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

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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

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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.

What Does It Cost to be Righteous?

11 Jul

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The last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that joy and laughter are not necessarily joined together. Joy can’t be bought; it is delivered at the moment of our spiritual birth, but we do need to develop that joy which serves as life giving spiritual medicine for our soul. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances; joy is from Jesus and knowing who He is. Solomon clarified bribery and it’s still wrong and undermines the foundation of justice. Wise people have understanding which serves to help keep them focused. Fools are driven by the shifting winds of whatever suits their fancy. Finally, we saw that having a fool for a child is vexing for the father and the mother. No parent wants to raise a fool and the only way to minimize that chance is to continue to Deuteronomy 6 your kids. This morning, we’ll tackle some current events.

RighteousPro. 17:26-18:2 says, “It is also not good to fine the righteous, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness. He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent. He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom. A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind.”

Solomon’s opening verse for today talks about something that we have seen happen recently. “It is also not good to fine the righteous, not to strike the noble for their uprightness.” Before we get to some applications, we need to evaluate what Solomon is saying in context. We have to ask ourselves, who has the power to impose fines? Who has the power to impose punishment in society? He’s still talking about justice and this is linked to verse 23. Justice can be perverted through illegal means like bribery, which could lead to innocent men being found guilty or guilty men being found not guilty. As a side note, the outcome of a criminal court proceeding results in the defendant being found guilty or not guilty. A not guilty verdict does not mean innocent. Criminal trial outcomes can have a very profound impact on society. Remember the Rodney King trial in Los Angeles that led to the LA riots of 1992. Remember Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her children. Who can forget O.J. Simpson being found not guilty of double murder? The protests in Baltimore, MD and Ferguson, MO resulted after the deaths of Freddie Gray and Michael Brown. The riots and unrest in those two cities didn’t wait until a trial.

In a civil trial, the ruling is for the plaintiff or the defendant. Think Judge Judy. Those are always civil cases. It is a fairly common occurrence for an individual to be at odds with a governmental official. When the ruling doesn’t go in your favor. If you feel you were wronged. In a silly example, you’ve seen this dealing with your kids. The kids get into a fight and you ask what happened: he hit me first; no I didn’t he hit me first. That might result in punishment for both, but one of those kids is probably telling the truth, but just didn’t prove his case to your satisfaction. There will always be someone on the losing side, so to speak, which could cause issues. In a criminal trial, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Our judicial system has been set up in this manner because they would rather let the guilty go free rather than the innocent be punished. Solomon’s take on this is that the righteous should not be fined. Don’t punish the right. Don’t, “Strike the noble for their uprightness.” So what are the applications for today? There is not enough time to cover every possible scenario, but I think recent events can illustrate this. Besides the court cases I already mentioned, we can see this on a smaller scale and it generally involves one’s will. This is the first year since 2011 that I have not served as the president of my neighborhood HOA. I’ve seen some unrelenting division among homeowners when they don’t get their way. I’ve had people call and rant and rave at me. I’ve had people come to my house and demand I take action against some perceived wrongdoing.

On a grander scale, there’s been a lot of talk about the rights to refuse service to someone based on personal convictions that come from one’s faith. I think some of this comes from a perception that one faith in particular seems to be discriminated above all others. The truth is there have been some pretty vile things done in the name of religion, Christianity notwithstanding. I think we do have a responsibility to defend the defenseless; speak for those that have no voice, but we need to do it for the right reason. Let’s not promote a political agenda or reiterate media talking points; let’s demonstrate the love of Christ and not apologize for what we believe. Are there corrupt governments out there? Of course, but I like to think that in our system there are built in checks and balances to prevent one branch from getting too much power. There are methods and systems in place so innocent people are not punished. We can’t eliminate false accusations against us. I have had this happen to me in every aspect of my life. It happened when I was in the Navy. It happened when I was president of the HOA. It’s happened in law enforcement. And yes, it’s happened here, I had a pastor that gave me a great piece of advice. I think I’ve shared this before, but it bears repeating. He said people are going to attack you and accuse you of things that are not true. You can’t chase down every accusation against you to prove your innocence. Jesus put it like this: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Peter gives us this great insight in 1 Pet. 4:12-16, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” If we’re going to be accused, let’s be accused of being godly, holy, righteous, and loving.

