Tag Archives: Bible

Good Friends

Proverbs 18:24

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (KJV).

The Importance of Relationships:

Is there anything in life more important than our relationships? Too often we get focused on wrong things – worldly success, getting ahead in the workplace, acquiring more stuff. But the bottom line is that the most important things we have in our life are our relationships. And did you know that those are the only things that we can take to Heaven with us?

One of the challenges though – living in this sin-cursed earth – is making and keeping good friends. It’s not easy! That’s why I’m so thankful for the wisdom of the Bible. God’s Word doesn’t just address pie-in-the-sky, one-day-when-I-die theology, but rather practical wisdom for daily living. Like how to make friends.

In today’s Scripture, Solomon teaches us two simple, basic truths about friendships. The first one almost seems like a no-brainer: If you want friends, you must be friendly! It’s not really rocket science here now is it folks? If you’re walking around being mean, rude and miserable all day, don’t be surprised if you don’t have many friends! Start being friendly – being loving, peaceful, kind and good, and see how many friends you can make.

The second truth Solomon shares with us is that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Now I believe that ultimately, that verse is speaking of Jesus. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother – He will never leave us nor forsake us, and nothing can separate us from His love. And as Christians, we are called to follow His example and be a faithful, loyal friend.

I want to close with a simple story that has challenged me to go out of my way to look for ways to help those around me – one of our highest callings as the children of God!

A Simple Gesture:

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed that the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all the books he was carrying, along with two sweaters, a baseball bat and a glove. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry part of the burden. As they walked, Mark discovered the boy’s name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball and history; that he was having a lot of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend.

Mark went home after dropping Bill at his house. They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice, then both graduated from junior high school. They ended up in the same high school, where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally the long-awaited senior year came. Three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk.

Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they had first met. “Do you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things home that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life.” Your simple gesture – could save someone’s life! (Story from Chicken Soup for the Soul).


Dealing with Offenses

Proverbs 18:19

“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” (KJV). 

Winning an Offended Brother:

In the above Proverb, Solomon tells us that it’s harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city, and arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars (NLT). When people are hurt or offended, they build walls around their hearts to keep people out, to keep from getting hurt again. The problem with this is that although they might be preventing people from hurting them, they are also hindering people from loving them. That tells me that offenses are a major issue that we need to learn how to deal with.

Dealing with Offenses:

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come…” (Matthew 18:17). In other words, as long as we’re living in this sin-cursed earth, we’re going to deal with hurts and offenses. But even though offenses are going to come, they don’t have to overcome us. I’m so thankful that the Bible gives us some keys to dealing with offenses.

Jesus said, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15). In other words, if someone hurts or offends you, the right thing to do is to go and talk to that person about it. Unfortunately, what often happens is when people get offended, they begin to gossip to others about what has happened to them, instead of going back to the person who hurt them. Then we see Hebrews 12:15 in action: “lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Instead of reconciliation or restoration, many other people are defiled by the offense.

The Goal of Reconciliation:

If you’re upset and offended with someone, and they don’t know that they have done anything wrong, it might be better if you don’t say anything to them. Don’t tell them about your offense and say, “Oh brother so-and-so, last week I hated your stinking guts because you did this terrible thing to me, but now that I told you about it I feel much better!” The goal, if you’re going to share the offense with them, is gaining back your brother or sister. Unity. Reconciliation. Healed relationship.

In one of the best teachings I have ever read on the topic of relationships and dealing with offenses, John Bevere writes, “The whole reason Jesus instructed us to go to one another… is not for condemnation but for reconciliation. He does not want us to tell our brother how rotten he has been to us. We are to go to remove the breach preventing the restoration of our relationship.” (The Bait of Satan).

Let’s make a commitment to walk in love, acceptance, forgiveness and unity in all of our relationships, so we can see God’s blessing, anointing and favour (Psalm 133), amen?


Practical Advice

Proverbs 18:18 

The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty. 
Flipping a coin can end arguments; it settles disputes between powerful opponents. (NLT)

Practical Advice

 The first thing I thought as I read this verse was, “Huh?” Or, to put it in more biblical language, “What doth thou mean, dear brother Solomon? Hath thou gone over the deepeth endeth?

Then, after a little “proverbial thinking,” it became clear: this is nothing more than simple wisdom. It is practical advice from a dad to his son.

