Well Water (Cool Counsel)

Proverbs 20:5

“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.”

Well Water

Once when I was on a mission trip to Romania, a few of us spent a couple of days in a little town called Beuj. I remember not having a canteen or thermos (water bottle) to carry with me as we traversed the little roads around a farm in 90+ temperatures. We could only go so far away from a well.

You see, there was this little well in the town. We knew that we could walk a mile or two away, but only a mile or two. Any more and we would die of thirst before we got back. We were walking around handing out Bibles and hymnals, along with invitations to a community service at which I was going to preach. That well water was so cool and refreshing in that summer heat of 1992.

Cool Counsel

well-w-bucketThere is refreshing counsel deep inside a wise man or woman, and there are many dry and thirsty souls who need it. Sadly, many of those would-be wells of wisdom are covered, blocked, or labeled “unworthy” by the wells themselves.

If God has done a work in your life, let the Holy Spirit use you, your past, and your insight. God never wastes a tear. The pain you have gone through may have produced a deep well a struggling soul may need to make it another mile.


Of Salt and Slugs

Proverbs 20:4

“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.”

Get a Job

You’ve probably heard someone yell out the window of a car, “Get a job!” I know I have. And if I had never heard it I know I have thought it. Every once in a while I see a person with a cardboard sign and think to myself, “Why don’t you get a real job, instead of making more than me?”

We should really be careful when we see people begging for work, for food, or for money. Unless we have followed a person around for a while, we don’t know what he has gone through. We should be more careful before we pass judgment.

Really, Get a Job

BUT, there are many people who really do end up begging others for basic needs all because of their laziness. There are people who refuse to spend any energy doing whatever it takes to feed themselves, much less their families.

I don’t want pity, nor am I bragging, but there was a time when I had to work 3-4 jobs at a time in order to keep my wife and daughters out of a shelter and in a house. I know what it is like to work in a dangerous factory during the week, deliver pizzas at night, wash dishes all weekend, and deliver news papers on Sunday morning. I know what it is like to plow in winter.

Salt or Snail?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The lazy person is called a “sluggard.” The name causes one to envision a long, slow-moving, slimy snail. The “sluggard” refuses to get up an do anything because work is hard. He chooses to wait until the “time is right,” but the right time never comes. Then, when hunger comes, he begs, complains, accuses others, and demands his “rights.”

Unfortunately, many societies encourage “sluggards.” They reward them with everything they want, including food, shelter, clothing, and cell phones. Sadly, some healthy Christians think it is appropriate to live off of certain programs, rather than work, but…

You can’t be the salt and light of the earth while acting like a snail.

 


Fighting Talk

Proverbs 20:3 

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling. (NLT)

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT!

I have seen a few fights in my time. Firstly at school when the shout of FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT, would result in a circle of boys around the two boys who were slugging it out. The shout of fight and the obvious circle of jeering boys in the playground also attracted the attention of teachers. They would wade in and separate the antagonists, who would then be dragged away to face punishment.

Why Fight?

There were occasional fights while I was serving at sea, even in the officers’ quarters. Alcohol often played a part, especially when combined with the stress of many months away from family and friends, working seven days a week. Disputes usually began with quarrels, often over the most trivial things. Even a game of Monopoly caused a fight after a one-month voyage across the Pacific followed by several weeks slowly discharging grain in the then Soviet Far East.

Why Quarrel?

While many quarrels at sea did not lead to fist fights, there was an easy way to predict those that might. Prior to moving from a quarrel to a full-blown fight, most seafarers remove their wristwatches. Why? Because when I was at sea there was an obsession with expensive Seiko watches, and jack tar didn’t want to get his watch broken in a punch-up. So why even get that far? Why be a fool and insist on quarrelling and come to the brink of physical violence? Why indeed? The message of this proverb is not only to avoid strife and fights, but to avoid the quarrels that lead to fights. Kenny Rogers sang about it back in the late 70s when I was still at sea:

“Promise me, son, not to do the things I’ve done.
Walk away from trouble if you can.
It won’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek.
I hope you’re old enough to understand:
Son, you don’t have to fight to be a man.”

(Lyrics taken from ‘Coward of the County’ released by Kenny Rogers in 1979)


Forfeit by Sin

Proverbs 20:2

The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul. (KJV)
A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion; those who anger him forfeit their lives. (NIV)

Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart

What happens if you break the rules?

