Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

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!

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Stop Hiding!

Proverbs 28:28.
“When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.” (KJV). 

When the Wicked Rise:

Our nation of Canada – much like our neighbour to the south, the United States – has a righteous heritage. Canada was founded on the principles of the Word of God. It started out as a Christian nation, but we fallen so far from that glorious foundation.

You have heard it said, “The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.” What does that mean? Ever since God, the Bible, and prayer were removed from our schools, our nation has been plummeting into darkness. Rape, murder, child abuse, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, divorce, drug use, teen pregnancy and ever-increasing violent crimes are the results of removing the light of God’s Word from our schools and government. All because our nation as a whole has turned its back on God.

Today’s proverb tells us that when the wicked rise – in positions of power and authority – men hide themselves. Because of the wickedness that abounds in our nation, many good people have gone into hiding, afraid to stand up for what is right for fear of persecution. However, it’s time to take a stand for what is right, no matter how unpopular the truth of God’s Word becomes!

When the Wicked Perish:

Our proverb also says that when the wicked perish – or lose their positions of power and authority – then the righteous will increase. In numbers and in influence. Therefore, it behooves us to pray for our leaders! First Timothy 2:1-2 tells us, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” If we want to see righteousness exalted in our nation, it starts with prayer.

In the Canadian national anthem, we pray for Almighty God to keep our country glorious and free, and declare that we will stand on guard for Canada. Whatever nation you live in – whether it is Canada, the United States, somewhere in Great Britain, or another country – it is time to stand on guard for our nations. Let’s rise up and declare that we want God in our countries again!

Let us Pray:

God has given us a promise: “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14). If we want to see God hear from Heaven, and forgive our sins, and heal our land, then we must humble ourselves, and pray, as students once did in public schools, “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”

Revive us, Lord! Amen.

Canada flag

 


Give, and It Shall Be Given

Proverbs 28:27 

“He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.”

Not the Lottery

Don’t think that by giving a dollar here and there to the poor, like during the Christmas season when you pass by a Salvation Army kettle, that such charity will produce lottery winning-like fruit. There is nothing in this proverb that guarantees you will be rich in return for your philanthropy.

However, the first promise of this proverb (if nothing more than a statement based on general observation) says that the person who gives to the poor will not lack. In other words, don’t worry about your own needs when you give to those less fortunate.

If I have heard it said once, I’ve heard it said thousands of times, “You can’t out-give God.”

Not a Safe Deposit

On the other end of this proverb is another promise. It states that the one who looks away from the poor in order to conserve his own wealth, whether it be commodities of gold or personal energy, will surely pay for his lack of generosity.

Poverty

Poverty (Photo credit: Teo’s photo)

Some people will walk right by a beggar, a person asking for a dollar for food, or even a Salvation Army kettle at Christmas and think to themselves, “I have to hold on to my money.” The only problem with that kind of thinking is that your money is not really your money. And when it comes to not giving in order to save up for a rainy day, the rot of one’s own greed can eat away at any thing stored down here.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

So, as Jesus said, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38 NLT).


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.


How Are You Walking?

Proverbs 28:18

“Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.”
“Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” ESV

Not What You Might Think

The first part of this proverb could give the wrong impression if one’s not careful. It reads, “Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved.” However, this is not talking about a “works salvation,” as some would content. Our “walk” does not save us; only the grace of God through faith in Christ.

The second part of this proverb could also be misread or misunderstood, thereby making it seem like God’s word is untrue. At first glance it may seem that anyone who does wrong will immediately suffer the consequences, which we all know may or may not happen.

The promise and warning of this proverb has more to do with the moment that will eventually come – the moment in which one’s walk will determine the outcome.

Persistence and Faithfulness

Be persistent in your walk, dear friend. Remain faithful, even when the way is hard. When the time comes, you will be grateful for the trials you went through and the obstacles you overcame.

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” – Galatians 6:9

Stay on the “straight and narrow” and trust God to deliver you in the moment of testing or the hour of need. Let Him guide you and “direct your paths.”

A Sudden Fall

When we walk “perversely” or “crooked,” never following the way lined with warning signs, we are only asking for trouble. The second part of this proverb warns us of such.

Some think that there is no God, that His word is useless, and that life should be lived without restraint. Others, the ones who watch the godless as they travel, often wonder why nothing bad ever happens. They may even get discouraged, thinking that they are missing out on all the fun, especially since there never seems to be any pits, traps, or snares in the way.

But God’s word IS true; there is pleasure in sin for a season (Heb. 11:25), but the ultimate end is death…a sudden fall. When the moment comes, it will come “at once,” possibly without warning, and without help from the God who’s direction was snubbed.


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!


Got Sin?

Proverbs 28:13

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

Hidden Sin

Hidden sin is the stuff we hide from view, maybe even from ourselves. Hidden sin is the kind of sin we don’t want others to know about for fear of being embarrassed, judged, or condemned. Hidden sin could even be what we choose to label “character flaws,” “idiosyncrasies,” or simply “bad habits.” They are buried, closeted, covered, disguised, or even renamed in order to keep from admitting what they really are.

Do you sneak away to where no one will see? Do you wait till the kids are asleep? Do you clean up the mess so no one will know? Do you hide records and notes? Do you cover your tracks? Do you say it with a fake smile? Do you daydream about what you would do if you could get away with it?

Keep on, keep covering and you will never find relief; you will never find peace; you will never lose the weight of guilt; you will never, ever prosper.

Look at It!

There were so many times when I was younger that I was injured and didn’t want to look at the wound. One time I was cleaning an automotive valve grinding machine when I briefly touched my left hand to the sharp surfacing stone that was spinning at 5,000 r.p.m. In a micro second flesh was ground away to the bone and blood began to drip forming a puddle by my feet. I grabbed my hand with my other, called for help, then said, “I don’t want to look!”

Had I kept my hand covered, I would have never seen that the injury was not as extensive as I first thought. But had I kept my wound covered, denied it ever happened, and went on about my day, I could have bled to death, or at least lost my hand to a horrible infection. My life could have been changed forever.

Thankfully, I looked at my wound, then began to feel the pain, but then began a long healing process. Quite frankly, the same thing needs to happen with hidden sin. We need to admit the problem, deal with the pain, and allow others and God to bring healing to our lives.

Need Mercy?

Hidden sin is dangerous for many reasons. Hidden sin eats away at one’s soul and callouses the conscience to the warning signs of life-threatening disease. Though hidden, it is contagious and harms others.

Like the hidden ring in J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories, the longer we keep it, the more deadly it becomes – and the more deadly we become. But to he who confesses, admits what he has, turns from it, and asks for help, there awaits mercy.

Got sin? Need mercy? You know what to do.