Proverbs Day Twenty | Working the garden!

By | Bible memorisation, Blog, Character, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Wisdom

Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest. Proverbs 20v4 (NLT)

The longer I have followed Christ the more I have come to appreciate the need to engage with the Bible and have self-discipline. Both are so important. We might not feel great at either but even a small amount of ploughing will at some point reap a harvest.

My lesson today is start working the garden of your life today. My experience is that doing something in my life is always better than nothing.

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. Proverbs 20v4 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Nineteen | Think outside the box of generosity

By | Blog, Character, Devotionals, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Love, Loving the poor, Wisdom

Many seek favours from a ruler; everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts! Proverbs 19v6 (NLT)

I suspect I am not the only one who often reads a Proverb and goes “huh?” What does that mean?

Then I might read another translation and have more questions – is it a ruler (NLT) or a generous man (ESV)? Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it does?

So what might be the wisdom here?

Perhaps the ruler is intended as a contrast to the generous man. The ruler is in demand due to his position and authority. His role does not mean he is generous.

However the generous man is liked because of what he gives. It is universal. Whereas the ruler role is limited to one or a few but the generous role, and its benefits, are unlimited.

But is it not limited to means? Only if we read generous as just relating to material possessions. What if I could be generous in words, encouragement, time and service? Surely that kind of generosity will serve me just as well as others.

Many seek the favour of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. Proverbs 19v6 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Eighteen | Wisdom applied

By | Blog, Character, Discipleship, Family Life, Holy living, Life change, Provoked Within, Wisdom

I have been married 18 years and quite early in our marriage my wife pointed out that I often interrupt. This was sobering news to me. It was tough to hear, but she was right. It was present in our relationship and reared its head in other conversations. It was a weakness and is still a weakness.

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. Proverbs 18v13 (NLT)

Ever since that piece of advice (or rebuke) I have sought to be increasingly alert to that weakness in order to ‘nip it in the bud’ as soon as possible. One way I have done that is to carry around a little prompt with me to remind me of the wisdom of reducing that weakness in my life. You can see my little prompt card below.

Wisdom is only effective if it is applied. It must be applied consistently and in actual day-to-day scenarios. Do whatever it takes in your life to make that happen.

Anything less is just theory and not much else. I invite any who read this post – who know me, and who witness that weakness in me – to speak up in love and make me aware when I do it. By doing so you help me from avoiding isolation and breaking out against all sound judgment (Proverbs 18v1).

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18v13 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Seventeen | Handling a trustworthy rebuke

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

A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool. Proverbs 17v10 (NLT)

How do I respond to feedback from a trusted friend? I think it has to be a trusted friend – one who has deposited more into our friendship than withdrawn.

Over the years, particularly as a church leader, I have ‘deposited’ numerous times into other people only to have them respond badly to the first or second relationship ‘withdrawal’ I make. I have also experienced people approaching me with an immediate ‘withdrawal’ attitude, perhaps thinking I can take it or deserve it.

However, I have also had trusted proven friends speak “hard” words in my life. When they do, I am immediately listening. Not because I like what I hear, but because I know they are for me. Their agenda is for my good. If you find someone who is for your good, then listen well even when it is tough.

So I answer the original question above by saying that it should leave a lasting impression that I never forget. It should do more for me than I ever expected. It should humble me. It will probably hurt me. It should help me understand who I am and how I appear to others. It should cause me to reflect deeply, ask questions and where needed clarify what I should do to change. It should not take years and years of being told the same thing over and over by numerous people before I realise the issue.

As for my friend – I should thank him or her for their kindness, love, courage and honesty. I welcome that kind of friendship. It is good for my soul.

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17v10 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Sixteen | Bags

By | Blog, Death, Doctrine, Foundational, Revelation, Suffering, The Bible, The gospel, Wisdom

The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. Proverbs 16v11 (NLT)

A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. Proverbs 16v11 (ESV)

This proverb strikes me as a beautiful description of the sovereignty of the cross. The justice, mercy, love and wrath displayed on the cross – God’s chosen means to administer justice and apply forgiveness through the sacrifice of the second Adam (Jesus) in order to deal with the sin of the first Adam.

  • The cross is right
  • The cross is just
  • The cross is His work not ours

Let us boast in the bag entitled “the Cross of Christ” not the one with our name on it.

Proverbs Day Fifteen | Gospel centred prayers

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

It is my experience, and there is some evidence in the Bible to support this, that the prayers God delights in are not often fanciful words, long petitions or doctrine punctuated monologues. Of course, long words, petitions or sentences are not wrong de facto, but the thing I have discovered that counts most – more than time, tone or vocabulary – is the heart.

The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright. Proverbs 15v8 (NLT)

When I speak to God does my heart mean it? Of course upright should be understood as having the right heart in prayer, but also I take it to mean the kind of uprightness that could only be accomplished through the promise and power of Jesus Christ.

Don't let prayer be limited by the clock, your knowledge or your ability to construct fluent sentences. Just speak to the Lord when the moment comes using the words that come – relying that the acceptable prayer is one that is made through faith in Christ Jesus, not our way with words. God will delight in that!

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. Proverbs 15v8 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Fourteen | Graveyard or labour ward?

By | Blog, Church, Church Planting, Death, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Holy Spirit, Life change, Wisdom

I often think that the place the church meets should be regarded as less 'temple' and more 'mountainside' or 'public square'.

The reason is that the more I read the New Testament the more I read about crowds, noise and mess.

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. Proverbs 14v4 (NLT)

If we want a good efficient and effective harvest, then we need a strong large oxen. Does anybody seriously imagine that the stable where the oxen is kept will be clean! The mess is an indicator for an abundant harvest.

Graveyards are quiet, tidy and dead! Everybody stays where they and does what they are suppose to do. Everything is neatly labelled and the flowers are beautiful! But it is dead. Whereas the labour ward is full of blood, poo, screaming, pain, pain relief and joy! Whilst it is packed with noise, mess, it is also overflowing with new life!

1 Corinthians 14 verse 40 encourages the spiritual togetherness of the church to be done in a fitting and orderly way, but that is more about ensuring the "oxen" are all pulling in the same direction than anything else. So don't let that instruction rob us of a harvest reaping church!

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14v4 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Thirteen | How to get rich?

By | Band of Brothers, Bible memorisation, Blog, Character, Church, Connection Groups, Discipleship, Foundational, Holy living, Life change, Membership, Preaching, Revelation, The gospel, Wisdom

This afternoon I spoke on how we keep growing in maturity – emotional and spiritual. Things like:

Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time. Proverbs 13v11 (NLT)

Some people want to grow fit, rich and important. We want to grow in wisdom, stature and grace. The principle from Proverbs 13v11 applies to both.

In the talk I mentioned a little survey that I have used, and found helpful, to help me take a snapshot of my overall emotional maturity. You can access it here. How am I (Emotional and Spiritual Health.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. Proverbs 13v11 (ESV)

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…

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

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.