That seems like such a simple question, but for some reason we, humanity as a whole, seems to disregard the answer to this question on a fairly regular basis.

We prove this by keeping the wrong change when given too much by the cashier, posting a stupid and mean comment online, or speeding while driving down the road.

Yet think about this: what tends to happen when we see a police car on the side of the road? We have a minor panic attack thinking about the trouble we may be in!

It is evidenced by our children disobeying established rules, like throwing a ball in the house, playing with toys instead of doing homework, or doing something wrong and blaming a sibling or a friend.

How do the children feel? Afraid of the coming punishment, because they know they did something wrong. They hear their parents coming a mile away!

How do parents feel? Heartbroken that their child cannot follow simple rules.

God Hates Sin

Every time we sin, it is like telling our Heavenly Father His rules are stupid. We invite His punishment, and often with reckless abandon.

Sadly, it is our reckless abandon that invites His wrath, as well.

The good news is that God loves us so much and hates our sin so much that He stepped down into humanity to save us from His wrath by dying on the cross and rising from the grave.

Those who continue to disobey His laws and refuse to acknowledge His sacrifice remain under His wrath.

In effect, they choose to “sinneth against [their] own soul” and “forfeit their lives” to the wrath of the King.

Just King, thank You for saving us by taking the wrath due us on Your own shoulders. Help us by Your Holy Spirit to obey Your commands to love each other. Help us to love those who are still under Your wrath and lead them to Your grace and forgiveness.


Beer is Good?

Proverbs 20:1

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (KJV). 

God is Great and Beer is Good…

Ahhh… family weddings. The pattern of these events is always the same: ceremony, reception, and then dancing! And with the dancing comes an abundance of country music songs. One of the popular songs that always makes it out onto the dance floor is a song by Billy Currington called People are Crazy. In this story song, he tells the tale about meeting an old man in a bar who tells him, “God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy.”

Now while it is true that God is great (and few would argue with the fact that people are crazy!) is it true that beer is good? What does the Bible have to say about drinking alcohol? This has been a controversial topic among Christians for many years. The Bible does not have a black and white standard that says, “thou shalt not drink alcohol” but it does say a lot on the topic. Our Scripture teaches us that people who drink become mockers and fighters, and if you are led astray by alcohol, you are not wise. Still though it doesn’t say you cannot drink. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the following Scripture gives a real clear picture into some of the dangers of drinking alcohol:

Warnings Against Drunkenness

“Who are the people who are always crying the blues? Who do you know who reeks of self-pity? Who keeps getting beat up for no reason at all? Whose eyes are bleary and bloodshot? It’s those who spend the night with a bottle, for whom drinking is serious business. Don’t judge wine by its label, or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor. Judge it rather by the hangover it leaves you with – the splitting headache, the queasy stomach. Do you really prefer seeing double, with your speech all slurred, Reeling and seasick, drunk as a sailor? “They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt; they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing. When I’m sober enough to manage it, bring me another drink!” (Prov. 23:29-35).

So the Bible doesn’t say that you can’t drink alcohol, it just makes it abundantly clear that if you do, you can ruin your life! How many people have destroyed their lives or the lives of their families through the use of alcohol? My dad was an alcoholic who abandoned our family, so I know firsthand the negative effects of alcohol.

Finally, although the Bible doesn’t forbid the use of alcohol, it does state that drunkenness is a sin: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation.” (Eph. 5:18). (Note – just because it says don’t be drunk with wine doesn’t mean it’s okay to get drunk on beer or rum or another form of alcohol!). Drunkenness leads to dissipation (excess in the KJV), a word that means an abandoned, dissolute, wasted life.

So – is beer good? You be the judge!


No Need for Stripes

Proverbs 19:29

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.”

Reality Shows

Have you ever watched reality television? “Reality shows,” as they are called, are television programs that seek to entertain the viewer with the craziness of other peoples’ lives. Reality television is usually anything but true reality, however. But what happened last night while I was preaching was anything but fake.

Before I get into the details of this post, it has been pointed out by more than one person that our family needs to star in its own reality TV show. The only problem is that no one would believe it.

It Happened During Church

(The following happened in 2013) Just after 9 p.m. I got a phone call from a concerned church member: “Pastor, are you all right? You OK?” “Well…yeah…I guess,” was my reply. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

Come to find out, a lady across the street from our church wrote on Facebook that bounty hunters had shot at a man, chased him, and arrested him in our church parking lot – while church was going on! No one inside the church knew a thing! But what is even more amazing is that the man had come to visit our church, and his wife was in the sanctuary. She never knew her husband was taken away!

