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The Magic Stone

A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.  Proverbs 17:8     Though set in Japan, Gilbert and Sullivan’s famous Mikado was actually a satire on British politics—which helps explain the character “Pooh-Bah,” the self-important holder of numerous offices (“Lord High Everything Else”) who offers all his services for a price.  So when Nanki-Po (the Emperor’s son in disguise) asks about the woman he loves, Pooh-Bah calls it a “state secret.”  Nanki-Po takes the hint and pays the bribe to learn about his beloved.   Whether in Britain or Japan, or anywhere else on...

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A Name That Rots

The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. Proverbs 10:7     For any number of reasons, I suppose, we don’t give much thought to our legacy.  We should.  The writer of Hebrews, e. g., commends the heroes of the faith as worthy examples (Heb. 11:2).  And Scripture is full of encouragements to live so that others honor our lives: A good name is better than precious ointment (Eccl. 7:1).   Whether it matters to us or not, we will certainly leave a legacy—for good or ill: The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of...

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Iron Sharpens Iron

Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.  A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.  Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:14-17     These verses describe three very different ways of relating to people.  Take your pick.  First the Idle Flatterer (v. 14), who seeks favor for himself by oiling his relationships with compliments, flattery, and ostentatious friendliness (rather than genuine good will or caring good works).  He...

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Deep Water

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5     A truism in counseling is that the presenting problem is never the problem!  There is always something more, something deeper, something hidden.  Solomon had it precisely right: The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water.     This sort of hidden purpose runs the gamut.  Secret sins and lifelong dreams.  Temptations we fear to own; fears we fear to name.  We love to talk about ourselves—but superficially!  The deep things we keep to ourselves.   It takes real wisdom to bring them into the...

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Wait Till the Pie Is Done

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Proverbs 13:19     This may come as a shock to some—but God wants you to be happy.  God Himself gave us a longing for happiness in the first place, and He is the only One who can satisfy that longing in life.  Not only “can” satisfy, but “wants to.”   This is what Solomon has in mind here.  God has made provision for our happiness in His Word.  True happiness.  Sweet-to-the-soul happiness.  He graciously satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts—and desire fulfilled is sweet to the...

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Commitments that Compromise

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself . . . Proverbs 6:1-3     The Brown-eyed Baby and I got started in home ownership because my Dad co-signed the note.  It was a very small mortgage, to be sure, but without his name on the dotted line it might as well have been a million bucks a month.  So I read Solomon’s stern warning here and wonder—what...

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Say No to Knee-Jerk

A fool gives full vent to this spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11     There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7).  Wisdom is knowing which is which.  The fool doesn’t know, or doesn’t care.  A fool gives full vent to his spirit.  And the world enables him.  The world says, “speak your mind;” the world says, “get it out (you’ll feel better);” the world says, “let ‘em have it!”  God says, fool.   Of course, there are times to speak—when silence itself would be sin.  Jeremiah wanted to stop prophesying, but he couldn’t—there...

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The End of Strife

Drive out the scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. Proverbs 22:10     In any church, or any organization for that matter—a class, a team, a family, a club—one person with an attitude can ruin everything.  The classic case is Diotrephes (3 John), who loved to put himself first, talked wicked nonsense against the Apostle John, and kept the church from doing Kingdom work.  John pledges to bring up what he is doing, because either the scoffer must either (a) repent, or (b) he must go.  Hear Solomon well: You can’t manage a scoffer, you must drive him...

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Fightin' Words

A soft answer turns away wrath,  but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1     On June 6, 1966, civil rights leader James Meredith was shot dead in Hernando, Mississippi.  Hearing the news in far off New York, a man named Sydney Street took to the street with Old Glory—which he publicly set afire, shouting, “we don’t need an American flag.”  As the saying goes, “them’s fightin’ words” —and sure enough, Sydney Street was arrested for disturbing the public peace: a harsh word stirs up anger.    But a soft answer turns away wrath.  The word for wrath is different than the word for...