Here’s another familiar and great verse. “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.” There is the old adage comparing listening and speaking. It was the Stoic philosopher Epictetus that said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” It was James that said, “But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (Ja. 1:19) There is much wisdom in silence. Silence is golden. Will Rogers said, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” George Eliot said, “Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact.” Francis Bacon said, “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.”

The man of few words has a cool spirit – it’s a calm demeanor, not excited, anxious, or emotional. I love this description. It’s not that this guy has no emotion, but he’s able to control himself just like in Eph. 5:22-23 where Paul tells us about the fruit of the Spirit. When you are emotionally under control, you are able to understand. Picture it this way: your child comes to you crying and you ask what’s going on and they can’t formulate sentences because they are so emotional and you say those commanding two words: calm down! In a somewhat shocking parallel, Solomon says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” I think that’s the first nice thing he’s said about fools. It’s like there’s a glimmer of hope for the fool if he’ll just keep his mouth shut. I think I said this earlier in Proverbs, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” It’s a quote commonly attributed to both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, but Solomon, through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, really is the author. Even a fool can sound smart as long as he doesn’t talk. There’s no actual wisdom or understanding in there, but when he doesn’t talk, no one knows that he’s foolish.

These next two verses are so very powerful. As I approach my ninth year of pastoral ministry and reflect back on all the people who we have crossed paths with, I can tell you this verse serves as a confirmation for so much that has happened over the years and is happening now. I want to spend some time here so we understand what we’re up against. In Pro. 18:1 Solomon gives us this incredible truth: “He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom.” Do you wonder how people can get off track? One of my favorite passages in Galatians is found in the opening lines of the letter. Paul gives us this in Gal. 1:6-9: “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” The word amazed has been translated as astonished, marveled, astounded, and surprised. When he says, “I am amazed that” carries the idea of irritation and surprise. Paul was truly shocked at this turn of events.

When we go back to Proverbs, I think we get an understanding of the root cause of that and I can tell you that I have seen this with my own eyes on a number of occasions and it really is shocking. When Solomon says, “separates himself” he means to part company with. This separation isn’t because someone moved away or got married, or had children that leads to an overall we’re at different places in our lives kind of thing. That can happen to all of us. Rom. 1:1 tells us that, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” As Christians, we also have been set apart for the Gospel of God. Solomon is not talking about pursuing God, but an intentional separation to, “seek his own desire.” To drive this home, Paul says in Gal. 5:17-21, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This is the same thing Solomon is saying. And what’s the result? The biblical fool, “Quarrels against all sound wisdom.” This is wisdom that comes from knowledge which leads to understanding which is rooted in the fear of the Lord. When you live for Christ; when you study and meditate upon Scripture, you are confronted with unchanging truths. Each of us makes a decision to trust God or not. Have you ever quarreled against sound wisdom? Have you ever read Scripture that reveals something in your own life and you say, that’s not what that means? It is likely that we could all think of someone that fits into this category, but let’s make this personal. Have you ever justified your sin? Have you ever redefined your sin? It’s way easier to point this out to everyone else, but are we allowing the Lord to transform us?

“A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing in his own mind.” Isn’t that what you find? While ignorance may be bliss to some, Paul says something different. If we follow the mandate in 2 Tim. 2:15, there really is nothing in Scripture that should remain unknown to us. Of course, many mysteries will remain and there will be things we simply cannot understand, but we don’t really get to use the, ‘Gee, I didn’t know any better’ excuse. That’s what the fool does.

We started by asking the question, what does it cost to be righteous? The answer just might be everything. Sometimes we find ourselves at odds with the government and it’s just not right to impose punishment on 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 when people separate themselves from God’s people and God’s Word, it’s a good sign that there’s sickness in the spiritual health of that person. Ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse to live in the folly of your own mind.

Our Allegience

6 Jul

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A couple of days ago, we celebrated the 4th of July and many people don’t know that the actual holiday is called Independence Day. This holiday is more than fireworks, cookouts, and parades and this year, more than a long weekend. Independence Day is about a country founded, rooted, and established on Christian principles. It was Patrick Henry that said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington said, “Do not let anyone claim tribute of American patriotism if they even attempt to remove religion from politics.” “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” – Pres. Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Danbury Baptists on Jan 1, 1802. “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people. . . it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams. Despite what politicians, the main stream media, or the history revisionists say, America was founded not on the concept of freedom to worship any god, but on the freedom to worship Jesus Christ.

