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Provoked Within

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-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-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-three | A common form of self-harm

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Wow! I am loving this month. Partly the joy of discovering a little nugget that I have never seen before. Then the joy of the wisdom nugget itself.

While dining with a ruler, pay attention to what is put before you. If you are a big eater, put a knife to your throat; don’t desire all the delicacies, for he might be trying to trick you.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. Proverbs 23v1-4

This latest one seems to be a cautionary warning against the lure of power, status and wealth. These things in themselves are not bad, after all God is the most powerful, most important and most wealthy in the world.

The real challenge lies in being able to handle what I have been given or entrusted with. I can learn a lot from observing others, and then observing my own desire and response to what others have. The Bible teaches that wealth is deceptive and those who pursue it can fall into many harmful desires. Paul understood this, hopefully Timothy listened. I pray that I do also.

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6v6-9

Living in the U.K and mid-way through my fourth decade I need to hear these warnings again and again, especially as the more I have seems to grow or could grow. Balance, perspective and priorities are vital.

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. Proverbs 23v1-4

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!

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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 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)

Four areas needing small differences in 2014

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Following today’s teaching I said I would outline the four areas, specifically relating to meeting together on a Sunday, where we need investment – in regards to service and gifting. If you feel you can make a small difference to one or more of these areas please can you email me ASAP (robin@the-hill.co) or text me on 07869287270 or ring me on 01792 204014. Your contribution only has to be small, but it can make a real difference.

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A helpful conversation on oaths!

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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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