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Hatred of Sin

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil (Prov. 8:13).   The “fear of the Lord” runs like a golden thread through the Proverbs.  The fear of the Lord, of course, is the beginning of wisdom (1:7; 9:10), and in the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (14:26).  The fear of the Lord prolongs life (10:27), and leads to life (19:23), and the reward for humility and the fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life (22:4).   But among all the positives, the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. We’re fine with that in theory, of...

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The Longing to Belong

Throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse. Proverbs 1:14     Some years ago, I attended a conference in a major city.  Early one morning I awoke to loud voices on the street below—it was a gang fight.  West Side Story without singing or dancing.    To middle-class suburbanites, gang life looks like Milton’s “hell broke loose,” but for a down and out kid it can feel like home.  Here he belongs.  Here he matters.  Here he counts.  The human heart longs to belong, so the words of this proverb strike a chord, don’t they?  Throw in your lot with...

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Slinking from First Class

Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. Proverbs 25:6-7     We had boarded the plane.  When the boarding door closed, a man behind me slipped up to an empty first class seat.  Flight attendants are trained to spot guerilla tactics.  No sooner had he buckled his first class seat belt and pretended to read than he had her stern and courteous presence in his face: “Sir, what is your seat assignment?” ...

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Letting It Rot

Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Proverbs 18:9     The Hebrew word for work here originally referred to a “commission” or a “charge”—in other words, a responsibility for something.  A good question to ask right now is, “what is my ‘work?’”  What does God want you to do and to be?  He wants you to be a godly man or woman, of course, a godly husband or wife, father or grandfather, mother or grandmother, a godly young person.  But beyond that, God has gifted you as a believer to serve Him, and He has placed you...

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A Sure Bet

The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward. Proverbs 11:18     In the skeptical 17th century, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)—scientist, mathematician, inventor of the calculator, and Christian philosopher—put forth what today we call “Pascal’s wager.”  It starts like this.  Either God exists or he doesn’t, and either you believe or you don’t.  (You can’t really be an agnostic, Pascal said, because eventually you die, and then, “I don’t know” becomes “no!”)  So here’s the wager.  If you believe, and you’re right, “you gain all.”  And if you’re wrong, “you lose nothing.”  But if you don’t believe, you gain...

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Good for You

Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. Proverbs 4:10       This proverb is literally true.   Two British physicians, Alex Bunn and David Randall, examined some 1200 studies and 400 reviews on the relationship between faith and health.  Conclusion?  Faith is associated with “a number of positive health benefits, including protection from illness, coping with illness, and faster recovery from it.”      That same British study reported that faith enhances mental health as well as physical health.  Drs. Bunn and Randall write, “religious investment is correlated with well-being, happiness and life satisfaction.”  They cite a long...

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God and Anthony Flew

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. Proverbs 25:2     The late Oxford philosopher Antony Flew made a career of atheism.  That is, until January 2004, when he announced that he now believed in God.  The scientific evidence for Intelligent Design had become too compelling to ignore.  DNA—the genetic code at the center of life—was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  DNA makes mincemeat of Darwin.   Antony Flew’s conversion is a case study of a great truth: It is the glory of God to conceal things.  In his book, The Hidden Face...

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Self-seeking and Sound Judgment

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1     Richard Mouw tells of a Catholic priest from New Jersey visiting the South for the first time.  On his first morning, scanning the hotel breakfast menu, he notices that quintessential Southern delicacy, “grits.”  When the waitress arrives, he asks her: “Miss, what is a grit?”  She replies, “Honey, they don’t come by themselves!”   Neither do Christians.  In the words of Professor Mouw, “Like grits, ‘Christian’ is a plural thing.”       But lots of folk don’t think that way.  Their only interest is their own interest, their peculiar pleasures,...

