachings of Jesus, which are similar in this instance, but lead to a blessed eternity spent forever in the presence of God?

Like Sun Tzu Jesus taught his followers a better way to overcome their enemies. He said: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42 NIV)

Reference: Sun Tzu, The Art of War (Translated by Thomas Cleary), Shambhala, 1988


Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Proverbs 20:8 

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
When a king sits in judgment, he weighs all the evidence, distinguishing the bad from the good. (NLT)

Regal Decision-Making

Solomon was writing from personal experience here. He knew all about sitting in judgment, and the need to carefully distinguish between the bad and the good. While this is no longer the task of earthly kings, those who lead nations need to be discerning given the importance of their decisions. Leaders need to weigh the evidence carefully, but recent history suggests that some world leaders have been poorly advised, or simply misled. This in turn has affected their decision-making, with consequences that have been devastating for whole nations, not to mention our world.

Daily Judgments

We may not be kings or world leaders, but we are involved in decision-making and judgments daily. This proverb is a reminder that when making important decisions we need to weigh the evidence carefully, and not jump in with our eyes closed. A decision could be minor, such as which route to take to work, but even that should be based on evidence and experience of traffic flows at different times of day, road works, etc. Life also involves many major decisions, such as getting married, finding somewhere to live, starting a family, or changing career. Do we really weigh the evidence carefully before making important decisions? How is our judgment?

Taking Advice

Then there are decisions with eternal implications. Do we believe in God, Jesus, forgiveness of sin, eternal life, etc.? What is the evidence that God even exists? Solomon didn’t need any evidence. He had a relationship with God in which he spoke with God and he heard God’s voice. But even Solomon went on to make some poor decisions later in his life. Weighing the evidence and living our lives in relationship with God does not remove the need to continually make judgment calls. But if we are living in relationship with God then He provides a supply of endless wisdom to help us in our daily decision-making. Furthermore, like any parent, He loves to be asked for advice.


I’d Rather Be Poor

Proverbs 19:22

“The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.”
“What is desirable in a man is his kindness, And it is better to be a poor man than a liar.” – NASB

Nice Guys

A lot has been said about “nice guys.” Most of it is negative. According to everything I’ve ever heard, “nice guys finish last.” In other words, the only way to get ahead in one’s life or career is to be not nice.

This seems to hold true in many areas of life. For example, men know that women prefer “bad boys.” The heroes in movies are rarely 9-5 dads who drive the kids to ball practice in a mini-van. The sex symbol is usually a rough, tough, rule-breaking head-knocker in a leather jacket, not a law-abiding Presbyterian who mows the widowed neighbor’s grass.

Fortunately, God sees things differently. True nice guys (we’re talking men who want to serve God by serving others, not spineless wimps) will be rewarded for their works…if not in this life, then surely the next.

Poor Guys

Solomon said that it is better to be poor than to be a liar. True, but what does that have to do with the first part of this proverb? A lot, actually, especially if you understand how sales works.

I have heard sales managers tell me, “You goal is not to make friends, but to close deals.” They have told me, “You are too nice!” They have even said things like, “It’s not a lie, just as long as the client is happy.”

starving-bloggerDear reader, I would rather be poor than tell a lie. I have walked away from huge profits and badly-needed pay days in order to maintain my integrity.

It is truly better to be poor than to be a liar. Why? Because what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and loose his own soul?

Father, teach us to be strong and courageous warriors for righteousness and soldiers of the cross. Yet, teach us also to be humble as Jesus was humble (Phil 2:7-8), showing kindness in truth.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” – Ephesians 4:32

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” – Luke 6:35


Living in Sleepyland?

Proverbs 19:15 

Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.
Lazy people sleep soundly, but idleness leaves them hungry. (NLT)

Mr Lazy

tumblr_m6wo83BzTd1r4ya7po1_500I remember reading a book entitled ‘Mr Lazy’ to my children. Mr Lazy lived in Sleepyland where the birds flew so slowly that they fell out of the sky sometimes. One afternoon Mr Lazy fell asleep in his garden while waiting for his bread to toast for breakfast. He was woken by two gentlemen shouting; “WAKE UP!” He opened his eyes to find Mr Busy and Mr Bustle standing in front of him. They set about giving Mr Lazy many tasks in an attempt to change his life. But it was all a dream and Mr Lazy didn’t have to change his life. Or did he?

Work/Rest Balance

There always needs to be a balance between work and rest. Work too much and rest too little and we may face burn out or depression. Even Jesus took time off, and He made sure the disciples took time off too (Mark 6:30-32). But there is a big difference between justifiable rest and bone idleness.

Idle Souls

The KJV states that an ‘idle soul shall suffer hunger.’ While that may seem like an obvious statement, is Solomon linking failure to work with hunger, or is there a deeper meaning here? How about a hunger of the soul? I wonder how many followers of Jesus have hungry souls? Walking with Jesus is like any relationship – it requires investment, and it requires our time and commitment. All this comes on top of everything else we have to do. Consider the disciples. They had to invest a significant amount of time, and make some pretty substantial sacrifices, before they qualified as apostles. Even the process of waiting for Pentecost required an investment in prayer.

