Category Archives: Paths of Life

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)

A Question of Survival

Proverbs 16:25 

“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

A cadet is the lowest form of human life on a Merchant ship. Chief officers love cadets because they can give them the jobs that no one else wants to do. And that is how I came to find myself with needle and sewing palm, tasked with repairing the canvas covers to the lifeboats on one old ship.

It was my second trip to sea. The other cadet was on his first trip. He still held the opinion that he knew better than those who had been around much longer than he had. Somehow he persuaded me that instead of laboriously using sail twine to sew patches of canvas onto the lifeboat cover we could glue them. We weren’t visible to anyone because we were working in the fo’c’sle, so by gluing patches onto the covers we were soon finished. That freed time to lounge around, have a smoke, have a brew, and idle the time away.

I don’t remember details of the punishment inflicted on us by the chief officer. I know that we had to continue stitching rather than sticking patches onto the covers in our free time. The way that seemed right to us did not result in death, but it is never pleasant being on the receiving end of a chief officer’s anger, especially when you are a cadet. While lifeboat covers may seem fairly insignificant the purpose of the covers was to protect the boats that we might have to use to escape from a sinking ship. It was necessary to ensure that the boats were well maintained and kept ready for such an event. Thankfully I have never had to use a lifeboat, but I have been involved in the rescue of two yachtsmen whose liferaft failed to inflate bringing them close to the point where failure to maintain emergency equipment very nearly cost them their lives.

Our world is full of people who think that they know best. Unfortunately, most of us think we know better than God. He gives us the freedom to choose. The choice is simple: Follow God or follow men. Choose life or choose death.


Run Forest, Run!

Proverbs 16:17

“The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.”

In Genesis 39, we read these verses: (Genesis 39:6-12)

So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.
Did you catch that very last phrase? That last phrase is a beautiful picture of Proverbs 16:17!

Joseph was a righteous man, or an upright man, and he knew when he was close to danger. The advancements of Potiphar’s wife were a red flag to this fully committed follower of Jesus and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he needed to be far away from this situation. So he departed from the evil so that his soul would be preserved.

I love the way the ESV reads  – “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.”

I Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

We must always be on guard as to where evil may be. We can not assume, at any point, that we are not targets of the devil and his band of demons. We must always be prepared and ready to fight. This is a great reason to always have on the Armor of God!

So, as Christians, what are we to do when evil comes our way? Let’s all says it together…”RUN FOREST, RUN!”

Holy Recalculating

Proverbs 16:9 

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

Planning Trips

Years ago, before Google and smart phones, I loved planning long trips. I would get a big, impossible-to-fold-back-into-its-original-shape map and plot my course, making sure I did not miss any landmark with free admission.

Not long ago there was a tour bus driving through a large city at night. Thinking he was on the right path, the driver took what he thought was a ramp connecting one highway to another. Unfortunately, there was nothing at the end of the ramp. The roads on the map were wrong, and the bus took a dive off a bridge, killing several, including the driver.

Maps were pretty reliable, and they still are, but what was impossible to know was the road conditions since the map was published. Even though a map may show a logical route from point A to point B, pieces of paper have a hard time remaining up-to-date. A well-planned route on paper could wind up being a detour nightmare.

Devising Ways

Courtesy of ShutterElf

Photo by Shutter Elf

Life is trip (in more ways than one), and we all make plans. We make plans for this and that, make reservations, and even daydream about what tomorrow’s activities will include. In our hearts we “devise our ways.”

However, I am thankful for a God who knows the road that lies ahead. He is not only up-to-date on all the current construction and detours, but He even knows what accidents are going to happen. Not even Google knows that.

We make long range plans, but God guides each step we take. He not only looks out for us down the road, but He makes sure each and every step is profitable. Sure, we can stray, but since He has promised to complete what He has begun (Romans 4:21), the Holy Spirit is always there to “recalculate.”


In One Ear and Out the Other

Proverbs 15:31

“The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.”

And then there’s the one about the lawyer, the physician, and the pastor who went deer hunting together.  The three outdoor enthusiasts positioned themselves around the ridge tops looking down into a valley where a large buck deer had been sighted a few times.  Around dusk, the monster buck strolled into the valley and was immediately spotted by all three hunters.  It just wasn’t the deer’s lucky day:  All three took aim and simultaneously fired upon the unfortunate fellow, who promptly fell over dead.

The three hunters ran down the slopes to inspect the kill, only to discover there was but one bullet wound.  Which marksman had bagged the deer, anyway?

The lawyer stuck his chest out and pleaded his case.  He had prosecuted criminals in numerous capital murder trials.  He had experience sifting through evidence.  He had watched coroners at their gruesome work in the morgue.  He knew the face of death.  And this deer was most certainly his kill!