Why did all this happen? Evidently, the man was wanted for a parole violation, and they followed him to church. He and his wife had been in trouble many times, but they had visited Sunday morning and felt that it was time for a change. That is why they came back last night.

Judgments and Stripes

There is more to the above story, most of which is sad, but I told it in order to help make a point. You see, actions have consequences. Sin has a price. Even though this poor couple realized that they needed God in their lives, judgment caught up with them.

All is not lost, however. Many times God’s judgment is what it takes to open the eyes of the sinner. As I prayed with the woman whose husband was hauled away, I reminded her that the road ahead would be very hard, but that God loves her, and her husband.

By His Strips

This might be a good time to point out that wounded people need to be loved. Too many people feel unworthy to come to church, and it’s all because they feel like they will be judged, like everyone else is “better” than them. The fact is that we are all sinners, but Jesus bore the punishment for our crimes, so our job is to love each other as Christ loved us.

This man and woman may have to pay a temporal price for the sins they have committed. It may mean jail time. But there is no need for them, or you, to suffer the eternal penalty for sin – separation from God. Jesus took upon Himself our sins and bore them to the Cross (1 Peter 2:24). There He was “wounded for our transgressions, and by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).”

Don’t continue to be a “scorner.” Don’t be a “fool.” 

“This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” – 1 John 4:10 NLT

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 KJV

 

 


Attitudes Will Change

Proverbs 19:28

“An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity.” 
“A corrupt witness makes a mockery of justice; the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.” – NLT

Near the Cross

As I sit here preparing to type this entry, “Near the Cross” (Fanny Crosby) is playing in the background on my computer. Tears are beginning to well up in my eyes. Jesus, keep me near the Cross.

The words to the second verse: “Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me; there the bright and morning star sheds its beams around me.” Then the chorus goes: “In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever; till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.

How can anyone who has ever heard of the love of Christ, of what He did on Calvary’s cross for you and me, ever be like the people in today’s proverb? I just don’t get it. Yet, there are some people who simply love evil; they love the taste of sin.

Oh, dear Jesus, keep me near the Cross!

Just Don’t Care

You have probably seen witnesses take the stand in a courtroom of law and laugh, make fun, and show utter contempt for the legal system. They “make a mockery of justice,” of what is right. They don’t care what happens, for they love iniquity and they mock the potential consequences. In many cases even the threat of death makes no difference.

ap_tj_lane_killer_tshirt_lpl_130321_wg

Click to see Prov. 19:28 in action.

In a recent case a teen, T.J. Lane, was convicted of murder. But before he was sentenced for killing three other teens in an Ohio school, he brandished a t-shirt with “Killer” hand-written on the front, “flipped off” the courtroom, and cursed the families of the victims. The rebellious child in a man’s body “scorned judgement” and showed nothing but a taste for evil.

He definitely had an attitude.

But Attitudes Change

There was a time when I loved sin. There was a time when I had a taste for evil. But when I came near the old, rugged Cross on which the Lamb of God was slain, my tastes changed. I found a new love.

Unfortunately, some scorn even the judgement of the cross. They are like the wicked described in the book of Job who enjoy “the sweet taste of wickedness, letting it melt under their tongue (20:12 NLT),” and are too enraptured with their evil to comprehend the true terrors that await.

Matthew Henry said that you can tell a fool “that the scriptures and an oath are sacred things, and not to be jested with, that there will come a reckoning day; [yet] he laughs at it all, and scorns to heed it.” [1]

But…one day attitudes will change. There will be no mocking, no t-shirts, only a fearful dread. At that moment what had been so sweet to the taste will become “poisonous venom in their stomach” (Job 20:14 NLT).


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 19:28.


For Our Good

Proverbs 19:27

“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.” (KJV).
“If you stop listening to instruction, my child, you have turned your back on knowledge.” (NLT).  

Mandatory Bike Helmets:

In the province of Manitoba where I reside, our government recently made a change in the laws regarding cycling. Effective the beginning of this month,* all cyclists under the age of 18 must wear a bike helmet. If you’re caught biking without a helmet, you have to pay a $50 fine. (However, first-time offenders can have the $50 fine waived if they complete an online bicycle helmet safety course).

