You Can’t Kill Your Kids

26 Sep

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Last week we learned that it’s not good to be on the receiving end of a lion’s roar. If you consistently do what is pleasing to the Lord, you’ll find yourself as refreshed as the morning dew. Solomon moved over and talked about domestic relations. It’s tough to have a foolish son – in fact it can destroy a father. Constant wifely nagging is like a dripping faucet: it can drive you out of your mind. Having a wife is a good thing, but finding a prudent woman is a gift from God. Don’t be lazy – it can lead to hunger. We talked of the importance of keeping the commands of God. It is probably the primary indicator of an authentic relationship with God. If you do a good deed in the name of Jesus to help someone, God will reward your actions; we don’t know if it will happen here, but it will definitely happen in eternity. This morning, we enter into the much debated topic of child discipline.

Pro. 19:18-19 says, “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death. A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.”

This is still a hot topic. Child discipline has been debated for some time. We’ve had experts for years telling us the virtue of corporal punishment and others saying how harmful it is. Other experts tell us that parents need to provide positive reinforcement. Still others use the, “it’s just a phase” argument to excuse inappropriate behavior. There are definitely dos and don’ts of parenting. If you remember back to Pro. 13:24, Solomon said, “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” That sweet smelling, cuddly baby has something lurking within them that is nearly impossible to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. It is stronger in some than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, a propensity to perform certain functions at half their ability. You parents know exactly what I’m talking about. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)

The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not in that verse. Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly; that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here so the Bible should be our standard of truth. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. Your kids will tend to model the behavior that you demonstrate day in and day out. If you’re prone to lying, your kids will tend to lie and they will get confused as to why they get into trouble for lying. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important.

Discipline is a good thing. Rules and policies are good things. Believe it or not, most people follow rules and don’t even realize it. If you think otherwise, let me give you a few examples. Our students get on the bus each morning at a certain time so they can get to school without being late. I bet one of the questions you asked during open house at school was, “What time does my child need to be here?” You probably said the same things about the end of school. When you were hired at your job, you probably asked what time you needed to be there and how long you work each day. You file your taxes no later than April 15th of every year. You pay your bills by the date they’re due because if you don’t, the rule is a late fee will be imposed by the business or utility if you fail to adhere to the deadline. You use a #2 pencil on answer sheets so the machine will read your answers. You wait in line at the movie theater to get your tickets, you don’t just go to the front.  For the most part, when we know the rules to live by, life is easier to live for all parties involved.

So Solomon broaches the subject of discipline again. “Discipline your son while there is hope, and do not desire his death.” You don’t want to pass the point of no return. You’ve seen this and maybe you’ve seen it in your own children. There will come a time that it is too late to parent your kids. Don’t misunderstand, you’ll always be their mom or dad, but there will come a time where you will be removed from the process and that’s a good thing. All of us should desire to raise our children in a manner that glorifies God and will maximize the possibility that they choose to follow Christ at the earliest possible age. Remember though, there are no guarantees that your child will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I can guarantee you one thing: if you’re a believer and you don’t share the life changing message of the Gospel, you will be held accountable. The follow on question would be, why wouldn’t you tell your child about Jesus? “Discipline your son while there is hope.” We need to take the Barney Fife approach. The moment there is behavior that is not acceptable, we need to nip it, nip it in the bud. If not corrected, those inappropriate behaviors will take root and will develop into habits that are tough to break. It’s way easier to pull a weed when you first see it than it is to pull it when you have time.

Parenting must be intentional. There is no such thing in parenting as losing the battle and winning the war. Every time your child battles you, you must win. You don’t have to be a tyrant, a screamer, or a hitter to win. And don’t apologize for your rules. Will they cry? Probably. Oh, I just can’t listen to my child cry. You’re going to need to get over it. Will they be sad? Most likely. Will they pitch a fit? Maybe. Will it be hard? Naturally. Will they appreciate your consistent discipline? Not for a few years. You’ve seen the parents that are ineffective. They’re the counters. They’re the one more time parents. they’re the ones that call the police when their child won’t go to school. They’re the ones that are training their kids that there’s always another chance and they don’t need to listen right now. They’re the ones where the kids make the rules and rule the roost. Let me be transparent here. I have made major blunders in my parenting. There are times when it’s all you can do to hang on until bedtime. There are times when you feel like you’re a total failure as a human being. Depending on the child, those times may be frequent or infrequent. Some kids are compliant; some are defiant and it can be in the same family. I want you to understand something very important. As a parent, you are responsible for your child. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. At some point, we’ve come to believe that if we tell our kids no, that their psyche will be irreparably damaged.

Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result. “Discipline your son while there is still hope, and do not desire his death.” KJV translates this verse, “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” An old German saying goes like this: “It is better that the child weep than the father.” The second part of that verse is to moderate the discipline or punishment. When we go back to the Law, it says, “If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.” (Deut. 21:18-21) The Law empowered the elders of the city to mete out punishment by death, not the parents. Think of the elders of the city like our modern day justice system. In Eph. 6:4 Paul said, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” In Col. 3:21 he said, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” If you take the time to teach, correct, and discipline your children while there is hope, there’ll be no need to bring them to the elders of the city to be put to death. That gives you the idea of just how bad having rebellious kids really is.

Let’s talk about anger again. “A man of great anger will bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.” This typically plays itself out when we make excuses for people that act in ways that are not appropriate. People will say things like, “He can’t help it, he has anger issues.” “He can’t help it, he’s off his meds.” There are bona fide cases where medication is an appropriate treatment for issues, but we’re talking about people just being angry about things and many times, it’s anger about things that cannot be controlled. If you rescue someone that cannot control his anger, you will rescue them over and over and again.

Child discipline is a very hot topic in our culture today. We’ve got people that tell us to spank and not spank. We’ve got people that tell us to let our kids find their own way and don’t discipline at all. Every child will exercise their free will at some point. Not every type of discipline works for every child so figure out what works for your child. For the experienced parents, help new parents. If you see an out of control kid in Walmart or on a plane, offer words of encouragement instead of telling the parent that they need to take care of their child. Rules and policies are good to have; it teaches boundaries. The hope we have in our children turning out good diminishes with each passing year. Take care to raise them while there is still hope. Don’t tolerate out of control anger. If you bail someone out that is frequently angry, you’ll continue to do so. Let them bear the penalty for their behavior.

Domestic Disharmony

19 Sep

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Last week we did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on wealth hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians and I encouraged you to review it from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean there will not be consequences. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling. This morning, we take a different look at some relationships.

I hope you’ll take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 19:12-17.

Solomon shifts from fury to wrath. He spoke about the king’s fury back in 16:14 and said that the king can bring about life or death in 16:15. The same general idea is presented here again. “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.” Probably no student likes to get sent to the principal’s office. There’s probably no worker that wants to get summoned to the supervisor’s office. If and when you do, do you get this sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? If you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t worry. Solomon is saying if you’ve done wrong, the king’s wrath is like that of a roaring lion. Substitute supervisor, manager, principle, or boss and you get the idea. If you hear the roar, you’re on the receiving end of his wrath. But if you’re doing good and right, “His favor is like dew on the grass.” It’s refreshing, it’s delightful, it’s the sign of a new day. It’s a good place to be. Paul said it like this in Rom. 13:3, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same.”

Let’s shift over to some household issues. Many people grow up and dream of getting out on their own, getting married, and starting a family. It’s a normal part of life. The opposite is true: if you have grown children that never want to leave the house, that’s abnormal. I’m not talking about arrangements of convenience or mutual benefit. I’m talking about no plans, no ambition, and no desire that can lead to issues. We start with the parent son relationship. “A foolish son is destruction to his father.” We saw the foolish son causing grief to his mother in 10:1 and to his father in 17:25. We saw the foolish man despising his mother in 15:20. In 17:21 we saw there’s no joy in being the father of a fool. Now he’s causing destruction to his father. Have you ever wished you never had children? Do you wish that they could be shipped off somewhere? Children were meant to be a joy and a blessing. Do you wonder if and when they will stop causing such sorrow in your life? All of these feelings fall under the umbrella of what Solomon is talking about. Even after they move out of the house and began life on their own, they can cause problems. No matter how old you get or they get, you’ll always be a parent.

Have you ever thought about the importance of relationships? Well, Solomon has and he shifts over to the second most important relationship in this world. Outside of the relationship with Jesus Christ, the husband wife relationship is the most important relationship you’ll be engaged in. As equally troubling, Solomon says, “The contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.” You may have heard this verse quoted before. It seems like a departure from the last thing he said about wives: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” (Pro. 18:22) We’re talking about a contentious wife here. Contentions are quarrels, arguments, disagreements, or controversies. Solomon’s talking about bickering and fighting between husband and wife and he’s not talking once in a while. There are certain things that are not up for discussion in the home. How you hang the toilet paper or paper towels. What type of peanut butter or coffee to buy. The relationship Solomon refers to is a continuous struggle and it seems he’s directing this at the woman. No matter the time or day of the week, this woman makes it unsettling and uneasy to be around her.

