No One Truly Knows the Sorrow I’m In

24 Aug

SorrowYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the shocking truth that liars lie. Lying is not part of the makeup of an authentic believer. Scoffers continue their scoffing and they wouldn’t recognize wisdom if it came up and slapped them in the face. The other side is that knowledge is easy for a person that understands that God is the source of wisdom. Fools have no standard of truth and therefore make fun of absolutes and those that hold to them. This morning, we’re going to look at a troubling concept.

In Pro. 14:10-12 Solomon says, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy. The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

So what about the heart? There are lots of things we say about the heart. Your heart knows best. It’s what’s in your heart that matters. He has a heart of gold or he has a bleeding heart. We’ve had a change of heart, we’ve eaten our hearts out, and we’ve crossed our hearts. We set our heart on something and we also lose heart. We need to be careful with the heart.

Bruce Springsteen had a, “Hungry Heart.” Rod Stewart counted, “Every Beat of My Heart.” Bryan Adams spoke, “Straight from the Heart.” Madonna said, “Open Your Heart.” Janis Joplin gave him, “A Piece of My Heart.” Elton John and Kiki Dee said, “Don’t go breakin’ My Heart.” The Backstreet Boys promised, “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” The Eagles declared there would be, “Heartache Tonight.” Patsy Cline sang about, “Your Cheatin’ Heart” which led to Dionne Warwick singing about, “Heartbreaker.” Billy Ray Cyrus developed an, “Achy Breaky Heart.” Bonnie Tyler had, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart” which caused the Bee Gees to ask the question, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?”  Tina Turner answered that question when she sang, “When the Heartache Is Over” and Yes became an, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” The Beatles decided to form a club and called it, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” All this occurred at Elvis Presley’s, “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Jeremiah tells us, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick.” (Jer. 17:9) Solomon says, “The heart knows its own bitterness.” So can you trust your heart or not? This seems to be a contrary statement to Jeremiah’s, but we have to let scripture interpret Scripture and read the Bible on more than a casual level. Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” (Matt. 15:19) What’s really interesting is that very few times in the Bible does the word heart actually deal with the organ that pumps blood throughout the body. The heart is the center of emotion and is often used metaphorically to describe personality, will, intellect, and memory.

When Solomon talks about the heart knowing its own bitterness, he means that no one can truly know how you feel. It’s true that we can have an idea or we empathize with someone going through a tough time. We can celebrate with others when they celebrate, but this is never the context of empathy. Even when we have experienced the same thing as another, we cannot know exactly how that person feels. No two people are alike. People have various backgrounds, come from different places, were raised with different values and ideals, have different life experiences, and are at different places in the walk of faith with Christ. There is an old Italian proverbs that says, “To everyone his own cross seems heaviest.” We are incapable of truly knowing what’s going on in someone’s heart. But there is someone that knows you better than you know yourself. There is someone that does understand all your idiosyncrasies, your background, your values, understands how all of that has shaped your personality, and loves you with an eternal love. “And a stranger does not share its joy.” How can he? He doesn’t know you from Adam. The idea is that you can and should share feelings with another, but no one can truly know how you feel and they don’t need to in order to effectively minister the love, grace, mercy, and hope found in Christ.

Here’s a familiar theme. Verse 11 reminds us, “The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.” We saw this principle in 3:33 and 12:7. We’ll also see it when we get to 21:12. Remember that wickedness will never win out. There may seem to be short term wins, but eternity is where it matters.

The proverb I want to sit on for a while is found next. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” During the time of the judges, “There was no king in Israel, every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 17:6, 21:25) This was not a good time in Israel’s history. Idolatry and apostasy abounded. The people forgot the fundamental principles that brought them there. It became a land of situational ethics and individual morality. There were no standards. All of the things I’ve been saying in recent weeks comes full circle. When a person’s heart becomes the center of right and wrong, we’re in for a world of hurt. When society follows its own desires, chaos typically results. Even though we live in a culture with rules and laws, we still tend to determine what we want to do regardless of the rules. That’s why our jails are full and our courts are backed up. That’s why we have trouble in the home and trouble in the workplace. The natural man or woman, and the natural boy or girl tends to do what they think is right even when given clear instructions. When questioned on why they didn’t do as instructed, you get the answer, “I didn’t feel like it.” “I knew that, but . . .” or “I thought it best to . . .” or “I wanted to. . .” There are ways that seem right, but death results. It seems right to someone that doesn’t have a biblical worldview, that doesn’t have a relationship with the Creator, that hasn’t spent time knowing God, that doesn’t walk in wisdom. That’s one of the reasons that professing believers also tend to do what comes naturally. It stems from the same sin that led to Satan’s demise. It’s the sin of pride. It is the declaration that the creation knows more than the Creator. I can offer the guarantee that if you fail to follow Christ, you will die. That death is an eternal death. Jesus said in Matt. 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

It’s very challenging to upset the apple cart; to speak things that are so contrary to the way people think and act. It can be difficult to expose yourself to ridicule and hatred and persecution, but I wonder what would happen if people of faith would quit. People can ignore the complexity and beauty of nature, can dismiss the intricacies and diversity of the human being, and can ignore absolute truth. But how can people discount the transformation that takes place in the heart of an authentic believer? How can people dismiss God’s ultimate work of creation? Because we fail to live up to the expectations Christ has for us. Make today the day that you begin living for Christ. Let us be a people that demonstrate the transforming power of Christ so that everyone can see what Jesus is capable of.

