Friday, 30 September 2011


Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls. – Proverbs 25v28

Can you remember the last time you ‘lost it?’ Maybe it was the kids. Maybe it was that jerk in traffic. Maybe it was the spouse. Maybe it was that idiot at the till or that voice on the phone. We all know what it is that sets us off.

Some of us have more of a problem than others. Some of us can sense that feeling in our gut that slowly but surely boils to the surface. Or maybe it is that anger that just explodes out of nowhere. But some of us really know what it is like to just simply lose the head.

I wish I could say that I don’t have that issue, but I do.  As I have aged I have, by God’s grace, learned to bite my tongue and control it sometimes, but sadly, I have to admit that I still can blow up at times.

The Bible addresses this issue in the Old and New Testaments. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a requirement for a pastor or deacon. It is simply a part of true Christian character.

Here in Proverbs it is more practical and pragmatic. Sometimes we need to see things from that perspective. Not only is losing it wrong, it also is dangerous.

When we don’t have the ability to control our anger we are like a city which has lost its defences. The walls have been torn down and the enemy is free to enter. When we can’t control ourselves we put ourselves at danger physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Human opposition has an open door and spiritual enemies are free to work in us.

Self-control. It is not just a godly character trait. It is good for eternity, and it is also good for now. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

How to treat your enemy

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the LORD will reward you. – Proverbs 25v21-22

Jesus once said – ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’

Unfortunately that is where it stops for too many people. Whether we do it or not we know that we should love our friends and family and neighbours. It is not always easy, but we try to do it.

Our enemies on the other hand we treat the same way that anybody else does – we just don’t have any use for them and we can even hate them and rejoice to see them suffer. Some of the most hateful vicious words I have even heard have been on Christian discussion boards, in church, or just in general conversation among professing Christians.

If we combine what Proverbs says here with Jesus’ comments after the one above you get this – ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to people who hate you, pray for those you use and abuse you, if he is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.’


How does that work? We just take abuse from our enemies and keep loving them in return? My enemy shows up at my door I should offer him a cup of tea? What? The guy who has been vicious to me is thirsty and I offer him a cold drink of water? He verbally abuses me and I bless him? I am supposed to pray for him? I am to do good for him?

While it may not make sense, and the very thought may make our blood boil, that is the common theme throughout the Bible. We make a difference. We are not supposed to treat anyone, especially our enemy, the way everyone else does.

I have not come across a good meaning for the ‘heap coals of fire on his head’ idea but it seems to indicate that the heat of loving him back will begin to soften him and wear him down.

Either way, have a look at the last phrase ‘the Lord will reward you.’ Jesus said that if we do the things He talks about in regard to the enemy it is a mark of our maturity.

If you enemy is hungry – feed him. If your enemy is thirsty – give him something to drink. If you enemy reviles you – bless him. Pray for him.


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Dealing with conflict

Debate your case with your neighbour, And do not disclose the secret to another; - Proverbs 25v9

What is the godly to handle conflict with someone? Does the Bible give advice on something so simple and mundane?

The nice thing is that God does care about these ‘little things’ and gave us this marvellous little handbook of advice in the book of Proverbs.

When you have a problem with someone, keep it between yourselves, don’t go blabbing about it anyone else.

That may be a pretty weak parrowphrase, but I think it captures the essence of what God is saying.

I wonder how often we could stop serious conflicts if we could just keep it between the parties involved. In the New Testament we read that the first step in dealing with an offence is to go, by ourselves, right the person who offends us. It also says that if we think we may have offended them we go straight to them to deal with it.

We, well at least I, don’t always do that. I get my back up and try to garner some support before I deal with it one on one. I have found that doing things that way usually only makes matters worse.

Maybe there is nothing deep here today, but there is some pretty good advice that would save us all a lot of trouble. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A good winner

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; - Proverbs 24v17

Back in May we were in a friend’s home in West Tennessee. We had been in their church and were back watching something on the television when I checked Twitter. Reuters had tweeted that Osama Bin Laden was dead so we switched the telly over to the news and then waited what seemed like forever for President Obama to appear. When he finally did he confirmed that US troops had indeed killed Bin Laden.  