It’s a, “constant dripping.” Have you ever tried to think or sleep with a dripping faucet? The longer you are in silence, the louder it gets? Not long ago, our ice maker began making a knocking sound. That refrigerator is about as far away from our bedroom as it can be. With our door shut, it sounded like a hammer against concrete and it got louder and louder and louder until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I got out of bed and disassembled it until the noise stopped. It was irritating, it got under my skin, I couldn’t think about anything else except how annoying the noise was. That’s what Solomon is talking about. Continual strife in the home. Bickering, arguing, snarky comments, purposeful antagonizing make that an unpleasant place to be. So what’s the solution? It’s the same one you’ve heard before. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25) All of us need to get out of the business of trying to change other people. You be the person God is transforming you to be and pray that you’ll be able to demonstrate the same love, grace, and mercy that has been bestowed upon you. Impossible? No. Easy? Doubtful, but it should get easier as you grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God. Solomon talks more about problematic wives in Chapters 21 and 27.

He continues the domestic angle in the next verse. “House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” Notice the wifely contrast from the previous verse. This verse refers to the ancient practice of arranged marriages. Believe it or not, arranged marriages are still common in India, Pakistan, Japan, China, and in Israel among orthodox Jewish communities. In order to make it more attractive to potential husbands, dowries were offered. The bigger the dowry, the better quality husband to be attracted for marriage. No matter how big the estate or dowry, “A prudent wife is from the Lord.” Prudent means acting with care and concern for the future. The prudent wife makes the best of everything. Have you ever heard of the phrase, “A marriage made in heaven?” A prudent wife is more valuable than a big house and great wealth. The most important factor in marriage is dedication to God and His Son. Show me a wife that earnestly follows Christ, and I’ll show you a woman that will stick it out in difficult situations, that will demonstrate love and respect for her husband, that will not nag him to death, that will not drive him out of the house. Show me a prudent wife, and I’ll show you a husband that is blessed beyond measure. Show me a prudent wife, and I’ll show you a husband that should praise the Lord and thank Him for His goodness. If we would be more patient and trusting, the Lord would provide that person in our life.

Verse 15 is nothing new. “Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger.” Solomon has little patience for laziness. “How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Pro. 6:9) “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” (Pro. 6:10) and that exact verse is repeated in Pro. 24:33. Laziness seems to be rampant these days. Idleness seems to be rewarded. That’s totally contrary to the work ethic mandated for followers of Christ. “Laziness casts into a deep sleep.” When you’re lazy, you fall asleep and dream. You accomplish nothing. When you’re idle, you’re not working. If you’re not working, you’re not earning money. If you’re not earning money, you can’t buy food. If you can’t buy food, you will be hungry. It is as simple as that. I always scratch my head at people that are unemployed and when you tell them about a job, they say they don’t want to do that kind of work. If you’re able to work and you’re too lazy to work, shame on you.

Obedience is a good thing. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) I don’t know of any better way to demonstrate your love and commitment to Christ than to be obedient to His teachings. Solomon knew this and that’s why he says, “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul.” Keeping God’s commands is a really good thing to do. We don’t do it to earn our way to heaven; we’re obedient because we defer to God’s plan and to His will. Back in Pro. 13:13, we saw, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” In Luke 11, Jesus had cast out a demon from a mute man and after the demon was gone, the mute man was able to speak. The Pharisees told the people that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus explained about demons and about a divided house and the teaching was so incredible that, “One of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Lu. 11:27-28) This woman was praising Jesus’ mother for giving birth to Him, and Jesus turns it around into obedience. It’s not good enough just to listen to the Word of God. You can hear the Word day in and day out, but if you don’t take it to heart and follow what the Word says, are you really hearing it?

Don’t misunderstand what Solomon is saying. “He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul.” This is not a works based faith. Apart from Christ, you’re not able to keep the commandments of God. Solomon is talking about walking the walk that you talk. He’s talking about walking the path of righteousness. When you follow the commands of God, the principles found in Scripture, the teachings of Jesus, and the teachings of the prophets, you will keep your soul. The opposite is also true. If you ignore the teachings of the Bible, you will die. Make no mistake about it, everyone has eternal life. That eternal life is either present with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit or separated from the Trinity for eternity.

Our last verse for today: “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed.” This goes hand in hand with Jesus’ words when He said, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt. 25:40) Essentially, if you want to help someone in the name of Jesus, God will bless you in whatever way He deems appropriate.

It is not good to be on the receiving end of a lion’s roar. If you consistently do what is pleasing to the Lord, you’ll find yourself as refreshed as the morning dew. Solomon moved over and talked about domestic relations. It’s tough to have a foolish son – in fact it can destroy a father. Constant wifely nagging is like a dripping faucet: it can drive you out of your mind. Having a wife is a good thing, but finding a prudent woman is a gift from God. Don’t be lazy – it can lead to hunger. We finished by talking about keeping the commands of God. It is probably the primary indicator of an authentic relationship with God. If you do a good deed in the name of Jesus to help someone, God will reward your actions; we don’t know if it will happen here, but it will definitely happen in eternity.

Are We Supposed to Forgive and Forget?

12 Sep

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Last week we started by asking the question, what is your word worth? Do you keep your promises? It’s better to be poor with integrity than get out of poverty by dishonesty. We saw the standard for morality is found in the living Word of God. Don’t do foolish things and then blame God when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We finished by talking about lying. It’s never good, right, or acceptable and that was the whole truth. This morning, we’ll do some review and dig into the topic of forgiveness.

Pro. 19:6-11 says, “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone. He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish. Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes. A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

This is not a new principle. We saw this briefly last week. “Many will seek the favor or a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him; He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” This just goes to reaffirm the idea that rich people attract others. Rich people can get places with their money. People fawn over rich people. Just look at the entertainment and sports industries. Because of their fame and fortune, society seeks these people out for guidance, wisdom, their ideas, and their opinions. I’ve always thought it strange that celebrities and sports figures frequently are asked their opinion on matters they know nothing about. They’re sought out simply because they are famous. What is this infatuation we have with celebrities? We even have paparazzi follow them around taking pictures like we don’t know they go to the beach, or go shopping, or go out to eat. They tell us what movie or concert they went to, what they ate and if they’ve gained any weight. While rich people are sought after, have you ever thought about the fact that no one is taking pictures of the other side? Nobody follows the poor around. In fact, sometimes they are told to move along. They’re told they can’t be in public places. This is the exact application Solomon is talking about.

We hear a lot that God is no respecter of persons. That’s true, but when we use it in that application it refers to a Jew and Gentile comparison. “For there is no partiality with God.” (Rom. 2:11) Acts 10 records two visions: one that Cornelius had and one that Peter had. Cornelius’ vision included Peter coming to see him. Peter’s vision included a sheet coming down from the sky that had all kinds of four footed animals and creeping things in it. As he was contemplating the vision, the Spirit told him that three men sent by Cornelius were looking for him. Cornelius was of the Italian Cohort and is widely believed to be the first Gentile convert to Christ. In Acts 10:34 after Peter was told to go the home of Cornelius, he said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” But Solomon is talking about the tendency we have. Ja. 2:1-7 speaks about what Solomon is talking about. It says, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” It is wrong to demonstrate favor because a person is rich. This is yet another example of how riches can affect a relationship with Christ. If this happens in the church, rich people can get the idea that God favors them which is very far from the truth.

Let’s do a quick review. “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.” Remember that, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:29) Make an effort to gain wisdom; it will benefit your soul. Verse 9 is a direct restatement of v. 5.

Solomon gets pretty critical in the next verse. He says, “Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes.” Luxury is a state of great comfort. Obviously what one considers luxurious might not be so to another. Our facilities here are quite plain and simple, nothing we would consider fancy. Compare our church to a common church in Southeast Romania, and it is quite luxurious. We have heating and air conditioning, indoor plumbing, running water, and padded seats. All of which are missing from your common village church in Romania. When we mention luxury, it can be attributed to a house, a car, a boat, or really anything that is over the top for the common person. Solomon says it makes no sense for a fool to live in the lap of luxury. The fool is out of place. He doesn’t know how to handle it because he has lived a life of foolishness. Think about the lottery winner. A January article on cleveland.com said about 70% of lottery winners end up bankrupt. “People who were little, ordinary people all of a sudden become extraordinary,” said Steve Lewit, CEO of Wealth Financial Group in Chicago. “They’re euphoric. They lose all sense of reality. They think they’re invincible and powerful. They think they’re Superman.” That certainly describes a fool, doesn’t it?

It is equally out of place for a, “Slave to rule over princes.” The fool we can get, but this part is challenging to understand. The best I can come up with is to compare this to the workplace. Employees are not slaves and supervisors and managers are not royalty, but this seems a good application. If given the chance, most entry level employees lack the breadth of knowledge and experience to effectively manage the company. Although they may say or think they can, they really can’t. They are most likely unqualified to lead so a leadership position is inappropriate. That’s what Solomon is saying. Over the years, they might gain the knowledge necessary to fill that position, but not right now.