Dad’s Advice

My dad always had practical advice to share with me. He knew that wisdom was useful in all areas of life: from auto maintenance to dating; from fishing to dealing with a policeman in a bad mood. Try these words of advice on for size…

  • Never hit a girl (unless she comes at you with a hammer).
  • Don’t drive recklessly with a “Clergy” sticker on your bumper.
  • Put the toilet seat down.
  • Never say, “You throw the first punch,” or you may never get a chance to throw the second.
  • Check the oil before you go on a trip.

In this proverb we read the words of a father, Solomon, who says, “It is better to flip a coin than get into a fight.” That’s pretty practical.

Our Father’s Advice

Never let us forget that the Bible is a letter written from the Father to his children. And just because we usually associate it with spiritual matters, never forget that much of its content is meant to instruct us in daily living.

Consider these practical words of advice from God: don’t steal; don’t cheat; don’t lie; don’t commit adultery; don’t talk bad about other people; give generously; speak kindly to others; turn the other cheek. If we did all those things, don’t you think it would be a much better world?

He even says, “If need be, just flip a coin.”

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV

 


Facebook or Face-to-Face

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (KJV).

The Importance of Friendships

I can still remember the best friend I ever had in elementary school. His name was Jamie. His dad was the coach of our little league baseball team, and we did everything together. Friends have always been such an important part of my life, and I think that’s probably true of most people.

Social Networking?

However, in the world today, it seems like people are more isolated from one another than ever before. People may have 500 friends on Facebook, but how many of those connections are real life friends? It seems that in our social networking age, we’ve lost the art of face to face communication. Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: I enjoy Facebook just as much as the next person, but we can’t allow our online friendships to become a substitute for real world interactions.

So how do those of us living in the 21st century maintain our important face to face friendships? By going back to the Book of Wisdom – Proverbs – and learning God’s keys for healthy relationships. We see three of them in the above Scriptures:

1.         A Friend Loves at All Times:

Did you ever notice that on the bottom left hand corner of your friends profile pages on Facebook that there is an “Unfriend” button? What a sign of the times! If your friend does something you don’t like, you just unfriend them. This is not how to keep and maintain healthy relationships. We must learn to love at all times and be loyal friends who stick closer than a brother. Jesus gave us that example of friendship when He said that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Let’s love at all times…

2.         A Friend Helps His Friends When They’re in Trouble:

Solomon said that a brother is born for adversity. What does that mean? The NLT translation says, “A brother is born to help in a time of need.” A true friend will help their friends when they go through difficult times. Jesus is a great example for us in this: “Jesus didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” (Romans 15:3, Message).

3.         If You Want Friends, Be Friendly:

Another Proverb says this about friendships: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24). I love the common sense wisdom of the Bible: If you want to have friends, then simply start by being friendly! If you want to have a good friend, then be a good friend. Wisdom to live by…


Do I Hear Nathan?

Proverbs 17:13

“Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.”

Did Solomon Remember?

I can’t help but wonder if Solomon was thinking of his own house when he wrote this. How well did he know the words that Nathan spoke unto his father, King David?

Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” – 2 Samuel 12:9-10 ESV

Uriah had been nothing but a loyal, devoted soldier. Even when David tried to get him to go home to be with his wife, Uriah couldn’t bear the thought of being comfortable while his fellow soldiers were sleeping on the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:11). And what did Uriah receive in return for his loyalty? A death sentence.

Was Solomon thinking of his brother, Absalom, the one who tried to kill his father? Did he think of his sister, Tamar, who was raped by her brother, Amnon (2 Samuel 13:10-20)? I wonder what he thought when he looked around at his family. Did he ever think to himself, “Why, dad? Why?”

Do I Hear Nathan?

It is one thing to reward evil with evil. Most people understand the concept of “an eye for an eye.” However, it is a vile, ruthless, selfish man who accepts good from another, only to give evil in return. He deserves whatever bad may come.

That should make all of us think. Has God been good to us? What have we given Him in return?

The prophet Nathan told David, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). What would he tell us?

By the Way

On a different note, some say the Bible cannot be the Word of God because it defames the character of the prophets. They (Muslims) say stories like the one told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 are proof the Bible is a fabrication. The Koran, they say, would never, never allow the moral character of a prophet to be questioned, but would hold such role models in high esteem, blotting out any record of sin.

Fortunately for us, the Bible IS true. It doesn’t candy-coat the bad but shows how God can work through flawed, fallen men. The Bible, because it is true, highlights the goodness and grace of God, not the righteousness of man.