Wisdom in Action

17 Aug

LiarYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we saw the importance of a godly woman in the home. We saw that walking in uprightness demonstrates your love for God. It matters not just how you walk, but also how you talk. It matters how we act and react in our lives. Finally, we saw the mess you have to clean from having an ox is worth the benefit that he provides. This morning, Solomon continues giving his rapid fire principles that are going to be eerily familiar to you.

In Pro. 14:5-9 Solomon says, A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies. A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.  Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not discern words of knowledge. The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way, but the foolishness of fools is deceit. Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is good will.”

Liars lie. This comes as no shock to you. In my experience, I can tell you that people lie. I have found this to be true no matter the setting I’m in. Remember, I have not always been a pastor and my experience is not limited to church settings. Even today, my experience is not limited to a church setting. One should assume that in dealing with Christians, people that profess a relationship with Christ, that truth would be at the forefront of their mind. You would think that to tell a lie, one would have to consciously create a lie in their brain for it to come out. Solomon emphatically states, “A trustworthy witness will not lie.” Notice the finality of his statement. If this sounds familiar, it’s because he said in 12:17, “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” Notice the two words that form the word trustworthy. Trust means firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. Worthy means having great character, merit, or value. So when you put it together, you can see how powerful the word is. When you are trustworthy, and all of us should be, your word is golden, it’s not going to be doubted. The character of a person determines if his words are true and wise. If you catch someone you trusted in a lie, how difficult is it going to be to believe other things they say? We often see this in the role of parenting. A child lies so often to the parent that the parent ends up not believing anything the kid says. When they actually tell the truth the parent doesn’t believe them and the kid gets mad.

Another area where we see this is when someone lies to themselves. Christian existentialist Soren Kierkegaard said, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”  I do not like when people lie to me, but I need to recognize that they’re not really lying to me because they’re lying to themselves. We convince ourselves of things that are not true. God doesn’t love me and God doesn’t care. God sent this and He doesn’t answer prayer. I know what’s best. Nobody has reached out to me. I can go it alone, I don’t need anyone. These conclusions typically come not in the good times, but in the difficult or challenging times. What is the root cause for these beliefs? It’s a lack of understanding about God’s character that is revealed throughout Scripture. Yes, I believe it comes from not knowing who God really is. Jesus said in Jo. 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth.” But Solomon says, “A false witness utters lies.” “A false witness who utters lies” is on the list of seven things the Lord hates from 6:19. He hasn’t changed His mind. If you utter a lie under oath in a courtroom it’s called perjury and is punishable as a felony. No matter what you do, no matter the offer you may make, a trustworthy witness can’t be persuaded to tell a lie. We must be a people of truth.

Let’s look at Solomon’s apparent hypocrisy. “A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none.” This seems totally wrong. Ja. 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” That is of course true, but the scoffer lacks something critical to finding wisdom. Solomon set up the book of Proverbs in 1:7 when he said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The reason the scoffer can’t find wisdom is because he refuses to listen to wisdom. He discounts wisdom; he ignores it; he hates it; he despises it. There’s no reasoning with a scoffer because his reasoning comes from within. He creates it himself. On the other hand, “Knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.” This guy understands Pro. 1:7. The fear of the Lord, or a healthy respect for God, is essential in understanding the mysteries of life; it’s the key to understanding what God wants for us. It’s comparatively easy for a person to gain wisdom who understands that they need God and His Spirit to help them.

To go along with this principle, Solomon says, “Leave the presence of a fool, or you will not be able to discern words of knowledge.” It’s as if a fool is a vacuum. The wisdom you have is sucked right out of your brain. That’s not exactly true, but the idea here is that when you realize a fool is a fool, don’t bother with him. It’s a waste of energy, a waste of breath, a waste of time to pursue it any further because he will not accept the truth you speak and will not accept the wisdom you demonstrate. What’s worse, he’ll hate you for it. If you hang around a fool, your ability to gain godly knowledge will be greatly diminished. A good question to ask yourself if, “Am I foolish in any area of my life?” All of us can be foolish at times or about certain things. Are you willing to allow someone that has demonstrated consistent faithfulness, that has demonstrated a commitment to Christ, that has lived by example, that is truly authentic; will you allow them to sow wisdom into your life? I know people in the church that are complete fools when it comes to finances; that are complete fools when it comes to parenting or relationships. You’re thinking , “Is it me?” I know I have been foolish in decisions. I used to think I could simply attend church and that was good enough, that that’s what it meant to live for Christ. I used to think reading along with the preacher was Bible study. Over the years, I have come to understand that living a life of authenticity is much more than that. If you’re unwilling to hear and follow biblical wisdom, regardless of the source, then you are a fool. Sometimes, we make foolish decisions because we keep the company of fools. Carefully evaluate who is on your friend list.