It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies at the time were known as British Americans. They were citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament levying taxes on them to pay for the French and Indian War also known as the 7 Years War. There was the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, Townshend Act, the Tea Act and others. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or it was regulated. In 1774 following the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament passed five laws that they would call the Coercive Acts. The Colonists would call them the Intolerable Acts. This led to the famous phrase, “Taxation without representation” and later “Taxation without representation leads to tyranny.” The Colonists had no representation in the British Parliament which led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Hundreds of Colonists gave their lives to regain these rights. It was during this time of conflict that Patrick Henry, a politician from Virginia gave a speech before the Virginia Provincial Convention. 

Here is how he concluded it: “The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable – and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come. It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace – but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to declare absolute freedom from England. John Adams, who was on the drafting committee for the Declaration of Independence, wrote his wife saying, “The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable day in the history of America; I believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival, with shows, games, sports, balls, bon fires and illuminations, from one end of the country to the other, from this time forward and forever more.” It was on July 4th that the final wording was ratified and later signed by the 56 members representing the 13 colonies. John Adams was right. After America declared her independence, she had to win it by force. There was no Army or Navy and their fighting forces consisted of militia units in the colonies. England had an army of well trained and disciplined soldiers. Declaring independence and achieving it proved difficult because the people were never fully united behind the war effort. About a third of the colonists were apathetic. As many as a third of the colonists sympathized with Great Britain calling themselves loyalists. They were also known as Tories. This meant that victory in the Revolutionary War depended on patriots who made up about a third of the new country’s entire population. 7200 Americans were killed during the war; 8200 wounded; 10,000 died from disease and exposure with nearly 3000 men dying at Valley Forge alone. 6500 died in prison after being captured and 1400 soldiers were listed as missing.

The war that began on April 19, 1775 ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. America was established; a nation where every person could be free and have an input into the ways things should be done. Though many signers of the Declaration paid a high price, others reaped a great reward. Two of the signers became President, three Vice-President, and two sons of signers became President. Seven served in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate. 16 went on to become state or federal judges. 13 became governors and dozens of others held other high political offices. Five would go on to establish colleges and universities including the University of Georgia. Each holds an important place in our history.

If you are here today and you call yourself a Christian, you have made an allegiance pledge. Do you remember the day when you made that decision? Remember last week we heard from my buddy Chris Martin and for him, that day was June 1, 1996. The day you understood that your sin separates you from God and without the shed blood of Christ, there is no hope? Do you remember the day when you understood the free gift of grace that God lavished up you? Do you remember that day? The day you made that declaration? At that time you pledged your allegiance, your devotion, your loyalty, your dedication, your commitment, your very life, to Jesus Christ. You made the same proclamation Paul made in Gal 2:20, 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.” Paul says that he has been killed with Christ, he no longer lives, but Christ is living within him. No longer will you live for yourself; you’ll no longer seek your will for your life; you’ll no longer live for the things of this world. You now seek God’s will for your life, seeking to do what pleases Him. That’s scary for a lot of people. Becoming totally dependent upon Him. Some refuse. Remember the words of Joshua, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15) When you become a follower of Christ, you must pay a high price. It’s one thing to make a bold declaration. It’s another to live up to it. Saying it is a lot easier than doing it. Joshua made his declaration, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” (Josh. 24:16a) Israel pledged their allegiance to God, but it didn’t last long. Ju. 2:11-12a tell us, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers.”  Wars are not won by people who make declarations. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not being fought by lawmakers, but by men and women in harm’s way on the ground. In the Lord’s Army, we find the same thing the colonists found; we’re having a hard time because there are so many that just don’t recognize the enemy.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) Satan comes at us like a roaring lion and an angel of light. The battle is hard to win because some Christians are just like the Tories; they’re still loyal to the enemy and to sin.