Another review. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” We’ve seen this principle before in Proverbs. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Pro. 14:29) And in Pro. 16:32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” It’s the same thing again, but with a modification I want to spend some time on. Solomon is reminding us of the spiritual gift of self-control. It’s easy to let yourself go and lose control. It’s easy to be angry right up until you realize what a fool you’ve made of yourself. Many of us can quote the Bible passage that tells us, “Be angry, and yet do not sin,” but we rarely quote the rest of the verse that gives us the rationale behind the command. That snippet is found in one of the most comprehensive chapters in Scripture regarding our daily lives. We looked at several verses a couple of weeks ago and it’s found in Ephesians 4. Paul painstakingly walks us through the rationale behind his words. The pinnacle of his reasoning is found in v. 22-24. “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Former manner of life goes with the old self. The old self was being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. The new self is renewed in the mind. The new self is in the likeness of God. The new self is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Listen to the reason we’re not supposed to sin when we get angry: “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph. 4:26b-27) If you get angry and you sin, you give the devil an opportunity. Opportunity is also translated place. Give the devil an inch and he’ll take a mile. Entertain one thought and he’ll flood your mind. The opposite of the discrete man is found in Pro. 14:17: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” It is far wiser to be slow to anger. It’s far wiser to consider your words. It’s far wiser to take a breath before speaking. The guy that is slow to anger, “It is to his glory to overlook a transgression.” Overlook here literally means ignore. Before you jump to conclusions, this does not mean that we should forgive and forget – a principle not found in the Bible. Should we forgive? Absolutely. Even if the person isn’t going to change? Absolutely. Even if the person doesn’t ask for it? Absolutely. Maybe you’re thinking that God forgets our sin. Heb. 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”         That sounds an awful lot like forgive and forget. Let’s think about this for a second. Can God, who knows all things and sees all things, really forget something? The short answer is no, so what are we talking about?

When you put your faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross to atone for sin, you are positionally justified. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, it is just as if you had never sinned. The reason God forgets is because He looks at us and sees the atonement Christ made. Rom. 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We aren’t condemned for sin. Once you enter into an authentic relationship with Christ, it’s not a matter of heaven and hell. You are positionally safe, but you have to align that with other verses that talk about God’s desire that we put off the old self that fulfilled the desires of the flesh and we put on the new self. God doesn’t want us to sin and that should be our desire. So forgive and forget is not a viable reality. Is it hard to move forward? Paul said it like this: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Phil. 3:13) Don’t let Satan hold you hostage to your past. Overlook transgressions doesn’t mean that we throw wisdom out the window. The easiest way to understand this is to illustrate it. If someone has a history of theft, do we forgive him? Absolutely, but we aren’t going to make him the treasurer. If someone demonstrates a lack of discretion on social media, do we forgive them? Of course, but they aren’t going to be an administrator on our Facebook page. I think you get the idea. Forgiving behavior does not mean that appropriate consequences will not be handed down either by the church, the law, or your friends. What I find strange is that people who are suffering as a result of their decisions complain about the consequences from those decisions.

We did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on money hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians. It’s a chapter I encourage you to review from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean no consequences will result. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.

The Whole Truth

6 Sep

LiarCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon gave us a biblical perspective on poverty. Instead of looking at things through the world’s eyes, we need to understand things from God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can actually be a barrier to an authentic relationship with Christ. It can affect the poor, but it can also affect the prosperous. In our self-satisfying world, we learned that having too many friends can really cause problems in our lives. Blood bonds are important, but there is no bond stronger than the bond between the created and the Creator. That bond is made possible because Jesus became the Son of man and experienced the full force of God’s wrath as He became sin for us enabling that relationship with God. This morning, we’ll evaluate honesty.

Pro. 19:1-5 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool. Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs. The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord. Wealth adds many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.”

What is your word worth? If you grew up in my generation or before, you’ve heard the phrase, “A man’s word is his bond.” Deals were made with a handshake. When someone said, “I’ll do it,” it got done. Solomon starts off Chapter 19 talking about something that is extremely valuable these days, but seems to be lacking in many people. He says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” The word poor used here means destitute or hungry. The form of the word used here is not a bad word as Solomon has used before. The poverty experienced is not because of laziness or an unwillingness to work.    He’s setting up the contrast. “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity.” I think we have a pretty good handle on walking. It means manner of life. It’s who you are, it’s not an act, it’s not something you put on and take off: it is really who you are when you’re alone, when you’re in a strange city, when your boss isn’t looking, when your spouse isn’t home, and when your parents are out for the evening.

So what about integrity? This can be a difficult concept to define. Some will say it’s being honest. I like this definition from vocabulary.com: “Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way. It’s a personality trait that we admire, since it means a person has a moral compass that doesn’t waver. It literally means having ‘wholeness’ of character, just as an integer is a ‘whole number’ with no fractions.” Solomon is talking about having strong moral principles. The obvious follow on question is, “Where do I get moral principles?” The source of morality must be from an unchanging standard. The standard of morality must come from a source that knows the beginning from the end, that was engaged and continues to be engaged in humanity. The standard of morality must come from a source that is impervious to the changing values of society and cultural norms. The standard of morality must transcend human thought. In light of these musts, where can we find that incredible standard of morality that is accessible to us that we can follow and live by?

  • Paul reminded Timothy that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
  • 2 Pet. 1:21 says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
  • Heb. 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

There is plenty of other scriptural support to conclude that the Bible is the only source of absolute truth that we can live by. It was given to us for training and correction, it’s alive, it’s applicable for our times, and it does not change. It’s better to be hungry and have integrity, “Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” Perverse here means twisted or false and fool means thick or dull headed. It’s better to be poor and walk in integrity than it is to use twisted or dishonest words to escape poverty. He goes on to say, “Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, and he who hurries his footsteps errs.” This is a really good one. We have seen a number of times where Solomon has talked about knowledge leading to understanding leading to wisdom. The Hebrew form of the word “person” here is normally translated as soul, but here it means inner drive and vitality. With that in mind, he says that you can have all the ambition and drive and zeal, but if you operate without knowledge, it’s going to cause errors. You’ve heard the term, “Go off half-cocked”? You operate without all the facts or knowledge needed to accomplish the task. As a result, errors are made.

Kari and I sometimes watch those home renovation shows like, “Renovation Realities.” It always horrifies me to watch what they do. I remember a recent episode where a homeowner wanted to take a wall out, and the question was raised about it being a load bearing wall. The response was, “I guess we’ll find out.” It’s not good to proceed in something without the requisite knowledge for success. Hold on, you might be thinking. Don’t you tell us to trust God and go forward even when He doesn’t fill us in on the details? That is entirely different. Keep it in context, if you’re trying to get out of poverty by going off on some half-baked scheme, it will lead to errors. I knew someone that decided one day that he would begin investing in real estate by building houses and doing the work himself. He didn’t really know which end of the hammer to use and it turned out very poorly. That’s not to say that every single time we act without knowledge will lead to problems. Even that blind squirrel will find a nut once in a while.

Here’s some more foolishness. Verse 3 says, “The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord.” How often do we experience consequences from our own misguided notions? How many unbiblical things have we done that led to disaster and then asked God where He has gone? This is the point Solomon is making. When you take God out of the equation, things will generally not work out the way you expect. You enter a relationship with someone that the Bible says not to. You enter or change career paths without seeking guidance from the Lord. You go to college or don’t go without consulting God. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. Many times we inform God of what we intend to do and then expect Him to bless it. When He doesn’t, we tend to blame God or say He doesn’t answer our prayers or offer up whatever type of blame shifting we can do instead of saying, you know, I blew it. Don’t you try and get your kids to admit when they’ve done something wrong? If you have gone down a path God doesn’t want you to go down, isn’t that sin? Shouldn’t sin always be confessed? Isn’t confessed sin forgiven? I want to look at Ps. 51:1-17 and I really encourage to read this great passage. That’s what genuine repentance looks like. Your sin doesn’t have to be out in the public. You don’t have to have been caught in some sinful act to pray this prayer. It’s never too late to turn your life to Him and follow Him.

