Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Deep Well or Just a Babbling Brook

“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water: but a man of understanding will draw it out. Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness…” - Prov. 20:5-6

Here’s a real contrast. In verse five, we have a man reluctant to speak, while in verse six, another who is more than ready to talk! Have you, like me, found that the individual who is most free with his or her advice is the one whose advice is of least worth? (As they say, you get what you pay for!) On the other hand, that person whose counsel is more closely aligned with the mind of God and comes by way of the heart is like a well of “deep waters.” You’ll have to wait for the bucket to come up, and you’ll have to be willing to think deeply when it gets there. In all likelihood, says Solomon, they will have to be drawn out. But, he continues, a man or woman “of understanding” will be willing to humbly condescend to do it.

All counseling does not have to be “one-on-one.” I have received good, helpful advice personally; but for the most part, the greatest lessons of life have come while in the company of men or women of wisdom, young and old, poorly and highly educated. They have come through Spirit-anointed preaching, thought provoking reading, or edifying fellowship with other believers. By the way, this doesn’t mean they were all what we might call “Bible scholars” or “Spiritual giants” (whatever that is). I’m not speaking of individuals who know about God, I’m referring to people who know God Himself and are living out His precepts. This could be anyone from a C.S. Lewis to the Godly women in small churches where my husband and I used to minister in our early marriage. These were people who didn’t say, “Here, listen to me!” They were people of whom the Holy Spirit said to me, “There, listen to him (or her)!”

I try to pray every day, “Lord, teach me something today from your Word, and from someone who can be my teacher and/or counselor.” There are all kinds of “babbling brooks” out there, who are more than willing to share their “wisdom” with you. Tolerate them, if you will, but don’t look for much help. Be on the look out instead for that rare “deep well” from which you can draw out refreshing waters of healing and instruction. And when you find it, drink deeply!

Saturday, April 12, 2014


"Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." - Rom. 1:31

In a book by one of my favorite old writers, he uses the word “hidebound" to describe people so set in their ways that they have become mentally unmoveable. The word is used to describe animals, especially cattle, whose skin is so tight as a result of poor feeding that it is incapable of extension or expansion. Referring to a person’s mind, the Oxford English Dictionary describes someone who is hidebound as: “restricted in view or scope; narrow, cramped; bigoted; obstinately set in opinion.” Get the picture?

Paul calls such people “implacable” in Romans 1:31, meaning they cannot be placated, appeased, or reasoned with, no matter how much evidence is placed before them. Sorry to say, this is a characteristic that only worsens with age. This is one reason why waiting too late to marry can be just as hard on a marriage as marrying too soon. Implacability in the first case is just as bad (maybe worse) as immaturity in the latter.

I find that the principles, standards, and doctrines I am most sure of are the ones that have been open to the light of contradiction. Several years ago, a young missionary with whom my husband and I had close ties, decided it would be better for him not to receive any correspondence from us, because my husband had suggested that another method of Bible interpretation than the one he embraced should be considered as well. His fear, the young man said, was that he might be influenced adversely. My thought was: how secure then was he in those beliefs he was trumpeting so vehemently?

My strongly held beliefs in the existence of the Creator God, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the infallibility and perpetuity of the Word of God, and the superiority of holy living are not the result of never having come in contact with atheists, modernists, Bible deniers, or social libertarians. On the contrary, their deficiency has only served to reinforce the veracity of those things I learned so long ago as a child in Sunday School. 

Falsehoods are better faced and overcome by truth than shunned and left to percolate. 

We say of those content with who and what they are that they're "comfortable in their own skin." This is a good thing -- as long that skin is flexible. But, for myself, when who or what I am or think becomes more important than who or what God wants me to be or think, than I've become just plain old...hidebound! 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In the Right Place At the Right Time

"A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good it is." Prov. 15:23 "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Prov. 25:11

I never cease to be amazed at how easy it is lose one's sense of timing, especially when it comes to speaking. We become so eager to "share" that we don't take into consideration either the hearer or the setting. It may not be a matter of casting "pearls before swine" (Matt. 7:6), or giving "strong meat" to immature believers (Heb. 5:14); but still, approaching someone with either words of comfort or rebuke can be unwanted in the first case and ineffective in the second. It all depends on the person, time, and place.

The word picture painted for us in Proverbs 25:11 speaks of the right place or setting. Notice the beauty of the "apples of gold" are perfectly set off by the "pictures of silver," perhaps speaking of the background or frame. The golden apples would not be nearly as eye-catching on a dingy cloth or in a rough, wooden frame.

The verse in Proverbs fifteen tells us that like so many things in the Bible, there is a "due season" to be acknowledged. To me, this speaks not only of the right hour, day, or month, but even the right conversation. For instance, to use the occasion of an individual's mistake to point out past failures only lessens the possibility of change in the mind of the offender. Also, when we draw people aside when they're busy, pleasantly occupied, or in the company of friends is to guarantee half-hearted listening or response to our "words of wisdom." And when someone is hurting physically, emotionally, or spiritually, even the kindest, well-meaning words of comfort or advice can be grating, especially if the individual is feeling overwhelmed or misunderstood.

They often say of someone who knows how to speak cogently and fluently that he or she is "well-spoken"; but as far as I'm concerned, the truly well-spoken individual is the man or woman whose words are "fitly spoken," at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. They fit perfectly at the right time and in the right place. And by the way, I have said, "words," plural; but the texts say "word," singular. That at least tells us that brevity should be our watchword. Many a promising conversation has been drowned by too many words.

The phrase, "tongue of the learned," comes from Isaiah 50:4, where we're told it is given to be used at the right time, for one reason only:

"The Lord hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary..."