Get Help!

23 Nov

Get HelpYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw Solomon using one of his favorite writing techniques which is the comparison; specifically comparing the righteous to the wicked. He uses numerous terms and a wide variety of scenarios, but he always concludes that it’s better to walk with God than to walk alone. It’s best to eat lean with love than it is to eat high on the hog with hatred. It’s best to be slow to anger so people can see God in us. Even when there are difficulties, it’s best to stay on the path that God has prepared. This morning, Solomon gives us some very good guidance

Proverbs 15:20-22 says, A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother. Folly is joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight. Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.

Does the first verse sound familiar? Back in 10:1, Solomon said, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” The sentiment in these two verses is the same. The only difference is the affect on the mom. In 10:1, the foolish son brought grief to his mom. Here Solomon says, “A foolish man despises his mother.” This verse sets up what follows and presents the principle that parents are responsible to teach their kids. It’s awesome when our kids listen to us and follow our teaching. Remember, the idea is that this teaching comes from a loving, godly, biblical perspective. When the kids listen to biblical guidance, everyone’s happy. When they fail to adhere to that teaching, it demonstrates a lack of love and respect from the child to the parent.

Obvious statement #1. “Folly is joy to him who lacks sense.” We all have a natural tendency toward what is wrong. The Apostle Paul said, 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 man of folly will naturally tend to gravitate toward those things that are not godly. The King James version translates this verse, “Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom.” Destitute is more descriptive and gives you the idea of just how hopeless it is to follow your own set of ideals and values instead of the godliness of your parents. Of the fool in this verse Matthew Henry writes, “He sins, not only without regret, but with delight, not only repents not of it, but makes his boast of it. This is a certain sign of one that is graceless. The opposite of the man of folly is, “A man of understanding walks straight.” It is a choice. When there’s clear teaching and you choose to do what is not right, not godly, not God honoring, not parent honoring, that is total foolishness. A man who understands walks straight. He walks on the correct path which is godly and righteous.

How about risk versus reward? People can take this next verse to the extreme and twist it around, but I’m going to tell you what is really says and how it really applies to life. “Without consultation, plans are frustrated.” It can be disastrous to act impulsively. We often see this in financial decisions and it typically occurs on the male side of things. Those impulse purchases that result in buyer’s remorse. Car Max has recognized that and gives you five days to return that new to you vehicle if you decide not to keep it. Impulse buying is not what Solomon is talking about, but it can certainly be applied there. This is a book of wisdom. Wisdom begins with knowledge. Knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord. Solomon is talking about life. Are you getting ready to make a major life decision? Get counsel. The fool makes decisions without seeking guidance from those that can help make sense of the factors involved in a decision. There is an unwritten principle in this verse. Don’t seek guidance from people that are not students of God’s Word. Don’t bother with people that are not walking passionately with Christ. I continue to be amazed at the people that post stuff on social media and really expect good, solid counsel from people that have no experience, no training, and no idea how to provide the best wisdom. I have seen with my own eyes people speaking authoritatively on parenting, mental illness, drug use, sexuality, terrorism, policing, law, judicial proceedings, immigration, and the list goes on and on. If you want wisdom, James 1:5 says to ask God for it and often that wisdom comes through other people that are biblically wise.

“With many counselors they succeed.” Those counselors are not typically found on Facebook. Those counselors often look like parents, teachers, trusted friends, pastors, and church leaders. This does not mean ask everyone you know until you get the answer you’re looking for. This doesn’t mean ignore all the wonderful advice of those you trust and do what you have already determined to do on your own. When you speak with several people, there ought to be an understanding of confidentiality. There is always a risk when you share personal and private information with people. People seeking to apply this verse share something confidential in order to gain wisdom and valuable biblical insight from another. Unfortunately, that confidentiality is sometimes broken and trust is lost. Then you become very cynical and conclude you can’t trust anyone. Of course this plays right into Satan’s hands and you isolate yourself, quit talking to people, quit praying, quit coming to church, quit reading your Bible and you blame God for your predicament. I have seen this happen with my own eyes. People get focused on other people instead of maintaining focus on Christ. Of course it hurts when someone betrays your trust.

Do you really need wise counsel on good opportunities? After all, God provides those opportunities. Where a door is shut, God opens a window. I find those conclusions nonsensical. I think the genesis of those ideas is that we have determined a course of action to take and we will not be stopped. Even when God shuts the door and screams, “Do not enter.” We think that we must take good opportunities because they are good. On the other hand, just because something is hard means God’s not in it so you should quit. Over the years people have come to me with ideas they said were from God. Good ideas that would be beneficial to the body here or to the community. I’ve shared before that when you come to me with an idea, the first question I will ask, assuming the idea is biblical is, “Are you willing to take the lead on it?” If the answer is no, the idea will stop. When the response is not what they expect, or the work is thankless and challenging or it takes too much time or effort, they simply quit. What was a God ordained idea comes screeching to a halt. That’s why, “With many counselors, they succeed.”

Do you have something that God had placed on your heart or an idea you think is from God that consumes your thought life? Speak with someone that will provide you with solid, biblical, godly, and timely guidance from Scripture. It took six days for God to create all that we know. Paul’s first and second missionary journey each took about two years, and his third about four years. It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. There is rarely anything God gives us that must begin immediately and often things take time to get off the ground and get established. Seek answers from God and get good counsel to confirm it. If you’re having problems in some area of your life, get counsel before it becomes too big that you see no way out. There are wonderful people all around us that have biblical wisdom. Seek them out.

There’s No Comparison

16 Nov

Check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said if you’re happy and you know it, then your life should surely show it. As Christians, we are cheerful not because of the ever changing circumstances of life, we’re cheerful because we know Jesus is there regardless of those circumstances. Smile because of Jesus. This morning, Solomon gives us some comparisons that really are no comparison.

Pro. 15:16-19 says, Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”

Let’s get to our first comparison. We’ve talked about people being scared of things that are not real. Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago and it’s a time where people try and scare one another. People are scared of vampires, or werewolves, or cemeteries. That’s not the kind of fear Solomon is talking about. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” That fear of the Lord is the same reverential respect we’ve talked about before. He is talking about material possessions here. It’s better to have reverence for who God is and what He has done in the world and in your life and have little materially than it is to have a lot of stuff and no God. These things are not always mutually exclusive. Just because you have little does not mean you have little faith. Just because you have lots does not mean your favor is great with God. We must break free from the worldly mindset and importance of wealth. Of course we need money to purchase things and we need money to sow into the Kingdom of God. I assure you that God knows and understands how it works. Solomon is saying there really are more important things than money. Peter and John were walking along heading to the temple when a beggar, lame from birth, was in the way. The lame guy sees Peter and John and begins asking for money. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6) We need money to buy things, but would you rather have money or be able to walk? The point is that with great wealth comes great responsibility.