In many ways that was good news. The acknowledged world leader of Muslim terrorists was finally gone. The head of the beast had been cut off.

But then news of world reaction started coming in. We saw crowds in major cities in full party mode. Instantaneous celebrations broke out all over the US. The next day and in days to come many Christians joined in the celebration.

That caused me to feel a bit unsettled from the very start. The scenes reminded me of the scenes from Islamic countries after 9/11. I wondered if we were really any better than we are in the west. If we can rejoice and party over death do we treasure life any more than the Islamic countries? In the past this kind of celebration was reserved for the end of conflicts, not to celebrate death.

It certainly does not reflect a Christian perspective. No matter what else here was a man, in all his wickedness, who died without Christ. Was it a necessary death? Probably. Was it a good thing to happen? Probably. But a time to rejoice when an enemy falls, to be glad when he stumbles?

Is it a cause to celebrate and party? Hardly. It is a sobering reminder of the impact of sin in this world and of the world’s need of a saviour. 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Get up

For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. – Proverbs 24v16

This passage reminds me of Micah’s words when he felt broken, battered, defeated in the midst of a wicked and sinful nation – ‘Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me.’

I like the way that is worded.  Note that Micah said ‘when’ not ‘if’ I fall. Falling is sadly a part of living. It would be great if we could just coast down the road of godly living without problems. It makes it even harder when some folks claim that they do so, that they never fight or battle sin. The truth is though, that battling is part of living and losing some of those battles is a part of the fight.

The question is what we do when we are down? What happens when we keep falling and stumbling and feeling defeated?

Solomon wrote that the righteous man falls seven times, but he just keeps getting up again. Getting up again is a mark of a true believer. It is not easy when you just keep getting knocked down. The challenge is making sure that we do not get knocked out.

I can’t think of a better illustration of this that Christian’s encounter with Apollyon in Pilgrim’s Progress. Don’t skim over this – take the time to read it through.

Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter. Prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal den, that thou shalt go no farther: here will I spill thy soul. And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that.

Then did Christian draw, for he saw it was time to bestir him; and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian give a little back: Apollyon, therefore, followed his work amain, and Christian again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till Christian was almost quite spent: for you must know, that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now: and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But, as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise, (Mic. 7v8); and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. (Rom. 8v37). And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away, that Christian saw him no more. (James 4v7).

What did Christian do when knocked down and about ready to perish? He reached and grabbed his sword (obviously the word of God) and used it to attack the devil. 

I don’t think I can word this better than Paul in his letter to Corinth. We have problems. We have challenges. We have confusion and despair, but we can’t afford to quit. Get up and get back at it.

‘We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.’ 

Sunday, 25 September 2011

If you faint

If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small. – Proverbs 24v10

We read a lot in the word of God about facing hard times and dealing with difficulties. The reason is obvious. Life is tough and we can't afford to quit when we face opposition.

This is not real complicated. If we faint in the day of adversity our strength is indeed small. Our strength is small because we depend on the wrong strength. Our strength is small because, well our strength is small.

So what is the problem? We are depending on our strength instead of God's strength. God delights in using the weak and foolish and base things of this world to do His work. When we depend of God's strength instead of ours we never have to worry about fainting in the day of adversity.

We are only human. We are weak. We fail because there is always something bigger and stronger than we are. The battles of life not only seem insurmountable, sometimes they are when we try to handle them ourselves.

The Lord God is our strength. He is the All-mighty One. In the days of adversity His strength will never fail.  

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Get ready, but trust God

The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the LORD.  – Proverbs 21v31

I think all of us wonder sometimes where we find the balance between doing what we can do and then trusting God. There are, of course, two extremes. We can forget about God and totally depend on our abilities, plans, schemes, and ideas. We think that if we do everything we can do we will be ready when the tough times come.

