Category Archives: Paths of Life

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?


Bribery and Corruption

Proverbs 17:8 

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (NLT)

Other translations of this verse use the word bribe instead of gift. Strong’s translates the word as a donation, bribe, gift, present or reward. Matthew Henry’s take on this proverb is that: ‘Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!’ What influence indeed?

There is a further warning about gifts/bribes in the book of Exodus when the law was being given to the nation of Israel:

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8 KJV)

My first experience of bribery occurred in the 1970s when there was port congestion in the Persian Gulf, and many ships and their crews waited months at anchor for a pilot and a berth in port to discharge or load cargo. I spent three weeks there at anchor in 1975. Each day a small boat would come out to us (and all the other ships) and a man in uniform would demand to see our Captain. Each day the request was the same, “200 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky, Captain, and you get your pilot tomorrow.” No doubt many captains were tempted to provide such a bribe, uncertain of whether the uniformed official had the power to provide a pilot. Our Captain refused to meet such requests. He had other plans. But similar challenges were often faced in other foreign ports when various officials expected to be paid to make things happen. Like the man in the uniform in the Persian Gulf, their hearts had become focused on what they could get in material terms.

I think Matthew Henry got the meaning of this verse absolutely correct. If money and the like are what warm your heart, then eventually you may do anything for the sake of money or gifts. What influence should the gifts of God have on our lives? How are we investing these gifts, and how are they changing our values? Jesus taught that it was more important to seek the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)

Don’t Cover the Gray

Proverbs 16:31

“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” 

“You’re Worth It”

Do you remember the old hair-coloring commercials that tried to convince us that coloring one’s hair was worth the money and time, because, after all, “you’re worth it”?

Another advertisement for hair color contained a jingle which went, “I’m gonna wash that grey right out of my hair” (Clairol). What we the purpose of all this nonsense? The purpose was to appear younger.

Well, believe it or not, the longer one lives, the more wisdom he or she obtains and grey hair should be the emblem of their success. Where that crown! You’re worth it!

The Right Head

The “hoary head” is another way of saying the head that has white or grey hair. Solomon is saying that he who is blessed with that hair is blessed with a crown of glory, so long as he is in the “way of righteousness.” Without righteousness and godly wisdom, all that grey hair just means you’re old.

My Gray

I never thought I would live long enough for this verse to mean anything to me, but here I am, 48, with a silvery-gray goatee that constantly battles the razor that shaves my head. Some have asked, “Why don’t you color your facial hair?” My response is simple: I don’t want to look immature.

I don’t know about you, but I have battled with looking young all my life. For most that would be a blessing worth millions, but not for a preacher. I don’t want to look like a 25-year-old hipster who goes through a gallon of hair product a month to look good on T.V. I don’t want to look like the wavy-blond PhD who managed to get famous for writing 50 pages in 50 books, and probably still sleeps with a teddy bear.

I have earned my “hoary head”!  I wan’t to look like the 48-year-old pastor who has faced giants, slain dragons, and changed diapers – all while studying for Sunday morning. Gray is my medal of honor.

Respect Them

Modern culture is quick to throw out the elderly with the trash, and that’s a crying shame. Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 5:1-2) to treat the older men as fathers, and the older women as mothers. Paul even gave instruction to both Timothy and Titus to seek out the elderly and put their wisdom to use training the younger generations.

When I was young, our teacher made us all stand up in our classroom out of respect for a visiting adult. When a parent or visitor came through the door of our classroom we would stand at attention without even thinking. We were constantly reminded of Leviticus 19:32, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

 You keep your brown and black – my crown is staying gray.


Killing Me Softly

Proverbs 16:29

“A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.”

The past few verses have been about the person who causes trouble. Whether it is by creating the trouble, stirring the trouble, or capitalizing on the trouble.

That is essentially what this verse continues saying, even taking another step further.

In verse 27 we learn that the ungodly person can not wait to start problems. In verse 28 we learn that this person even lets these problems come between friends.

Specifically, in verse 28 we begin to see how sneaky the violence in our hearts can be, because “a whisperer separateth chief (best) friends.”

God speaks in a still, small voice (a whisper). It would seem that Satan does, as well.

Loves Company

Perhaps you have heard the term “Misery/Evil loves company.” This is just saying that sad people like having other sad people around to commiserate with them. Likewise, evil people only want other evil people around them (because good people remind them of their guilt).

Verse 29 shows us that those whispers may not separate friends (at least immediately).

In fact, the one who allows violence of the heart (hatred, wanting to hurt others/animals, envy, distrust, paranoia, etc.) to thrive inside will attempt to convince their friends to follow them. They will speak convincing words and attempt to sway you of their rightness (self-righteousness).

If you follow them into this violence of the heart, you will become just like them. You will live out this violence.

You will gradually fall away from God’s truth, because God is the God of love and peace. As Casting Crowns put it, “It’s a slow fade.”

It is as though your friends whisper death into your ears, and you slowly die inside as you listen to their whispers.

You may not go to hell, but you will be guilty of hindering the work of God in your life and the life of your friends.

God of Peace, do not let us give in to the violence in our hearts. Protect our ears and our hearts from the whispers of those who would lead us astray.


Driven by Hunger?

Proverbs 16:26 

He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.
The laborer’s appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on. (NIV)

I meet with a spiritual director/mentor several times a year. During one visit he gave me a card with three questions to be considered during the time I spent with him, and in quiet retreat during that day:

  • What occurs in my life that nurtures me spiritually?
  • What occupies the space at the center of my life (i.e. what captivates me)?
  • What drives me and motivates me?

I added a further question to the card during the day: What distracts me?

When I read this Proverb I find myself asking the same questions again. What I am so hungry for that my appetite drives me on? Is there anything distracting me, getting in the way of my progress? The words of this Proverb directly challenge me about my spiritual welfare and growth. If I am no longer hungry, then I may become lazy and complacent, two attributes that God does not expect in followers of His Son.

Is your appetite for spiritual things constantly nagging away, driving you to feed your hunger?

  • What occurs in your life that nurtures you spiritually?
  • What occupies the space at the center of your life (i.e. what captivates you)?
  • What drives you and motivates you?
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)