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” He’s comparing the two. Turmoil means a state of great confusion or uncertainty. Later in Proverbs Agur says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Pro. 30:8) He wants enough and the reasons are very good. If there’s too much Agur reasons that he might forget the Lord. If there’s too little, he might steal and profane the name of the Lord. It’s better to have a little and know who God is than to have great treasure with all the confusion and uncertainly that comes along with it.

Here’s another comparison. I admit this one didn’t sit too well with me until I read it carefully “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, that a fattened ox served with hatred.” This is not a proof text to justify a vegetarian lifestyle. In the culture of the day, most meals were of a leafy nature. Meals that offered meat were mostly reserved for the very wealthy or for celebrations. As we approach Thanksgiving, I think this verse is more applicable. How many people are dreading making the trip to the in-laws or the parents or other family members because of the strife that exists there? The key words there are love and hatred. The idea behind this verse is that it’s much more pleasant to sit around eating veggies when love abounds than it is to eat wonderful, tasty, juicy meat that is served with hatred.  No matter how good the actual food is, when there is animosity, strife, anger, hatred, or any other negative emotions flying around, most people would prefer not to be around.

You’ve seen this one first hand. “A hot tempered man sirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” This goes hand in hand with 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I want to remind you that if you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the gift of self control. Gal. 5:22-23 says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Let’s quit making excuses for why we cannot demonstrate that which was given to us by the same Spirit that was present when God created the heavens and the earth. “A hot tempered man stirs up strife.” If you are a natural hot head, then evaluate your walk with Christ. If you are unable to maintain control when things go a bit south, ask yourself why. Do you enjoy the feeling of conviction that comes when the Spirit rebukes you? Are you unwilling to listen to someone because you’re too busy yelling? When disagreements come, do you immediately ramp up? The remedy for that hot temper is someone that is, “slow to anger.” It’s not that this guy cannot get angry, but he understands that calmness is like water on a fire. Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9) I cannot understand how mature believers can have knock down drag out fights with other people. I don’t understand how people can be done with one another. One thing is certain, that’s not God’s desire.

Here’s a vivid word picture. The final principle we’ll look at today says, “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the righteous is a highway.” Picture this in your mind. Have you ever tried to fight your way through a thorn bush? A briar patch? Have you ever walked through a patch of beggar’s lice? Cockle burs? Have you ever walked to the beach barefooted and stepped on a sand spur? That’s the picture Solomon is painting. It’s painful, it’s hard, it’s slow going. That’s the path the lazy person is on. The contrast is the path of the righteous. It’s like a freshly paved highway. It’s smooth and flat. It’s clearly marked with rest stops along the way. That doesn’t mean there won’t be breakdowns, or exits you have to take, but they are approved by God. You can only get on and off at the opportunities God provides. In reality, the road of faith is not all smooth and there can be detours, but the idea Solomon is presenting is that the way of righteousness is always better because it’s God’s path.

Solomon’s favorite writing technique is to compare the righteous to the wicked. He uses numerous terms and a wide variety of scenarios, but he always gives us the conclusion that it’s better to walk with God than without God. It’s best to eat lean with love than it is to eat high on the hog with hatred. It’s best to be slow to anger so people can see God in us. Even when there are difficulties, it’s best to stay on the path that God has prepared. Clear comparisons. Which path will you take; the righteous or the wicked?

If You’re Happy and You Know It

9 Nov

LuLu PiercyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs, Solomon said everything about the wicked is a stench to God. God wants everyone to come to the conclusion that He is the only way. His ways are right and holy and pure, but time is running out. There is a time coming that will be too late, where the choice made is an eternal choice. You can do it your way and spend eternity separated from Him or do it His way and spend eternity with Him. It seems like it’s an easy choice. This morning, Solomon talks more about the wicked and how they really are and he minces no words.

Our passage today comes from Pro. 15:12-15 where Solomon says, “A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise. A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly. All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.”

Here’s another way to say it. Solomon really wants us to understand the mindset of the fool. He uses many words to describe what he calls a fool. We’ve seen wicked, unrighteous, naive, simple, treacherous, and now he uses scoffer once again. “A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise.” This is the same scoffer from 1:22 who, “delight themselves in their scoffing.” Let me remind you that scoff means to speak of something in a derisive or mocking manner. If you try and correct the scoffer, he will not be happy about it. I can honestly say at first reading, I had no idea why Solomon would use the word love in this verse. As I thought about it, it makes sense. Think about why you tell people the truth even when you are pretty confident it will lead to heartache. I have to conclude the reason we open ourselves up for attacks is that we have an overwhelming sense of love for people. That love can only come from God and we’re willing to lay aside whatever animosity or hatred comes our way because we really believe that Jesus is the only way and that should mean something in our everyday lives. In the context of Proverbs, when wisdom is mentioned, it’s godly wisdom. It’s the knowledge of God that leads to wisdom. The scoffer makes fun of our commitment to Christ, makes fun of our attitudes, the way we raise our kids, the work we do for Jesus and the church, makes fun of every aspect of our lives. They don’t get it. As a result, the scoffer doesn’t come to us for guidance or advice. Even though we may be experiencing the same things they are, our attitude is different, our outlook is different, our countenance is different, our speech is different; everything about us as believers is different and they don’t want to hear about how Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems.

This is a great segue into the next verse. “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.” Have you ever heard the expression weaned on a dill pickle? The phrase was coined by Alice Roosevelt Longworth in 1924. She was the oldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt and was referring to President Coolidge. Do an image search for Calvin Coolidge and you’ll see exactly what Alice was talking about. Solomon says if you have joy in your heart, then your face should reflect that joy. A smile can change a lot. Neh. 8:10 tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Apostle Paul said in Gal. 5:22 that you have been given joy as part of the spiritual fruit basket. The joy believers have is supernatural joy. Happiness is dependent in circumstances, but real joy comes from the Lord. Joy is found over 200 times in the Bible and often is found alongside shouting and singing. Rejoice is another form of the word and is used over 200 times in the Bible. We often use joy and happiness synonymously, but they are different. A cheerful face can brighten a room, or a house, or a church. I think most of us would prefer to be around people that are full of joy. I don’t want you to think of joy as a temporary emotion.