On the other hand we might be tempted to do nothing. We say something like, ‘Well, I’m not going to worry about. God is in control and I am just going to trust Him.’ Then, when troubles do come we blame God when it goes badly.

The longer I live the more I learn that the Christian life is all about balance. This proverb is indicative of that.

‘The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance is of the Lord.’

The verse does not criticise the importance of preparation. It seems to indicate it is right to ‘prepare the horse for the day of battle.’ We should prepare. We should do all we can to be ready for hard times. We make our plans, save our money, fill out the paperwork, and talk to the right people. We do everything we can to fight the battles and face the challenges. We do all that is humanly possible. That is what God expects from us.

But then we realise that ultimately if the battle is going to be won or the challenge conquered it is the Lord who is going to do it. He is in control. When we have done all we can do we leave it up to Him.

Most of us can think of seemingly insurmountable struggles that we have faced or are facing. If not, they will come. We do all we can do to sort things out. We prepare the horse for the day of battle.

But all the time we do that we need to remember that it is not in our hands – deliverance is fo the Lord. We do our best; we do all we can do. Then we trust Him. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

Any fool can pick a fight

It is honourable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel. – Proverbs 20v3

This section of these reflections is not real deep and full of theology for the most part. These are just what the book says they are – proverbs. Despite that they do have teachings and applications for our lives.

Here we have a principle which is easy to forget. A good part of my Christian life was spent is a circle that seemed to partially measure a man’s spirituality by his toughness and his willingness to fight. It started right, with the idea that we need to contend for the faith and fight for the gospel. However, that sort of morphed into a concept that tough guy pastors were men to be admired and respected. Contention spread from biblically contending for the gospel to contending about politics, economics, and even sports!

All this happened despite the fact that one of the qualifications for a pastor is that he be ‘not a brawler.’ He is not the guy who tries to pick a fight. He stands for the gospel and will defend it with his life, but he is not the ‘tough guy’ that grew to be so admired. As we read the word of God we find that meekness is the trait that should be admired and lifted up. This allowed some men to become spiritual bullies who intimidate others into doing everything they way they want it done.

This was most clearly illustrated when I was talking to a fellow pastor one day. He we were talking about another pastor friend who is a very meek, quiet, godly man. The gut I was talking to said something like ‘Yeah, he is a decent guy, but is a bit of a limp wrist.’ Despite the fact that he one of the toughest men I know when it comes to defending the gospel he was criticised because of his meek demeanour.

It is an honourable thing for a man to stop a fight – because any fool can start one.  Do our actions and attitude reflect honour or foolishness?

Any fool can pick a fight…

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A good thing

He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favour from the LORD. – Proverbs 18v22

God had it right from the very start. Almost immediately after creating Adam we find this - And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."

It is not good that man should be alone. I think most of us men can easily identify with that truth. Almost 34 years ago Mary and I exchanged our vows at Jump Off Baptist Church on a snowy mountain top in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Things were tough from day one. Our car broke down and I lost my job in our first week of marriage. Since then we have had our ups and downs and our good times and bad. There have been excitements and disappointments. Our ministries have not always been the easiest.

But in all that one thing has stayed steady – Mary has stood by my side. When a man finds a wife, Proverbs says, he finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord.

There is no way to explain a faithful and godly wife short of finding God’s favour. We certainly don’t deserve it. It is not something we can earn.

I am grateful that God chose to show me favour all those years ago – and that His favour continues today. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

No matter how thin you make a pancake…

The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbour comes and examines him. - Proverbs 18v17

Okay, confession time again. Once in a while I enjoy watching Dr Phil (gasp). We get episodes months late here so I am not up to date. The one I saw part of Monday was dealing with abuse against women. Dr Phil was primarily talking to the girlfriend about the guy, but he got to the point where he wanted to give the guy a chance to give his point of view. He transitioned with a quote I had never heard before – ‘No matter how thin you make a pancake, it still has two sides.’

