Category

Love

Proverbs Day Twenty-Nine | Love criticism!

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Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. Proverbs 29v1 (NLT)

I love these kind of Proverbs. The reason is simple, because criticism is painful and hard to take. I guess it is for most people.

Last night my daughter was discussing personality types and she concluded that I don’t take criticism personally. I am not sure that is true! Whilst I take a degree of comfort that I may have a degree of resilience to criticism which helps me, but the other side of that coin is that it can make me stubborn and unyielding. Over the long haul that is dangerous territory. Key to criticism acceptance is identifying a core of people who have free reign to criticise you. You must know, before the criticism begins, these people are for you, love you and want you to win. Don’t let the criticism change your perception of that. I have seen too many people confidently declare a trust in people, only to distrust them when the criticism comes.

He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. Proverbs 29v1 (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-Five | Perfectly timed provision

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Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer. They revive the spirit of their employer. Proverbs 25v13 (NLT)

Years ago, I was given a financial gift from someone. It was perfectly timed and I really need that exact amount. I have thanks to God for the giver and the gift. I saw it as provision. A mistake that I began to make shortly afterwards was that I began to “hold” onto the cash – prior to the gift I had known real need and the gift really met that need. I likened it to the account of manna from heaven (God’s meeting his people’s need, see Exodus 16). If you read that story you will see that they weren’t meant to hold onto it – that would be robbing them of the opportunity of trusting God every day. This does not mean don’t be a good steward and having savings etc. But it does mean don’t put your security in the gift rather than the giver. In God’s economy regarding the matter of provision, as with manna, there is always more!

If we live like that then we will experience the refreshing timing and reminder of “snow” again and again as God meets our need neither too late or too early. That is refreshing to the soul.

Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters. Proverbs 25v13 (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-One | Not missing it!

By | Blog, Devotionals, Discipleship, Doctrine, Foundational, Holy living, Leadership, Life change, Love, Loving the poor, Preaching, Provoked Within, Salt, The Bible, The gospel, Wisdom, Witnessing | No Comments

The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Proverbs 21v3

I am deeply provoked and sobered that I could miss the really important things in following Jesus. In addition I could spend too long and too much effort on the things that matter a whole lot less.

Jesus really was unflattering about those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. What these folk taught or said might be true, but it needed to be demonstrated not just declared. Failing to do this may make us guilty of “crushing people with unbearable religious demands and never lifting a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23v4).

I see more than ever that a relentless pursuit against performance and pretence will be good for me and for others I share life with. God is not fooled. He knows what we do for show and what we do for Him. He knows whether we operate in the Kingdom or out of it. I want to help people discover, follow and serve the Jesus of Matthew 23. He said it as it was, saw it as it is and changes us despite ourselves.

Therefore, I am learning in a new way the high value Jesus places on justice, mercy and faith. These are matters of the heart (Matthew 23v23). That is wisdom!

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Proverbs 21v3

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)

Conversation with Simon and Helen Moores re Street Pastors

By | Blog, Life change, Love, Loving the poor, Prayer, The gospel, Witnessing | No Comments

We have just had a really encouraging afternoon together with Simon and Helen Moores from Spring Terrace Church.  They have been involved in the Swansea Street Pastors for a number of years and we were able to chat with them about that work. For the recording of the conversation click here.

They have provided me with a link for a video about the work in Swansea which is well worth a watch.

A helpful conversation on oaths!

By | Church, Holy living, Love, Preaching, Provoked Within, The Bible | No Comments

A few days ago a loving and very supportive brother in the church contacted me to query some of the content of my talk ‘It’s yes Jim, but not as we know it’. Firstly, I am thrilled to bits that somebody in the church would be willing to do this. The Bible is without error, whereas anyone who knows me, or listens to me, for a while will know that I stumble in many ways! I am therefore genuinely grateful that the church is listening, thinking and challenging what is said. Secondly, the manner in which it was done was full of love, genuine support and encouragement.

The query centred on me seeming to take a very pragmatic stance on whether Christians have a choice to swear or make an oath, or simply to let their yes be yes or their no be no. In response, this brother understandably commented that in Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says almost identical words to James:

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A Brother Who Made History

By | Death, Love, Provoked Within, Suffering, The gospel | No Comments

For the final 3 years before I left Gracechurch to move to Swansea we ran a yearly camp for the men and boys in the church called Band of Brothers. During that camp I would take the opportunity to teach about a brother who made history.

Nate Saint is one such man. He with his four friends were murdered on the 8 January 1956. Today is the anniversary of his death.

These men had determined that God had called them to share the news of His Son to the Waodini Tribe in the Amazon Rain Forest. This tribe had a proven reputation of murder using the spear. In fact most of the tribe had a relative that had been likewise killed. It was a risky and dangerous calling.

On the 6 January 1956 after several weeks work they made direct contact with three of the tribe, and were particularly excited two days later when they saw a group of them heading their way. The men’s wives were expecting a radio update at 4.30pm and it never came. The radio was silent.

A few days later a search party was dispatched. They found the bodies of Nate and his friends, and their plane destroyed. They had been speared.

End of the story. Wasted lives? No.

Their deaths opened two doors. The first door was that when the story hit the news in 1956, it compelled many thousands of men and women to lay down half-hearted lives for Christ, choosing rather to live for Him with everything they had.

The second door was that within a few years some of the men’s wives and their children were living with the tribe, and many of the tribe came to put their faith in Christ. Indeed Nate’s son, Stephen, would later call one of his father’s murderers Grandfather.

Here is the video I used on Band of Brothers to share the story. It has clips from the film End of the Spear. In the story you will see a dramatised encounter of ‘Grandfather’ telling Stephen Saint that he killed his father.

Nate Saint knew the one who had been pierced by men (Isaiah 53), and with his life he led others to lay down murder with a spear for good.

33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16

Nate Saint Tribute from The Hill on Vimeo.

NB: You can read the story as told by one of the wives in the book Through the Gates of Splendour