Remember that a third of the colonists couldn’t care less? We’ve got some who are uninvolved – people who are content to let others fight the good fight. Jesus demands total, radical, and unswerving allegiance. “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26) Our allegiance to Christ has got to be more than words.  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21) “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”  (Tit. 1:16) Why don’t Christians fight? We get in the way, our pride, our opinion, our desires, our comfort, our convenience, our will, our way. That’s why Jesus said we must pick up our cross, and deny ourselves daily in order to be his disciples. The church should be leading the battle. The church should be a place of hope for the hopeless. A place of joy despite circumstances. A place of peace beyond understanding. A place of love, forgiveness, healing and acceptance. A place of new beginnings. In Matt. 16:18 Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

One day we will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give an account of our lives. Will we be able to say our allegiance is to Jesus Christ and to Him alone?

Joy is what the Doctor Ordered

20 Jun

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Last week Solomon said that if wisdom could be bought, the fool doesn’t have enough sense to make the purchase. The fool has no capacity for wisdom. We talked about real friendship – don’t confuse friendship with acquaintances. Real friends are hard to come by; developing true friendship takes time and effort. Fools are also bad with money. They don’t understand how financial issues can come between people. Someone that loves sin loves to argue. Know when to remain silent and don’t start arguments for the sake of arguments. You can’t choose how your children will turn out so do the best to raise your kids in a godly home because no parent likes to have a fool for a child. This morning, Solomon starts out with a very familiar passage of Scripture.

Pro. 17:22-25 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice. Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.”

We have all experienced this first verse. This Scripture is often written on the walls in hospitals, even in this day and age. “A joyful heart is good medicine.” KJV translates it, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” I think it’s a verse that is frequently taken out of context. Some have taken it to mean that if you are sick, laughter is the best medicine. If you’ve ever been sick, you can see how that’s kind of a dumb thing to say. I can just see the mom as the child is throwing up, “Come on, just laugh and you’ll feel better.” Solomon is not saying laugh yourself to happiness. He’s not saying if you just laugh about it, everything will be all right. This verse has nothing to do with illness. If you’re sick, go to a doctor. They can give you medicine if appropriate. Solomon is not suggesting laughing off an illness under some veiled idea of spirituality. This is a metaphor and you know Solomon loves using metaphors. There is only one way to get the joy of the Lord. Paul said in Eph. 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These gifts are from the Spirit of God.  You don’t have to pray for them or work for them; they’re a gift from God because of your relationship with Christ. If you have a genuine faith in Christ, you have these gifts. We have made joy and happiness synonymous in today’s language, but they really are different and that’s what Solomon is talking about. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances. It was way easier to be happy before my wife Kari was diagnosed with cancer. It’s way easier to be happy when people are not criticizing me. It’s way easier to be happy when everyone follows Scripture, listens to every word I say, and then actually lives it out in life. It’s way easier to be happy when everything is going great. Solomon is talking about something way deeper than that.

Joy comes from knowing who Jesus is. I’m not talking about a head knowledge, but knowing Jesus personally and intimately. It means a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that results in a transformed heart, soul, and mind. Rom. 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.” That is the joy of the Lord. Your heart is not addicted to sin. There have been drugs developed to help kick drug habits. We have methods to assist in quitting smoking – you put a patch on your arm and it weens you off of nicotine. That’s not quite what Paul is talking about though. There is no tapering off from sin. You don’t ween yourself from sin. God transforms your heart in a manner that you aren’t a slave to sin – you don’t have to do what it says. The joy of the Lord gives you the ability to focus on God and not on circumstances. Yes, that can be difficult to do, but not impossible. That joy is soul healing just like the medicine prescribed by the doctor provides healing to your physical body. Pro. 15:13 says, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” A different, healthier perspective is that everything going on in the world today that leads to heart sickness can be cured by knowing who is on charge. I think we need to continually remind ourselves that God’s got this. This world is not our home, so don’t think too highly of it. One day this will all pass away. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” What can break your spirit? Think about guilt, fear, doubt, resentment, bitterness. A broken spirit dries up the bones. This is still a metaphor for the body. If you remove the moisture from your bones, they become brittle and are susceptible to breaking. The bone marrow that produces blood cells dries up. When your bones dry up, life is destroyed. To tidy it all up, having a cheerful disposition can positively impact your overall health while having a depressed spirit will do just the opposite. In 1988, a singer named Bobby McFerrin won the song of the year Grammy. The lyrics for that song included a verse that goes like this: “In your life, expect some trouble, when you worry you make it double, don’t worry, be happy, be happy now.”