I thought that was a great way to put it and actually is a great application for this verse in Proverbs.

We have all been there of course. A friend comes to us all upset or excited about another person. We listen to their story and as it builds we get ‘on their side’ and accept everything they are saying. Their story sounds so good that we can’t even imagine how there could be another side. Before we know it we are off spreading the story without checking out the facts.

I have not learned a lot over the years, but I have learned that no matter how flat you make a pancake, it always has two sides.

The first person to plead his cause always seems like he has it right. That is until someone comes along and examines his story.

We need to be careful about acting before we hear both sides of the pancake. The other side may still be wrong, but we do need to hear it because quite often there is more to the story than the first side we hear. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Let me finish

He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him. – Proverbs 18v13

‘Let me finish’ is something that we have all said, had said to us, or probably both more times that we can remember. When we are talking, especially if the discussion gets involved or heated, we often can’t keep our mouth shut till the other person is finished. We have to say our peace without hearing the other person out.

I know from personal experience that more often than not that doesn’t work. Usually, if I had just kept my mouth shut and heard the person out I would have realised that what I had to say was either answered, irrelevant, or downright foolish.

As usual, God has an answer for that – or could I say an ‘app’ (as application) for that.

‘It is foolish and shameful to give an answer before you hear the whole story. That pretty much says it all.

Lord, help me to avoid my foolishness and shame and keep my mouth shut till I hear the whole story. 

Monday, 19 September 2011

Our high tower

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. – Proverbs 18v10

Be Thou my battle-shield, sword for my fight,
Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight.
Thou my soul's shelter, Thou my high tower.
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

This particular stanza from 'Be Thou My Vision' has a special imagery to those who live here or have visited here. The 'high tower' written about here is a structure which is nearly unique to the island of Ireland. These approximately 65 towers are as tall as 34 metres (112 feet). They are amazing structures which are at least 1,000 years old. They were mostly built near monasteries with a door a few metres off the ground. No one is sure of their purpose, but they had something to do with security and protection. When invaders approached with pillage and plunder in mind the monks could gather their manuscripts and treasures, climb a ladder to the tower, and then pull the ladder up behind them.

I don't know for sure if the Irish writer of 'Be Thou My Vision' had these towers in mind when this stanza was written. There can be no doubt though that they are a great picture of the tower that the writer of Proverbs mentions here.

The name of the Lord is our high tower. When trouble comes we have a place of security that provides safety and protection. Like the monks of old we can run to our Tower, pull up the rope, and find safety in Him.

That doesn't of course mean that there will not be trouble, but that we have a place of safety when those trials come. Thank God that He is my High Tower. May I be reminded to find my safety there.  

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Silence is golden

Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive. – Proverbs 17v28

‘Silence is golden’ is an old saying. Some say it goes back to ancient Egypt. The principle itself goes back to at least the time of Solomon. It is a saying that just makes sense. Since I like to find out where words and sayings come from I googled this one this morning and here is what I came up with at

Thomas Carlyle, who translated the phrase from German in Sartor Resartus, 1831, in which a character expounds at length on the virtues of silence:

"Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves together; that at length they may emerge, full-formed and majestic, into the daylight of Life, which they are thenceforth to rule. Not William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known, and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble of what they were creating and projecting. Nay, in thy own mean perplexities, do thou thyself but hold thy tongue for one day: on the morrow, how much clearer are thy purposes and duties; what wreck and rubbish have those mute workmen within thee swept away, when intrusive noises were shut out! Speech is too often not, as the Frenchman defined it, the art of concealing Thought; but of quite stifling and suspending Thought, so that there is none to conceal. Speech too is great, but not the greatest. As the Swiss Inscription says: Sprecfien ist silbern, Schweigen ist golden (Speech is silvern, Silence is golden); or as I might rather express it: Speech is of Time, Silence is of Eternity."