I have four children – Caleb (16), Tori (15), Austin (13) and Hannah (10), and all of our family enjoys going bike-riding. However, when this new law was announced, our children – especially my oldest son Caleb – weren’t too excited about it. Wear a bike helmet? No way – that’s not cool! Not to mention the fact that it messes up your hair! However, as parents, we have told our children that our expectation is that if they want to ride a bike, they must wear a helmet.

Out biking with my daughter Hannah

Out biking with my daughter Hannah – with helmet on!

The Reason for the Rules:

I think one of the biggest objections children have to following rules is this: They want to know why. “Why can’t I ride a bike without a helmet? I’ll pay the fine myself if I get caught!” Such objections are missing the point. The purpose of the bike helmet law isn’t just to get people to pay a fine – it’s to keep people safe!

Our province says each year about 160 cyclists end up in hospital from cycling injuries, and many collisions result in serious injury or death. About 40% of those injuries involve children. Wearing a helmet reduces the chance of serious head and brain injury by more than 85% in the event of a crash. That’s the reason for the rules.

For Our Good:

Today’s Proverb tells us that if we stop listening to instruction, we are turning our back on knowledge. And we’re turning our back on God’s wisdom, too – and the benefits of obeying the Bible. “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” (Deut. 10:12-13). In other words, God’s commandments are for our own good – to protect us from harm, or provide blessings for us.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you are a good God, and that when you give us rules, it is not to keep us from having fun, but rather to protect us and provide for the best life possible. Help us to listen to your wise instruction, and never turn our backs on knowledge. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.

*Originally written in May of 2013.


Difficult Children

Proverbs 19:26 

He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach.
Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are an embarrassment and a public disgrace. (NLT)

Bad Parents

This teaching is so basic that it featured in the Ten Commandments. There is only one problem. What if the son who mistreats his father or chases away his mother, is only following an example set through poor parenting? Bad parenting has devastating effects when it carries down through the generations. Biblical examples of bad parents include a whole range of kings and queens. Even King David set a bad example at times.

I wonder what Solomon thought of the way in which David came to marry his mother? Did this cause Solomon to be equally blind when it came to the matter of matrimony? Yes! The Bible records that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Some of these relationships led to Solomon turning a blind eye to idolatry, and then building shrines to false gods. 1 Kings 11 records that God was very angry with Solomon because of the condition of his heart. After Solomon died the kingdom was divided, and Solomon’s son demonstrated none of the wisdom of his father.

What About Us?

It is easy to judge parents because of their children. We probably do it several times a week at the very least. When we see badly behaved children in a shopping mall, for instance, it is easy to assume that the children are merely following a poor example provided by their parents. But what about us? It is not just our children who are watching us.

If we claim faith in Jesus Christ, then the world is watching us. When followers of Jesus fall from grace and set a bad example to the world, it could be said that as children of God they have behaved in the manner described in this proverb. How we behave in our daily lives paints a picture of God our Father to a watching world. What sort of picture are you painting?


Playing Safe or Understanding

Proverbs 19:25

25 Smite a scorner, and the simple will beware: and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge.

The Line

I have worked with many people in my relatively short thirty years on this earth.

Some of these people did the bare minimum of the required work to get by while complaining about the work, the environment, or other employees and/or supervisors.

When another employee, one who does the bare minimum and complains about everything, gets reprimanded or fired, they get quiet for a few days or weeks. They might even learn how to cover their tracks a little better or when to complain.

The consider themselves smart for avoiding trouble. The know where the line of disobedience is, and they toe it carefully to avoid crossing it.

I and others preferred to go the other route. We have tried to do the best work we can with as little complaining as possible. If we did our job in such a way that required reprimanding (a talking-to, a write-up, a pay cut, etcetera), we would attempt to be better and do better.

We were given more knowledge to help us understand our job better and be better at it.

Walking It Out

When Jesus died on the cross, there were two men on either side of him. Both were guilty and deserving of punishment. One looked to Jesus and, while dying for his crime, mocked Jesus. The other criminal talked with Jesus and gained the knowledge that He is the Son of God.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was God telling us we cannot live up to His standards, and we need His help.

Most of us take that warning as simply a call to live a better and more moral life, or we simply just mock Him and call His standard backward, archaic, or illogical.

Some of us look to the cross and gain the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and our only way to measure up before God.

Gracious God, give us the wisdom to accept correction, the strength to change, and the power to grow. Draw us closer to You that as our knowledge and understanding grow, we may help lead others to the saving knowledge of Your Son.