In a seemingly contrary statement Solomon says, “The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way.” This verse lines up with Jesus’ words in Matt. 7:3 that we saw a couple of weeks ago: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Sometimes we can see the path that others need to take and we offer “help” in getting them there. Solomon and Jesus are both saying look first at your own path, make sure you’re on track before you go getting involved in everyone else’s lives. With all the verses that speak of discipleship, we must make sure we strike the balance of encouragement and correction, and grace and mercy. Look at your life through the eyes of God, through the mirror and lens of Scripture. “The foolishness of fools is deceit.” Their brains are clouded by foolishness. This isn’t self-deception; it’s trying to fool others. You see this in all aspects of life and we’re going to see it play out in verse 12, so I’ll wait until we get there.

Solomon helps us understand reality. When it’s all said and done, “Fools mock at sin.” Mock is the word that means tease scornfully or ridicule. This really is the root cause of foolishness. A biblical fool doesn’t see sin from God’s eyes. There are no absolutes. Since there are no absolutes in the fool’s world, everyone does what they want to do regardless of the impact on others, regardless of the impact on the family, regardless of the impact on the very fabric of society that keeps things in order. The things that fools engage in actually serve to break down that which is good and right. Listen to Isaiah’s haunting warning, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20) “Among the upright, there is good will.” The times in which we currently live in seem so far from God, but actually provide us with incredible opportunity to be different. No matter what others are doing, we can choose to walk with God; we can choose to serve Him faithfully. There’s no need to panic. While we live in challenging times, other people have lived in challenging times and still managed to live victoriously for Christ. In fact, every generation has faced some sort of challenge. Just in my generation, we’ve seen the inerrancy of Scripture debated several times on a national level, we’ve seen denominational splits over social issues, we’ve seen an overall decline in biblical literacy, we’ve seen the embracement of moral relativism, and we’ve seen landmark Supreme Court decisions on abortion and same sex unions. That highlights just some of the challenges. How we respond to these challenges is what matters. God is in as much control as He’s always been. These things do not change who God is. Recognizing that God is God is hugely liberating.

In Eph. 5:15, Paul warns us to, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.” We’re responsible to walk the walk of faith. We’re responsible to keep going. We’re responsible for our actions. We’re responsible to shine the light of Christ to a world that is walking in darkness. The good news of Jesus Christ is that you are able to do just that through Him who gives you strength.

Women’s Rights

10 Aug

WomanYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that God relentlessly pursues sinners. We saw that labels can sometimes be viewed as divisive. This pervasive division in America is nothing new as we were reminded of Paul’s warning to Timothy when he said there will come a time when people wouldn’t put up with sound doctrine. There is judgment for wrong doing, but there is also hope, forgiveness, and power to be found in the person of Jesus Christ. The parent that disciplines his kids is really demonstrating his love. This morning, we’ll see Solomon use his rapid fire tactic for issuing principles that are generally applicable.

Pro. 14:1-4 says, The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands. He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will protect them. Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”

Solomon tells us the value of a woman. He’s mentioned women a bunch of times to this point and it is mostly unflattering. There was the honey lipped harlot in 5:3. There was the exhilarating adulteress in 5:20. There was the beautiful yet evil adulterous woman in 6:24. There was the cunning, rebellious woman of harlotry in 7:10. There was the boisterous, naïve woman of folly in 9:13. There was the morally ugly woman of 11:22. There was the excellent wife in 12:4. Up to this point, except for the excellent wife, the women portrayed by Solomon are not morally good. Now we come to the construction wife. “The wise woman builds her house.” This is not a proof text that women should work outside the home. This is not justification to have your wife do all the hard, labor intensive work at the homestead. Build here does not mean construct in a manufacturing way. It means establish, it means put in order, it means make the house into a home. You can build a house and have all the proper things in it, but it takes a woman’s touch to transform it into a home.

The wise woman makes a house a home, “But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.” All the structure and organization can be undone by foolishness. As easy as wisdom builds the house, it can come crashing down by the destructiveness of folly when there is no order, no discipline, no structure, and no rules. Don’t misunderstand this verse. In order of authority, the man still comes first. All the good intentions of the husband can be destroyed by the foolish wife. The husband can do an awful lot to turn the home upside down too. Both husband and wife must be all in.