Solomon knows this because he says, “But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” We see this all the time. Circumstances can cause us to feel sad. That’s why I’m always skeptical of people that act as though nothing in the world is wrong. Their kids are always perfectly behaved and on the honor roll. Their spouse is the most wonderful, loving, caring, kind, thoughtful person in the world that does no wrong. Their job is so awesome all the time that they really would go to work for free. They’ve got the most wonderful family and don’t even have a weird cousin or crazy uncle. Their appliances always work, their car never breaks down, and their house never needs repair, their grass never needs cutting. They never get sick and neither does anyone else in the family. They never struggle to make ends meet and they enjoy vacations two or three times a year. They even have awesome neighbors. There are plenty of things going on around us that will and should cause us sadness. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:19) The reminders of Scripture about who God is provide the hope for us to trust in Him.

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” That phrase was and continues to be the slogan for the United Negro College Fund. Solomon says, “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge.” Notice that it in the present tense. There will never come a time when you know enough, where you have thought enough, where you have studied enough – learning is a lifelong process and that’s what the smart guy does. It’s not knowledge for the sake of knowledge. The expectation is that knowledge leads to wisdom. Matt. 7:7 says, “Seek and you will find.” Too many people want to have found knowledge without doing the seeking. Peter commands us to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18) Again the contrast to the person seeking knowledge is the fool. “But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.” Picture a buffet of nonsense and that’s what the fool feeds on. He eats foolishness like a ravenous wolf. That’s what satisfies him. He is driven by passion and a hunger for foolishness. That’s why it seems like foolish people get foolisher.

Is it really that bad for the fool? He eats all of the metaphorical food he wants on an endless buffet of nonsense. Can it really be that bad being foolish? “All the days of the afflicted are bad.” When Solomon uses the word all, he means every. The term afflicted is used synonymously with wicked, foolish, simple, naïve, scoffer, etc. Every day is bad because there is no relationship with Christ. There is no rest in Him, no comfort in Him, no strength in Him, no patience in Him, no love in Him, no perseverance in Him, there is nothing in Him because the foolish do not know Him. “But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” All the things the fool lacks because he does not know God are available in Christ for the righteous. Endless comfort, strength, hope, mercy, grace, and love as well as an unending buffet of spiritual nourishment.  It’s bad for the fool just because he does not know God and it is good for the righteous simply because he does know God.

If you’re happy and you know, then your life should surely show it. As Christians we are cheerful not because of the ever changing circumstances of life. We are cheerful because regardless of those circumstances, Jesus is there. Smile because of Jesus.

IDOP 2015

2 Nov

IDOPYou can listen to the podcast here.

Today, we honor those that are being persecuted because they have faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not something that is only occurring in far off lands although what we experience here pales in comparison to what occurs in those nations where persecution is a daily part of believer’s lives. Why is persecution still happening? We’ll answer that this morning as we take a look at Satan’s changing tactics.

Today’s passage comes from 1 Cor. 2:1-8. I encourage you to take a look at this before we go any further.

The Old Testament is filled with examples of how Satan continuously worked to prevent the coming of Jesus Christ. It started with the prophecy found in Gen 3:15 when God told him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Satan knew there would be One that would deliver mankind and he knew that One would come from the seed of the woman. Yet he didn’t know how and he didn’t know when. As a result, Satan began to systematically attack everything and anything in that road to redemption for mankind.

Satan attacks in numerous ways, but those attacks fall under two general categories. First, he attacks the Jesus that is inside of every authentic follower of Christ. When we’re attacked or persecuted, the reason is not because of us, but the life we live because of Jesus inside of us. The good we do because of Jesus. The Word we read and live out because of Jesus. The life we live that has been transformed because of Christ. Satan attempts to use the circumstances of a fallen world to his advantage. He wants to silence you, discredit you, scare you, raise doubt in you . . . he wants you to rely on yourself. Satan uses whatever tactic possible to take our focus off of Jesus and reassign that focus to ourselves. When the challenges and trials of life arise, do people turn to God or turn from God? I’ve seen this go both ways first hand. I’ve seen people turn their backs on God because of some issue or crisis in their life. What I find interesting is that there is rarely a realization or even consideration that sometimes that crisis is a result of decisions the individual has made. Satan uses that and whispers, “God doesn’t love you.” He says, “God isn’t who He says He is or this wouldn’t have happened.” Satan says, “God has abandoned you.” Satan says, “You are all alone.”

Sometimes though, he messes up. He did this with Stephen, the first one that we know of to die for Christ. Acts 6-7 records the incredibleness that was in Stephen’s life described by Luke as, “Full of grace and power.” (Acts 6:8) Satan attacked him because he was living a life totally transformed for Christ. The church was growing by leaps and bounds and the religious crowd didn’t like it. Acts 6:10 says, “They were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” They couldn’t handle the situation their way so, “They secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” (Acts. 6:11) Stephen was dragged before the Sanhedrin, the religious Council of the day where the prosecution, “Put forward false witnesses.” Picture this; Stephen is sitting in a courtroom of sorts to answer charges of blasphemy – punishable by death mind you. I have been in the St. Marys Municipal Court on many, many occasions and see people shake, cry, and get nauseous when answering for minor traffic offenses where punishment is up to a $1000.00 fine and up to a year in jail. Stephen is facing death and yet, “All who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15) The high priest asks Stephen if the accusations were true. Stephen acted as his own lawyer and his defense, recorded in Acts 7, consists of a history of Israel from Abraham to Joseph; from Moses to David to Solomon reminding the Council of what they should already know. The Council didn’t see it that way. They ran him out of town and stoned Stephen until he was dead. Acts 8:1, “And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem and they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”  A man named Saul, “Began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.” (Acts 8:3) The church not only survived, but “Those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” (Acts 8:4) Those early Christian didn’t let a small thing like death stop them from telling others about Jesus. Sometimes Satan chooses the wrong person to attack. Don’t allow Satan to attack you by attacking the Lord of your life.

The second way Satan attacks is to attack the written Word of God. Satan understands what a lot of Christians do not. The Word of God changes lives. If he can keep the Bible out of the hands of believers, he can minimize that power. In foreign countries he does it by influencing governments to make it illegal to own or possess a Bible. In the United States, he does it by convincing people it’s illegal to carry a Bible to school or work, or to read it during breaks or other authorized periods of down time. He also gets people in the church arguing over minor points of Scripture and ignoring the most important principles. He gets people so involved in worldly activities and people conclude there is no time to read let alone studying the Bible. He gets people, even professing believers, to deny certain passages and even conclude that the Bible is metaphorical and or allegorical. There are people, even in the church that deny the inerrancy of Scripture.