Solomon takes the time to clarify bribery. In Pro. 17:8 Solomon told us a bribe works like magic. Here he says, “A wicked man received a bribe from the bosom to pervert the ways of justice.” We know from the previous verse about bribes that they are biblically wrong and they are illegal, so this is an easy one. The wicked man here likely refers to a judge or someone that has been called to testify in a legal case. Ex. 23:8 says, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” When someone lies to officials and especially in a court of law, the wheels of justice grind to a halt. Court cases rely on the oath administered to people that testify and those witnesses swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help them God. Justice becomes perverted when that does not happen. Justice moves away from what is right and true and so it is not justice. There are so many things we deal with every day that rely on our basic ability to be truthful. What time we get to work in the morning or when we leave at the end of the day. Did you properly cite the sources for that paper you wrote or that project you worked on. That maintenance item you were required to do at the job. When the officer stops you for speeding and asks you, “Do you know how fast you were going?” and you reply that you don’t know. If you can be influenced to shade the truth or not tell the whole story, or be vague in an answer – this is what Solomon is saying. He mentions a, “bribe from the bosom.” This refers to where the bribe comes from. The bribe is prepared and hidden away in a place not normally used for holding money. Back in Solomon’s day, money was typically kept in a money pouch or bag. Judges generally were not paid so men that lacked integrity could sometimes be influenced to rule in less than honorable ways. This perverts the whole system of justice and it can still happen today.

I love this next verse. Solomon knows no bounds when it comes to describing the fool. He says, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” Understanding and wisdom go hand in hand. You can’t have wisdom without understanding. You can’t have understanding without knowledge. Here’s the idea. The man who has understanding looks toward wisdom. The source of wisdom is God. The wise person knows and understands that it’s all from God. Without God, there is folly and foolishness. Without God, there is emptiness. Without God, there is nothing. “The eyes of the fool are on the ends of the earth.” There’s no focus, no direction, no ambition, no goals. Whatever will be, will be. He pursues meaningless endeavors and misses out on the most important thing in eternity. He lacks the fundamental capacity to follow God. Please understand, God has not chosen people for eternal foolishness. 2 Pet. 3:8-10 says, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 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. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” Peter is talking to believers being impatient toward the second coming. God doesn’t want anyone to die separated from Him and that includes fools. The fool thinks there’s a tomorrow; the fool thinks that he has time; the fool says it doesn’t matter; the fool says it’s no big deal; the fool says if there is a hell, it’s going to be a big party and I can’t wait to be there with all my friends. That’s all absolute nonsense. If the fool would just open his ears and open his heart and fear God for who He is, then and only then can the foolishness be driven from him. Apart from an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ, foolishness will always be a part of a fool.

From fathers to mothers. We just saw in Pro. 17:21 that having a fool for a son brings no joy for the father. It’s bad for the mom too. Solomon says, “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.” So a dad has no joy when it comes to a foolish son, and now you can add grief. According to 10:1, the mom already has grief and she can add bitterness to that. What’s curious about this verse is that bitterness toward other Christians is condemned throughout the New Testament. One of the passages that probably comes to mind is found in Eph. 4:31-32 where Paul says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Paul is talking to the church at Ephesus so he’s talking to believers interacting with other believers. So what is Solomon saying about a mom that has a fool for a son? That’s a great question that I will answer from Matt. 26. During the last supper, Jesus was telling His disciples that one of them would betray Him. I am sure this caused some very heated and confused conversations among them and Peter concluded, “Even though many will fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” (Matt. 26:33) Perhaps you know the Master’s response when He told Peter, “Truly I say to you that this very night before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times . . . [Peter responds by saying] even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You. All the disciples said the same thing too.” (Matt. 26:35-36) I give you this background because it happened just as Jesus said. When you read the end of Chapter 26, you find Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. The very instant Peter denied Christ the third time, a rooster crowed. Matt. 26:75, “And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” This is the bitterness that the mom of a fool feels. It is a desperate sorrow, pain, and despondency. That’s the heartache felt collectively by the parents of fools.