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Dad's Scales

   A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight. Proverbs 11:1   My dad ran a country store when I was a boy, and I still remember the scales he used to weigh out a customer’s order.  Not much different from the scales in this proverb—weights on one end, meat or meal on the other.  My Dad’s scales assured customers that they got what they paid for.     And his scales honored the Lord.  For God loves justice and hates injustice.  Woe to you who desire the day of Lord, the prophet Amos declares (Amos 5:18). ...

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Bold as a Lion

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1     In her fascinating history of the telegraph, Linda Rosenkrantz relates that Mark Twain reputedly sent a telegram to twelve friends with the message: “Flee at once—all is discovered.”  And supposedly all twelve left town within twenty-four hours!  She reports that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did the same thing in London—with the same result.        We may not be absolutely certain these things happened—we don’t have documentation—but they most certainly could have happened.  For a guilty conscience is a fountain of fear.  The wicked flee when no...

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A Mansion and a Marriage

It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.  Proverbs 21:9     This proverb will give fodder to the skeptics and faultfinders, for whom the Bible is hopelessly out-of-touch.  “Well, of course,” they will sneer, “the Bible was written by men and for men, and you Bible thumpers love anything that keeps women in their place.”  As if Solomon meant to say that “woman is the root of all evil.”   But Solomon meant nothing of the sort.  We know that because (pay attention) almost all of Proverbs is addressed, in-your-face, to men, not...

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The Apple of Your Eye

Keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye . . . to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words. Proverbs 7:2,5     Proverbs 7 is a case study in temptation.  The main character is a young man, and the temptation is sexual sin, but the principles apply to all of us and all the temptations that are sure to come our way (Luke 17:1).    Note this—temptation always involves a test.  Some principle, some commitment, some standard is at stake—whether it’s the forbidden woman who threatens our marriage vow, the cream pie...

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Everybody Loves Robin Hood

He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous  are both alike an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 17:15     A person who condemns the righteous is an abomination to the Lord.  King David himself condemned the righteous by his adultery with Bathsheba and his cover-up murder of Uriah.  But God saw it all, and the thing that David had done displeased the Lord (2 Sam. 11:27).   The one who justifies the wicked is also an abomination to the Lord.  But he can hide his sin behind a mask of seeming grace and love.   We see it every day.  The enabler who...

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Judgment Day and the Walmart Return Policy

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. Proverbs 10:2     What are Treasures gained by wickedness?  Organized crime?  Insider stock trading?  Enron?  Sure, but what about the average man, like you and me, who fails to report income on his 1040, or pockets the ten dollars too much he got back from a store clerk, or accepts full pay for half effort, or doesn’t pay his bills, or turns a deaf ear to the needy?  They tell me that lots of “average Joes” take advantage of Walmart’s no-questions-asked return policy by buying an item, using it once,...

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Hesed and Emet

Let not steadfast love [hesed] and faithfulness [‘emet] forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 3:3     Let me introduce you to the two most important words in any language—in Greek, agapē and alētheia; in English, “love” and “truth.”  In Hebrew, hesed and ‘emet.  Hesed is a God-kind of love.  Unlike the sappy stuff of Hollywood, hesed is “forsaking all others till death do us part,” love your enemies (Matt. 5:44), and Jesus on the cross, because God so loved the world (John 3:16).   ‘Emet is a God-kind of passion for truth.  ‘Emet has no...

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Making a Meal with What Makes Us Sick

Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26:11   Nobody seems to know exactly how to explain this disgusting canine habit.  (Try not to think about it the next time a dog wants to lick you in the face!)  One theory is that they smell bits of food and devour the whole mess to get it, not knowing or caring that they are making a meal of what made them sick.  Sounds reasonable.  But it’s still disgusting.   Whatever the explanation, this vile habit paints a vivid picture of repeated sin.  Counselors know the pattern very well—abusers,...

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Mad at God

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD. Proverbs 19:3     It started with Adam.  Remember what he said to the Lord after his sin?  The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.  And the woman followed suit: The serpent deceived me (Gen 3:12-13).  Blaming is in our DNA.   But it gets worse.  Notice that Adam didn’t stop with blaming Eve he blamed God too!  The woman you [God!] gave to be with me, he said, she’s the one who did it!   We expect that kind of...