David was “the man,” but David was human. Unlike the “perfect prophets” in other religions, David prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin [emphasis added]” (Psalm 51:2).

Don’t let evil move into your house.


What Are You Listening To?

Proverbs 17:4

“A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.” (KJV).

Be Careful What You Hear:

There is an old Sunday school song that says, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear!” It’s a fun song, but it also promotes a very Biblical principle. Jesus Himself said, “Therefore take heed how you hear.” (Luke 8:18a). To take heed means to be careful. We need to be careful what we choose to listen to! Words are powerful, and words can either bring life or death into people’s lives.

In today’s Scripture, Solomon gives us warnings about two different kinds of people: Wicked people, and liars. He tells us that a wicked person will give heed – or listen – to false lips, and a liar will give ear – or listen – to a naughty (malicious, spiteful, destructive) tongue. We know that as Christians, God doesn’t want us to be a wicked person or a liar. Therefore, we would be wise to not listen to false lips or naughty tongues.

False Lips and Naughty Tongues:

There are many false lips and naughty tongues in the world today. Wicked people and liars will use their lips and tongues to tell lies, slander people, gossip about others, and stir up strife and disunity – in families, churches, and indeed all relationships. Therefore, we must be on our guard against such people! It’s sad to say that you can even find those people… in the church. As a pastor, I can tell you that there is nothing more dangerous or harmful in a church than people who will stir up strife and division through their negative words!

So what do we do when we find ourselves surrounded by people with false lips and naughty tongues? We can’t just go and bury our heads in the sand or move into a monastery, can we? Of course not. However, we must still guard our hearts from such negative words. Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon gives us this warning: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). (Click HERE to read Jason’s devotional about this Scripture). Our ears and eyes are the windows to the heart, so we must be careful what we put into them.

How to Guard the Heart:

How can we keep our heart from being affected by hearing negative words – lying, strife, gossip, slander and more? First of all, make a decision that you will not allow your heart to be a garbage can for other people’s negative words. The next time someone starts gossiping to you, or talking negatively about someone else, refuse to listen to it. (And remember this – if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you! This is not the kind of friend you need…). And secondly, make a decision that you will watch your words, and make sure that no negative speech comes out of your mouth. Use your words to bring life to people!

Here’s a link to a youtube video of the old Sunday school song Oh Be Careful Little Eyes:

 


The Wise Servant

Proverbs 17:2

“A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren.” 

The Wise Butler

I wish I could remember the details of it, but years ago I saw a movie that that was like this verse. Of course, the fact that a movie from Hollywood reminds me of a story in Scripture shouldn’t amaze me; many of the plots in movies are stolen from the Bible.

Nevertheless, I remember seeing something about a butler who had to manage a wild, rebellious, reputation-ruining heir. I just can’t remember if the butler wound up with everything, or not.

The Wise Servant

In this proverb we read of a servant who was smart enough to look out for the family’s interests, even if the son only cared about acting the fool. The servant wisely took charge over the unruly son, maybe even saying, “Your daddy put me in charge, so yes, I am the boss of you!

It was not uncommon in those days for a servant to be very close to the members of the family he served. It was not uncommon, even, for a servant to have part in the family’s inheritance  especially if the servant was considered a family member. So, it stands to reason that the wise servant, caring for the family that employed him, might have seen the profit of keeping his master’s son out of trouble.

Sometimes, it was even the case that a servant got everything, but his master got nothing. We read about that happening to Ziba, the former servant of Saul (2 Samuel 16:1-4).

The Shameful Son

There is another way to look at this, however. Even though the son was related by blood to the master, he was still subordinate to the servant. Whether it had to be that way, we don’t know. But the way this verse reads, the son might have been old enough to have been out from under the control of a tutor. He may have been old enough to have been the one to give the orders. Yet, because of his behavior, the servant was placed over him.

Let this be a lesson to us. Even though we may be children of the King, when we act up and begin to bring shame to His name, someone not even in the family may be used to discipline us. And, if it goes far enough, the blessing once due us may even go to someone else.

 


No News Is Better

 Proverbs 16:27

“An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.”

Reporters

Back in 2006 two family members of ours died as a result of a tragic murder suicide. My wife’s step-sister died at the hands of her husband, who then took his own life.