Here we have one of those principles I could apply much more often. I have mentioned here before that I like to talk and I REALLY like to express my opinion. That desire has caused more trouble than I like to think about.

Sure, speech may be necessary. As mentioned above speech is silver. It is good, it is valuable, and it has its place.

However, silence is a golden virtue. Solomon writes that even a fool is considered wise and perceptive when he keeps his mouth shut.

I particularly like this quote from the section above – ‘Not William the Silent only, but all the considerable men I have known, and the most undiplomatic and unstrategic of these, forbore to babble of what they were creating and projecting.’

Wise men know when to speak, but they especially know when to shut up. Help me to learn to know when to do which. Help me to keep my mouth shut when in doubt. 

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Friends and family

A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17v17

The Bible says a lot about friendship. It also says a lot about family. It is not often that we see the two addressed so clearly and succinctly in just a few words in one verse.

So what do we see about family and friends here?

Let’s look at family first. ‘A brother is born for adversity.’ Remember that Proverbs is a collection of godly principles and precepts. Because of that we can usually think of exceptions to what we read here in Proverbs. Here is an example of that. Solomon is telling us that families draw together during tough times and crisis. Family is always there when it needs to be. That is not always the case in dysfunctional families (or on Judge Judy) but it is generally something we can all identify with. Even if we are not always in touch we know that family will be there when we need them. Nearly everyone has a family that they can be grateful for in that regard.

Then we have friends. While we are born into our family we choose our friends. No matter what our personalities or preferences our family is family and that is that. Friends are different. There is something about people we meet that draws us to them and them to us and friendships are established and grow.

True friends are just what we read here. Friends love at all times. Friends are always there in thick and thin. They are there in the exciting times and times of boredom. They are there when we are praised and when we are reviled. They are there when we are surrounded by other friends and when we are alone. True friends are always there – they indeed love ‘at all times.’

I think there are a couple of lessons for us here. We ought to be grateful that we have family who we can depend on in times of crisis. We ought to be grateful for the friends who are always close to hand. But I think the best of both worlds is when we work on establishing ties of friendship with family. Those two are not exclusive; they should go hand in hand.

Family as friends and friends as family – what a wonderful world that would be. 

Friday, 16 September 2011

Pride and falling

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. – Proverbs 16v18

‘I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” (Percy Shelley)

I think we do well to be reminded often of this words that perfectly epitomise the danger and foolishness of pride. Ozymandias is another name for Pharaoh Ramses II. The poem was inspired by a statue found in the Egyptian desert. The point is obvious – no matter how great a man thinks he is he is eventually bound for a fall. It is the picture of rulers and empires and great world powers. For a brief moment in time it seems like they will never fall, but they always do.

We read this and nod in agreement, yet at the same time we can be guilty of the attitude that we so quickly condemn. Pride is an awful sin. I think we can argue that pride is the source of all sin. Pride drove Satan to try and displace God on His throne. Pride tricks us into thinking that we don’t need God or His plan of salvation. Pride drives us to get whatever we want to satisfy our desires. Pride causes us to worry when we are not in control and can’t trust God to sort it.

Let us beware of our own Ozymandias moments and remember the lesson of the statue in the desert. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Pleasant words

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, But the words of the pure are pleasant. - Proverbs 15v26

Isn’t it interesting how often the Bible talks about our words? Proverbs is one of those books that is just packed with sayings about the importance of words. Sometimes the teachings are very deep and profound, but sometimes the comments about words are very clear and simple.

That is the way that the second part of this proverb is. ‘The words of the pure are pleasant words.’

I find that challenging and convicting. I am afraid that most of us are not known for our pleasant words. We seem to revel in borderline speech that is harsh to the ear in both context and tone.

Sure, there are times when we must use words that are not necessarily pleasant at the moment, but the goal, even then, is to bring about a pleasant result in the long run.

But I am not even talking about those words here. I am talking about the general principle that people with pure hearts speak words that are pleasant. Pleasant words are pleasant to the ear and pleasant to the soul. Pleasant words sound nice. Pleasant words are not designed for shock value.

