Tag Archives: proverbs

Trapped or Rejoicing?

Proverbs 29:6.

“In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice.” (KJV).
“Evil people are trapped by sin, but the righteous escape, shouting for joy.” (NLT). 

Of Monkeys and Bananas:

When I was a youth pastor in Surrey, BC, I hosted True Love Waits teenage abstinence seminars for young people. Over the course of several years (from 1999-2004), we saw around 900 teenagers and young adults make pledges to remain sexually abstinent until marriage. In one such event, we invited Dave Koop, the lead pastor of Coastal Church in Vancouver, to speak at the opening session of the weekend event. To this day, I’ve never forgotten this powerful story.

In Africa, they have an interesting method of capturing monkeys in their jungles. They will take a container with a narrow opening in it, and place a banana (or some other sort of sweet-smelling fruit or nuts), and place it in the bottom of the container. Then the hunters hide in the bushes and wait for the monkeys. When the monkey comes to check out the container, he reaches in his little monkey hands and grasps the banana. However, when he goes to take out his hand, which is now closed in a fist around the fruit, he can no longer get it out of the container. Out jump the hunters and club the monkey to death.

The sad part of the story is that at any time, the monkey could drop the banana and take its hand out of the container, but it won’t. And the result is it is trapped. And then it dies.This is Solomon’s Proverb in action: Evil people are trapped by sin.” Sin is a trap that is very difficult to get out of – on our own.

The Joy of Freedom:

Thank God though for the second part of that verse: “but the righteous escape, shouting for joy!” Even though sin is a trap that is difficult for us to escape, the Bible teaches us that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. In the very first sermon Jesus ever preached, He quoted the prophet Isaiah and said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.” (Luke 4:18). Jesus wants to set us free – not only from the guilt and penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin.

My favourite Christian author, the 19th century Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, told this story that illustrates today’s Proverb well: I remember my old friend, Dr. Alexander Fletcher say to the children that when men came out of prison, they praised him who had set them free. He said that he was going down the Old Bailey one day and he saw a boy standing on his head, turning cartwheels, dancing and jumping about in all manner of ways, and he said to the boy, “What are you doing? You seem to be tremendously happy.” And the boy replied, “Ah, old gentleman, if you had been locked up six months and had just got out, you would be happy, too!”

If you are a Christian, then Jesus has set you free from the trap of sin. Our response? Rejoice!

cartwheel

Advertisements

Beyond Criticism

Proverbs 29:1 

He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. (NLT)

Following the Rules

Few of us enjoy being criticized, told off, corrected or reproved. What is important, however, is the manner in which we react when faced with criticism or reproof. Take the Pharisees, for instance. These were a group of people who wrote the book on criticism. They had so many rules, you would have thought that they would have walked around heads hung in shame, given the impossibility of compliance.  But they didn’t. They walked around heads held high, proud in the fact that they were rule keepers, not rule breakers. And in their pride they criticized everyone who did not reach their high standards of perfection.

Valid Criticism

What the Pharisees considered perfection was a falsehood, a lie. Jesus was an exposer of lies. When He came to the attention of the Pharisees they invested heavily in using their laws and rules to bring Him down. But they failed miserably because their criticism had no validity. And while the Pharisees were experts at dishing out criticism, they were unable to accept being under the spotlight and told that they were wrong.

Freedom

You could argue that it is simpler to live without rules. That is what infuriated the Pharisees about Jesus. He didn’t just break the rules, He lived as if there were no rules. The problem was that they had become blind to reality through their obsession with a legalistic approach for the one thing that could have brought them freedom, and life. God didn’t send Jesus to earth to write a new book of rules, but to show God’s true character to humanity. Jesus came because humanity had it wrong and has still got it wrong. God does not sit up in heaven criticizing us, but loving us. And if we can truly surrender to that Love then we will find freedom from criticism, and freedom from criticizing.

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?” Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.” (Matthew 15:10-13 NLT)


Flattery or Favour?

Proverbs 28:23

“He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.” (KJV).

Love Languages:

One of my favourite books is one called The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In this book, he talks about how people give and receive love in five main different ways: Words of affirmation, Acts of service, Receiving gifts, Quality time and Physical touch. It was a very practical, useful teaching because my wife and I have different love languages. Mine is words of affirmation, and hers is receiving gifts. The challenge came when I would want to communicate love with her, and I would use words of affirmation, but that didn’t translate well for her. When I discovered that her love language was receiving gifts, I found it much easier to communicate love to her in a way that she would understand it.