Satan knows how powerful God’s Word is. We see this when we look at the time Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He spent 40 days there and ate nothing. At the end of those 40 days, He was tired, hungry, and weak and then along comes Satan. Satan tempted Jesus by appealing to His physical hunger. “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Lu. 4:3) Jesus’ response is deafening: “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone.” (Lu. 4:4) Jesus quoted Deut. 8:3. Satan tempts Jesus again by offering to give Him all the kingdoms of the world if He’d just worship Satan. Jesus responds by saying, “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” (Lu. 4:8) Jesus quoted Deut. 6:13. Finally Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself off the top of the temple challenging that if He was the Son of God, that angels would catch Him. Jesus responds in the same way, “It is said You shall not put the your God to the test.” (Lu. 4:12) Jesus quotes from Deut. 6:16. It looks like Jesus’ favorite book is Deuteronomy, but He actually quotes from 24 different Old Testament books. Jesus knows the power of the Bible and so does Satan. That’s why he is on a relentless campaign to keep Bibles out of people’s hands and minimize the importance of Bible reading to those that do have Bibles.   Even in the church we see this and it falls right in Satan’s plan. Fewer and fewer people even bring their Bibles to church anymore. More and more pastors preach feel good messages with little substance and less power. Peter told us the importance of the Bible when he said, “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Pet.1:23-25) And Peter quotes from Is. 40:8.

So there you have it. Satan attacks the Jesus in your heart and downplays His significance in your life. He attacks the good you do, the transformation that is occurring in your life and tries to keep you silent so that you will not tell others about our wonderful Savior. He also attacks the written Word of God. If he can keep you out of the Bible, he can keep you down. In those countries where having a Bible is illegal, efforts to smuggle them in is ongoing. “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.” (Heb. 4:12) “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105) “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. 3:16-17) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35) If the words of Jesus are so important that they are eternal, isn’t it important that we know what they are? When Satan attacks, and he will, the only way to fight against him is to put on the full armor of God. When you do this, you can withstand his attacks and have victory in Jesus.

The Selfishness of Skipping Church

29 Oct

Pastor Ian:

Absolutely spot on.

Originally posted on

Old Church 1The overwhelming consumerist mentality in our nation has spilled over and saturated the thinking of Christians throughout the Church in the United States.  More and more believers in America approach the concept of finding and remaining in a church the same way they would handle buying a car, shopping for the latest technological advancement, or choosing a movie to watch.  An institution whose founder came not to be served, but to serve, has been tainted by a ceaseless drum beat of “what can you do for me?”  The worship environment, the style of music, the dress code, the church programming, and the overall focus of the church, is no longer about the Lord and His agenda, but about the personal preferences of individual church shoppers.

The crisis of commitment and ownership in the American Church is reflected in the 2015 Pew Research Study that showed a serious decline in Americans…

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I Did It My Way

26 Oct


Check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about sacrifice. There are prescribed methods to sacrifice laid out in the Old Testament that have far reaching implications in the New Testament and for us today. The sacrifices of the wicked are not pleasing to God because they’re simply going through the motions of sacrifice without a transformed heart. We’re to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord. This morning, Solomon talks more about the wicked and how they really are and he minces no words.

Proverbs 15:9-11 says, The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LordBut He loves one who pursues righteousness.  Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die. Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord, How much more the hearts of men!”

Let’s get right to it. Solomon is a pretty straight forward guy when he says, “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves one who pursues righteousness.” This seems totally contrary to those people, even in the church, that says God loves everyone and He just wants us happy. In this verse, we have a very clear contrast in how God feels about two groups of people. Last week we focused on the sacrifices of the wicked and didn’t spend any time on how God viewed those sacrifices. It’s not that the sacrifices weren’t the right ones necessarily; it’s because they were offered as outward gestures only. It’s like putting a band-aid on an infected cut. You’ve got to treat the infection.

Abomination is a tough word to define, but it conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Think about food left in a refrigerator for a few weeks with no power.       Think about fish carcasses left in a cooler. Think about meat left outside in the sun or road kill that has maggots crawling all in it. The odor is overpowering and so thick you can taste it. Now you’re getting a sense of what abomination means. “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” The way indicates lifestyle, habits, outside actions, and inner thoughts. This is who they are and that’s why they are an abomination. It’s not that God doesn’t love them as a person. So you’re asking how can such harsh words be spoken by Solomon on behalf of God? Do your kids ever do anything that is detestable to you? Have they ever acted in a manner contrary to your rules? Have they ever been disobedient? Thoughtless? Careless? Have they ever done something their own way instead of the way you prescribed? Of course you still love them. We wrongly conclude that just because God hates something, that somehow contradicts His love. Paul said in Rom. 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,  Christ died for us.” The only way to be set free from wickedness is through the power of the Holy Spirit through salvation. The wicked do it their way and that is not acceptable to God.

There is an important principle I don’t want you to miss. The contrast to the wicked is that God, “loves one who pursues righteousness.” Pursue means follow after. There is an understanding by the writers of Scripture that when you pursue righteousness, you will grow more and more like Christ. That righteousness will get noticed by God and by people following God. Let me tell you about two men from the olden days: one named Paul and the other named Timothy. When you look at how they met in Lystra, it’s pretty exciting. There are people that believe Paul led Timothy to the Lord, but Scripture doesn’t support that. Acts 16:1-2 says, “Paul also came to Derbe and Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” The brethren of Lystra, the followers of Christ, spoke well of Timothy – he was already a disciple; a follower of Christ. That’s why Paul wanted Timothy to go with him as he continued his second missionary journey. Then in his first letter to Timothy, Paul gives him instructions for what to do because he will be left in Ephesus as Paul makes his way to Macedonia. As Paul gets to chapter six, he goes into some character qualities that are not consistent with the way of Christ. In 1 Tim 6:11 Paul says, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Pursue is an action word. Timothy is ordered to pursue, to run after, to seek after those godly characteristics with the idea that you will get increasingly closer to the goal. It’s a non-stop activity. In Phil. 3:13 Paul said, “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.” Paul wrote those words about 30 years after his conversion to Christ. We have a mindset that everything should come quickly. Paul was still reaching forward, was still pursuing, was not quitting even after decades of faithful service to Christ. God loves that quality in us. He loves when we keep going. He loves how we get more and more like His one and only Son.

