Tag Archives: faith

Mud Puddles

Proverbs 20:9

“Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”

Mud Puddles:

boy in mud

Did you ever notice how little kids love to play in the mud? There’s something inside of them like a magnet that draws them towards mud and dirt. If you Google “child in mud” you will instantly come up with hundreds of photos of children playing in the mud. (And of course most of them are boys).

When I was a youth pastor in BC, I used to go to Stillwood Bible Camp every summer to be a counsellor at our church’s kids and youth camps. One of the highlights at the kids camp was the log fighting. We would have two kids of equal size sitting on a log that was elevated over a mud puddle, and both kids were given pool noodles. The object of the game was to knock the other person off of the log into the mud puddle. By the end of the game, everyone was covered in mud – even the counsellors! And then came the fun part – getting cleaned up.

Now, when you’ve got two hundred kids covered in mud from head to toe, it’s probably not a smart thing to send them back to their cabins to get cleaned up. (If you did that, the next big event of the day would be cabin clean up). So we lined the kids up in a field and got out the fire hose to hose them off. And that water was cold!

A Clean Heart:

It’s one thing to remove the dirt from your skin. It’s another thing entirely to remove dirt from your heart – we call that dirt sin – and make your heart clean. Have you ever tried to do it? It’s impossible, isn’t it? There’s no amount of good deeds we can to do reverse the stain of sin. When Solomon asks the question: who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” the assumed answer is, “No one.” That’s the bad news. But I have some good news, too!

In Isaiah 1:18, the prophet says, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” This is the good news! Although in our own ability, we can do nothing to take away our sins, God has already provided a solution for us – through His son Jesus Christ.

When we believe in Jesus, trusting Him to be our Lord and Saviour, God takes all of our sins and places them on Jesus on the Cross, and then freely credits to our account the righteousness of God. As we confess our sins to God, not only does He forgive us, but He also washes us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. What joy! What hope!

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 


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.


Fear God

Proverbs 19:23

“The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.” (KJV). 

What is the Fear of the Lord?

The fear of the Lord is spoken of 13 times in the Book of Proverbs (in the KJV). Here are some of the things Solomon tells us about the fear of the Lord:

  • 1:7:      It is the beginning of knowledge.
  • 8:13:    It is to hate evil; pride and arrogance.
  • 10:27:  It prolongs days.
  • 14:26:  In it there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.
  • 14:27:  It is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.

One of the best descriptions is in Proverbs 16:6: “By the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.” How can we break free from a life of sin? With a healthy fear of the Lord. But what does it mean to fear the Lord?

God the Great and Powerful:

In an effort to overemphasize the love and grace of God (to a fault), people have watered down what it means to fear the Lord. But if you study the original Hebrew word yirah, you will see that it means: fear, terror; awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear); fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety; revered. Although it is true that God is love, He is also awesome, powerful and great, and we need to rediscover a healthy fear of the Lord in the church today.

God is the Creator of the Universe, and as such, He is the one who has made the rules that govern life. And we as His creation have broken His rules, and therefore, we are guilty. Apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, there is no hope. But if we recognize that we are sinners, and turn from our sins and receive God’s free gift of salvation, then and only then we no longer need to fear the wrath of God. The Bible says, “So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family — calling him “Father, dear Father.” (Romans 8:15, NLT).

The Blessing to Those Who Fear God:

The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord leads to life, and when we have a fear of the Lord, we will be satisfied, and the Lord will protect us from evil. That’s a great promise! It’s time for those of us who call ourselves the children of God to begin to show respect for God and His Holy Word, and begin to live lives worthy of our calling. Away with apathy and compromise with sin!

“And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.” (1 John 4:17, NLT).


Help the Poor

Proverbs 19:17

“He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” (KJV).

Help the Poor:

The first thing we see here is that God wants us to help the poor. Jesus said, “For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good.” (Mark 14:7). But who are the poor, and what does it mean to help the poor?