Verse 4 says, “Wealth add many friends, but a poor man is separated from his friend.” We’ve seen that principle before. People that have money will attract new friends and forgotten friends. This verse can be summed up by quoting Bruce Wayne: “There’s a thing about being a Wayne that . . . you’re never short of a few freeloaders, like yourselves, to fill up your mansion with, so, here’s to you people. Thank you.” (From the movie Batman Begins)

Just in case you missed it. Back in Pro. 6:19 Solomon said, “A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” These are numbers six and seven on the list of things God hates. A lying tongue is number two. We know God hates that and Solomon now gives us the result of dishonesty. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape.” Notice this is a guarantee. You may get away with lying for a short while, but the truth will come out. Maybe not in a natural context, but definitely in a supernatural context. Just because you don’t see consequences does not mean there won’t be any. There are two aspects Solomon is talking about here. One is an official type of capacity like a court of law while the other is normal conversation. In a courtroom, you take an oath to tell the truth. Even though you take that oath to tell the truth, if you’re a liar, do you think that the oath will somehow guarantee that the whole truth and nothing but the truth will be told? My experience has shown that people that lack integrity will lie even when there is no advantage to be gained. I’ve seen people lie even when the lie is so easily proven false. I do believe dishonesty is a character flaw. It is nearly impossible to learn integrity – you either have it or you do not. That being said, do not underestimate or discount the power of God to transform your life. Remember all of the things you used to be. Those character traits have been crucified with Christ. The Apostle Paul said, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom. 8:12-14) You do not have to lie, you’re not forced to lie, you do not ever have to sin.

We started by asking the question, what is your word worth? Do you keep your promises? It’s better to be poor with integrity than get out of poverty by dishonesty. We saw the standard for morality is found in the living Word of God. Don’t do foolish things and then blame god when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We finished by talking about lying. It’s never good, right, or acceptable and that’s the whole truth.

Stretched Too Thin

29 Aug

StretchedYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon talked about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value. This morning, we’ll dig into biblical poverty and biblical friendship.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:23-24 where Solomon says, “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly. A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Have we turned the corner on this? Our first verse speaks of something I think we need to get an accurate picture of so before we look at that verse, I’d like to give you some biblical perspective on this topic. In Matt. 26, the famous story is told of the precious ointment in the alabaster box. I encourage you to check out the account of the event in Matt. 26:6-13 because I want to focus on just a couple of key points. It’s never a waste to make financial sacrifice on behalf of Jesus. The disciples were, “indignant.” Indignant means feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. They argued that the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ response should serve as a warning to us. “For you will always have the poor with you.” Money is not the answer. It may provide temporary relief, but does not provide a solution. We’ve bought the lie that if we’re not giving to the poor, feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked, that we’re somehow failing as believers and as a church.

As I have shared, we get frequent calls from people needing monetary help with everything from their rent to vehicle repairs. Why do people call churches instead of calling a bank, or a convenience store, or a restaurant, or a realty company? Have you ever thought about that? Somewhere along the way, the church became the answer. According to National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS), there are over 1.5 million charities in the United States. The largest organization with over 84 billion in assets might surprise you: the Harvard Corporation. Next at over 66 billion is the Kaiser Foundation, a national health care consortium. Third is one you probably have heard of. It’s the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation with assets over 54 billion. Those organizations are classified in the same 501(c)(3) category as churches. I wanted to give you this background to help you understand where we are. Over and over again in Scripture we are warned of the dangers of having an unbiblical view of money. Money is not evil. Whether you are rich or poor by some arbitrary, shifting standard is irrelevant to your status with God. Often in Scripture, the rich or greedy are spoken of in a negative light. “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income.” (Eccl. 5:10) “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Lu.6:24-25) The opposite is often true regarding the poor. Maybe you’re familiar with the widow of Luke 21. The reality God shows us over and over again is that money can be a barrier in a person’s relationship with God.

So here’s the verse. “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” Poverty can be an incredible problem, but it can have a positive effect on your relationship with God. Supplication is the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly. The poor person seeks help from God.  Rich people rarely learn to rely on God for provision. Unfortunately, many times our prayers of supplication turn into a glorified wish list that we want God to fulfill. It is absolutely okay to go to God for your needs. Ja. 4:2b says, “You do not have because you do not ask.” We often quote Phil. 4:19 where Paul reminds us, “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” What we fail to do is recognize the context in which Paul gave us that truth. Let’s take a look at the context. Another passage we need to understand is found in Phil 4:10-19. The Philippians had been long time investors in the Kingdom of God through Paul’s work. We use that ask not verse and neglect the remainder of the thought when James says, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives.” (Ja. 4:3a) Prosperity can lead to arrogance as well as a desire to hold onto what one has. Of course, that mentality takes God out of the equation when someone thinks that they have achieved something. Remember from a recent message: everything that occurs in this life is allowed by God. When the rich think they’re someone because of their wealth, they fall into that money trap. That’s what Solomon is saying here. The poor offer entreaties or supplications and in return, “The rich man answers roughly.” Just because you have achieved wealth or some status, does not give you the right to treat others harshly. As is often the case with Solomon, he offers a very distinct contrast between two types of people.

Can friendship lead to ruin? Michael W. Smith sang a song that said friends are friends forever. As with many things, we tend to stick to the good part and leave out the caveat or reason behind something. The rest of that line goes: “If the Lord’s the Lord of them.” The idea is that when the Lord reigns supreme in your life, then any issues or differences can easily be worked out. Solomon says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin.” When I was growing up, I seemed to have multiple sets of friends. I had sports friends, neighborhood friends, school friends, and then I had my real friends. Too many friends can lead to trouble. There are the tag along friends, the fifth wheel friends, the needy friends. But those kind of people aren’t really friends. Friend is defined as a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations. A couple of months ago we looked at Pro. 17:17 where Solomon said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” So you really can’t have too many friends can you? Solomon says if you do, you will come to ruin. If we understand that ruin literally means broken in pieces, I think we might begin to understand. When we have issues or hurts in life, we expect that our friends will come running and will be there for us. As I said in the message from Pro. 17:17, if you have one, two, or three real friends, consider yourself blessed. If you have too many friends, there won’t be much time to cultivate those relationships, to strengthen them, or to invest in them. Even if you don’t have any so-called real friends, Solomon reminds us, “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is an often quoted verse to remind us of the friendship of Christ. Did you notice the contrast word? Solomon presents the idea that if you have too many friends, they will not be there for you, but there is One that always will be there. There is a friend that sticks closer to you than a blood relationship. Think about that. There is a closeness associated with blood relationships. As members of a family, you might argue or fight and generally not like one another for a time, but if someone goes against a member of your family, all bets are off, right? See, there’s a bond within the family.

Many people think that the friend Solomon is talking about is Jesus. Jesus certainly fits this profile. He became the Son of man in order for us to enter into the closest relationship possible between the Creator and the created. H. D. M. Spence-Jones said it this way, “More tenacious than the mere natural love of kindred, because [it is] founded on the affinity of soul with soul. All the purest types of earthly affection and friendship are but hints of the eternal love of Him who calls the soul into espousal, friendship, and eternal communion with himself.” The bond of Christ is stronger than the bond between family. But good exegesis is more important than eisegesis. The contrast is between a man of many friends and a man of few friends. When you have few friends, you have deeper relationships. It’s better to have a friend that sticks closer to you than any blood relative than it is to have a bunch of shallow acquaintances that call themselves friends. Jesus can be your friend, but He is much more than that.

This morning started with a biblical perspective on poverty. As with so many things in this world, we need to understand God’s point of view. As hard as this is to believe, money is rarely the answer to poverty. Money can be a barrier to an authentic relationship with Christ. It can affect the poor, but it can also affect the prosperous. In our self-satisfying world, we learned that having too many friends can actually cause problems in our lives. Blood bonds are important, but there is no bond stronger than the bond between the created and the Creator. That bond is made possible because Jesus became the Son of man and experienced the full force of God’s wrath as He became sin for us enabling that relationship with God.

The Good Wife

22 Aug

MarriageListen to the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon reminded us that there’s always hope. Prayer is one key to seeing hearts changed, but the heart that is changed might not be the one that you’re praying for. Understand where we are in the scope of eternity. We’re in the last days where people are turning away from absolute truth. Everything that happens is part of God’s eternal plan, but we’re not briefed on the specifics of that plan. We saw some important qualities from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we must put into practice on a regular basis. The screams for tolerance today is not the same tolerance Paul talks about in Scripture. Sometimes people are unwilling to acknowledge their sin choosing instead to blame others and sometimes even blame God. Contentions between people can cause you to feel like your trapped in a prison. Love God, love others, do what you can to spread the hope that is found in Christ and you might just find that the immovable object that was in your path will move out of the way by the power of God. This morning, we look at some speech metaphors and we’ll close by seeing the value of a wife.

Pro. 18:20-22 says, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Solomon might just be the most prolific painter of the word picture. He begins by saying, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips.” It may not be obvious, but Solomon is talking about a man’s speech. Words have the power to encourage or discourage. They have the power to build up or tear down. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. As always, the caution remains to be careful about what you say. This really is quite a curious verse. At first glance, it seems like this is an edification type of statement. You eat fruit, it tastes good, and your tummy is happy, but that’s not the meaning here. The meaning here is that there are people that really enjoy hearing themselves speak. These are the people that have something to say about every topic. These are the people that will gladly provide their viewpoint on an issue whether they are asked or not. These are the people that have the answer to the question, but haven’t read the book. These are the people that hijack the Bible study, but didn’t do the homework. These are the people that have a lot to say, but there is no substance. These are the people that really just like to hear themselves talk.