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A Good Man

A good man obtains favor from the LORD, but a man of evil devices he condemns. Proverbs 12:2     At the end of Steven Spielberg’s classic film, “Saving Private Ryan,” a now-elderly James Ryan stands before the grave of Captain John Miller at Normandy.  Captain Miller had led a platoon to find and return Private Ryan to his family after all three of his brothers had been killed in action.  Captain Miller himself died on the mission, and gave a dying charge to young Private Ryan . . . “Earn this.”  Now Ryan speaks as if his old captain could hear, then...

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God's Trap

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. Proverbs 5:21-22     God is sovereign—a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord.  So it is that God is at work in our lives just as surely when we go astray in sin as when we walk with Him in truth.    That’s the message here.  The context is sexual sin, but the warning is universal: The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him (v. 22a).  God...

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Arguing with Fools

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet. Proverbs 29:9     Tune in tonight to one of the “news” shows—“conservative” or “liberal” doesn’t matter too much—and watch a live performance of this proverb.  The host or a guest will attempt to make a point, but the other guest (or maybe the host!) will go ballistic with mockery or venom, or both.  Every attempt to get back on point ends the same way, until time runs out and we go to the commercial break with head spinning and stomach churning.  Now, that’s...

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The Dangers of Doing It Your Way

Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them. Proverbs 22:5     A hundred years after “Red October” no one is celebrating.  Inspired by Karl Marx, the self-proclaimed “proletarian” Bolsheviks executed their hated “bourgeoisie” Czar, Nicolaus II.  They did away with religion (Marx’s “opiate of the masses”) and set about to create the communist utopia.  But paradise didn’t come easy.  To get there, Joseph Stalin murdered 20 million of his countrymen and Nikita Kruschev pounded on the podium of the U. N. with his shoe, bellowing “we will bury you.”  After 75 years of...

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Moving the Boundaries

The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries. Proverbs 15:25     You hear news report like this once in a while.  An unscrupulous wheeler dealer cons a widow to pay big money for fictitious repairs.  It makes your blood boil—and it stirs the wrath of God: “The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries.”  Indeed He often does so swiftly and remarkable, here and now.  The law or a bad reputation catches up to the con man, and the community rallies behind the widow.   But there’s more to Solomon’s story here than an...

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For a Piece of Bread

To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong. Proverbs 28:21     To show partiality is not good.  That almost sounds trite.  Of course, partiality is not good.  Whether it’s a judge in a court or a referee on the field, a government bureau or a business, a prison or a church pew (see James 2:1); whether it’s based on money, beauty, or age, friendship, kinship, or even a kindness done in the past—partiality is not good.  We know it in our bones.    But bias is built into the system.  Just think of the vast...

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Red October

My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both? Proverbs 24:21-22     Those were heady days in Russia.  Tsar Nicholas II had abdicated the throne in February, and now, in October, 1917, the “have nots” intended to have their way with the “haves.”  The Bolsheviks got Russia out of World War I, and announced the beginning of a socialist Shangri-La.  Heady days indeed.   As bad as the Tsars may have been, the new masters were far, far worse. ...

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Columbo and Christian Love

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.  Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you. Proverbs 25:16-17     Remember Lieutenant Columbo?  For more than twenty years, he entertained us with his rumpled raincoat, half smoked cigar, rusty Peugeot, and idiosyncratic ways.  Detective Columbo always got his man, or woman, no matter how cleverly they covered their tracks.  How he did it proves the point of this proverb.   Columbo solved every case by being persistently, obnoxiously present.  At first, the suspect...