There is a but. While God loves those that pursue righteousness because the idea is you are running after Jesus, there is an alternate reality for many people. “Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die.” Notice who the punishment is reserved for. He expects us to pursue righteousness, but these people are forsaking the way. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14) Few people will find the way. There are many reasons for that and ultimately, the choice is an individual choice. I wonder if we put as much effort into persuading people to live for Christ as we did to persuade people to vote for a certain candidate, how would our communities change? I wonder if we put as much effort into our relationship with Christ as we did our jobs, how would our community change? I wonder if we put as much effort into our walk with Christ as we did anything else on this earth, how would our lives be different and also, how would the lives of those around us be different? Few people find the way of Jesus because we have professing believers not living for Jesus. Yes, everyone has a decision to make, but Solomon is saying the, “grievous punishment is for those that forsake the way.” That means they must know what the way is, they just don’t want anything to do with it. When you point it out, the wicked hate it. God wants a relationship with everyone and as Peter says, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9)

While that is true, there will be people – many people – that reject the truth of Jesus Christ. “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord.” It would be easy to conclude that Solomon is talking about the destination of the wicked and at first glance that’s what I thought. We’ve got to look at this in the context of the chapter. Sheol is a Hebrew word to identify the place of the dead whether righteous or wicked. Job 26:6 says, “Naked is Sheol before Him, and Abaddon has no covering.” Solomon is saying that God knows what’s going on in every corner of every place. There are no limits to His presence; nothing is hidden from Him. Since this is true, Solomon concludes, “How much more the hearts of men!” The heart is the seat of emotion, the center of our being, and the source of what comes out in our life. Matt. 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” You can’t fool God.

Everything about the wicked is a stench to God. Of course God wants everyone to come to the conclusion that He is the only way and choose to follow Him. His ways are right and holy and pure, but time is running out. There is a time coming that will be too late, where the choice made is an eternal choice. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thes. 4:16-18)

You can do it your way and spend eternity separated from Him or do it His way and spend eternity with Him. It seems like it’s an easy choice.

Sacrificial Death and Life

19 Oct

LambYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said discipline helps us get back on the correct path. Fools reject that correction. When you’re being corrected, regardless of your age, look for God in that correction. The treasures of God don’t always equate to money so don’t be fooled into thinking wealth equals righteousness or poverty equals wickedness. Solomon said one of the greatest legacies we can leave is to have used the opportunities God provided to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. That’s called discipleship and should be at the forefront of your mind. This morning, Solomon talks about sacrifice.

We’ll only look at one incredible verse found in Pro. 15:8 that says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

Good intentions mean nothing. Americans are a pretty charitable group of people. We have national programs to enable us to easily give to our favorite charities. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Combined Federal Campaign. In 2014, Americans gave $358.38 billion to charity. That equates to $2974 per household. Is that what Solomon is talking about in this verse? He says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” This verse is a lot deeper than it appears at first glance. We have two people contrasted here: the wicked and the upright. Sacrifice depends on what’s going on in the heart. Mindless sacrifice is not what God wants. You’ve heard me talk about the principle of first mention in Scripture. When we look at the first usage of the word worship in Scripture, we go all the way back to Genesis. Gen. 22 tells the account of Abraham’s test from God. I encourage you to take a look at the story in Gen. 22:1-5. If you think Abraham didn’t intend to actually sacrifice his son, Heb. 11:19 says, “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead.”

Sacrifices were an extremely important part of worship for the Jewish people. There was a whole system of sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. While there were several occasions to offer sacrifices; the two general types were animal or non-animal. Hands were laid on the sacrifice for the one needing atonement, whether it was for an individual, family, or a nation. When an animal was sacrificed, the animal always died as a part of the sacrifice.  We saw Abraham offering a sacrifice of a ram following the test with Isaac. After Jacob worked out his differences with Laban, he offered a sacrifice to God. As time went on, sacrifices were to be made by priests and only in the temple. The process in which sacrifices were made were extremely specific. I want you to read Lev. 1. Did you see the detail in the procedure? God is very specific in how we are to offer sacrifices. As part of the sacrificial system, the offering became the guilty party and the sacrifice atoned for the sin. Atone means at one. In other words, because of the sacrifice, the guilty was made at one with God at the expense of the sacrifice. Sometimes sacrifices don’t turn out so well because of the attitude in which they are offered. Jer. 6:20, “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba and the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Amos 5:22, “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,  I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.” Hosea 6:6, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The people had to approach God in the manner God set forth, not in their own way.

So what’s the implication for today? After the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Jewish people were in a quandary and remain so to this day because there is no place to offer atonement for the people. But something happened prior to 70 A.D. that changed the course of history. When the Apostle John was baptizing in the Jordan, he saw Jesus walking toward him and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jo. 1:29) Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice to redeem mankind. Heb. 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Christ’s sacrifice made us at one with God for eternity. We no longer need to make sacrifices because the sacrifice of Christ is complete. Heb. 9:27-28, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without  reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” That’s why we don’t need a physical temple to conduct sacrifices. According to Matt. 27:51 following Jesus’ death on the cross, “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The place where only the High Priest could go was now removed. Paul asked this question to the believers in Corinth, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

So what is Solomon talking about? When Solomon talks about the sacrifice of the wicked, he’s talking about external sacrifice. He’s talking about going through the motions without a heart that is at one with God. In Rom. 12:1 Paul says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” The word for sacrifice is the same word used to describe animal sacrifices. That sacrifice has to be acceptable to God. That means it must be done the way God expects it to be done. We cannot approach God in sacrifice – in worship – the way we want to approach God. Ps. 51:17 says, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” In the days of ritual sacrifice, the sacrifice was totally and completely consumed by fire. Since God established the method and manner in which sacrifices were offered and Paul says we’re to be a living sacrifice, shouldn’t we, therefore, be consumed by God? Shouldn’t we be consumed by Jesus Christ?   In Paul’s thinking, that’s what’s reasonable which means well pleased. God expects us to be consumed by Him. The wicked sacrifice on the outside only. The wicked do not adhere to the prescribed method of sacrifice. “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” That’s what’s in the heart. God wants authenticity in our walk of faith.     

When Saul was king of Israel, he was told by God’s prophet to, “Go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:3) Verse 9 goes on to say, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” Remember God is very particular when it comes to following what He says. 1 Sam. 15:22, “Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” The wicked do things they want to do because they are wicked. You cannot approach a holy and perfect God the way you want to. He has laid out His expectations for us in His Word.

All we have to do is follow it. You cannot sacrifice in the manner you prescribe and ignore what God demands. Too many people in the church are simply going through the motions without the consuming power of Christ and to God that is an abomination. So a fair question is, do you approach God in the manner that is convenient for you, or do you approach God in the manner He prescribes?

Thank You Father, May I Have Another?

12 Oct

KidYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some tried and true principles that I called MVPs. The Bible is filled with them. Make sure your speech is edifying. Use your words to provide what people need to live victoriously for Jesus. Satan is the biggest pervertor of things that are godly and holy and righteous.  Don’t be fooled by his twistilations. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth.

