Proverbs Day Twelve | The Hope of Dunkirk

By | Blog, Character, Death, Devotionals, Discipleship, Doctrine, Foundational, Holy living, Holy Spirit, Life change, Wisdom

I have just watched the film trailer of Dunkirk. One of the screen shots is labelled with the phrase “Hope is a weapon“. During the past year I have learnt a lot about hope.

Hope is life-giving. Hope is not easily quantified. I have often described hope as a spectrum (a horizontal line). There is hope for eternity (one end of the line), but there is also the need for hope in this life, hope for tomorrow, hope for today and even just hope for now (the other end of the line).

Whilst the good news of Jesus Christ is an indestructible hope, we need to give sufficient hope to people where we find them. Here lies the sheer power of an encouraging word or a word of affirmation.

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12v25 (NLT)

The first type (encouragement) calls people to lift their chin and press on. This is the “You can do this” word.

The second type (affirmation) declares what is already present in that person which shows the world they are made in the image of God. This is the “You are this” word.

Both are weapons in the hands of the righteous. Encourage what can be, and affirm what is. People need the hope of both.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12v25 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Eleven | Don’t leave it all on the pitch, take it everywhere

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Discipleship, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

In The Hill there is a minor running joke following on from when I gave a mini speech to our 5-a-side "Catalyst Football team" a few years ago. It was about the importance of honesty when playing: If it's not our ball, don't cry out that it is etc. I am sure you get the idea.

I now play footy occasionally on a Monday night. I can't recall the details but apparently quite recently I contradicted my own teaching on this issue! Now in my defence I am not sure I did, but then again the heart is deceitful, so let's say that it did happen ;)

In that moment a team-mate was quick to lovingly and humorously remind me of my Catalyst "preach". This of course encouraged me (I am not sure that was his intention!!), because he remembered my teaching several years later. Any preacher will tell you that is worth something!

The Lord detests the use of dishonest scales, but he delights in accurate weights. Proverbs 11v1 (NLT)

Here is the point from Verse 1. Fairness, honesty and justice matters in the market place, on the football pitch and in every aspect of our daily lives. When we live consistently in all of life it delights the Lord.

It matters when we are short-changed, asked a challenging question, offered a VAT incentive etc. Again, I am sure you get the idea.

Proverbs 11 provides ample evidence that there are several character traits that delight God 24/7.

  • Humility
  • Integrity
  • Righteousness
  • Honesty
  • Knowledge of the gospel
  • Joy bringer to a city
  • Blessing bringer to a city
  • Understanding
  • Quiet when appropriate
  • Trustworthy
  • Listens to Counsel
  • Careful
  • Peaceful
  • Kind
  • Consistent
  • Loyal
  • Steadfast

A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight. Proverbs 11v1 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Ten | Weather watching

By | Blog, Character, Death, Devotionals, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Suffering, Wisdom

In the UK we are privileged to have four seasons – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Seasons teach us about life and certainly gives us imagery which helps us understand our own seasons.

Spring might represent new beginnings, ventures and effectiveness. Summer might be like blessing, momentum and just good times. Autumn could be understood as dying, fading, weakening or saying goodbye. Finally, Winter may mean grieving, loss, vulnerability and more challenging times.

A wise youth harvests in the summer,but one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace. Proverbs 10v5 (NLT)

Seasons in our life are not in sync with nature's seasons in terms on timing, order or longevity. Therefore I need to regularly ask what season am I in?

Using 10v5 as my teacher I should seek to enjoy, be thankful and make the most of Spring and Summer. Whereas if I find my self in Autumn and Winter I should fix my eyes on the God of the seasons. I should draw from the memories, moments, truths about God and relationships established in Spring and Summer to help sustain me during the tougher seasons. And as Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes 3v1 "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…" My greatest challenge is not to waste the season I find myself in.

He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. Proverbs 10v5 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Nine | Love or hate?

By | Blog, Character, Discipleship, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

How do I respond to correction, teaching and instruction?

So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Proverbs 9v8-9 (NLT)

The answer to that question every day tells me a lot about whether I am being wise or foolish. The answer is as clear defined as love and hate.

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. Proverbs 9v8-9 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Eight | Do not neglect a priceless gift

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Discipleship, Family Life, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Prayer, Wisdom

Just working my way though Proverbs again has reminded me once again of the high value of wisdom. Praying for it, to receive it, to spot it, to apply it and to not neglect it are priceless activities.

Listen to my instruction and be wise. Don’t ignore it. Proverbs 8v33 (NLT)

I want to pray everyday for wisdom, and an increase in learning, a dose of common sense and a fear of God grounded in knowledge and understanding. I pray that for my wife, my children and the brothers and sisters in Christ and live around me.

Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Proverbs 8:33 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Seven | Find a new parking space

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Holy living, Wisdom

Years ago I heard a guy tell how he used to park his car on a certain street and walk to work (this street had free parking and was only a short walk from his work). One day it became apparent that he was actually parking outside the home of a woman whose son played in the same football team as the man's son. She met him on her driveway and got chatting. It was a good chemistry for them both.

He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house. Proverbs 7v8 (NLT)

She invited him in for coffee. It was clear that he was in dangerous territory! After declining and walking to work he realised that he was faced with a wise choice and a foolish choice. Wisdom told him to find a new route and parking place to work. He did and it added 20 minutes to his commute. It cost him time, effort and money. But it was better than costing his life.

…passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house Proverbs 7v8 (ESV)

Wisdom says make the effort to avoid the thing that is both attractive and appealing and yet obviously foolish and life threatening… even if it costs time, money and effort.

Proverbs Day Six | Good night!

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Discipleship, Life change, Wisdom

I am exhausted. Having just spent 7 days in Norfolk serving the youth from South Wales at the annual Newday event it seems ironic to read this in chapter 6:

But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? Proverbs 6v9 (NLT)

Wisdom means applying this in context. Rest is a good thing, and it always, or often, follows work (see Genesis!). Therefore lying down and sleeping is a wise thing to do at the end of something like Newday or any day. Seasons, weeks and days are important – consider the ant.

The real issue is that a poor work ethic or no work ethic will impact your life in negative ways – maybe not in the short term, but certainly over the distance. Work is important – consider the ant.

How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? Proverbs 6v9 (ESV)

Good night ;)

Proverbs Day Five | Don’t get lost…

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It is painful to watch someone you know intentionally or recklessly descend into a pit of foolishness and self-destruction. Yet it is arrogant to think it could never happen to me.

I have watched grown men throw away marriages and families all for the sake of the "affair" and almost certainly because of it. On one occasion the affair nearly cost a man his life, and certainly harmed his reputation.

So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say… Proverbs 5v7

If Proverbs 1 tells me that wisdom shouts at the corner, then Proverbs 5 wisdom stands at the corner of three streets that are very close to a man's soul. The streets of money, sex and power.

Each time the "lover" is slightly different, but often disguised as one of these three. These lovers might speak the words we want to hear, give the gifts we desperately want or honour us the way we think we deserve.

As I read this chapter it reminds me that I am never far from getting lost or deliberately choosing to step into these streets. It reminds me that I need to watch my life closely and know Proverbs 5 in my heart so that when the moments come (and they will) I choose the right path and avoid the wrong ones – no matter how attractive it first appears.

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Proverbs 5v7 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Four | Eyes forward

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Discipleship, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

Somebody once said "unless you carve out a satisfying life under God's rule then sin starts to look good".

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4v25 (NLT)

This reminds again of the need to stay focused and fixed on the end – which is only the beginning – eternity with Jesus Christ. When I look ahead the fleeting pleasures and quick fixes of this life seem far less attractive and appealing.

A verse I often have savoured is when Paul wrote to the Philippians that "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself" (Philippians 3:20-21).

Good to be reminded again. That is what will satisfy and, whilst it may be delayed, it will be worth it!

Proverbs Day Three | Keeping my eyes on the prize

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

I genuinely like the New Living Translation (NLT), but I do think "common sense" as used in our culture is not necessarily sufficient to convey the richness and depth of wisdom that God gives us.

My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. Hang on to them… Proverbs 3v21 (NLT)

I use the NLT when I preach because I think the man and woman unfamiliar with the Bible will find it easier to listen and understand – particularly if they are not academic.

But the risk when leading or teaching others (which almost every Christian does, or should aspire to, because that's called discipleship) is that you neglect your own soul.

The "Proverbs 31 Day Challenge" for me could end up being about trying to create profound blog entries or universally useful teaching – but that was not my intention in suggesting it to others. It is about my soul. Wisdom in my own life. Never ceasing to be hungry for God's input and growth. Proverbs 3v21 reminds me of that.

My son, do not lose sight of these – keep sound wisdom and discretion… Proverbs 3v21 (English Standard Version)

Proverbs Day Two | What you are

By | Blog, Character, Discipleship, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

When you meet someone with godly common sense it is so refreshing. They just seem to have an ability (most of the time) to make the right decision at the right time and in the right way. When we find those people we should observe them carefully. We should thank God for them. If common sense were a bank account then they have a large balance available!