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The Bottom Line

An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end. Proverbs 20:21     What does Solomon mean by an inheritance gained hastily?  He could mean wealth without work.  The rich kid who inherits a fortune.  Winning the lottery.  Wealth without work is not blessed in the end because it distorts the relationship between work and wealth.  Money means more when it’s hard-earned.    Or, Solomon might have the Midas-touch in mind.  The mogul or the wunderkind who touches anything and turns a profit.  But the Midas-touch isn’t blessed in the end either, because it makes wealth an idol and material...

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I Know How You Feel

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. Proverbs 14:10     For modern people, openness is next to godliness.  Transparency is in; the stiff upper lip is out.   But Solomon knew (like Jeremiah) that no one can really know the human heart (Jer. 17:9), least of all a third party: The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.  No therapist or pastor knows, no colleague or friend, not even a husband or wife.  In the words of the old spiritual: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”  Or the joys.   This ancient bit of psychology can help us...

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Turn Your Foot from Evil

Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:27     Complete this sentence: “The best way for me to mature in Christ is to ______.”  Many (if not most) followers of Christ, I suspect, would say something like, “pray more consistently,” “read and study Scripture,” or “be more fully devoted to the Lord.”  Good things all.  But Solomon might say, “Good . . . but not enough.”  “Necessary” (as we say) “but not sufficient.”  On the journey of growth in Christ, what lack we yet?   What we lack is a wholesome hatred of evil.  Solomon...

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Dinner with a Miser

Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy, do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.  “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. Proverbs 23:6-7     Here is the third of three warnings about money in Proverbs 23.  The first warning (vv. 1-3) emphasized the affections of the heart—what we want and why.  Do not desire the delicacies of the ruler, we read—in other words, don’t fall in love with the good life.  Not money, but the love of money is a root of all kinds...

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Money and the Mind of Christ

Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.  When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. Proverbs 23:4-5     Once again we are reminded just how different God’s thoughts are from ours (Is. 55:8): Do not toil to acquire wealth.  Who thinks like that?  Money is power.  Money is security.  Money is “the most important thing” (George Bernard Shaw).  Of course, money can also serve the Kingdom of God in wonderful ways.  The counsel of John Wesley rings true, doesn’t it?  “Gain all you can.  Save all...

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A Knife to Your Throat

  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. Proverbs 23:1-2   Now there’s a real attention-getter: put a knife to your throat! Solomon is asking you to imagine rubbing shoulders with royalty—like Sheriff Andy Taylor and Aunt Bee in Hollywood or the Clampett’s in Beverly Hills; or a Third-World laborer watching “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” on rabbit-ears TV.  Or, for that matter, people like you and me caught up in the love of luxury.  If you are tempted by comfort, convenience, and...

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At Home

For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it (Prov. 2:21).     The Brown-Eyed Baby and I have moved seventeen times.  It comes with the ministry.  And the military.  Many of you have “been there, done that.”   Moving is hard (some might use stronger language!).  It’s hard in part because it takes so much effort to get “settled in.”  From car tags and drivers’ licenses to finding dishes and deciding where to put the furniture, from getting to know the neighbors and getting around town to lights and water and where to take the trash, from...

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A Bowl of Lentil Soup

She does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. Proverbs 5:6     The book of Proverbs has so much to say about sexual sin because sexuality says so much about us.  How we think and act in this area is how we think and act in every other area.  This explains why Paul taught as he did in Thessalonica—a world like ours, saturated with sex.  He wanted those new believers to see that sanctification and sexual purity go hand in hand.  Read it (1 Thess. 4:2-6)!  Paul preached on the topic a lot (see Tit....

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Deep Water

The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5     A truism in counseling is that the presenting problem is never the problem!  There is always something more, something deeper, something hidden.  Solomon had it precisely right: The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water.     This sort of hidden purpose runs the gamut.  Secret sins and lifelong dreams.  Temptations we fear to own; fears we fear to name.  We love to talk about ourselves—but superficially!  The deep things we keep to ourselves.   It takes real wisdom to bring them into the...