The next verse is a continuation when Solomon says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” This is confirmation that Solomon is talking about the power of speech. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me came onto the scene way back in 1862. Back then it was probably true, but times have changed drastically since then. When you think about what can happen because of our speech, it should slow us down and encourage caution. If Peter had paid attention to what Jesus told him, maybe he would not have denied knowing Christ. If Ananias and Sapphira hadn’t lied about the money they made from selling their property, they wouldn’t have been struck dead.

Ps. 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Matt. 15:11: “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Ja. 1:26: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
Matt. 12:36: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” There are a boatload of other examples in Scripture about how to use the power of our speech for good and not evil.

There’s life and death in our words in the world we live in too. Think about telling lies about people. You can get people fired from their job because of what you say about them. You could get fired for something you say. Your testimony can get someone locked up or sent to prison. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. You can’t talk to everyone in the same way. Don’t talk to your boss the way you talk to your kids. Don’t talk to your parents like you talk to your friends. Take Paul’s guidance very seriously: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Let’s shift gears. Solomon changes subjects and talks about marriage. He says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” After God created man, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) After Adam gave all the animals names, the Bible says, “But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” What’s really interesting about this is the word suitable is that it means corresponding to. There was nothing in the garden that looked like Adam. Mankind was created to have fellowship with the Creator and with one another. 1 Cor. 11:9 says, “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” Before you get all freaked out, it is true that we were not meant to be alone, but this is not a misogynistic, barbarian, caveman type of relationship. Solomon is going back to the type of woman that was created by God for Adam.

The wife was and is to be a helper for the man. I know this probably isn’t popular teaching today, but it’s the design God intended. That does not mean women are inferior to men. It doesn’t mean women are not valuable. It doesn’t mean women are not smart or capable. It doesn’t mean women are not important. Solomon is saying if you find a wife, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean you must be married, but, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” (Pro. 12:4) You’ll hear wives referred to as the better half. If you’re here and you’re not married, I don’t believe you’re out of the will of God, I don’t believe you’re sinning, I don’t believe you’re inferior or somehow don’t measure up to God’s desires or standards. The best plan for marriage is to allow God to bring someone into your life. You’ll likely hear people say they have the key to success in marriage and I actually do have it. Marriage is not easy. There will be disagreements, unfulfilled expectations, hurt, sorrow, misunderstandings, laundry, chores, cooking, and cleaning. But there is also great joy and happiness, companionship, fellowship, communication, and intimacy. Before I tell you the secret to a successful marriage, you might be thinking you’re already a failure and there’s no hope for you. Don’t believe that for one minute. Marriage is hard, but you successfully navigate through hard things all the time. Don’t tell me it’s hard, I know it is. If you’re married to someone that does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, it’s even harder. I will even acknowledge that marriage can be challenging between two people that are committed Christians.

I will offer one assumption and that is that we are talking about followers of Christ so here’s the secret: the most important thing in a marriage outside of Jesus is commitment to one another. This commitment comes out in the marriage vows. I ask the groom: Groom, in taking this woman to be your wife, do you promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, as long as you both shall live? Then I ask the bride that same thing. In all the ceremonies I’ve done over the years, not one time has anyone responded “I don’t” to that question. Do you see the commitment? No matter the circumstances, you’re committed to one another. There’s never talk of divorce. I don’t care how great a communicator you are or how much money you have or make, how awesome your house is or how great your job is, if you’re not committed to one another, your marriage will fail. Too many people today treat marriage as a dating relationship. If you’re committed to one another, you will do whatever it takes to work through issues to make your marriage stronger.

Finding a wife is a good thing and I want to encourage you to review the biblical standards for husbands and for wives. Every guy can quote Eph. 5:22: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” If there’s one verse that every guy has memorized it’s this one. They may not know that God loved the world, but they can spout off the submission verse in their sleep. Often though, the guy that quotes that verse in an attempt to force his wife into doing something, but has neglected the previous verse that tells us to, “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” A more important principle is one that you’ve heard me quote on numerous occasions and is found in Eph. 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Nowhere is that love dependent on what your wife does or does not do. The comparative love is that of Christ. No matter what we do, He still loves us.

Let’s take a look at a very important passage directed at wives found in 1 Pet. 3:1-6. I encourage you to check it out yourself. Nowhere does Peter limit this mandate to men that are wonderful, loving, godly, caring, and wholesome men. Women, it’s a whole lot easier to love a man that is awesome and wonderfully supportive of everything you want to accomplish in life. Look at what God holds precious in v. 4. Hold on now men, Peter hasn’t forgotten about you. 1 Pet. 3:7 gives us this incredible command: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Are your prayers consistently not answered and you feel like God doesn’t even hear you? Maybe it’s because you’re not the man God wants you to be. Peter finishes this passage by saying, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:8-9) Finding a wife is a good thing.

We began today talking about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value.

An Immovable Object

15 Aug

BarsCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon gave us a principle we can all live by: think before you speak. There is rarely any issue that must be dealt with that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to think before speaking. If you’re a child of the King and you get sick or diagnosed with some disease, allow the Spirit of God to minister to you through the illness. When your spirit is broken, no one can bear that. Don’t allow defeat to enter your mind. Be willing to learn, no matter what state of life you’re in; that’s what biblically wise people do. Bring gifts when appropriate, but not with the hope that they’ll get you anywhere. Before drawing conclusions about an issue, make sure you get all the facts from everyone involved. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in the folly of speaking without thought. This morning, we’re going to peek into God’s sovereignty as well as the difficulty of relationships.

Pro. 18:18-19 says, “The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”

Don’t you just love games of chance at the fair? There really is no such thing as chance. The last time our little fair came to town, I had an opportunity to chat with some of the operators of those games. The games are next to impossible to win because they’re designed to give the operator the advantage. They hope you’ll keep playing so they can get more of your money. Solomon starts off by talking about chance: “The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones.” Back in Pro. 16:33 Solomon told us, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” In Bible days, the lot was one of the methods used to determine God’s will and I provided several Scripture references where lots were cast to determine God’s will in that message. That’s not quite the same thing that Solomon is saying here. The strife here is a disagreement, “between the mighty ones.” Mighty ones are powerful people. We don’t know if Solomon is thinking about any one person in particular. When you are not a mighty one, this verse has no meaning for you. Your boss gives you an assignment that you don’t like and you have no recourse, but to accomplish it. That’s an application, but Solomon is talking about compromising when two people are trying to exert their will on each other. When no compromise is possible, the lot is cast to determine who wins. Think about it as playing rock, paper, scissors. Drawing straws, picking a number between one and ten. The outcome is left to chance. Sometimes settling by chance prevents an argument or disagreement from developing. When the lot is used, in essence, the outcome is considered to be a demonstration of God’s will. If the mighty had their way, everything would be settled by power.

In a spiritual sense, nothing is left to chance. Since God is sovereign, all things are controlled by Him. Let me give you a mind bending reality. here is a difference between God’s perfect will and His permissive will. There are people, even in Christian circles, that will try and tell you that since something happened, it is God’s will. God does allow things that are beyond our ability to understand and in the grand scheme of eternity, His will is accomplished. With our finite minds, we are unable to grasp that especially when we are on the receiving end of something that seems impossible to bare.

This next verse is a real eye opener. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.” Brother here means a close friend and can also mean a sibling in Christ. I can’t tell you how many broken relationships I have seen in the church. It’s not that some people aren’t willing to reconcile, they won’t even talk to one another. It just goes to show you how damaging pride is when two people professing a relationship with Christ are unwilling to resolve an issue. Turn over to Eph. 4:1-6 and let’s look at one of Paul’s mandates to believers. I don’t know about you, but I for one am growing increasingly weary of people that say they are a believer in Christ, but are unwilling to walk in the Spirit. I want to point out a couple of key words in Paul’s passage. The first is walk which gives us the idea that our faith is who we are, it’s our way of life and we don’t turn it on and off. The second is humility which we have seen throughout Proverbs and gives us the idea that all of us need to be open to learning. The third is tolerance. We’ve gone way of the rails with this word. Tolerance is defined as the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Look at what Paul says in 4:14-24. What you were is not what you are because Christ imparted the power for transformation in your heart. Nowhere is tolerance defined as acceptance. The truth is the truth even when it doesn’t line up with your thoughts or behavior. The fourth word is all of v. 3: “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Diligent means careful and conscientious. Preserve means to maintain in the original state. Acts 4:32 says, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” It takes consistent, intentional effort to maintain what Paul, Luke, and Solomon are talking about. And there really is no acceptable alternative than to work hard at working out differences.