7 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. Proverbs 2

Integrity is a person of consistency. What you see is what you get – in public and private. The man or woman of integrity does not speak behind others backs. He or she does not lie or deceive or manipulate the truth in a way to give favour, gain, advantage or avoid difficulties. They are people of their word and their promise. Many people can teach what they know, but people of integrity live out what they are – and it yields fruitfulness (see Luke 7 v 35).

Proverbs Day One | Foolish gain vs Wise gain

By | Blog, Character, Discipleship, Life change, Wisdom

These are just my reflections on Proverbs through the summer.

23 Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.

Day One starts with an invite and a promise. Foolishness (from the mouths of sinners) shouts out an invitation for quick wins at the expense of others or to save time, effort and obedience to God's Word. Whereas Wisdom makes an invitation to watch, listen and learn from God's heart – often this is slower and harder.

The foolish path is like digging your own grave. It may start with you thinking your digging a "trap for others" or a "place to store your goods", but it ends as a pit from
which you cannot easily escape – if at all. Quick gain but long term loss.

The path to wisdom is like digging foundations on which to build your life. It may be hard graft and painful at times but in the end it will protect you through every season and circumstance. Slow gain but long term success.

Introduction to Proverbs

By | Blog, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

Proverbs is a particular style of writing that often says things twice but in a slightly different way. However, the meaning is the same. So in 1v2 wisdom and understanding is the same as words of insight. And in 1v3 wise dealing is another way of describing right relationships, right decisions and right judgements.

Therefore the truly wise person quickly grasps that the beginning of wisdom is rooted in a correct understanding and attitude to God. Whereas the foolish person will despise (reject, dismiss, disregard) all the instruction, insight and input God wishes to have in their life (1v7).

Often God starts this work through families and hence 1v8 encourages a receptiveness to your parents instruction and insight (especially those who fear God). If that is not a good experience for you, find a church family where others who are older than you in the faith can be a catalyst for God's work in your life. In addition soak yourself in the Proverbs daily and learn direct from the Father himself.

Over the next 31 days let's make our prayer be "Lord, I am listening, I will be guided, I want to grow and I want to apply your wisdom in my life".

Simply grace

By | Blog

Paul writes to the Corinthian church (a group of complicated people living complicated lives in a complicated culture) by saying “our boast is this, the witness of our conscience, that we behaved to the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you” (2 Corinthians 1:12)

I like that. There is something straightforward and uncomplicated about Paul’s approach that penetrates the mess and the mud. We are not trying to be flash, fancy or forever trying to be clever. Simple. Sincere and unpinned by the grace of God. Welcome to The Hill. Welcome to Matthew’s House. Welcome to Swansea. 

Beware of Imitations?

By | Blog

About 2 months ago I began developing lower back pain. As a result, I went onto Youtube to find out how to do back stretches and build muscle in my lower back. There was one particular channel that I found to be very helpful, with a young energetic trainer guiding it’s audience through the various exercises, and being careful to ensure that it was being done properly with arms and legs in the correct positions so as not to cause the back further damage. I am pleased to say that it appears I am doing it correctly as it seems to be paying off!

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Cold Turnip for pudding, anyone?

By | Blog, Uncategorised

Luke 14:1-24

In this account told by Luke, Jesus had been invited to the house of a prominent Pharisee for dinner, along with other guests who appear to be other Pharisees and experts in the law. (prominent people). Throughout the gospels, the Pharisees were mostly opposed to Jesus being their long awaited Messiah, (there were some exceptions), and did not take a liking to how Jesus exposed their religious hypocrisy.

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Introducing the Psalms

By | Blog, Worship | No Comments

This weekend we begin our new series on the Psalms. The series will be called Thankful Hearts – feeding the soul from the Psalms. We will explore the theme of gratitude, and many other emotions and attitudes. The main purpose of the series is to enable us to use the Psalms for application in our lives through prayer, worship and understanding God. This video may be helpful to give you a broad perspective of the Book.

Help! I can’t open the door…

By | Blog, Discipleship, Holy living, Life change, Making the Most of Your Days

To be honest I have been a little hesitant to write this blog, but have decided to jump in with both feet and go for it. The reason for my hesitancy is that I am aware that our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. This blog entry may irritate some, not help others – and be of little interest to anyone who does not fit into these first two categories! But on the off-chance that there is someone out there who might benefit I shall press on… Read More

Just some of the reasons we are called The Hill?

By | Blog, Church, Witnessing

At the men’s prayer breakfast this morning somebody asked me why the church was called The Hill. This was an excellent question, and it reminded me this week of a similar question when I was asked why Matthew’s House was to be called as such. The interesting thing about the Matthew’s House question was that it afforded me the opportunity to share our vision, purpose and gospel through the story of Matthew’s party at his house.  I learnt something valuable this week – questions about names provide me with an opportunity to answer with a story that features the good news of Jesus.
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