So my love language is words of affirmation. More than a gift, any act of service, time spent or physical touch, the best way to communicate love to me is through words. That’s why I may not get excited about a gift, but when someone sends me a card, letter or an e-mail with words of affirmation in it, I feel loved. However, there is a big difference between affirmation and flattery.

Affirmation or Flattery?

Have you ever had someone flatter you? Flattery is defined as “excessive, insincere praise.” As much as I enjoy genuine words of affirmation, there is nothing more annoying to me than fake words of flattery. And although I don’t like being rebuked or corrected either, I would rather have someone be honest with me and tell me what they really think.

Loving Rebuke:

If you really love someone, then when you see that they are getting off into trouble, or doing something that might hurt themselves or others, you will challenge and rebuke them. And believe me, I don’t enjoy this anymore than you do! I don’t like confrontation, but if I truly love my friends, then I need to be willing to bring rebuke or correction when they need it. They may not like it initially, but as Solomon says, “He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favour.”

Matthew Henry describes this well in his excellent Bible commentary: “He that cries out against his surgeon for hurting him when he is searching his wound will yet pay him well, and thank him too, when he has cured it.”

If a friend brings you a rebuke or a criticism about your behaviour, do a quick search and see if there’s anything to what they have to say. And, if what they are saying is true, humbly be quick to repent and change your behaviour. Then make sure you thank your friend for their loving concern for you and your well-being. If you see one of your friends getting off into trouble, make sure you speak the truth in love to them as well, and when you do, you can rest assured that sooner or later you will find their favour. They will appreciate your honesty!


Work Hard

Proverbs 28:19

“He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.” (KJV).
“Hard workers have plenty of food; playing around brings poverty.” (NLT).

Common Sense:

Sometimes when I’m reading my Bible I think, “Duh! That’s just common sense!” For example, there is a Proverb that says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (18:24). Of course – that makes total sense. If you’re not friendly – if you’re rough and gruff, rude and crude, you’re not going to attract many friends. But if you are friendly – loving, kind and patient – then you are going to make more friends. It’s so simple – how do we miss it?

Playing Around:

In today’s Proverb, Solomon wisely declares, “He that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.” What is a vain person? That word vain means empty, vain, idle or ethically worthless. Translation? If you’ll excuse my use of a common slang term: A lazy bum. If you hang around with vain, idle or lazy people – playing around – it will lead to poverty. How many times in this wisdom book have we discovered that we become like those we most closely associate with. Walk with the wise and you will become wise. Sit with the lazy, and it will lead to poverty and ruin.

I know of a man who has a hard time keeping a job. For whatever reason, he changes jobs multiple times a year. Whether he just gets bored, or doesn’t like the job anymore, I’m not sure. But it never fails, I keep hearing about how he’s quit his job and is looking for work. More often than not, he is between jobs. Not surprisingly, his son is exactly the same way. Can’t keep a job. Won’t keep a job. Often unemployed. Like father, sadly like son.

Working Hard:

On the other hand, those who till their land – and work hard – will have plenty of food. Those with a strong work ethic, their needs will be taken care of. When we work heartily as unto the Lord, God will bless that.

I got my first job at the age of 16 working at a McDonald’s. The fall after I graduated from high school, I got a job working at a Zellers store at the mall, and for the past 23 years, I have always had a job. There are always jobs available, if someone is willing to work! It might not always be the job you want, but if you want to work, someone is always hiring.

Lord, teach us the value of working hard, and being diligent stewards of all of the resources that you give to us. Help us to look to you as our provider, and trust you to meet all of our needs. In Jesus’ precious name, amen.


Multiple Choice Living

Proverbs 28:14

“Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.” (KJV).
“Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.” (NIV). 

The Best Tests:

When I was in school, I always liked multiple choice tests the best. The way most of them were written, you could almost always rule out one or two of the right away, and if you even had a basic knowledge of the material, you would be able to do okay on the exam. In the Book of Proverbs, many times Solomon kind of makes life out to be like a multiple choice test. Only instead of four answers marked A, B, C or D, there are only two choices, and one of them is obviously the smarter choice.

Only Two Choices:

For example, in the above Scripture, Solomon says you have two choices: You can either fear always (that is, fear the Lord), or you can harden your heart. If you fear the Lord, you will be happy and blessed. If you harden your heart, you will fall into trouble or experience mischief. Who wants trouble? Not me! I don’t think any smart person does. So, we’ll choose answer “A!”

Fear the Lord:

What does it mean to fear the Lord? I don’t think it means that we have to cower terrified like someone in a horror movie running from zombies or vampires. Rather, I believe it means that we are to respect God. If we respect God as our Sovereign Lord, then we are going to honour His Word. If He says that we are to be loving, forgiving, accepting people, then that’s what we’re going to do. And we will realize that God doesn’t give us commandments to keep us from having fun. Rather, His commandments are for our own good! When we obey the Bible, we are happy and blessed.