Joy and laughter are not necessarily joined together. Joy can’t be bought; it is delivered at the moment of our spiritual birth, but we do need to develop that joy which serves as life giving spiritual medicine for our soul. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances; joy is from Jesus and knowing who He is. Solomon clarified bribery and it’s still wrong and undermines the foundation of justice. Wise people have understanding which serves to help keep them focused. Fools are driven by the shifting winds of whatever suits their fancy. Finally, we saw that having a fool for a child is vexing for the father and the mother. No parent wants to raise a fool and the only way to minimize that chance is to continue to Deuteronomy 6 your kids.

Can Wisdom be Bought?

13 Jun

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Last week Solomon gave us a great word picture about dealing with a fool. It’s better to deal with an angry momma bear than it is to deal with a fool. When you have the supernatural love of Christ, forgiveness should come easier and easier for us, but forgiveness does not mean that there won’t be consequences. Don’t repay evil for good. The best way to win an argument with a fool is to not start one. People that justify the actions of the wicked or condemn the actions of the righteous are both an abomination to the Lord. This morning, Solomon starts with a rhetorical question.

Here’s what Pro. 17:16-21 says, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense? A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A man lacking in sense pledges and becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor. He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction. He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil. He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.”

If you weren’t sure where Solomon stands, he makes it clear here. This verse is hilarious to me, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense?” I can hear Solomon’s voice go up when he asks this. This is just like a fool. If wisdom could be bought, which it can’t, would the fool be standing in line to get it? He’s too foolish to know that he lacks wisdom. The phrase “he has no sense” literally means there is no heart. The heart is the center of one’s being; it is the seat of emotion. In Lu. 24:25 Jesus said to His disciples, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus was saying the slow of heart don’t get what the prophets are saying. You’ve experienced this too, I am sure. You’ve heard the expression he has no heart or he’s heartless. That normally is attributed to someone that has no capacity for empathy or understanding. That’s what Solomon is saying. The fool has the money in his hand to buy wisdom, but lacks the capacity to actually obtain wisdom. While true biblical wisdom can only be found from God, biblical wisdom is available from godly parents, church leaders, pastors, as well as your common, garden variety, authentic believer. The only problem with that is the fool has no capacity for it and that’s what Solomon is saying. The very thing needed for a fool to become not a fool – wisdom – is unattainable because of his heart. So can one become biblically wise? Pro. 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” so if a fool decides to put down his foolish ways and follow God, yes it’s not only possible, it’s expected.

What exactly is unconditional love? You’ve heard me say often that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Solomon says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The Beatles got by with a little help from their friends. The Rembrandts sang “I’ll be there for You” on a show called, “Friends.” Bette Midler told her BFF that she was, “The Wind beneath My Wings.” James Taylor said, “Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.” Queen said, “You’re My Best friend.” Michael W. Smith said that, “Friends are Friends Forever.”

Solomon is talking about real friendship. How do you know you have real friends? Pro. 18:24 says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I think we often confuse acquaintances with friends. How do you define a real friend? You’ve heard the phrase a friend in need is a friend indeed. Real friends will stick by you no matter what. Real friends will tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear. Real friends are there and you don’t have to ask them to be. Real friends call you and don’t want anything. Real friends don’t have expectations. Real friends are generally not those listed as friends on Facebook. In my estimation, if you have one, two, or three real friends, you’re doing well. I think many people shy away from developing true friendships because that means opening up to one another.  It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop trust. Notice Solomon says, “A friend loves at all times.” Love here is a verb – it’s an action word. This love is a demonstration of the strong and lasting bonds of true friendship. When that occurs, Solomon concludes that, “A brother is born for adversity.” Adversity means difficulty or misfortune. When troubles come, the friend is there. When adversity strikes, the friend is there. When tragedy occurs, the friend is there. You can’t run off a real friend.