Our passage comes from Pro. 15:5-7 that says, A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible. Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, but trouble is in the income of the wicked. The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.

Solomon gets right to it. Having a child that is foolish might be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. If you think your kids are not foolish, think again. Remember a biblical fool is one that has the right answer or the right thing to do presented to them and chooses not to do it. Biblical fools can’t recognize wisdom even when it slaps them in the face because they are unregenerate sinners. Each of us can be foolish at times, but that’s not how we should be characterized. In 13:24 Solomon talked about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. In 13:1 Solomon said, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline.” Here he says, “A fool rejects his father’s discipline.” Reject is better translated despise. This shows you how deep in the heart foolishness resides. Discipline is also translated correction. This can be applied in a wide variety of ways. There is a typically a period of time in most kid’s lives where nobody knows as much as they do. It generally starts about middle school and continues into the teenage years. In many cases it lasts well into high school and college. Part of this is a desire to be independent and out from under the blanket of authority and safety provided by parents. The foolish kid rejects correction from his father. It is despised for any number of reasons. Perhaps because of the dreaded “h” word – hypocrisy. Dad says don’t smoke while puffing away. Dad says finish school and get a good job while he sits at home not working and not looking. Dad says do your chores and does nothing around the house.

“But he who regards reproof is sensible.” Solomon’s assumption is that the correction comes from a godly, loving father. I know this isn’t always the case, but since we’re using the Bible as our guide and we’re in church, this is the direction that I am coming from. Kids ought to listen to their fathers. They have experienced more than you. They have had failures and made poor decisions. Learn from them so that you do not repeat their mistakes. These are things the sensible kid does. There most likely will come a time when a kid realizes that dad was right. For some, the realization comes too late. You might remember lessons your dad taught you while you were a child and now that you’re all grown up, you’ve come to understand the wisdom that he had.

Don’t misinterpret this next one. “Great wealth is in the house of the righteous.” If you’re thinking, we don’t have great wealth at our house you have to follow that up with the question, “Are we righteous?” If you immediately think of money, think again. We have Americanized this verse and equate it with material wealth. That interpretation only works in first world countries. We typically assume that first world country means countries like us. We’ve heard of third world countries, but have you ever wondered about second world countries? Those terms come from a model developed after World War II and generally refer to geopolitical positions. Countries that allied themselves with the United States were termed first world. These countries are generally capitalistic, developed, and industrialized. These are countries in western Europe like Belgium, France, Spain and also the land down under – Australia. It also includes other countries like Israel, Japan, and South Korea. Second world countries were typically communist or socialist that allied themselves with the mighty USSR that today include countries in northern and eastern Europe like Russia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and my beloved Romania. A third world country doesn’t fit into either category and include capitalist countries like Venezuela and communist countries like North Korea. We often use this term to describe developing and undeveloped nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Included in this third world are very rich countries like Saudi Arabia and very poor countries like Mali.

Of the roughly 7 billion people living on planet earth, only about 15% live in first world countries. It hardly makes sense that the wealth Solomon refers to would mean dollars. This is yet another example of why we need to study the Scriptures for ourselves. There is a whole segment of the church that wants to equate material wealth with God’s blessing. The wealth – or better translated treasure – that Solomon refers to is something far better than silver or gold. What price do you put on grace? Or forgiveness? Or mercy? Or hope? Or patience? Those gifts of God are priceless and are a result of righteousness. That doesn’t mean there won’t be material wealth, but even when there isn’t money in the account, the treasures of God are in the storehouses of the righteous.

“But trouble is in the income of the wicked.” You can read that as actual income or what comes into the home. There is guilt and shame; pride and passion. There is envy and strife. Maybe you know someone or a family that could be classified as wicked and maybe they seem to be prospering by every definition of the word. Remember 14:32: “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” God will mete out perfect justice at some point that will bring greatest glory to Himself. You focus on doing what you ought to do and let God handle what He ought to do.

Here’s another variation of an MVP. “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.” We just heard this in verse 2. This demonstrates just how much a blessing that wise person is and how burdensome a fool is. This verse also alludes to the idea that we need to be teaching others. Spread means to open out as to increase in surface area. Your knowledge, which leads to wisdom, should be scattered for all to pick up. Keep in mind what Solomon said about wisdom resting in the heart. There is a balance between telling everyone everything you know and using your knowledge and wisdom in appropriate settings. I believe that God will provide opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge and wisdom. I think all too often we’re looking for those life changing, global moments that for most of us will never come. What we fail to see is that God provides huge, eternity impacting opportunities each and every day. For most of us, living a life of authenticity is the best opportunity for others watching us to know that something is different. Knowledge is spread when you open your mouth and share the truth of God. Your knowledge of God is transformed into wisdom because the Holy Spirit gives you exactly what you need when you need it.

So there are ministry opportunities God provides, but another area is personal teaching. It presents itself in the area of discipleship. Who are you investing in? The people you hang out with, are you seeking to disciple them? As a church, our primary mission is to, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) The emphasis is on make disciples. Jesus said we do this in two ways. If you’re hanging out with people and Jesus is not part of those interactions, then something is dreadfully wrong. “But the hearts of fools are not so.” The fool has no desire to spread the truth of God because he doesn’t know it. Fool and knowledge don’t belong in the same sentence. If you have the knowledge of God and do not use it to further the Kingdom of God, don’t use it to share the good news of salvation, don’t use it to strengthen other’s walk with Christ, then you are a fool.

Nobody likes to get spanked, and nobody likes to do the spanking. Discipline helps us get back on the correct path. Fools reject that correction. When you’re being corrected, regardless of your age, look for God in that correction. The treasures of God don’t always equate to money so don’t be fooled into thinking wealth equals righteousness. Finally, use the opportunities God provides to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. Take the time to disciple those in your sphere of influence. That will be the greatest legacy we can leave.

Tried and True

5 Oct

tried-and-trueCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said destruction awaits those that are wicked. Followers of Christ have His righteousness and as a result have a refuge in Him. Wise people know when to demonstrate the wisdom they have obtained through knowledge in God, they don’t have to go around advertising it. A nation exalts God when it does what is right in God’s eyes. Be a good servant in the example of Christ. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth

Here’s our passage for today found in Pro. 15:1-4: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.

We start off with an incredible principle. All of the principles in the Bible are true and most can be applied to our everyday lives. Some principles though are so incredible they really stand out. Some principles are more important than others in the Bible too. Speaking to the religious crowd of the day, Jesus said in Matt. 23:23, Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Some principles are higher than others in Scripture. It doesn’t mean they’re not important. In sports you’ve heard the term most valuable player. All the players on a team are valuable. Some are more valuable. It’s the same principle here.