The surreal fog of unbelief lay heavy over the crime scene as we got out of the car and walked into the house. By the time we arrived, the deceased were gone, but the reporters were just beginning to camp out on the front lawn.

For the next day or two, news media trucks, the kinds with satellite antennae, sat parked up and down the road. Reporters stood beside the lawn, waiting for any word, any bit of newsworthy gossip. The goal was to “dig up evil.”

Re-tellers

Don’t misunderstand me, most reporters are not ungodly men with burning lips (or are they?). But there are people who love nothing more than to dig up dirt on others. Then, when the worst is found out, they love to share it from the rooftops.

The reason Solomon calls these people “ungodly” is because love demands a different response to hearing bad news. “He who forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter alienates a friend.” – Proverbs 17:9 RSV

Maybe, instead of having a burning desire to air someone else’s dirty laundry, what if we had a burning desire to help? Consider the words of James, “Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” – James 5:20 KJV


Fire Words

Proverbs 15:1

“A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” (KJV).
“A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire” (The Message).

Have you ever thought about how powerful your words are? Solomon tells us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21). Think about that for a minute. Every word you speak to someone can bring life or death to them. In the above passage of Scripture, we learn that our words can diffuse the most difficult fights or arguments. If we speak gentle words, we can turn away wrath. But if we respond with harsh words, we will only stir up that other person’s anger. We also learn here that gentle words can bring life and health to someone, and negative words can crush someone’s spirit.

James gives us a great word picture to help us see the power in our words when he writes: “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness that can ruin your whole life. It can turn the entire course of your life into a blazing flame of destruction, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” (James 3:5-6).

I think it’s interesting that James uses fire to represent the power of the tongue. Fire is a tool, and it can be used for either good or evil purposes. The same fire that can be used to cook your food or warm your house can also be used to burn down a building. Likewise, our words can be used to bring encouragement or comfort, or to bring death and destruction.

In his book, The Power of Your Words, Robert Morris gives three suggestions for how we can begin the process of taming our tongue.

  • Pause: Hold on there just a minute. Before you open your mouth, pause for a minute. James exhorts us to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19). God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk!
  • Ponder: Let’s give that some thought. The Bible says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Eph. 4:29). If your words don’t fit into that category, then don’t say them!
  • Pray: Appeal to a higher power. If words are so powerful, then we should pray that God would give us the ability to tame our tongues. Let’s pray that God would set a guard over our mouths.

Zee Doctor Vill See You

Proverbs 12:20

“Deceit [is] in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counselors of peace [is] joy.”

The Evil Psychiatrist

Try to imaging an evil psychiatrist. Can you? Picture in your mind a tall, slick-haired, skinny man in a long, white lab coat. In one eye is a spectacle, the other a creepy glare.

Now, just imagine this guy asking you to come into his office. He offers you a quasi-comfortable couch on which to recline, then pulls out a yellow pad and pencil to take notes – notes of your deepest, darkest secrets.

When your hour is up, you have talked about your parents, your dead dog, a lost love interest, and your lack of self worth. What do you get in return? The Doctor says,

“I zink vee hav made much progress, but vee hav much fartha to go, yes? You take dis book I vrote, ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ and pay de receptionist on the vay out, yes? Today vill be $120 – the book vill be $30.”

The Caring Counselor

Now, think of someone who wants nothing in return for simple, good advice. This person is caring, can see the end of the road you’re traveling, and wants what is best for you.

You go to this person, pour out your soul, problems and all, and in return you get both sympathy and solid guidance. You are not made to feel like an idiot, but your own words are used to point towards better choices to be made. Hopefully, you can see the difference between the two, yes? No? Vhat iz vrong vid you?

“Imagine Evil” vs “Joy”

One point of today’s proverb is that there are some who would offer counsel for their own selfish desires, while there are others who do it for the joy of bringing about peace. The operative word in the verse is “counselors.”

As a pastor, I have to counsel people all the time. Unlike a psychiatrist, however, I don’t get paid lots of money for my advice.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a place for the advice of both, but if the intent of either is selfish, then the advice is evil – free or not.

What Goes Around…

But there is even more to this verse. The idea is that the reason for the advice one gives will ultimately come back upon him. The great Matthew Henry wrote:

Those that devise mischief contrive, for the accomplishing of it, how to impose upon others; but it will prove, in the end, that they deceive themselves.*

If you want to experience joy, then give “peaceful” counsel. If you want to be fooled, then seek to fool others.

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), Pr 12:20.