Pleasant words don’t tear down – they build up. Pleasant words are not coarse and ugly. They are good to hear. Pure hearts, when yielded to the Spirit’s control, are going to produce pleasant words.

I have to ask myself, ‘what do my words say about my heart?’ 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Where love is

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, Than great treasure with trouble. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, Than a fatted calf with hatred. – Proverbs 15v16-17

Does anybody remember money? You know; that coloured paper stuff that we used to keep in our pockets? It’s the stuff most of us had plenty of just a few years ago. We bought houses and cars and phones and toys and games and holidays and anything else that caught our fancy. Those were great days, weren’t they?

Or were they? Were they good days? Coming so swift on the heels of all the scandals in religion the Celtic Tiger gave us something new to trust in. If we can’t trust our religion, maybe we can trust our money.

But now it too has failed us. Now we are back to where we were before, but worse. We started to think that if we had plenty of stuff we could be happy. Religion has failed us and money has failed us.

It seems that we have forgotten what is really important. Religion has soured us to God and all that money we had has made us forget the importance of things like love and loyalty and friendship. So now we are lost in a morass of failed ideas.

Proverbs has an answer for us. ‘Better is the reverence of God than great treasure with troubles. Better is a dinner of herbs that a fatted calf with hatred.’

Religion is not God. It will always fail. Stuff brings contention and it never lasts anyway.

Respect for God, what the Bible calls in some translations the ‘fear of the Lord’ keeps our focus on Him instead of religion.

If we focus on love for each other it will carry us through like no amount of stuff ever will.

In times like things maybe we need to look to the things that endure; a love and respect for God himself and love of reach other. They have carried us through before; we might be wise to look back there again. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A soft answer

A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.  – Proverbs 15v1

I have mentioned before that I am one of those people who has a big problem. I can’t seem to keep my mouth shut. No matter what the situation I always seem to think that my view is important. That problem extends to discussions and even rows. I always seem to have to say something.

This problem manifests itself worst when I am in a ‘heated discussion.’ I tend to be convinced that my view is right and anyone who doesn’t come into line needs to get themselves sorted out. .

These discussions, if left unchecked, can become rows and even fights. There comes a point when if someone does not diffuse it the situation is going to explode.

Too often when those times come we keep stirring the pot and anger stews and roils and boils into a violent eruption. We all know that violence does not have to be physical. Serious damage is done by verbal and emotional violence as well. It is what Proverbs call ‘harsh words’ that bring the argument to this point.  That, clearly, is not the best solution.

But this little proverb has an answer – ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’. Though this is principle instead of a promise, it is nonetheless a principle that would solve the vast majority of these situations. The word translated ‘soft’ here means a tender word. It is something that a lot of people, especially men, don’t want to be seen as today. Softness and tenderness is often perceived as weakness and no one wants to be seen as weak.

Wouldn’t it be great to known as the one who diffuses situations instead of the one who stirs them up? Jesus told us ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ Being a peacemaker requires a level head, and peaceful spirit, and the ability to say that soft word.
Lord, help me be that man of soft words.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Don’t worry, be happy

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. – Proverbs 15v13

‘Don’t worry, be happy’ is certainly not a Biblical song. Bobby McFerrin’s song is a lot of fun but it basically gives the advice that no matter what is wrong we should not worry about it, but just simply be happy. The idea is that things are not going to get any better so just forget about it and everything will be fine.

Part of the lyrics I think fit in here though – ‘…when you worry your face will frown and that will bring everybody down so don't worry, be happy (now).....’

Sadness, what the writer of Proverbs calls ‘sorrow of the heart’, is contagious. We have all known that ‘gloomy Gus’ who walks into a room and brings down the spirit of everyone else in the room. We also know that person who, no matter what their circumstances, brightens up a room when they walk in.

Of course, there is also that person who always outs on a happy show that can be sickening, but that is for another day.