In his book, The Power of Generosity, Dave Toycen (President of World Vision Canada) writes: “Living in the twenty-first century offers tremendous opportunities to those who have, but for the three billion people of the world living on less than two dollars a day it’s a crushing existence of grinding poverty, despair, and unremitting daily challenges.”

In the Western World (those of you reading in Canada, the United States, England, etc), none of us think that we’re rich, but the truth is, we are. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world. That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? I have been on several missions trips to countries like Mexico and Costa Rica, and I can testify to the fact that we really do have it good.

To those of you reading this blog post today: We are the rich, and God has called us to help the poor. What does that look like? It could be as simple as giving money to a family that you know that is struggling financially, taking a homeless person for lunch, or giving money to mission works in third world countries.

Lend to the Lord and He Will Repay:

The Lord gives us a wonderful promise in this Proverb. When we give to the poor, we are actually lending to the Lord! This was echoed by Jesus in Matthew 25:34-40:

“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me… inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” 

When we help the poor, we are lending to the Lord, and when we lend to the Lord, He will repay us. We will reap what we sow. When we care for those that God cares about, He takes care of our needs, too. So trust Him today, and look for ways to help the poor around you. Amen!

Lord, we have so much, but we are often selfish and unthankful people. Open our eyes to the poor and needy around us, so we can help them with your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.


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?


Flimsy Green Walls

Proverbs 18:11

“The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”
“The rich think of their wealth as a strong defense; they imagine it to be a high wall of safety” (NLT).

Money

Money is a strange thing. One day it can be worth a lot of, well, money. Then, at the turn of clock, it can become worthless. So many have seen fortunes disappear at the sound of a closing bell.

6 Confederate States of America currency notes...

6 Confederate States of America currency notes three $10 notes 3 $20 notes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others have seen their wealth deteriorate along with a decline in political stability. Many years ago the southern states (The Confederacy) that broke away from the Union made their own money. After 1865 it all became worthless. There used to be a saying, “Save your Confederate money, boys! The South will rise again!” Oh, well.

The thing that really makes money valuable is what backs it or insures its value. Not too long ago the Dollar was backed by gold; now it backed “by the full faith and credit of the United States government” (Yeah, right). So, in reality, the rich that feel secure in their wealth are only as secure as the government that backs it.

Flimsy Walls

Solomon was the wealthiest man in the world, yet he knew that putting one’s hope in money is foolishness of the highest degree. He calls the wealthy who consider their riches a defense “conceited.”

If wealth is one’s idea of a defense or a wall of protection, then they are flimsy walls, indeed! Ask anyone who was around Wall Street in 1929. The sound of crashing walls was deafening.

A Strong Defense

Thank God for His unfailing protection! “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

Money is a wall of security with no inherent strength. It’s might changes with the “full faith and credit” of sinful institutions. Those who trust in it for safety are fools.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2).

Praise the LORD!


Grieving Parents

Proverbs 17:25 

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
Foolish children bring grief to their father and bitterness to the one who gave them birth. (NLT)

This is an easy one for me to write given the many times I brought grief to my parents. However, I could blame them. I could say that it was their fault for moving to England when I was eleven years old. Perhaps if we had remained in Guernsey I would have been a better student, and a more respectful son. The friends I left behind in the island all stayed on at school until they were eighteen, and then went to university. I don’t recall that any of them got into much trouble.

Surroundings and friends definitely played a part, but at the end of the day it was me who made the decisions. I chose to mix with the bad kids and mess around at school. I chose to start drinking alcohol at fifteen, and I chose to start smoking. I chose to bring grief to my parents. They must have been secretly relieved when I joined the Merchant Navy at sixteen. At least they could no longer see what I was getting up to. But that didn’t stop me from being a foolish son. What stopped me was the need to be responsible in a working environment that was dangerous at times.

Fast forward many years and I have four sons, one daughter, and one grandson. There may have been occasions when one or more them (but not the grandson) have caused grief, but fortunately not so many. That is something for which I am very grateful to my heavenly Father. We sometimes forget that we cause Him grief too when we act foolishly as sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. It is a huge relief to know that He made a way for fools to be forgiven, and foolish behavior forgotten.


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…


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: