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Character

Proverbs Day Thirty-One | Listen to the Baboon

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It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. Proverbs 31v4-5 (NLT)

Aside from having to watch The Lion King film too many times when my kids were young, I actually rather enjoyed it.

One of the most moving scenes is where Rafiki, the wise Baboon, walks Simba, the foolish Lion cub, to a watering hole and encourages him to study the reflection in the water.

Rafiki says the reflection shows Simba’s father (the late King) but all Simba sees is himself. Rafiki makes Simba look harder and then Simba sees the image of his father. Rafiki says You see? He lives in you”. Then Simba hears his father’s voice saying “Simba, you have forgotten me… You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become”.

Being wise, focused and responsible like a king is not meant to be an optional extra. It is who we are meant to be. We are our Father’s children and must seek to remember that and respond to that. We are not meant to surrender our responsibility and duties for the “fleeting pleasures” or “tough times” in Egypt.

As I conclude my 31 day journey into Proverbs I am reminded to start again. Every day, every month and every year… because only by wisdom can I do what I have been born to do, and foolishness will harm me and hurt others. None more so than the Father who made me.

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31v4-5 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Twenty-Eight | Bullies who should know better

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A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops. Proverbs 28v3 (NLT)

I read this Proverb and think it says that anyone who oppresses anyone, going through a similar experience as them, should know better. Rain should be good for the crops. It should not destroy.

In the past year I have seen acts of kindness and acts of selfishness or oppression of others. Some people should know better and some should definitely know better – especially those in the same boat.

There is no excuse for oppressing the poor, and less so if you are poor yourself. This principle applies to any number of circumstances (see the parable in Matthew 18).

We should stand up to bullies and lay firm boundaries in their lives regardless of their background. Background may explain bullying, but it should not excuse it.

A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food. Proverbs 28v3 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Twenty-Seven | Friends

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The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27v9 (NLT)

This is a short one today. It has been a long one and a good one.

Just a moment is needed to reflect on the blessing of genuine friendship. When this proverb was written “oil and perfume” or “perfume and incense” would have been considered valuable commodities. Therefore so should the input and advice of those people you know love you and are for you. Value friendship because friends are valuable, especially when their friendship is demonstrated by honest communication.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27v9 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Twenty-Six | Dog vomit!

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As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. Proverbs 26v11 (NLT)

This has always been one of my favourite and most helpful Proverbs – which might seem strange as I am not a fan of dogs! It screams out to me learn from your mistakes.

Like a dog we will vomit out our mistakes, don’t be surprised when that happens. The key is to reflect and review why the mistake happened. Be rigorous about it, don’t settle for the first answer your ego provides to protect you!

Once whilst being away in a city where I could barely speak the language (barely is me being kind to myself), I had a pathetic grasp of their culture and felt out of my depth in tackling the everyday things.

This meant several “mistakes” which cost me money. Some I could immediately learn from and so revise my plan for the following day. Others lessons would have to wait for the next time I leave my country.

On reflection, the mistakes and consequences (on my wallet) hurt and were annoying, but now I come to see that these things are inevitable and caused by a willingness to step into new things. Making a mistake does not make me a fool, but repeating one does.

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26v11 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Twenty-Four | Core strength training

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If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. Proverbs 24v10 (NLT)

Too many may read this and focus primarily on the word fail. Interestingly the ESV translation uses the phrase faint.

I think that faint captures the heart of the wisdom much better. After all, as the adage goes “real failure, may be failure to try”.

Resilience is a really important trait especially in those pressure circumstances we might find ourselves in. It could be any number of situations! Resilience stops us fainting. We are able to resist it.

This proverb stood out immediately to me because I feel I am learning about calmness in the face of pressure – when the odds are stacked against me.

It is a slow journey of learning and asking God to change me. It matters most when I disagree with someone, they rub me up the wrong way or don’t do what I expected or wanted. I have spent so much time in Psalm 23 this year because it is the antidote to weak strength in the face of strong pressure. The key to strength is knowing that God is with me. His rod and his staff they comfort me etc.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23v1-6 (ESV)

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs 24v10 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Twenty-two | Gaining friends

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Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend. Proverbs 22v11 (NLT)

Loving a pure heart is about a sincere desire to do what is right. It is not about always being right. The same applies to gracious speech. Our sentences should be filled more with words that win others over not cause them to wince.

The tongue is the most accessible weapon on the planet and perhaps has done the most harm. The sheer power of the word to build up or destroy is frightening.

This small nugget of wisdom says that if kind, generous words gain us access, acceptance and a hearing with the most powerful of people, it will surely do the same or more for our peers etc.

He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend. Proverbs 22v11 (ESV)

Proverbs Day Twenty | Working the garden!

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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

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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

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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

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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)