Red Means STOP

Proverbs 15:21 

Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.
Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course. (NIV)

Lack of Judgement

Teenage boys are not generally known for their wisdom. This is particularly the case in our home where my thirteen-year old son John derives considerable pleasure and joy from annoying his sixteen-year old sister. Unfortunately for John his sister is not only older, she is also bigger and stronger than him. That may change in the next year or so, but at the moment John is unable to defend himself against the physical response his lack of judgement incurs when he embarks on each mission to see how far he can push his sister.

Heed the Warning

Unfortunately folly is a contagious disease that anyone can catch. I see folly most mornings while negotiating a junction controlled by traffic lights. Inevitably there Description=19th September 2006. Pic: Paul Rogers A traffic signal showing red.are drivers who believe that they can drive through their red light when mine is green. It isn’t rocket science. Red means stop, and needs to be heeded just like any other warning, be it a road sign, a parental instruction, a safety measure linked to mechanical or electrical equipment, or anything else.

Follow the Instructions

Walking uprightly or keeping a straight course means taking note of warnings, being alert to danger, and avoiding risk. To avoid risk we need to understand risk and the consequences of failure. For followers of Jesus that means trying to avoid temptation. Most of us know our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If we don’t, then we should. And then we should follow the instructions for walking uprightly given to us in Scripture.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:1-18 (NIV)


Pleasing Dad, Despising Mom

Proverbs 15:20

A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.”

Following God?

On Sunday, January 9, 2000, I finally knelt my knee to Jesus as Savior, and I started my life with God.

In 2007, many things happened in my life. The biggest was that I started over with God. I asked Him to clean my heart and take me back to that place of innocence and trust, and I needed to start from scratch.

Unfortunately, some of the people with whom I chose to associate during this time led me down some less-than-traditional theological roads. I became convinced that God had revealed much truth to me (which He had), and I had a better understanding of His will than most people (this might be true in some sense, from time to time, from person to person, but …)

It was incredibly prideful of me to assume I had a better connection to God than others. My parents did not understand everything going on, and they panicked. On many points it was unnecessary (technically, it is never good to panic), but on many other points they had good reason. The called the pastor for the four of us to have a meeting.

While I said I loved my parents, my behavior of superiority showed how much I despised my parents and our pastor. I despised them by thinking of them as poor, misguided fools who understood little of God.

I despised my mother in my heart, and I was unaware.

Following God

I eventually came to my senses. God allowed so many things in my life that caused so much confusion and soul-searching. When I came back home months later, I apologized to my parents. Within a year I had straightened many of the things that had caused so much tension (and even introduced them to the woman now their daughter-in-law!).

It was a great joy to truly follow God and see my life straighten out. It has never been “perfect” or pain-free, but opening myself to following God instead “knowing” what God wanted led to great peace.

One of the greatest joys of my life came two years after that intervention. It was standing in the church at my wedding and seeing my dad smile as he said “I am so proud of you.”

Heavenly Father, help us to live a life worthy of You. Help us to love our parents, to treat them with respect and humility. Help us love others and live in a way that, when we finally see You face to face, we can hear You say “I am so proud of you!”


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.


The Hot Head

Proverbs 15:18

“A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”

A Hot-Tempered Person

I love how our verse is stated in the ESV – “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.”

We all know someone who is a hot-head. Someone who is easily provoked or short-fused. They become angry at the drop of a hat. The old saying, “Some people get angry at the drop of a hat and some throw the hat down themselves” is so true of our verse.

Solomon is telling us that those wrathful, hot-headed people are only going to cause more problems and strife.

The Calming Solution

Our verse today is not the first verse we have seen in Proverbs 15 that talks about how to deal with wrathful people. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”.

Solomon is basically telling us that the best way to “keep the peace” is to be calm or slow to anger.

It’s Our Choice

I can sit here and write this post about being calm the next time I am faced with someone who is trying to stir things up or that is angry with me, but when it actually happens, I have two choices: 1. I can become angry at the person and “stir the pot” even more,  or 2. I can stay calm and carefully choose my words. It is up to me!

How will you deal with a hot-tempered person? If you are normally a hot-headed person, how will you respond the next time you have a tendency to “throw down the hat”?


What About the Vegetables?

