Tag Archives: faith

Get Rich Quick

Proverbs 21:5.

“The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness; but of every one that is hasty only to want.” (KJV).
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (NLT).

What’s Wrong With That?

It’s amazing to me how many people chase after the latest get-rich quick schemes. “Make money fast from home and become a millionaire this year! Small investment, big return!” And don’t even get me started on lottery tickets: They are aptly named an “idiot tax.”

In the small town that I live in, we have a corner convenience store just down the street from my house, and it’s amazing to me that almost every time I walk in there, someone is buying a lottery ticket or scratch-and-win ticket, hoping to be the next big winner. What’s going on here? It seems we have created an entire culture that is devoted to trying to get something for nothing, to get rich without having to do any work for it. But some might be asking – is there really anything wrong with that? Well, that depends on whether or not you believe the Bible.

Poverty or Prosperity?

In today’s Scripture, Solomon tells us that we can choose plenteousness or want, prosperity or poverty. To reach each destination, there are two very different roads that lead there.

If you want to be prosperous, the road is called good planning and hard work. No shortcuts here! You need to be diligent. Get a job and work hard. And as Matthew Henry says, “The thoughts of the diligent are as necessary as the hand of the diligent. Forecast is as good as work.” It’s good to plan ahead if you want to prosper and do well financially! Plan a budget. Honour the Lord with your tithe. Be generous and give to the poor. All of these will help you succeed.

If you want to be poor, it’s a whole lot easier to get there. Don’t be diligent. Don’t get a job. Don’t work hard. Don’t plan ahead. Spend foolishly. Waste your money on things lottery tickets and other things you don’t really need. You’ll be poor before you know it!

Lord, help us as your people to make good plans and work hard, so you can bless us financially. Not just so we can be blessed, blessed, blessed, but we know you bless us so that we can be a blessing to others. To help the poor. To build the Kingdom of God. To make a difference in the lives of others. Help us to make wise choices with our finances, and be good stewards of all of our resources. In Jesus’ name, amen.


More Pleased

Proverbs 21:3.

“To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (KJV). 

Justice and Judgment:

What does the Lord want us to do? To do justice and judgment. Or, as it says in the New Living Translation: “The LORD is more pleased when we do what is just and right than when we give him sacrifices.” That tells us that – contrary to popular belief in the world today – there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. And God wants us to do those things that are right. He wants us to be loving, forgiving and gracious people.

But – what does Solomon mean when he says that doing justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice? What kind of sacrifice is he talking about here?

The Sacrifices:

Under the Old Covenant, when the people would sin, they would have to make a sacrifice to atone for their sin. Under the New Covenant, when we sin, we confess our sins to God and tell Him we’re sorry for what we’ve done, and when we do, He forgives us.

However, some people have taken the grace of God and used it as a license to sin. They think that because God is good and forgiving, they can go out and sin all they want, as long as they make a sacrifice / confess their sins to Him. Some people try to make up for their sin by trying to balance it out with good deeds. Because they feel guilty, they go out and do something good like go to church, worship, fast or pray.

But God is more pleased when we do what is just and right in the first place, rather than going out and doing bad things then having to offer sacrifices to try to make up for our wrongdoings. Yes it’s true that God is gracious and will forgive us when we sin, but we cannot let that be an excuse to be a Sunday Christian, doing our religious duty at church, then forgetting about doing what is just and right the rest of the week.

A Story from Spurgeon:

I think this story by Charles Spurgeon best illustrates our motivation for doing what is just and right, even though God forgives us when we sin:

Spurgeon“There is the story of half-a-dozen boys who had severe fathers, accustomed to beat them within an inch of their lives. Another boy was with them who was well beloved by his parents, and known to do so. These young boys met together to hold a council of war about robbing an orchard. They were all anxious to get about it except the favoured youth, who did not enjoy the proposal. One of them cried out, “You need not be afraid: if our fathers catch us at this work, we shall be half-killed, but your father won’t lay a hand upon you.” The little boy answered, “And do you think because my father is kind to me, that therefore I will do wrong and grieve him? I will do nothing of the sort to my dear father. He is so good to me that I cannot vex him.”


Leadership Advice

Proverbs 20:28.

“Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.” (KJV).
“Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love.” (NLT).

 

Advice for Leaders:

In this Proverb, Solomon teaches us two things. First, he commends to us two virtues of a good king: mercy and truth. Secondly, he shows how the ruler who walks in mercy will ensure he is successful in his rule. And although this proverb specifically deals with a king, I believe that the universal principle behind it can be applied to anyone in a leadership position – be they a government leader, teacher, parent, employer, or pastor.

Two Leadership Virtues:

In the world today, we are experiencing a crisis of leadership. There are so many leaders that don’t lead well. How many leaders – both prominent political leaders and religious leaders – have lost their position and influence because of a lack of integrity? Too many to count. If a leader wants to lead long, finish well, and have a lasting influence, he must be a person with a virtuous character. And two of the most important virtues, Solomon tells us, are mercy and truth. In fact, in another Proverb, Solomon tells all people, not just leaders, to aspire to be people of mercy and truth: “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.” (3:3).

What does it mean for a leader to be merciful? It means that you don’t rule with harshness, cruelty or legalism. It means you are tender and gracious, and willing to forgive the mistakes of those you lead. It means you choose to lead with love, acceptance and forgiveness. And what does it mean to be truthful? It means you are faithful to your word, you keep your promises, and do what’s right. When you make mistakes (and you will make mistakes, and that’s okay), you are quick to admit it and ask for forgiveness where necessary.

Successful Leadership:

When a leader walks in truth and especially mercy (which is mentioned twice in our text), it is said that his throne will be upholden, or made secure, by mercy. In other words, his leadership will last. His character and integrity will be preserved, and his influence will outlive his life.

I know of a leader in a church once who got hurt and offended, and rather than being merciful and choosing to forgive the other leader who had hurt him, he got bitter and started lying and gossiping about that other leader. As a consequence, many people were hurt and affected by his actions. It was such a sad and terrible situation that resulted in many people walking away from the church as a result of it. It totally broke my heart. This story serves as a warning to all who would neglect the proverbial admonition to walk in mercy and truth, which is designed to protect a leader – and the people he leads.


The Gossip

Proverbs 20:19.

“He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” (KJV). 

Gossip Described:

The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the dangers of gossip:

  • “A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” (11:13, NLT).
  • “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (16:28, NLT).
  • “A gossip tells secrets, so don’t hang around with someone who talks too much.” (20:19, NLT).

To sum up, a gossip tells secrets, stirs up strife and separates friends. And how does the Bible tell us to deal with gossips? Don’t hang around with them! It should go without saying, but if someone will gossip to you, they will also gossip about you.

Gossip Illustrated:

I read this poem once that best illustrates the destructive nature of gossip:

My Name Is Gossip. I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted the more I am believed.
 
I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless.
They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.
I am nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
 
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.

Even my name hisses. I AM CALLED GOSSIP.

Gossip Experienced:

I hate gossip. I have seen firsthand how it can destroy friendships, break hearts, and ruin lives. I know of someone who gossiped about their pastor, and how it caused other people to leave that church as a result of their malicious lies and slander. It caused the pastor no small amount of sleepless nights, heartache, many tears and overwhelming stress. It was so hurtful that it almost caused him to want to give up and quit the ministry! Thankfully, the pastor leaned on the Lord for strength and he is still in the ministry today.

Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon tells us: “Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” (26:20). If we want to guard against strife, we need to take a stand against gossip. Make a commitment to never speak a negative word about someone else – whether what you are saying is true or not. The power of life and death is in your tongue: speak life only!


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?