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Wait Till the Pie Is Done

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. Proverbs 13:19     This may come as a shock to some—but God wants you to be happy.  God Himself gave us a longing for happiness in the first place, and He is the only One who can satisfy that longing in life.  Not only “can” satisfy, but “wants to.”   This is what Solomon has in mind here.  God has made provision for our happiness in His Word.  True happiness.  Sweet-to-the-soul happiness.  He graciously satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts—and desire fulfilled is sweet to the...

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Commitments that Compromise

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself . . . Proverbs 6:1-3     The Brown-eyed Baby and I got started in home ownership because my Dad co-signed the note.  It was a very small mortgage, to be sure, but without his name on the dotted line it might as well have been a million bucks a month.  So I read Solomon’s stern warning here and wonder—what...

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Say No to Knee-Jerk

A fool gives full vent to this spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. Proverbs 29:11     There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak (Eccl. 3:7).  Wisdom is knowing which is which.  The fool doesn’t know, or doesn’t care.  A fool gives full vent to his spirit.  And the world enables him.  The world says, “speak your mind;” the world says, “get it out (you’ll feel better);” the world says, “let ‘em have it!”  God says, fool.   Of course, there are times to speak—when silence itself would be sin.  Jeremiah wanted to stop prophesying, but he couldn’t—there...

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The End of Strife

Drive out the scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. Proverbs 22:10     In any church, or any organization for that matter—a class, a team, a family, a club—one person with an attitude can ruin everything.  The classic case is Diotrephes (3 John), who loved to put himself first, talked wicked nonsense against the Apostle John, and kept the church from doing Kingdom work.  John pledges to bring up what he is doing, because either the scoffer must either (a) repent, or (b) he must go.  Hear Solomon well: You can’t manage a scoffer, you must drive him...

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Fightin' Words

A soft answer turns away wrath,  but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1     On June 6, 1966, civil rights leader James Meredith was shot dead in Hernando, Mississippi.  Hearing the news in far off New York, a man named Sydney Street took to the street with Old Glory—which he publicly set afire, shouting, “we don’t need an American flag.”  As the saying goes, “them’s fightin’ words” —and sure enough, Sydney Street was arrested for disturbing the public peace: a harsh word stirs up anger.    But a soft answer turns away wrath.  The word for wrath is different than the word for...

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Hatred of Sin

The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil (Prov. 8:13).   The “fear of the Lord” runs like a golden thread through the Proverbs.  The fear of the Lord, of course, is the beginning of wisdom (1:7; 9:10), and in the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence (14:26).  The fear of the Lord prolongs life (10:27), and leads to life (19:23), and the reward for humility and the fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life (22:4).   But among all the positives, the fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. We’re fine with that in theory, of...

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The Longing to Belong

Throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse. Proverbs 1:14     Some years ago, I attended a conference in a major city.  Early one morning I awoke to loud voices on the street below—it was a gang fight.  West Side Story without singing or dancing.    To middle-class suburbanites, gang life looks like Milton’s “hell broke loose,” but for a down and out kid it can feel like home.  Here he belongs.  Here he matters.  Here he counts.  The human heart longs to belong, so the words of this proverb strike a chord, don’t they?  Throw in your lot with...

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Slinking from First Class

Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble. Proverbs 25:6-7     We had boarded the plane.  When the boarding door closed, a man behind me slipped up to an empty first class seat.  Flight attendants are trained to spot guerilla tactics.  No sooner had he buckled his first class seat belt and pretended to read than he had her stern and courteous presence in his face: “Sir, what is your seat assignment?” ...

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Letting It Rot

Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Proverbs 18:9     The Hebrew word for work here originally referred to a “commission” or a “charge”—in other words, a responsibility for something.  A good question to ask right now is, “what is my ‘work?’”  What does God want you to do and to be?  He wants you to be a godly man or woman, of course, a godly husband or wife, father or grandfather, mother or grandmother, a godly young person.  But beyond that, God has gifted you as a believer to serve Him, and He has placed you...

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