In general though, what kind of attitude does the most for the cause of Christ? No matter how bad things are we do have plenty to rejoice in. We have hope that eludes others. We know our eternal fate. We know that the victory is already won.

‘In every life we have some trouble when you worry you make it double don't worry, be happy......’ Though written for a fun little ditty, those words ring true to God’s people. Don’t be full of cares; instead take it to the Lord with thanksgiving. Then leave it in His hands and rejoice in Him. 

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Showing mercy

He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, But he who honours Him has mercy on the needy. – Proverbs 14v31

For most of my Christian life I heard very little about the Christian responsibilty regarding the poor. People seemed so afraid on preaching a 'social gospel' that we just ignored the clear teaching of scripture in both the Old and New Testament.

Look at what this passage and think about the lesson Jesus taught about giving a drink to the poor man who was thirsty. Remember that? Jesus said that if we give a drink to a poor man we have given it to Him and if we ignore the poor man's needs we ignore Him.

Any one who oppresses the poor is a reproach to His maker. Anyone who truly honours God will have mercy on the need.

Proverbs is a collection of godly principles and wise advice. It is hard to build doctrine around Proverbs. However, this is one proverb that Jesus Himself illustrates in His teaching.'Whoever gives a drink to one of these gives it to me' Jesus says.

The principle is clear. God's people care for the needy. Our care for the needy is an indication of how we see God. How we see the poor is a reflection of how we see God.

Our do we measure up if our care for the poor is our measuring rod?

Saturday, 10 September 2011

It seems so right

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. – Proverbs 14v12

‘You can’t go wrong if you let your heart lead you.’ That’s a little piece of advice we hear all the time. It seems to make sense, when you don’t know what to do just trust your heart, the inner you. If you don’t know what is best deep inside, who does?

That mind-set has never worked though. It is the mind-set that led Eve to eat the fruit and that led Adam to choose Eve’s ideas over God’s. It led Cain to kill Abel. And so it has been since. Man ignores God’s way, and man always suffers.

Trusting God is not always easy. Sometimes trusting God just seems illogical. Sometimes it seems to make no sense. Sometimes it seems crazy. It is so out of sorts with what everyone else is doing that it can’t possibly be right.

But what has that produced in this world? Evil, wickedness, violence, and hatred run rampant. Lives are ruined in the pursuit of doing what seems right. Even if things go well for a while, the ultimate end is going to be eternal ruin and eternal death.

Man’s way can seem so right sometimes. Man can reason it out, think it out, and even logic it out. But no matter how good we are at reasoning it out, man’s way, when it does not include God’s way, is always the wrong path. 

Friday, 9 September 2011

Diligence is a precious possession

The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, But diligence is man's precious possession. – Proverbs 12v27

There are so many things that I remember about my mom and dad. I miss them every single day. My mom especially often reminded us of many of the great old maxims of life. When I read this verse one of those came to mind. ‘If a job is worth doing it is worth doing right.’ Doing a job right means that you do it until it is completed. It means you finish the job. It means you stick with it.

In the proverbial illustration we read of a man who goes out to hunt, claims his kill, but is so lazy that he comes home and won’t prepare his dinner. That really describes a man who won’t finish a job, even if it is to his own benefit. If you can’t finish the job, you always lose out.

However, the man who is diligent has a great possession – his diligence. Diligence always pays off. Even if we don’t always achieve our pre-set goals we win because we know we did our best.

I was listening to an interview today with a fire fighter who survived the collapse of the World Trade Centre on 9/11. They had decided to retreat when they heard the collapse of the South Tower. They were on the 27th floor, and while descending they found a woman on the 20th floor. She could not walk and they had to decide whether it ignore her, or take her. Taking her would mean that they would be greatly slowed down. They didn’t pause. They picked her up and carried her with them. When they got to the fourth floor the tower collapsed around them. Eventually, after the dust settled the fire fighters and the woman all escaped.
Why did they do that? Why did they risk their lives? Simple, it is because they had character. As it turns out, if they had moved quicker they would probably have died because no one survived any further into the rubble.