Broken relationships are quite damaging. Too often when a relationship is broken, one half of the relationship has no idea what happened. There’s generally some hurt, sorrow, wrongdoing, or deception that has occurred and that brother becomes in the words of the Very Reverend Henry Donald Maurice Spence, “A potent and irreconcilable enemy.” Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of it . . . I know I have. On my birthday in 2015, I got this message from someone that used to be here at C4: “Happy Birthday Brother, Pastor & Friend.” On June 19th, less than three months later I received this message from the same individual: “I can honestly say that everyone that you should strongly look at your choice of calling yourself a pastor because you really do **** when it comes to dealing with people.” This individual was unwilling to come and talk to me about whatever the issue was and instead chose to attack me in a message. I’ve messed up in my life. I’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time, I’ve done things I regret, I haven’t done things I should have, but I hope I don’t make excuses about what a failure I am. I take responsibility for my actions, I’m willing to apologize, I’m willing to do what it takes to resolve issues when I know about them. As I said before, many times you don’t know there’s an issue until you get blasted. Other times I get blasted when I provide sound wisdom, but that wisdom is not followed and I still get a nasty email that I call a drive by. It’s a drive by because the person lacks the courage to say what they said in an email, message, or text to your face. Broken relationships in the church can impact the entire body. Contributing to this is the lack of acknowledgement that problems exist. Wherever there are people there will be issues, but we must be willing to work to resolve those issues. I’m reminded of the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery that’s told in John 8. Jesus told her to, “Go. From now on sin no more.” (Jo. 8:11) Jesus wanted her to live a life that represented the transformative power of grace and truth that He represents and sin is not part of that picture. 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us,” so John recognized that we will sin, but God’s desire is that we live holy lives because He is holy. (1 Pet. 1:16) When sin is allowed to run unchecked and uncorrected, we fall into the apostasy that Jude warned us about in his short letter. Solomon is saying it’s easier to capture a strong city than it is to win a brother that is offended. I want you to really get that picture in your mind. Relationships between people of faith should be filled with love, grace, and mercy, but that doesn’t mean ignoring the unchanging standard of God’s Word. How easily are you offended? How thick is your skin? How readily are you willing to receive correction? It’s almost to the point where you don’t want to say anything to anyone because of what they might say back. It can be something as casual as missed you at church Sunday and the person gets all offended.

Solomon closes the comparison by saying, “And contentions are like bars of a citadel.” If you insert the pronoun “their” before contentions, you’ll get the idea. Contentions are the issue at hand. That’s the reason that person is offended, whatever it might be. Remember too, that the offense may only be perceived, not real. That’s the reality that we live in. We often operate based on what we think about something rather than what the actual issue is because we don’t want to confront anyone over anything because when we do we’re made out to be the one in the wrong. It’s quite a cycle. Those issues, “Are like bars on a citadel.” A citadel is a stronghold in a city. Really get this word picture. Contentions, issues, disagreements, strife are like bars in a prison. They keep you trapped, locked away like a prisoner with no hope of escape. When we allow those issues to control us, we fall into the schemes and traps of the devil. I will admit that I have a hard time letting go. I’m a guy that really desires to resolve issues, but what I am finding more and more is that people don’t want to resolve issues. They want to stay mad or they want to pretend something never happened, but the issue is there, lying dormant until something else happens and everything resurfaces.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems really strange that the only place where we allow disagreements or contentions to actually separate or break relationships is in the church. You’ve got someone at work that rides your case and causes you trouble at every turn . . . you get up and go to work every morning. You’ve got that bully at school that uses every opportunity to harass you . . . you go to school every day. You’ve got that neighbor that is always complaining to you about your kids or pets, but you don’t move away. But in the church? One wrong move, one wrong word, one failure, one misstep and that’s it; they’re gone. What’s odd is that many people are oblivious to the issues because they’re unwilling to address it. I do believe these type of people are in the minority, but the wake of destruction they leave behind is widespread and if it’s not resolved, they’ll take that destruction with them wherever they might go.

Don’t think there’s no hope. Prayer is always a key to seeing hearts changed, but the heart that is changed is not necessarily the offended one. Understand where we are in the scope of eternity. We’re in the last days where people are turning away from absolute truth. Everything that happens is part of God’s eternal plan, but we’re not briefed on the specifics of that plan. We saw some important qualities from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we must put into practice on a regular basis. The screams for tolerance today is not the same tolerance Paul talks about in Scripture. Sometimes people are unwilling to acknowledge their sin choosing instead to blame others and sometimes even blame God. Contentions between people can give you the feeling that you’re trapped in a prison. Love God, love others, do what you can to spread the hope that is found in Christ and you might just find that the immovable object that was in your path will move out of the way by the power of God.

The Folly of Speaking without Thought

8 Aug

ThinkCheck out the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs, Solomon said that as Christians in the workplace, we should be known for our work ethic. That work mandate goes all the way back to Genesis, but work didn’t become drudgery until the ground became cursed because of the fall. If you’re able to work, you should work to support yourself and your family. Being a slacker in your work will lead to destruction. When you’re feeling blue, or your down, or your up and excited about life, remember always that the name of the Lord is an incredible reminder about who is really is. Don’t follow what you think God is, follow what the Bible says He is. Safety can only be found in the Lord so put your trust in God, not in riches. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

I hope you’ll take the time to read our passage today found in Pro. 18:13-17.

We start off with something that is running rampant today. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Contextually, Solomon is still speaking of a fool, but this is something we all can get sucked into. Back in Pro. 17:27 Solomon talked about someone that retrains his words, but here, we move in a different direction. This is very applicable today. Before all the facts are presented, before all the evidence is collected, before the things necessary to make a decision are evaluated and considered, an answer is given. Someone that gives an answer without listening first can come off arrogant and rude. Have you ever heard of the two-minute rule? You won’t find it written anywhere, but it’s a good principle. This rule says you have to listen to a conversation for at least two minutes before butting in and giving your opinion. Without listening first, you really have no idea what’s being said. If you give an answer before listening, it could be perceived that you are unwilling to listen to counter opinions. If you jump in without listening, you might be labeled intolerant or bigoted. You’ve never had a conversation like that with anyone, have you? They always have an answer for what you’re saying? There’s always a ready defense and it typically involves fault or blame resting squarely with someone else. This type of person also represents an unteachable spirit. Solomon’s conclusion is when you are unwilling to listen before giving an answer, then, “it is folly and shame to him.” The folly and shame is assigned to the one giving an answer. This is the general rule because there is no understanding before speaking. When you speak before thinking, it generally leads to nonsense.

Solomon now says that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You hear this next principle a lot about people as they age. “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but as for a broken spirit, who can bear it?” Our body begins breaking down from the moment of birth. We get older and older and no matter the health and beauty products out there, nothing can suspend the aging process. This principle also presents itself when someone is sick and I don’t mean they have a cold or the flu. Sheer will power can counteract sickness. Maybe you’ve heard it said when someone is seriously ill that they’re in good spirits. That’s what Solomon is saying. They’re not letting their physical ailment get them down. They remain focused on the things that are important. I’m not saying health is not important, but on the eternal scale, your health on earth certainly falls to the bottom of the list. Really it’s God’s Spirit working with your spirit to help you stay focused on what’s important. Certainly no one who has ever had to endure watching a loved one be sick or battle a disease would say it’s enjoyable, but there is definitely something different when the Spirit of God is involved. Have you ever had to deal with someone that is defeated because they’re going through some type of illness or even injury? They’re not very fun to be around. A defeatist’s attitude can sink you pretty fast. The doctors are all incompetent, nothing works, the medication is not helping, all hope is lost. That’s the kind of person you want to get away from. That’s someone suffering from a broken spirit and Solomon asks, “Who can bear it?” Of course the answer is no one. It’s difficult enough to go through aging and various ailments with God, I cannot imagine doing life apart from God. No comfort, no strength, no courage, no endurance, no will, no hope.

We’ve heard this next one before. “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Solomon said something similar in 1:5, 4:5, 4:7, 9:9, 10:14, and 15:14. Each of those verses talks about what is common in people that are wise. The wise person is open to learning. He acknowledges he doesn’t know everything and is willing to learn. When you teach someone that is wise, they get wiser. He’s gaining knowledge which leads to understanding. This is quite the opposite of the fool. The fool thinks he knows things, but does not. He’s too foolish to know that he doesn’t know things. As I was writing this, I had a thought. As we progress through history, are we becoming smarter? Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen the advent of color TV, cordless and cellular phones, the smoke detector, the home computer, GPS, MRIs, DNA, LEDs, ATMs, MP3s, the internet, flat screen TVs, cable, satellite, and streaming TV. How about these inventions which fall in the “taking it for way granted category”: cruise control, electronic ignition, front wheel drive, and cordless tools.

Smart people tend to get smarter and people that aren’t smart tend not to get smarter. That’s what Solomon has consistently said throughout this book. The principle applies to secular pursuits, but Solomon is really talking about biblical wisdom. His reasoning is that if you possess biblical wisdom because you are a genuine follower of Christ, that wisdom will spill over into everyday life. That’s the theme throughout Scripture. Being a child of God should mean something.