Proverbs 15:17

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate. (NLT)

I remember a television comedy sketch in the UK concerning the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her cabinet sharing a meal. Puppets were used to portray the scene. Mrs Thatcher was served first. The waitress placed several slices of meat on her plate and then asked, “and what about the vegetables?” The Prime Minister looked around the table briefly at her cabinet colleagues, many of whom were regarded as ineffective by voters. Then she replied, “oh, they’ll have the same as me.” This was not a meal shared in love!

Mrs Thatcher was known in the press as the ‘Iron Lady’ and her methods of leadership were not always respected. Despite this, and despite the attitude of her fellow cabinet members, Mrs Thatcher needed them, and they needed her. While a bowl of vegetables shared lovingly may be considered superior to prime steak shared begrudgingly, the common denominator between the two parts of this verse is that meals are not meant to be taken alone. The question is less about the menu and more about the company, and the attitudes of those around the table to each other.

In my work travels I often eat alone. It doesn’t matter how good the food is, a meal taken alone is not something I enjoy. Mostly I can’t wait to leave the restaurant. A conversation with a friendly waiter or waitress is a bonus. The fact is that God created us to be together. The need to share is woven into our DNA. So here’s a question. Is there someone you know who eats alone and who would benefit from an invitation to a meal at your home? A meal shared in love and a meal representing love. Jesus said:

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:27-38)


What Is Better than Wealth?

Proverbs 15:16

“Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.”

Would You Rather

Have you ever played “Would You Rather?”? It’s sort of a conversation-starting kind of game, if it’s a game at all. There are no winners or losers.

One person asks an either/or question like, “Would your rather eat a roach, or aspirate a snotty baby’s nose by mouth?” The answer would have to be one or the other, not an “I would never do either!” You have to choose.

In the case of the above question, either answer is a loser…unless you’re one of those mother’s who do that kind of thing to your snotty baby…or unless you eat bugs. Most people would just lose the contents of their stomachs.

Better/Than

What we see in this proverb not an either/or question, but a better/than comparison. Unlike the “would you rather” question, this one has a clear winner and loser.

What is “better”? Little. Just the scrapings. Hardly anything.

What is “than”? Great riches. A storehouse full of provision. More money than anyone else. But notice, there’s nothing “bad” or “wrong” with great riches; it’s just not better.

Better than what?

Great riches are not better than scraping by if great riches are all you have. It’s better to have hardly anything and have the fear of the Lord, a righteous heart, a forgiven soul, a peace that passes all understanding, than great wealth and all the worry and anxiety it can bring.

Winning Secret

Oh, but remember how in the first game of “Would You Rather?” there are no real winners? That’s not the case at all with choosing to have a little and the fear of the Lord!

Here’s a little secret: If you choose a little and the Lord, the eternal riches far exceed anything one could amass on earth. Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

As the old hymn says, “I’d rather have Jesus.”


Afflicted or Merry?

Proverbs 15:15 

“All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.”

“Figures”

Have you ever known someone who feels like nothing ever goes his way? I have a friend who says “Figures” when something doesn’t go the way he wants or plans. In other words, he practically expected things to go wrong. How defeated is that?

Those who feel like the world is against them, that fate hates them, and that every wish upon a star is doomed to utter failure are not happy people. There are no silver linings, only clouds, and all the glasses are half-empty due to some conspiracy hatched in a neighbor’s mind.

“Praise the Lord, Anyway”

Then there are those people who take what’s handed to them with grace and a smile. They are the ones who end up truly brutalized and mistreated, but find hope in the middle of hurt. Disappointment turns into new opportunities, while loss is left to the wisdom of God.

Those with a merry heart can face a downturn in events, and even though it may hurt, say, “Praise the Lord, anyway!” It doesn’t mean they like having things go wrong, it’s just that they know the Lord gives and takes away, “blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Cart before the Horse

You know the old saying about putting the cart before the horse? Take a look at today’s proverb one more time and see if you can find an out-of-place cart? Shouldn’t being merry follow having the stuff of a feast? Shouldn’t feeling afflicted come after the onset of an evil day?

The real key to this proverb is the way a person approaches life. A person with a “merry heart” can “feast” on a bowl of beans while thanking God he at least has food. An “afflicted” person would complain that his free four-course meal lacked a piece of cake.

Prayer: Father, help me to maintain a merry and thankful heart, even when things aren’t going the way I think they should. You are sovereign and in control of all things. When “bad” things happen because of my mistakes, help me to accept the consequences. When bad things come as the result of no fault of my own, give me grace to endure and the comfort of knowing all things will work together for good.