I think the first principle we look at today could be considered an MVP – most valuable principle. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Since gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit, every believer has the ability to put this principle into practice. Gentle means mild in temperament or behavior, not harsh or severe. This MVP can be applied in any situation where there is interaction between at least two people. When tensions rise for whatever reason, soft words can quell the strife. You’ve seen this first hand I am sure. It can be in interactions with your boss, your teacher, your coworker, your spouse, or the clerk at the store. You can diffuse the situation or you can exacerbate it. You can be a help to the situation or you can be a hindrance. Not only do you have that heavenly gift of gentleness, you also have self-control. That means you don’t have to respond the way you’re being talked to. It can be very difficult to respond gently when you’re being yelled at. Yell back and it will only get worse. I encourage you to put this into practice and watch how things change. Easy? No, but it’s definitely the best way to handle things. We have a natural way to handle things and that’s to fight back, to yell back, to respond the same, but we have something supernatural in us that gives us the ability to be different. Not only is this an MVP, it’s an excellent way to minimize the possibility of feeling horrible regret later. I know there have been times I have not responded with this principle. As I recall, it always led to conviction and deep regret. This led to doing something even harder – apologize for my ungodly behavior. It’s not always that I yelled. It’s that I used words that were not respectful or edifying. I would offer that if you can gain godly control over your tongue, your life would be incredibly transformed.

The second principle goes hand in hand with the first. “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly.” The person who uses wisdom when speaking makes the truth more palatable. Do not misunderstand; I am in no way, shape, or form saying compromise the truth or water down the truth or give partial truth. Just because something is true does not mean you need to go out of your way to provide someone that truth. I often refer to social media because it has become such a big part of our lives. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, it just is. If you want to test what Solomon is saying, post something that is absolutely true in accordance with Scripture and watch the attacks start. Keep in mind that you put this on your own Facebook page and depending on your privacy settings, the hateful comments will start rolling in. Many of these comments come from your friends. So you have to ask yourself, who are you allowing in your life and why? Use wisdom when speaking the truth. There are appropriate times and places to share the truth. As a pastor and Chaplain, I’m often called into action in some of the most tragic situations. Suicides. Marital strife or domestic violence. Fatal accidents. Unruly children and cheating spouses. I have learned and continue to learn discretion when dealing with these events. I have learned that speaking the truth even while preaching can be hurtful to hear. I’m not going to not tell the truth, but I want to exercise wisdom in doing so. I want to be careful so that people will hear the truth that can set them free in order to change their lives. It is that serious. Fools just say whatever comes to mind. No filter, no discretion, no thought. That’s because what’s inside will come out.

Solomon shifts from the tongue to God’s eyes and in the next verse says you can run, but you can’t hide. There are some people that are convinced God doesn’t know what’s going on in the world or else He would do something about it. There is nowhere that God is not. There is nothing that God does not see. Solomon says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good.” There’s a song I remember from 1984 where the bridge lyrics are, “I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me and I have no privacy. Oh, I always feel like somebody’s watching me. Tell me is it just a dream?” God is always watching, but not in a creepy, voyeuristic way. I encourage you to read Ps. 139 which is a wonderful testimony of David regarding God’s omniscience and omnipresence. There is no where you can go where God is not there. He watches the good and the evil. The righteous will be rewarded while the wicked will be punished. In my study of Scriptures, I am filled with an overwhelming sense that the biblical writers expected people who have an authentic relationship with Christ will do good; they’ll behave in manners that are pleasing to God, that will seek to do His will, that will seek to further His Kingdom; they will seek to passionately walk the straight and narrow path – that’s what I see modeled over and over in Scripture.

It’s only been in recent times that we have taken on a lackadaisical attitude in our commitment to Christ. It’s only recently that we’re satisfied with mediocrity, where Christ has taken a back seat to the things of this world. It’s only recently that people have become satisfied in meeting with Jesus on occasion so we have to ask ourselves, what has changed? Heb. 13:8 reminds us that, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” God calls Himself, “I am” present tense.          Since God has not changed, we can only conclude that we have changed. The same Holy Spirit exists with the same power so how can we get to a place where His power is restored? I think a primary thing we can do is say no to ourselves and say yes to Jesus. I have grown weary of professing believers that ignore biblical wisdom, that have beliefs based on popular opinion and cultural feelings, that say one thing and do another. I would never suggest doing this, but I wonder how our marriages would be destroyed if we approached our spouse with the same casualness we approach God. God sees the evil and good in the world and He understands why people do what they do, He sees into the secret areas of your life, the places you don’t want anyone else to go. What totally amazes me when I think like this is that God still has an infinite, unconditional love for you and for me. He loves the righteous and the unrighteous.

And now it’s back to the tongue. Many of us are familiar with the tree of life in Gen. 2:9. Solomon has also spoken of a tree of life. He called wisdom a tree of life in 3:18. He said the fruit of the righteous is a tree of life in 11:30. He spoke of fulfilled desire as a tree of life in 13:12. And now, “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.” Like the heart, when Scripture speaks of the tongue, it’s rarely talking about what’s in your mouth. It’s about the words you say. Those words can bring comfort to a grieving soul. Those words can bring the Gospel that will revive a dead soul, can bring encouragement to a weary soul, can bring correction to a wayward soul; those words can bring reconciliation to a troubled soul. The contrast is that, “Perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Perverse here is used in the sense of perverting the truth. It means to twist or distort. These perversions have been used since the garden when Satan told Eve, “You surely will not die.” (Gen. 3:4) Satan is a twistilator. He has been and continues to be the greatest perverter of all time. He has perverted sexuality. In fact, he perverted it so bad that God had to include specific details as to what was forbidden when He gave the Law to Moses. Our speech is to be used to praise the Lord and build people up, but he perverted that so much that we have numerous passages directly referencing how we talk.  Paul said, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29) Satan also perverted justice. From the deceptive business practices we saw in Pro. 11:1 to the killing of innocent people mentioned in Ex. 23. Our attitude should be like that found in Is. 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

There are tried and true principles in Scripture. MVPs. Use them not as magical incantations, but as principles that God gave us to live by and glorify Him. There is nowhere out of God’s eye or beyond His reach. Use your speech to edify people and draw them to live passionately for Christ. Don’t be shocked that Satan wants to twist everything you say or do. Keep moving forward for Christ.