Be careful reading the next verse. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” The gift Solomon mentions is not a spiritual gift. Some commentators think this verse is talking about the practice of bearing gifts. Gen. 43:11 tells, “Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” The Magi brought gifts to the new born King. There are times that bringing a gift is right and appropriate. Someone moves into a new home; you give them a gift. You go before the President; you bring a gift. You see this very often. The champions of various sports typically go to the White House and they present the President a jersey or football, or some other memento of their accomplishment. It’s a demonstration of gratefulness or in recognition of position and authority. I think in reading this and from the cross references, the gift here is more like a bribe.  Your spouse brings you flowers, chocolates, a new car, an appliance, or ammunition in order to gain favor with you. A bribe always has strings attached to it. But it may not be a blatant bribe; it might be an endowment, or a scholarship fund named in honor of the bestowed. A gift given can open doors otherwise shut.

Our last one for today. “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” This verse is why we have the judicial system set up the way it is. There are two sides to every story and you can’t take the word of one party. If you think this is only relevant in the criminal or civil world, think again. I deal with this in counseling all the time. He said this, she said that and the stories rarely match up. What you have to consider, even in a church setting, is that people will lie to protect themselves. If you take action or draw conclusions based on the word of one person, you’ll likely come to an erroneous conclusion. I’ve had people come to me first with the hopes that since they’re the first one to tell me something, that I’ll believe them. Listen again, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” What seems right and what is right may be two different things. Don’t be too quick to judge. Be willing to do some investigative work. If someone comes to you in an effort to resolve some issue, be willing to talk with all the parties involved.

I want to caution you though. Paul told Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19) In some translations, elder is translated leader. If you’re going to bring an accusation against a church leader, you better have your ducks in a row. Unfortunately, this is a verse that is rarely followed. Someone has a beef with the pastor or church leader, and a conviction is handed down without so much as talking to the person. Say it ain’t so! Yes, this happens all the time. People leave the church because of something that was said without bothering to find out what was said. Or people get upset over some perceived wrong or injustice. I can tell you it is quite upsetting. I may have told you this and if I have, pretend you’re hearing it for the first time. At our last church, I had someone come to me and tell me that an individual had left the church because of something I said. I was a little perplexed because I didn’t remember speaking with this individual. When I dug a little deeper, I found out that the man had been eavesdropping on a private conversation I was having with someone and they totally got wrong what I was saying because apparently, they started eavesdropping sometime after the conversation started. If you believe everything you hear, you’re in for a very long, drama filled life. I think this verse goes along with the verse we looked at about gossip in 18:8.

We started off this morning with Solomon giving a principle we can all live by: think before you speak. There is rarely any issue that must be dealt with that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to think before acting. Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of someone that doesn’t do this. Yes, this issue is rampant in social media, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow the crowd. If you’re a child of the King and you get sick or diagnosed with some disease, allow the Spirit of God to minister to you through the illness. When your spirit is broken, no one can bear that. Don’t allow defeat to enter your mind. Be willing to learn, no matter what state of life you’re in; that’s what biblically wise people do. Bring gifts when appropriate, but not with the hope that they’ll get you anywhere. Before drawing conclusions about an issue, make sure you get all the facts from everyone involved. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in the folly of speaking without thought.

The Work Ethic

25 Jul

Check out the podcast here.

Last week, we saw Solomon use the terms foolish and wicked interchangeably. Someone that says God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant will bring contempt for anything that is holy and pure, and godly. Even though fewer and fewer people are willing to stand in agreement with the unchanging Word of God does not mean you have to. Don’t dismiss the power of God to change your life. He can do it if you’ll allow Him to. A decision to follow Christ will bridge the gap in your understanding of things that are inexplicable, but there will always be things about God that cannot be understood. Biblical and godly wisdom provide an inexhaustible fountain of cool, refreshing living water. Don’t be a gossip. It hurts the one listening and the one that it’s about. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

Pro. 18:9-12 says, “He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys. The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination. Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.”

Who would have ever thought we’d be in times such as we are. I’m sure other generations have thought the same things about the times in which they were living. Solomon’s opening verse is really an eye opener. “He who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” As with many of the words Solomon uses, we need to know what they mean before we can fully understand what he’s saying. Slack means careless, lazy, or negligent. Work means occupation or job. Before we talk about that, it’s understood that the guy Solomon refers to has a job; he has the opportunity to support himself. The problem he has is because of the way he performs, or perhaps a more accurate statement is does not perform his job. There are jobs that once you are hired, it’s really hard to get fired. If you do not do the job for which you were hired, you should be fired. People today talk about the jobless rate in America and normally the first week of the month, you hear the jobless rate for the previous month. It gets reported all over the media and those rates often drive the stock market which can drive interest rates and all the other inner workings of our economy. How would you define your work ethic? Our work ethic was given all the way back in the beginning of humanity. Gen. 2:15 says, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.” Adam was given a mandate by God Himself. Work was a joy for Adam and his wife and was part of the very good things that God created. It wasn’t until after the fall that work changed. In Gen. 3:17, God cursed the ground and work became hard and sorrowful.

Now let’s fast forward. As a worker, do you fall into Solomon’s category or the Apostle Paul’s? Paul said several things about work, but I want to highlight two verses. In 2 Thes. 3:10, Paul told the church. “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” He wasn’t being mean. If you’re able to work and do not, then you should not reap the benefits of those that do work. We’re not talking about people not able to work. We’re not talking about retired people that worked all their lives. Solomon and Paul are both talking about actually working to support yourself. Back in the old days, if you didn’t have a job, you kept looking until you found one and you were willing to do whatever you needed to do in order to earn an income. We seem to have taken a step backward in this idea. In Georgia, we have 12 government programs to help no or low income families. If you have a job and can’t make it, get another one. I know it can be difficult to get a job these days, but I always say that there is work for people that are willing to work. If you have a job, praise the Lord! Be the best worker you can be. If you have to be there at 9:00 a.m., be there 15 minutes early, not five minutes late. The other verse I want to share is one I’ve shared a number of times that’s found in Col. 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Here’s what the rest of that passage says that will tie in nicely with what Solomon says, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.” Solomon says don’t be a slacker. If you’re a slack worker and get fired, don’t blame the employer for that firing. That’s what Paul is saying.

“He also who is slack in his work is brother to him who destroys.” Brother here doesn’t mean blood relationship, it means companion. Slackness and laziness lead to destruction. Laziness leads to waste. Solomon is saying that doing a poor job is as bad as actual destructiveness. If I were to go talk to your boss, and we all have bosses, and ask about your work ethic, what would they say? Are you the go to person at work? Are you the person that not only does their job, but does it with a great attitude? Remember from last week that we have been set apart for the Gospel and that should make an incredible difference in our lives. Christians are not better or worse than anyone else, but we should have a spirit about us that represents Jesus. Keep in mind that great verse found in Acts 1:8 when Jesus tells us, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and Samaria, and even to the remotest parts of the earth.” Our life is supposed to be a living testimony of who Jesus is.

I was thinking about titling this message, “What’s in a Name?” Here’s a great reminder: put it on a yellow sticky and attach it to your mirror, your dashboard, or wherever else that you need to remind yourself about who Jesus is. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.” There have been many songs written with this verse in it. The name of the Lord is so incredibly powerful. What is the Lord’s name? In Gen. 17:1, God told Abraham, “I am God Almighty.” In Ex. 3:14, His name is, “I am.” In Is. 9:6, “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” He is the Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End. He is the Creator, the Redeemer, the holy and anointed One. He is the good Shepherd, the Healer, our Righteousness. He is our Provider, the Ancient of days, our Sanctification. He is our mercy, our grace, our wisdom. His name is so powerful, “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) Can you picture that? What an incredible sight that will be. When Paul says every knee will bow, he means it. The Name of the Lord gives us His attributes, His character, His qualities – everything about who God is. “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3) Ps. 18:2 says, “For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.” That strong tower can withstand any attack.

There are two things going on here I don’t want you to miss. Solomon is not saying God is a strong tower although I just read some verses from Samuel and David that say He is. Here Solomon is saying just His name provides protection. His name provides the safety and security necessary to protect you. Why? Because in His name are all the attributes that tell us who He is. “The righteous runs into it and is safe.” Safe here means protected from or not exposed to danger or risk; not likely to be harmed. There is safety in Christ. Hold on you might say. There are people suffering all over the place under persecution. Matt. 10:28 reminds us, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The name of Christ is a safe place, it’s a holy place, a righteous place, an eternal place. Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” It’s not that you’ll never get hurt or suffer, but you rest on the knowledge of who God is and you look and think eternally.