If they had not stopped to do their job they would have wondered the rest of their lives if they could have saved the woman. They would have questioned if they had done the right thing. But if they had failed they would have died, as the fire fighter said, knowing they did there best.

Diligence is a great possession. God has plenty of reminders for us. Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Seeing we have this ministry we will not quit. Don’t be weary in well doing.

Don’t quit. Exercise the great possession of a diligent character. Stay at it! 

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Choosing friends

The righteous should choose his friends carefully, For the way of the wicked leads them astray. – Proverbs 12v26

There are few things more precious than friends. The word is beginning to morph and adapt with things like Facebook where anyone we have regular contact is called a ‘friend.’ But we still have that meaning of a true friend. This is the person whom Emerson described this way: ‘A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.’  

We have to be careful what we share with our Facebook ‘friends.’ True friends are different. True friends are those we choose to take into those innermost parts of our hearts. We don’t have worry about what we say or do. As Emerson said above, ‘before him I may think aloud.’

By their very nature true friends make us vulnerable. They know all about us. They know things that others might use against us. Emerson also wrote of true friends, "It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." I like that, a true friend, or an ‘old friend’ is someone we can be stupid with.

I love my friends, all of them. But there are some friends that suit the descriptions that Emerson wrote about. It is this level of friend that Proverbs addresses here. These are the friend that wise far above Facebook, 
associates, co-workers, and acquaintances. It is this circle that we need to be careful about choosing. When we get to that level of friendship everything we do impacts each other. When people get into this circle they are going to impact us. We need to be sure that this level of friend is limited to those who are to going to help us to live right and do right.

We are to be friendly to all. That friendship is going to bring many into our circle of friends, but when it comes to this inner circle, choose carefully. True friends are those who we know will be there when we need them, and will always encourage us to do right. 

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

A good word

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad. – Proverbs 12v25

How many, many times have we all seen the blessed truth of this little proverb?

We have all been at the point where times are nervous and anxious and worrisome and fearful. Christians can be so quick to be anti-psychobabble that we forget that people really do get down and discouraged and depressed.

I really hate those dark days. Sometimes we get in those days and we find ourselves surrounded by ‘miserable comforters’ who only join in the anxiety and make things worse. We all know that anxiety is not right. We know that God wants us to trust Him. We all know that depression comes when we lose our focus (no, I am not questioning the reality of chemical depression here) or allow ourselves to dwell on our woes. But when we get there we need something. It is not enough to just say something like ‘Get over it!’

Sometimes all we need is an encouraging word. It can be as simple as ‘Hey, I know things are tough. I just want you to know that I love you, I am praying, and I am here for you.’ We can’t always solve the problem. Sometimes we can’t do anything but let someone who is hurting know we care.

Our dad left us a precious gift with his little essay called ‘Things I Must Do Today.’ Near the bottom of the page are these words – ‘When I arrive each morning, let my first word brighten everyone's day.’ Who knows who might need a little day brightening today? 

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Good advice

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. – Proverbs 11v14

I am the kind of person who can act before I think. Well, I think I think, but I don’t think enough. My problem is that I am pretty sure I have an answer before I really do. Though I am getting better as years ago, I can still act before I get any counsel or advice.

You know what happens when I do that? It is almost always a disaster. When I face these situations I see them from only one perspective, from only one angle. All I see is what is on my mind at the moment.

That is why the Bible tells us that ‘where there is no counsel the people fall.. None of us are smart enough to see everything on our own.

‘But in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.’ One of the most precious things we can have is a trusted band of friends and associates that we can turn to when we have to make decisions. This is nothing fancy. It does not mean that we need a cabinet or committee. It just means that we need someone to bounce things off. We need people that we can trust to be honest. We need people who love us enough to tell us when we are just flat out wrong in our perspective.

Praise God for wise counsellors. May we have the wisdom to consult them.