Next Solomon tells us that it really does matters how you walk. Much has been said in Scripture of walking. Solomon says, “He who walks in his uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him.” I want to make sure you understand that many times walking in the Bible is not associated with transportation. Paul in particular, more than any other writer of Scripture talks a lot about walking. He used the word or a form of the word at least 27 times and all but two refer to a manner or pattern of life. In Rom. 6:4, he talks about walking in newness of life. In 2 Cor. 5:7, he says we walk by faith and not by sight. In Gal. 5:16 he tells us to walk by the Spirit so we won’t carry out the desires of the flesh. In Eph. 4:1 he tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. It is this same type of walking Solomon is talking about. Being an authentic child of the King requires more than simply declaring it. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) Solomon says the same thing. If you fear the Lord, your life will reflect it. What happens on the outside of your body is a reflection of what is on the inside. The principle of how you act in life occurs throughout Scripture because God knew this would be an issue. Don’t fall into the traps of Satan we talked about a couple of weeks ago. You cannot have an authentic, viable relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and there be no evidence in your life to support it. So who are the devious Solomon mentions in the second part of the verse? Back in chapter 2, Solomon told us who these people are. Look at 2:10-15. These people despise God. How can that be? Isn’t it ironic how the people that talk about how loving God is hate the standards first given in Scripture?

Not only does it matter how you walk, it matters how you talk. “In the mouth of the fool is a rod for his back.” This is not the same word Solomon used for rod in 13:24. This verse is a metaphor. The things the foolish say will come back to hurt them. Rod here means a branch or a shoot and the idea is that pride grows out of the heart. Matt. 12:34 gives us the sobering thought, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” If you are prideful of speech, prideful in attitude, prideful in thought, or prideful in action, it’s going to come back on you. When the heart is full of pride and there is no wisdom in your brain to suppress it, the words of David ring loud and clear. “So they will make him stumble; their own tongue is against them; all who see them will shake the head.” (Ps. 64:8) “The lips of the wise will protect them,” Solomon says. Wisdom dictates when to speak and when to stay silent. Wisdom knows when a word of encouragement or a word of correction is needed. Words matter and they’re a great indication of who you belong to. Paul told the church at Ephesus, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:4) Remember a couple of weeks ago when I said if you want to be smart, hang with smart people? If you want to walk more like Christ, hang with people that walk with Christ? If you hang with people that do not control what they say, that say things that they shouldn’t say, that use horrible or profane language, you will tend to do the same. That’s the natural thing to do, but wait . . . you have something supernatural living inside of you so you don’t fulfill those ungodly things. A huge detractor to people of the world looking at us as professing believers is the way we act. Be different for Christ.

We’ve talked about walking and talking, but what about our work? Hard work matters. Here again Solomon gives us an example that makes such good sense, but has become very uncommon. “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.” This verse might not make sense to us who do not live in an agricultural community or don’t have any farming background. The ox is known as a beast of burden able to carry heavy loads and perform other hard work. If you don’t have an ox, you don’t have to worry about keeping the barn clean. No worries about feeding him, or taking care of him. So for the lazy person, having an ox just isn’t worth the trouble. Let’s put this into a modern context. Having a car isn’t worth the trouble because they break down and gas has gotten expensive. Having a house isn’t worth the trouble because you have to do repairs, clean it, have insurance, cut the grass, pay taxes on it, and pay for electricity. It just isn’t worth it. The ox was the early form of the tractor trailer and is still used in many cultures to work the land. In fact, the ox is making a comeback on small farms in America. You can pick up one cheap, they’re easy to train, they don’t need spare parts, they’re cheap to feed, and when they break down you can eat them. The fool looks at the mess the ox makes and ignores the benefits that come because of the ox.

The same thing happens today, but it’s not about farming. This attitude is prevalent among all facets of life. We do a lot of foolish things and we have lots of foolish thoughts. There are things that are hard and take time, but in the end, the payoff is huge. In our house, we maintain all of our finances in Quicken. It takes time to enter all our expenses and categorize them. It takes only minutes at the end of the month to balance the accounts. At the end of the year, it takes me about an hour to categorize all income and expenses for tax purposes. We know where the money goes and are able to catch fraudulent purchases – something that is becoming more and more prevalent. I change the oil and transmission fluid in all our vehicles. That takes time and effort. Many of you do these same things. Over the years in Bible study, we’ve seen people come to the first session and never come back because it’s too hard or takes too much time and they fail to see the eternal benefit. The fool thinks he can get everything needed to walk a life of authenticity without doing the hard work of studying, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word.

Living a life for Christ is hard work, but the benefits are huge. Confident and courageous living. Having a hope that is fixed on Christ. Having a contagious and engaging spirit that points people to the answer all men are seeking. These things make the hard work worth it. Even if you don’t see any profit or payoff, living a life that is pleasing to God is still the greatest testimony of a life that belongs to Him.