From a safe tower to a strong city. While the righteous are running into a mighty fortress that is our God, “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination.” Let me be clear; there is nothing unbiblical about having wealth or being rich. No matter what the media says, just because you have wealth doesn’t mean you’re an evil, nasty, selfish person. I encourage you to go to globalrichlist.com. There you can plug in how much you make a year and the site puts your income on a global scale relative to others in the world. For example, with what I make in one month as your pastor, you could be paying the monthly salary of 209 doctors in Azerbaijan. This is the same wealth trap that Jesus warned about in Matt. 19:24 when he talked about a rich man and a camel and is the same trap for many people that have wealth. The media has done all they can to divide us by race, ethnicity, wealth, political affiliation, and faith. Solomon is not saying anything negative, per se, about wealth here. He’s reinforcing the idea that wealth can be a barrier to seeing the truth of who God is. When a person is affluent, there is the perception that all is well, that everything is great in their lives. But the same desire to seek and find the Creator is placed in each and every person according to Rom. 1:19. Instead of finding safety in the name of the Lord, the rich man finds a counterfeit safety in his own strong city. His safety is in his high wall, but the safety is in his imagination. It’s not actual safety because those walls will come down. He’s prideful, he thinks nothing can touch him. “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” This is the typical pattern for many of us right before we do something dumb. We take our eyes of off Christ and think we can do it ourselves and sometimes we even have an illusion that things are okay without God, but it’s just an illusion. It’s only when our total reliance is on Christ that we will begin to see His incredible handiwork in our lives. There’s no shame in recognizing our reliance on God.

Remember back in Pro. 10:4 Solomon said, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” As Christians in the workplace, we should be known for our work ethic. That mandate to work goes all the way back to Genesis, but work didn’t become drudgery until after the fall when the ground became cursed. If you’re able to work, you should work to support yourself and your family. Being a slacker in your work will lead to destruction. When you’re feeling blue, or your down, or your up and excited about life, remember always that the name of the Lord is an incredible reminder about who is really is. Don’t follow what you think God is, follow what the Bible says He is. There is safety in the Lord so put your trust in God, not in riches.

The Wickedness of Today

18 Jul

WickedYou can listen and download the podcast here.

Last week, we started by asking the question, what does it cost to be righteous? The answer is that it just might cost everything. Sometimes we find ourselves at odds with the government and it’s just not right to fine people who are doing right. We still live in a society where wrongdoing is punished and there are ways to redress wrongs that have been committed. In a faith based setting, you can’t run down and correct all the nasty things that are said about you. David said in Ps. 54:1, “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” You must rest on the fact that God is the vindicator of the righteous and if people know you, they’ll know your character. We need to be calm, cool, and collected in our dealings with people and sometimes the best answer is silence. If people part company with you because you have been set apart for the Gospel, that’s one thing, but separating yourself from God’s people and God’s Word is a good sign that there’s spiritual sickness in that person. Ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse to live in the folly of your own mind. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:3-8 that says, “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn. The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”

We started last week with something for today and we’ll begin this morning in the same manner. “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn.” Solomon has often used the adjectives wicked and foolish interchangeably, but that word contempt carries some significance. Contempt carries the idea of having no value, worthless, or beneath consideration. Some have wrongly assigned the contempt to the wicked one, but that’s not what Solomon is saying. When you put it together with all that we have learned in recent verses, Solomon is talking about contempt the wicked have for all things holy and pure. When that wicked guy comes; the guy that says the Bible is outdated, foolish, not relevant, old fashioned, too mean or judgmental, when that person raises his fist and declares that a loving God would not do x, y, or z, he is demonstrating contempt for God’s holy and perfect Word. When the wicked walk into your life, so does their contempt. Ps. 14:1-3 gives us this incredible truth, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” We see this happening all around us, but what’s even more disturbing is that we’re seeing it in Christian circles too. Fewer and fewer people are standing solidly on the truth found in God’s Word. We can attribute this to a number of reasons, but I think the primary reason just might be that we have people that profess to be followers of Christ that just are not. We have professing believers that don’t read or study God’s Word, that don’t participate in the things of the church and don’t even want to. These same folks are ones that will claim their relationship with God is special or wonderful. They might even say they pray all the time. I want you to really ponder this question: when you sin; when you fall short of the glory of God, when you fail to live up to the standard of perfection, does God say, “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter.” Do you say that when your employee messes up? Your child? Your friend? When we fall into that trap, we minimize the power of God to perform actual transformation in our lives and we cheapen the incredible sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Don’t live under the false premise that God’s love erases His judgment.

The scorn Solomon mentions means contempt or disdain expressed openly. It really doesn’t freak me out when lost people do this regarding God’s Word. In 1 Cor. 2:14 Paul said, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” There is a bridge that is established when you make a decision to follow Christ. There is a connection made when the Holy Spirit enters you. Things that were unexplainable to you now come together. Things you had such difficulty understanding are now received by faith. I have no problem saying, “I can’t explain it, I just believe it.” How can you believe so easily? They might ask. It’s really a dumb question. Some people aren’t willing to take that step of faith with Jesus even though they do it in nearly every facet of life. People that don’t understand the internal combustion engine have no issues driving a car. People that don’t understand how an airplane can fly have no problem stepping onto that plane. People that have no idea how electricity gets distributed from the power plant to the home have no issues flipping that light switch. People that don’t understand how medicine works still follow the prescription. But when it comes to spiritual matters, they want full disclosure and complete understanding. Have you ever tried explaining the inexplicable? Have you ever tried comprehending the incomprehensible? Have you ever tried figuring out a miracle?

It would be really helpful for you to read 1 Cor. 2 to give us the context for Paul’s statement I quoted a moment ago. Our responsibility is not to convince people about Jesus although there is a tremendous need to reason through the Scriptures. Our responsibility is to demonstrate what Jesus has done in our lives. I think that might be the reason why some professing believers want to distance themselves from absolute truth of Scripture. There’s little to no demonstration of God in their lives. And one final, very timely passage found in 2 Tim. 3:1-9: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.” The times in which we are living in did not catch the Holy Spirit of God by surprise.

Solomon provides us with some more word pictures. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Let me help you with this word picture. In our area we have what’s known as shallow wells. While the water drawn may be cool and seem refreshing, it’s not fit for anything except to irrigate your lawn. It contains Sulfur, iron, calcium, magnesium, organic compounds, and bacteria. It stinks; it leaves stains behind, it doesn’t taste good, and the well is affected by drought and overuse. If you want real refreshment that’s suitable for human consumption, you have to dig deep. “The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” that does not run out. Real wisdom comes from deep within the soul because its source is God. Let me run through these next verses because they’re different ways to say what Solomon has already said. Pro. 18:5-7 says, “To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” All familiar stuff.

Solomon addresses something that I think is destroying a lot of people. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Solomon’s talking about gossip. Before we go any further, we need to understand what gossip is. Gossip is generally defined as idle talk or rumor; especially about the personal or private affairs of others. For the most part, we seem to enjoy gossip, unless it’s about us. We have tabloid newspapers like the National Enquirer, the Globe, and the Star. We have gossip columns, celebrity gossip, and TMZ. Gossip is expressly forbidden in Scripture, but we find it’s commonplace in the church. Sometimes it’s veiled as a prayer request and it rarely comes from the one needing prayer. It comes in the form of, “Pray for so and so . . . they’re having a hard time with their husband’s drinking.” “Pray for . . . their children are so disobedient and rebellious.” “Pray for . . . they’re behind in their mortgage.” “Pray for . . . they’re so sick,” and then a long list of details regarding the sickness is shared. Sometimes it’s even shared with a pained look and there seems to be genuine hurt from the teller. Look at the word picture. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels.” Dainty means delicately small and pretty. I should tell you that the word morsel is also translated wound. Look at the results of taking in that dainty morsel. “They go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Here’s what gossip does. It gets in your system and destroys you from the inside out. It affects the hearer and the one about whom the tale is told. Think about it like this: there are things that are harmless when applied to the skin, but can be deadly if taken internally. Hydrogen peroxide comes to mind. On some medication, you’ll see the warning label: external use only. Gossip gets in you and affects you in ways you cannot overestimate. Gossip hurts people. So what if it’s the truth? Gossip often comes in unsubstantiated claims. I love it when someone tells me, “People are saying . . .” Really, who are those people? Oh, just people. Those people won’t be named because the one passing on the information doesn’t want it to come back to them because they’re gossiping. Now if you hear something, it’s okay to check it out. Remember, even if it’s the truth, it may not need to be shared.

Solomon uses the terms foolish and wicked interchangeably. Someone that says God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant will bring contempt for anything that is holy and pure, and godly. Even though fewer and fewer people are willing to stand in agreement with the unchanging Word of God does not mean you have to. Don’t dismiss the power of God to change your life. He wants to change you if you’ll allow Him to. A decision to follow Christ will bridge the gap in your understanding of things that are inexplicable, but there will always be things about God that cannot be understood. Biblical and godly wisdom provide an inexhaustible fountain of cool, refreshing living water. Don’t be a gossip. It hurts the listener and the one that it’s about.