Here’s some more foolishness. “A man lacking sense pledges and becomes a guarantor in the presence of his neighbor.” In Pro. 6:1 Solomon warned against being surety for your neighbor. In Pro. 11:15 he warned against being surety for a stranger. Solomon just said that a real friend is born for adversity, but that doesn’t mean covering someone else’s debt. That’s the meaning here. It’s a third party – a friend of a friend. Realistically, the fool doesn’t know how to biblically use money and certainly doesn’t understand how monetary dealings between friends can complicate relationships. The wise person doesn’t allow himself to be trapped like that and the good friend doesn’t even bring it up. “He who loves transgression loves strife.” Transgression means sin, plain and simple. Strife means angry or bitter disagreement. I don’t know anyone with good sense that enjoys strife. I guess the caveat is good sense. Strife can result from disagreeing about the truth. There are some really hot topic issues out there that people get instantly insane about. Bathrooms, animal rights, global warming, school prayer, and politics immediately come to mind. There are folks that want to talk about these and other issues, but it’s not really a discussion, it’s a diatribe. Fewer and fewer people are actually willing to sit down and hear a biblical perspective on an issue and this is exacerbated by people that are unwilling to study something out for themselves preferring to pick up what is put out on social media or the most popular blogs. Still others make the point that they don’t want to rock the boat; they don’t want to stir up what they call trouble. I’ve been that guy pleading with other believers in the room to help me out in a discussion and take up the mantle of biblical truth only for those others to avert their eyes.

I’m not suggesting that we go around starting arguments with other people, but I am suggesting that we become secure in our faith in order to defend what we believe in and why when the opportunity presents itself. “He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction.” That’s a strange combination isn’t it? “Raises his door” is a metaphor for opening the mouth. Transgression and strife generally go hand in hand. One of the problems with people that talk too much is they tend not to know when it’s best to remain silent. Strife can lead to a host of biblical problems. Anger, bitterness, doubt, resentment, discontentment. Solomon assumes this isn’t going on in the life of the believer, but it is happening in the life of a fool. We’ve seen some really anti-Christian behavior so far in this series and those behaviors shouldn’t be part of the life of the authentic believer. We’re not talking momentarily losing your mind and doing something that dishonors God; we’re talking this is the way it is in your life. We need to continuously be growing in the area of our behavior. It’s incomprehensible to the writers of Scripture for us not to become more and more like Jesus. It’s a process that occurs each and every day. Strife will come into our lives, but let’s not be the source of it.

One last one for today. “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.” This is another written for today. Crooked means bent or twisted. I’m sure you’ve talked with people like this. You wonder how in the world they can think the way they think. You ask yourself, “Where do they come up with this stuff?” Yes, this also happens in the church. People saying the Bible says something that it does not. People quoting things they’ve heard in church that have no biblical basis. You’ve heard hate the sin, love the sinner. More and more people are defining themselves by their sin. We should hate sin – God hates sin and has given us a list of things He hates along with numerous biblical principles regarding sin. What’s curious though is we seem to be ready to hate the sin in everyone else’s life, yet are not so quick to hate when it comes to our own life. Hating sin is falling out of favor in society today. Have you heard, this too shall pass? It likely has some beginning in Matt. 24:35 that says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” We generally say this during times of trouble or grief. Not everything in our lives passes. Sometimes heartache lasts a lifetime.  How about, God just wants me happy? He’s not against your happiness, but He’s more concerned with your holiness. What about cleanliness is next to godliness? I’m not even sure why we say this. Is it to try and get kids to wash their hands before they eat? I don’t know many kids that care about being godly so it’s kind of silly. Parents, just whoop your kids if they don’t obey. There are others and you might think, what’s the big deal. The only source of absolute truth is the Bible and God provided His word as a testimony of Him, as a manual for life, as the basis for all that we know about what really matters. Some of these sayings are paraphrases of biblical truth and others are total heresy. Even if a catchphrase is encouraging or edifying, if it isn’t in the Bible, we can’t guarantee it’s the Word of God. The only way we’ll know for sure is to study the Bible for ourselves.

In another obvious statement, Solomon says, “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.” No one can pick what kind of child they have. When a child chooses to go his own way and ignore the teachings of his father, sorrow will follow. Remember that Solomon is speaking from his perspective – the perspective of a God fearing man. Lifelong sorrow in our life can come as a result of the decisions of our children. While all of our children can make foolish decisions, “The father of a fool has no joy.” None. Zero. Nada.

We began this morning saying that if wisdom could be bought, the fool doesn’t have enough sense to make the purchase. The fool has no capacity for wisdom. We talked about real friendship – don’t confuse friendship with acquaintances. Real friends are hard to come by; developing true friendship takes time and effort. Fools are also bad with money. They don’t understand how financial issues can come between people. Someone that loves sin loves to argue. Know when to remain silent and don’t start arguments for the sake of arguments. You can’t choose how your children will turn out so do the best to raise your kids in a godly home because no parent likes to have a fool for a child.

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