Don’t Harden Your Heart:

What does it mean to harden your heart? I believe this happens when we choose to sin and disobey God. When that happens, we lose the tender sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in our heart, and day by day, it becomes more hardened. We become desensitized to sin, and stop feeling guilty about doing wrong things. Eventually, we are running away from God, and we end up in trouble and mischief. So don’t harden your heart!

Lord, we are so thankful that you are a good God, and that your commandments are for our own good, to give us a future and a hope. Help us to reverentially fear you, and trust that you are good, and that your commandments are so that we can experience the blessed life. In Jesus’ precious name, amen!


Hear the Law

Proverbs 28:9.
“He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.” (KJV).

The Law is Good:

It’s unfortunate that even in the church today, many people have turned away from the hearing of God’s law. “We’re under grace, not law!” they protest. However, Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17).

Now it’s true that that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” (Gal. 3:11). But that’s not the purpose of God’s law. You can’t get saved by keeping the Ten Commandments.

Having said that though, I do believe that God wants us to keep His law, not break His law. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). We don’t keep the law to try to get God to love us, but because He already does love us in response to His love.

What Law?

When we speak of keeping God’s law, what are we talking about? We know that the ceremonial laws (the religious ceremonies, offerings and feasts of the Israelites) were fulfilled in Jesus, and because we don’t live in the nation of Israel, the civil law (their dictates for how to punish law-breakers) doesn’t apply to us. However, the moral law – the law that teaches us what is right and wrong – does apply to our lives as Christians. And not only the five books of the Old Testament called “The Law”, but indeed all of the commandments in the Bible – Old and New Testaments. Love your neighbour, turn the other cheek, treat others as you want to be treated, etc.

Listen to the Law:

In today’s Proverb, King Solomon gives us a warning. He says that if you turn your ear away from hearing the law, then even your prayers would be an abomination to the Lord. This is very similar to Psalm 66:18: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear.” In other words, if we choose to disobey God’s law (which He gave us for our own good), then we shouldn’t expect Him to listen to our prayers!

Let me illustrate. If one of my children was to disobey me, and refused to apologize for doing something wrong, and they were to turn around and ask for the keys to the car, do you think I would give it to them? Not likely! This doesn’t mean I don’t love my child, but I’m not going to reward their rebellion by doing something nice for them.

The same thing is true with the Lord. He is more concerned with our relationship with Him than the things we are asking Him for. Therefore, if we will do our utmost to walk in obedience to His Word, and when we miss the mark, be quick to repent and ask for forgiveness, we will continue to enjoy His loving presence. Amen!


Justice Understood

Proverbs 28:5

“Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.”
“Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the LORD understand completely.” – NLT
Media Courtrooms

One of the greatest hindrances to the legal system is the media. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that the public can find out what goes on our courtrooms. However, when the public relies solely on the media (especially social media) to keep them abreast of all the details of a trial, nothing but confusion, misinformation, and bad judgment can come from it.Conscience and law

Depending on who is reporting the news, one arrested for a crime might either be portrayed as a monster, or the second coming of Ghandi. Then, when one adds the prejudices of certain segments of society, it wouldn’t matter who did what, just as long as justice is seen to favor the group prejudiced against. In the meantime, as Rome burns, the media fuels the fire for the sake of ratings.

Perspectives

No matter the case, this proverb tells us that from an evil person’s perspective, compared to one who “follows the Lord,” he cannot, under any circumstance, be made to understand justice. No matter the reason for the verdict, if one is convicted for a crime, the evil will always cry, “Foul!

On the other hand, even good people can unwittingly align themselves with evil men. Without knowing all the details, only being fed what the media wants to dish out, they can resort to aberrant behavior. I have seen this happen many times, and have even been on the receiving end of unwarranted righteous indignation. Whatever happened to hearing both sides? Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” Whatever happened to mercy?

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” – Micah 6:8 KJV

Whom Do We Seek?

When we seek our own, selfish desires – the ones that cause us to have the verdicts turn our way – our understanding can be darkened. It is only when we seek the Lord and let Him handle the situation that our eyes and hearts are open to better recognize true justice.

However, crazy as it may sound, for the believer and follower of God, the most outrageous verdicts handed down by the most insane judges are only lower court rulings yet to be tried by the Judge of the Ages. His judgment will be true, righteous, and clear enough for the vilest to understand.

In the meantime, the wise man will never forget these words: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).