You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide

3 Aug

HideYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that when we hang out with wise people, we get wise. When we hang out with smart people, we get smarter. We must and should follow people that follow God, but we must be careful because the opposite is also true. When we hang with people that are not walking with God, we also tend to not walk with God. That’s why discipleship is so vital in our walk with Christ. This morning, we’ll see that God is relentless.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 13:21-25 so you can follow along.

The hunt is on! “Adversity pursues sinners.” You’re never going to avoid labels. We’re often identified by labels. Applications are filled with them: race, ethnicity, sex, age, religious preferences, etc. We’re good with labels that are part of our personal characteristics or heritage, but introduce a label that has to do with choice, and people start screaming. Sinner can be an offensive label in our times because of the changing morality of people. No matter how fast or how far you run, God is there. God is a relentless pursuer of sinners. If you remember the message from a couple of weeks back, I said that you must have a standard on which to formulate your beliefs or they will shift or change with the circumstances. So we need to evaluate sin from an unchanging standard so we don’t get caught up with the ever changing attitude of people and society. I think one of the root causes for this ever changing standard of ethics and morality has been the general departure from the Bible and the standards found therein. We’ve shifted priorities from God and eternity to self and the here and now. We’ve filled the time we used to spend in the Bible with other pursuits that while not bad or sinful, prevent us from doing what God would have us to do. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can have it all and do it all just like everyone else. That’s why I continuously talk about getting back in the Bible. That’s where we get our standards and the interesting thing is the Bible even predicted a deviation from Scripture would develop. Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about this. Two passages that really highlight this are found in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Take the time to read these insightful thoughts.

So don’t lose heart. “Adversity pursues sinners.”  We must look at the Bible to determine what a sinner is. In its simplest form a sinner is one who commits sin. The person who says, “We’re all sinners,” as a justification for his sin is likely the same one that has no standard to begin with and will certainly not like being told there is absolute truth.  If we really believe that God is unchanging and thus His Word is unchanging, then the standard for life is the same today as it was before humanity was created. If murder has always been wrong, then it will always be wrong. You can plug in anything you want, but understand the entire teachings of God. Please don’t bring up eating shellfish or pork, the washing of hands, etc. as justification for how outdated the Bible is. The ceremonial aspects of the law were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and the moral aspects of the Law have been repeated in the New Testament. Jesus Christ was the answer before humanity and He remains the answer today. Being a sinner is what Christians were, but are no longer. The adversity Solomon mentions is always on the heels of the wicked one. There may be short term prosperity or happiness, but again, we must think eternally. And that’s exactly what Solomon says, “But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”

Solomon’s next point is deeper than what you might think. Verse 22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Some would use this as a proof text that you need to work hard to make sure your kids and grandkids are well supported after your death. It’s much deeper than that. The idea is when wisdom is at the forefront of who you are and what you do, the wealth accumulated will be passed down from generation to generation because it’s handled with wisdom. For the sinner, which Solomon uses synonymously with wickedness and unrighteous, there is no inheritance to be passed down because there is no wisdom and therefore anything gained is lost. An even more important principle is passing down the faith of the righteous from generation to generation. “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” This is a challenging verse. The best I can offer is this refers once again to the diligent work ethic Solomon has told us about. The poor man that is righteous diligently works his land, no matter how small it is, to the best of his ability. As a result, he will have an abundant harvest. The second part of the verse gets tricky. “Swept away by injustice” is also translated, “For want of judgment.” Given the contrast formula used so often by Solomon, it seems likely this refers to the mismanagement of resources by the wicked. To put it in a modern context, management overextends the company, too many employees are hired, too much money is borrowed, too much equipment is purchased and all is quickly swept away. A story published in the New York Times on July 31st highlights this principle perfectly. Let me talk about verse 25 briefly because it goes hand in hand with this verse. The key word is enough. God will provide what is needed. Often He provides more than we need, but we will always have enough. We’ll see later in Proverbs that Agur prayed that he would have enough: neither too much nor too little, but enough.

And now for a total deviation from what you might expect next. Like many verses we’ve seen to this point, the next verse seems out of place. “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Your wonderful newborn baby has something lurking within them that is difficult to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. In some it is stronger than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, etc. that parents are all too familiar with. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not here. Here, Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here and that’s the direction I’m coming from. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. This is going to be painful for some folks to hear including me. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. If you are prone to gossip, it’s going to be difficult to get your child to understand why gossiping is wrong. If you’re prone to lying, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why he gets punished for lying. If you are prone to neglect your study of God’s Word or your reading of God’s Word, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand the value of God’s Word. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important. If you sporadically attend church, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why it’s important. That’s why we must go to the standard of our faith. Some people, even in the church, do not see the value of good, solid, Bible teaching in the home. They want their kids to find their own way. They somehow have missed the importance of training their kids. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. We’ve come to believe that we will irreparably damage their psyche if we discipline our kids. Not every child will respond to a spanking. Not every child responds to a time out. Not every child is the same. One thing is the same. Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result.