WAKE UP!

We need to carry out a spiritual stock-take to determine whether we have hungry souls. Are we Mr or Mrs Lazy living in Spiritual Sleepyland waiting for a wake up call? What will it take for God to get our attention? What will it take for us to make time for Jesus?


Rich Slaves

Proverbs 19:10

“Delight is not seemly for a fool; much less for a servant to have rule over princes.”
“It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury— how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!”(NIV)

Foolish Delights

Recently, Anthony wrote about those who win the lottery. They seem to be happy, and they find a sudden influx of friends and family to help them with their money!

It really depends on who you talk to or believe, but most reports show that the majority of major prize lottery winners are bankrupt inside of a few years.

The biggest reason, of course, is that they were foolish with their money when they had none, and that that habit does not change when they get much.

The same happens when spiritual leaders follow bad theology. They tried handling matters in their own lives, and they figured they could handle matters of God, as well. This is where too many churches and denominations can get off track. This is also where we get cults.

Of Slaves and Princes

Another danger of the poor suddenly becoming rich is that they may use their newfound influence to get back at established wealth. They might try to show off, to prove themselves (which can help lead to their bankruptcy).

This also can be a danger with religious leaders. When some parishioners get upset with how churches are being run, they may get ordained and/or start a new church. Again, this is where too many churches and denominations can get off track, and where we get cults.

How this can be good news comes through how God redeems everything.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (NIV)

We are all slaves to sin … until Jesus came along to make us righteous:

Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (NIV)

As the redeemed of Christ, we become co-heirs in Christ and will rule over this world (Romans 8, Revelation 20).

It is only worse for slaves to rule over princes if the princes are of this world and slaves to sin.

Prince of Peace rich in grace, help us be wise with what You have entrusted to us, and if we must be slaves may it be to Your righteousness. Rule in our hearts and minds. Rule over our lives.


Blessed Are the Rich …

Proverbs 19:4

“Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.”

New Warnings

In light of some of Jesus’ words, this verse makes little sense.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 19:23

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3

The verse today seems to say “Blessed are the rich, and how hard it is for the poor!”

And it is.

Different Thinking

This proverb is stating something that is obvious to almost everyone.

When someone has money, it is pretty easy for them to make friends. They appear more trustworthy, and they can give the best gifts.

Wealth seems to give people confidence, so they will not worry about the small things in life. There is a tendency to handle finances well (Think of the book written by a wealthy man, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”), and this builds good credit and more wealth.

When someone has little money, they may still make friends, but they may not always be considered trustworthy (whether or not this is justified).

Being poor tends to draw away from confidence, because they need to worry about the small things in life (they seem much bigger). They may not handle their finances well, and, as evidenced in the past five years, they will be literally separated from their neighbors through foreclosure and/or eviction.

Thinking Differently

Regardless of our financial circumstances, may we change our mindset to things above.

When we are poor in love, mercy, and grace toward each other, it proves we are poor in love for God. We will find ourselves ultimately separated from God (who called Christians “friends” in John 15:15).

When we are rich in love, mercy, and grace toward each other, it proves we are rich in love for God. We enter into a fellowship with God and a family of millions throughout history.

Father, give us financial wisdom, but more importantly increase our wealth in love, mercy, and grace. May our friends be eternal in You.


Opportunities

Proverbs 18:9 

“He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”
“A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.” (NLT)

Some of my school reports mentioned the word lazy. Laziness wasn’t the problem; it was just that I had more important things to do with my time. But if I wasn’t being lazy at school, I was wasting the opportunities provided to me by the education system (which wasn’t bad in my day).

Outside of school I don’t recall either being allowed to be lazy, or ever wanting to be lazy. I made the most of any opportunity to earn cash, but I also enjoyed the surroundings provided by my island home – mainly the beach! I had my first paper round when I was eleven years old; I washed cars, picked up leaves, and pulled sycamore seedlings out of our front lawn. When I was older I worked at a supermarket after school, and on Saturdays and through the school holidays. Then I joined the Merchant Navy where neither lazy people, nor wasters were tolerated.

While most of us would see a clear difference between a person who is bone idle, and one who is a waster, Solomon sees them as one and the same. Every day God provides us with opportunities that we waste. One is that we often neglect to spent meaningful time with Him. We fail to hear God speak, and we walk around with our eyes and our minds closed to opportunities of various types than He brings into our lives.

On Good Friday this year I had the opportunity to serve God – arriving at 07:30 to open the church and get things ready for the Good Friday breakfast and service, manning the foyer, and then helping to clear away and lock up. Others served in the kitchen, or leading in the three different devotional streams that our pastor had set up. Because some of us took the opportunity to serve, others had the opportunity to reflect, to take time to quietly worship, and to thank God for the events that took place during that first Easter. Those of us in the support team were able to worship God through our service to the rest of the congregation.

What opportunities will you grasp today? What opportunities will you miss? What opportunities will you waste?