Wicked Destruction

28 Sep

DestructionCheck out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon told us to be afraid in an awesome reverent manner when it comes to God. We know it’s the beginning of knowledge which leads to wisdom. People who are quick tempered are foolish, but the one that is slow to anger reflects great understanding. Envy and jealousy will rot you from the inside out. Extend grace to the poor because that honors God. This morning, Solomon gives us some more comparisons between the wicked and the righteous.

Pro. 14:32-35 says, The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies. Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the hearts of fools it is made known. Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.

Here’s a sure thing. In our first verse, Solomon tells us with certainty that, “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” There is something important here that I don’t want you to miss. Solomon has firmly established that there is no good in wicked people. You can be good by the world’s standards and wicked by God’s standards. The wicked do what the wicked do because they are unregenerate human beings. Sin sticks to them so closely that you cannot separate it. However, the Bible provides us with the formula to become unwicked. That process begins with the Gospel. Even though the vast majority of people in America believe in God or believe that God exists, it does not mean that they have a relationship with God. Everyone has a father, but you may not have a relationship with him. The relationship develops as you spend time with one another and relate to one another. The father can pursue the son all day long, but if the son refuses, there can be no relationship.

The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, but the righteous has a refuge when he dies.” We’ve established that the righteous are righteous because of Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;  and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20) The righteousness of God is given to us through our faith in Jesus Christ. We are not righteous in and of ourselves, but because of Christ. This is called imputed righteousness. Because of this, we have a refuge, a safe haven, a safe place called heaven. We look forward to it, but it’s not to be viewed as an escape. It’s not that we are excited about being dead. Assisted suicide, euthanasia, and suicide are not to be used as a means to get to heaven quicker in order to avoid the heartache of living in a fallen world. Sometimes you hear this veiled when people say that you have a right to die with dignity. That kind of teaching is not consistent with Scripture. Job 14:5 says, Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.” Heaven is a refuge to those that trust in Christ, but there is work to be done while here. You have a mission to complete and you cannot bypass the responsibility God has given to you. Notice Solomon didn’t say anything about a refuge while alive. Paul declared, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

Do you have to let everyone know how smart you are? In the next verse Solomon says, “Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, but in the hearts of fools it is made known.” There is a difference in knowing it all and being a know it all. I admit I sometimes have trouble not answering questions when in a group setting. “Wisdom rests in the heart” is a great phrase. Remember when referring to the heart in Scripture, the Bible rarely means the organ. Rest means cease work or movement in order to relax or recover strength. I may have over analyzed this, but here’s the way I’m thinking. Knowledge is good and when it shifts from simply knowing something to applying it and living it out, it transforms into wisdom. The heart is where that wisdom grows and gets stronger. Some people want to get smarter and smarter and more knowledgeable, but for Solomon, that’s not the goal. I encourage you to read 2 Tim. 3:1-9. The goal of knowledge is to increase in wisdom and that takes place in the heart. All that to say that when you are biblically wise, you don’t need to tell people about it. It will be obvious to those who come into contact with you. He says this because, “in the heart of fools it is made known.” In order for a fool to recognize wisdom, you must thrust it upon them. The wise man doesn’t need to tell everyone how wise he is; people will see it. For the fool, even when wisdom stares him in the face, he doesn’t recognize it.

What was obvious in the past is now uncommon. When we evaluate the history of the Unites States, I think the next verse has been very applicable to us as a nation. “Righteousness exalts a nation.” In the grand scheme of the world, America is young. At 239 years old, we think we have always been around. Compared with South Sudan (July 2011), the newest country in the world, we are old. Since righteousness exalts a nation, we have to ask the question, what is right? Greek poet Hesiod (800 B.C.) said, “A nation’s real greatness consists not in its conquests, magnificence, military or artistic skill, but in its observance of the requirements of justice and religion.” When you evaluate the reasons countries are actually formed, that statement really rings true. The country of Sudan had been embroiled in a 22 year civil war where people in the south were oppressed and marginalized by the government. The people of the south are largely non-Arab and Christian people while people in the north are mainly Arab and Muslim. So the southern people fought for years to break free and finally liberated themselves and became South Sudan. The history of the world is truly fascinating.

When you evaluate the rightness of a nation, we have to evaluate it by the rightness of God. You have likely heard at some point America referred to as a city on a hill. While this is a warm and fuzzy sentiment, that’s not what Jesus was referring to in Matt. 5:14 in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was speaking to Israelites that had gathered outside of Jerusalem. The geographic location for the Sermon on the Mount is a literal hill on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. God had chosen this nation of people to be His people. He gave them an incredible promise in Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3) God told Moses, “You shall be My own possession among all the peoples.” (Ex. 19:5) To Isaiah God said, “I will make you a light of the nations so that my salvation will reach to the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:6) The rightness of a nation is in the people that are in the nation. You see this in the good deeds a nation does. In fact, in that same city on a hill message Jesus gave, He said to the people assembled, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13) We don’t do good works for the sake of good works, but to point people to God. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

A nation exalts God when it does what is right in God’s eyes. The opposite is also true. “But sin is a disgrace to any people.” I think many people recognize the atrocities committed in the name of power. Hitler massacred 17 million people including 6 million Jews and 250,000 gypsies. Saddam Hussein massacred 2 million of his countrymen. While there might not be any modern day leaders like Hitler, there are ongoing atrocities in countries like Sudan, Eritrea, North Korea, Nigeria, as well as numerous others. That is an appropriate application, but Solomon is talking about Israel. Ps. 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Israel’s history is filled with trouble a plenty. Following their departure from Egypt, Israel had some issues. I encourage you to read what they were doing as Paul relates it in 1 Cor. 10:6-11.

Solomon closes out the chapter in v. 35, “The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.” Remember Solomon is king of Israel as he writes so he’s speaking from a personal perspective. There is no shame in serving another. Many people are in the serving business. From police, firefighters, and emergency responders to all medical professionals. From the hospitality industry to utilities. It’s hard to think of a single occupation that does not provide a service. Each of us is in a position to serve. Being low on the totem pole of responsibility does not diminish a person’s worth. Just because a person is not in a leadership position, doesn’t mean he’s not valuable. When you have a servant or putting it in a modern context – employee – that acts in a responsible, respectful, proper manner, the leader or supervisor is pleased. When you have someone that acts in the opposite manner, the boss gets upset.

The wicked of the world will get what’s coming to them by a just and perfect God. God is our refuge and our safe haven. That doesn’t guarantee that we will be free from harm, suffering, or hardship, but it does mean that God is always there right beside us. As Christ followers, we have a responsibility to act righteously and that brings glory to God. Be an excellent servant – employee – because that also brings God glory. Jesus even modeled this for us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Matt. 10:45)


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