Also, teach your kids to listen to other adults. It can be very disrespectful to have an eight year old tell me, “My mom says I don’t have to listen to you.” One final thought on this as we’ll get to a score of other parenting principles later in Proverbs, as adults, understand that each parent trains their child to not do things that annoy them. Every person has different annoyances. Also understand that every parent is at a different place in their walk of faith. When you lovingly correct your child, you’re demonstrating how much you love and care for them. There must be the same diligence in this area as in our other endeavors. Don’t neglect this crucial area of the family.

Trouble always pursues the sinner. They may think they won’t be caught, but God will catch them and He can do it anytime He wants. Don’t misunderstand short term worldly “success” as God’s approval. Demonstrate love for your children by teaching them and holding them accountable. Know this, God will relentlessly pursue you as He seeks to transform you into the image of His one and only Son.

Follow the Leader

27 Jul

LeaderCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that we have hope that is found in Jesus Christ. We must be diligent to be good messengers and listen to those around us who have walked where we walk. We have reverence and trust in God and therefore follow His words even when we don’t understand. This morning, we’ll look at one incredibly important concept.

In Pro. 13:20 Solomon says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Solomon starts off with a proven principle. “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” This seems so obvious, but so neglected. Smart people hang out with smart people. Wise people hang out with wise people. Godly people hang out with godly people. I recently had a revelation. Too many of us have a cry wolf attitude in the wrong things of life. One of our children comes down with a fever or other symptom and we frantically search WebMD to diagnose the mystery ailment. We post on Facebook for all our self taught doctor friends to weigh in with their diagnosis and recommended course of action and then we go to the doctor and tell him how to treat the child. Our car makes a funny noise and we immediately take it to the mechanic. Our child expresses an interest in a sport and we buy them the best equipment and get them into a program. Someone posts about an issue they’re having and we comment about what they should do. We’ve got the answer for everyone else. Something happens in our personal life or we go through some kind of trial and we isolate ourselves from those that can provide us what we need. My experience is that church participation is a barometer for our spiritual temperature.

If you want to be encouraged, walk with people that are encouraging. If you want to know more about Jesus Christ, walk with people that know Him. I know I’ve said it before, but we seem to be much more willing to stick out difficult situations in every other aspect of our lives except our walk with Christ. The littlest thing sets us off. Love that is supposed be unconditional has limits. Grace that is expected on a personal level is withheld from others. For some reason we are very hesitant to try and restore relationships with one another in a church setting, but have little difficulty doing this in other settings. If and when we’re approached in a loving manner, we immediately go on the defensive and don’t even consider the love a person has for us or the courage it takes to confront an issue head on. Then we blame God and quit.

1 Jo. 3:18, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” That is what Solomon is saying. It’s not enough to speak truth or believe truth. That’s good, but it cannot stop there. The truth must be a critical element of who we are inside. The truth provides demostrative evidence that we belong to Jesus. Col. 1:10 says, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” We often listen to the nonsense from society that issues the edict that no one is to judge. Paul says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  (Gal. 6:1) The idea that we are prohibited to tell people the truth so we don’t come across judgmental is nonsensical and the people that make such claims, well, they just don’t know the Bible. I encourage you to take a look at Eph. 5:11-15. Paul gives us something very important for us to do. This comes also with other cautions because stopping at saying something is wrong does not meet the intent of what Paul is telling us to do. Jesus asked the question in Matt. 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Jesus is pointing out that sometimes we can be very critical of others and miss something that is in our own lives. He’s not saying you’re forbidden from pointing out the speck, but first you need to evaluate your own life. That does not mean perfection. That’s what people often say though. When some issue is pointed out, the first thing out of their mouth is a laundry list of things that are wrong with us. We need to be receptive to the correction that comes from other seasoned, experienced, and mature believers. We must be more flexible in the church, more willing to allow Christ to change us, but there it is again. I’m thinking that some folks that profess to be believers don’t want anyone in their business because they don’t want to grow, they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to be more like Christ because they are not followers of Christ. You cannot be a follower of Christ without a relationship with Him. Just because someone comes to church doesn’t make them a believer. We must make discipleship an intentional aspect of our lives. We must be willing to be discipled and to make disciples. We must be a fellowship where love and acceptance is infused into us by the Spirit of God.