Oh no, said the physician.  He had worked in the ER many shifts when terribly injured people were hauled in on the gurneys.  He had split open the human breastbone and performed heart bypass surgery.  He was an expert in life, and in death.  The deer was his.

Finally the pastor stepped up.   “Friends,” said he, “this fine buck is my kill, and I can prove it conclusively.”    He pointed to the single bullet wound and traced its path with his finger.  “See?” he asked.  “It went in one ear and out the other.  This buck is most definitely mine!”

A PROBLEM FOR MOST OF US

The truth be told, it’s a problem for most of us, and it’s not just a problem on Sunday mornings as we struggle through the pastor’s hastily thrown together message.  So many of the life-giving words we need to hear go in one ear and out the other!  As we have studied the Book of Proverbs in this blog, we have noted that “wisdom cries out in the streets.”  There’s no shortage of wisdom.  There’s a shortage of hearing and heeding the words of wisdom!

Dear reader, I must ask you, have you truly heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Not only with your ears, but with your heart, so that you perceive the profound, life-changing excellence of the gospel message so that all human philosophy and wisdom crumble at the foot of the cross?  Have you heard the gospel in such a way that it has broken your heart and brought life to your soul?  So that the beauty of Jesus Christ has shone in your heart, and now nothing delights or satisfies you more than Jesus?  Or are you numbered with those who hear the word, but the hearing is of no eternal value, because your hearing is not combined with faith (Hebrews 4:2)?

The gospel message is the “reproof of life.”  As a reproof, the gospel illuminates the sinfulness of our sin and the awesome holiness and justice of Almighty God.  But as our hearts are convicted of sin, the gospel points us to put our trust in the sin-bearer whom God has provided, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to receive life in his name.

The proverb promises that those who hear the reproof of life will abide among the wise.   No, not among those who claim to be wise by the standards of this bent and broken world, but among those who have embraced the wisdom of God – God’s wisdom which is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Father God, forgive us for our stubborn refusal to listen to You.  Soften our hearts.  Grant us teachable spirits.  We want to know Jesus, and Him only.  As you have promised, grant us life in Jesus’ name.  Through Christ our Lord we pray:  Amen. 


Reaching Heaven

Proverbs 15:24

“The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.”

“The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.” (ESV)

“The path of life leads upward for the wise
to keep him from going down to the grave.” (NIV)

If you have been reading since the first chapter of Proverbs, you probably know where this is going to go. Just in case, here we go:

Many passages I use will be used out of their full context, but I assure you that the message does not change!

Down Here

Hebrews 9:27 says “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment . . .

For the average person on our planet, that should induce fear. If it does not, as expressed several times throughout Proverbs, you are a fool. I am sorry to put it so bluntly, but that is the case.

Why?

If this is true, then we will face a perfect Judge. By the standards of the perfect Judge, we all fall short.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

If you have ever been selfish, envious, or lustful of someone; if you have ever lied, cheated, or stolen; if you have ever hated or despised someone; or if you have loved something more than God, among many other things, you have sinned and fall short of the standards of God, the perfect Judge.

Getting To Heaven

The wise know they have faults and “skeletons in the closet” of their past. The wise know they are in need of help.

The wise will heed the words of the Bible, which speak the truth of Life:

(To finish those verses above)

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Hebrews 9:28)

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. (Romans 3:22-26)

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

Gracious Savior, open the eyes of the people and make us wise. Help us to seek out Your Truth, to find the Way of Life. Give us the faith we need to believe!


Making Your Disadvantages

Proverbs 15:19

The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.”

Schooled

In early high school, I stopped caring. I saw little to no reason to try hard at school. Sometimes I was interested enough to put some effort forth, but mostly I just tried to skate by. By the time I was a Junior, my grades were … less than stellar.

When I went to college the first time, I did well, but I learned just days before the second semester started that two of my loans were denied. Instead of asking around, I listened to the first person I heard from who said it meant I could not go back. So I stayed home. I eventually got another two semesters at a community college, but I could not even finish an associates degree.

In both cases, I got lazy and prideful, assuming I knew better and could handle anything.

Following God

In the middle of my Junior year of high school, Jesus got a hold of me. I went to a youth event that stressed Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men“. I knew I had work hard at school. I managed to get my average up to a solid B!

With college, I was trying to do things for God, but I was not trusting in His guidance. I got good grades, sure, but I was doing everything under my own power. That is why I completed three semesters in four and a half years. At the time I write this, I am seven weeks from graduating from a good university, and I have been through more things during the past few years that have given me invaluable experience. And I have a vision for the future that has been made plain to me.

On our own, things will always get in our way, cause us pain, and lead to trouble. In Christ, all things are possible!

Powerful God, thank You for Your love and patience, and thank You for Your favor and help! Push us through the power of Your Holy Spirit to strive for what You have for us. Do not let us be lazy or prideful, but show us the path You have for us.