If you want to be wise, walk with wise people, but Solomon says the opposite is also true. “But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Are you wondering why I don’t skip over this stuff? How many different ways is Solomon going to say it? That’s a valid question so we have to ask ourselves, why? Why does Solomon take up so much space saying the same thing over and over? Let’s change up the question. If you’re a spouse, how many times do you tell your other half the same thing? If you’re a parent, how many times do you tell your child the same thing? If you’re a manager or supervisor, how many times do you tell your people the same thing over and over again? If you’re a teacher, how many times do you tell your students the same thing over and over? If you’re a coach, how many times do you tell the team the same thing over and over again? You tell them until they get it. That’s what God is doing through Solomon. He’s reminding us of things we should know, but fail to put into practice on a consistent basis. If you hang with people that do not share your beliefs, values, and ethics, there is a far better chance that you will alter your standards because of them rather than vice versa. Paul emphatically states, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33) When your best pal is a biblical fool, you will likely become foolish. Remember Solomon defines a fool as someone that has the right answer yet does not follow it. Harm will come. Solomon is talking guarantees. Be careful who you spend time with. Of course God wants you to share the truth with people that are far from Him. There’s a difference between having a meal with someone and being their best friend. One of the most challenging things experienced after salvation is making a break from those people that do not hold the same values.

We need to hang with people that will challenge us to soar higher, to walk closer to God, to be more like Christ. If you want to be more like Christ which is God’s desire for us, you need to walk along side of people that have the same goals. You need to be actively engaged in the walk of faith.

There is Hope

20 Jul

HopeCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that it’s better if our kids listened to us. Having good, compliant, respectful kids makes parenting look easy. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover though because looks can be deceiving. Just because you’re wealthy by the world’s standards means nothing. Money has nothing to do with wealth in God’s economy, but it is better to work hard to obtain what you do have than it is to be handed it. This morning, we’ll see some principles you probably have heard of, but maybe didn’t know came from God.

I encourage you to read Pro. 13:12-19 so we understand where Solomon is coming from.

Solomon opens up with something you probably have experienced. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Everyone has hopes and dreams. Society often dictates these hopes and dreams. Get an education, get married, have kids, have a great job that fulfills you, build that dream home or what is now being called the forever home. Even in the church, we have fallen into the marks of success of defined by society. When those hopes and dreams go unrealized, sometimes we’re defined as failures or at the very least, we feel like failures. To put it into something we can readily understand, think about the promotion you feel was deserved that you didn’t get. Think about the test that you studied so hard for and came up short. Think about the mortgage you applied for that you didn’t get. Think about the ungodly decisions that have come at the hands of our elected leadership.

Solomon is talking about something far more important. The Bible goes beyond those ever changing marks of achievement where you were taught to work hard to achieve what you want. We’ve already learned that this is a good virtue to have, but there is something even more important that leads to this work ethic. As we move through this passage, we’ll see that it has to do with something Solomon has hammered on and that’s character. It’s far more important to develop virtuous character which is borne out of diligent examination of the Scriptures, seeking and listening to wise counsel, and engaging in a lifestyle of Christian community. The biblical outcome of that life long process is a maturing, growing, loving, kind, Christ like individual that lives each day passionately and zealously pursuing Christ in authenticity. Notice I said lifelong process. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. There are too many people in the church that give up or give in. Some folks are unwilling to stick it out. They’ve prayed for weeks and God hasn’t answered. They’ve been serving God for months and don’t see the fruit of their labor. Our fast paced society filled with “I want it now” people are unwilling to persevere for the long haul. Over the years here at C4, we’ve seen many people come and go. Folks have transferred or moved away, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people that are gifted or talented to serve in particular ways, but don’t want to get involved to build something for God. People want to get in on what’s exciting and happening and growing, but it seems like they don’t want to do the work necessary to make it so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, real ministry is hard work. When our hopes are in things of the world, they can easily be crushed to smithereens. “But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We’ll see this conclusion is solidified later in v. 19. Think of those desires that are fulfilled and the feeling that you have. Joy, gratitude, peace, confidence, trust, and of course, hope. This comes from knowing who God is and His unchanging character.

In the next verse, Solomon says you don’t have to like it. “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it.” I think of people that ignore good, solid biblical guidance. This is not so much a perception issue as it is a defining issue. We are experiencing this in ways that are quite shocking. Anytime we quote the Bible in reference to almost any type of behavior we are labeled hate mongers, intolerant, judgmental, unloving, and unkind. Solomon is talking about a willingness to place yourself under the authority of the written Word of God. Just because someone doesn’t like the Bible, understand it, believe it, or follow it, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable. You can despise the law, but you still have to follow it. You can really hate stopping completely at a stop sign, but when you violate the law and get caught, you will be in debt to it. That’s the reality for lost people. People can disagree and hate the Bible, but it doesn’t make it less applicable to them. Even if they don’t know everything in it, they’re still accountable to it and so are we as believers. For us, “The one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” This isn’t a terrified type of deal. This is reverence, respect, a willingness to trust that God knows what is going on, that He knows the best way for us to live, that He knows what’s what. Do you find it hard to do that?

Let me give you some perspective. You’re sick and go to the doctor and you trust that doctor to provide you with the medical care necessary to make you feel better. Your car breaks down and you go to the mechanic and trust him to correctly identify the problem and fix it. You trust the school teachers to adequately prepare your children to gain and understand the principles necessary to be productive members of society. You trust the bank to take care of the money you put there on deposit. So it’s not really a matter of trust because I just established that we are pretty free with our trust. Sure you might get a second opinion or you might send your child to a different school, but the bottom line is you’re still trusting. The one who may not understand the whys or the hows or the details of the Bible, but trusts in the unseen power of the One and only true God, well he will be rewarded. Don’t look for a check in the mail or anything you might actually put your hands on though. That may not be how God chooses to reward you. The for sure thing is eternity. What I’d recommend is that you put at least the same trust in the Creator of all things as you do your family practitioner, your kid’s teacher, or the bank that holds your money. Always default to God loves and cares more for you than any other living creature on this planet.

I encourage you to commit Jer. 29:11 to memory: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Paul brings it home by saying, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Back in Proverbs, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.” Fountain is also translated spring which gives us the idea of a never ending source and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You’ll never be able to reach the bottom of the wisdom found in God’s Word. The water continues to flow and never runs out. Through God’s Word, we know Him more intimately. We can better understand His character and His purposes for us. We understand how to deal with the obstacles and challenges of life. His Word provides the road map, “To turn aside from the snares of death.” When you are diligent to study God’s Word, when you are diligent to walk with Christ, when you are diligent to worship God in spirit and in truth, when you are diligent to engage in Christian community, when you are diligent in your walk with Christ, you’re able to recognize the traps being set for us by Satan. Some common traps we’re faced with. I’m too far gone for God to forgive me. God will not use me. Nobody likes me or cares about me. It’s my life and my body. What I do in private is no one’s business. No one will know. I’m as good as the next guy. Solomon says, “Good understanding produces favor.” All those traps are recognized when we are engaged in the fundamental principles of the faith. You may think you’re too far gone, but 1 Jo. 1:9 reminds that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You may think God won’t use you, but be like Isaiah when he said, “Here am I, send me.” We may conclude that people don’t care about us, but we go back to the truth in 1 Pet. 5:7 that tells us to cast, “All your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The common thread in most of the traps Satan sets is he gets us to focus on ourselves. When we have the understanding that Solomon encourages, we can recognize and address the issues. Good understanding is built on the foundation of God’s Word and in the context with which it is written.

The opposite way is just that. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” This is another understatement. He’s not talking about difficulty here as in hard to do or understand. He’s talking about overall pain and suffering involved in the way of the treacherous. Sin is slavery. Slavery is awful. And he does not necessarily mean right now. We need to think eternally rather than in the here and now. “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” He’s cautious, not reckless. He does not get involved in things he does not know about or in things that are not his concern. “A fool displays folly.” Again, opposite of the person that acts with wisdom. The next verse is a reference to the olden days, but has a very modern application. “A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”

We need to remind ourselves that we haven’t always had the conveniences we enjoy today. We have people alive today that have always had the internet, have always had instantaneous communication, have always had the ability to get information right now. You talk to someone that has lived four decades and they didn’t always have cable TV, cell phones, or computers. You talk to someone five decades old and they didn’t always have color TV and their telephone was attached to a wall and their number had letters in it. You talk to someone six decades old and they were only beginning to watch coast to coast live news. Messengers were sent on foot or horseback to hand carry the news back in Solomon’s day. So let’s bring this verse to 2015. If we only shared the judgment of God, or the bad news, we’re doing everyone a disservice. This also applies to half truths, scriptural misrepresentation, gossip, and just plain old lies. I saw this humorously depicted when one of my Facebook friends posted a quote. “The trouble with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine.” (Abraham Lincoln) Solomon closes in vs. 18-19.

There is hope. If you receive instruction from Scripture, you will be better off. If you don’t pay attention to those people around you that are wiser, older, and more experienced, you’ll find yourself on the impoverished side of life. Solomon is not necessarily talking about poverty, but that may happen too. He’s more concerned with how we live our lives; with how we behave, with how we interact with others so that they may know the hope we have in Christ.

Looks can be Deceiving

13 Jul

LooksYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs we learned that we should use God’s Word as a compass for our lives. We should allow the perfect Word of God to guide us on the path of righteousness. We’re to work hard and not be lazy, something you’ll hear over and over again from Solomon. If you are anxious, your heart is weighed down. We combat these feelings of heaviness with the truths and comforts found in God’s Word. This morning, we have three very pointed topics Solomon wants us to understand.

Take the time to read Pro. 13:1-11 for yourself to understand the context.

Solomon’s first principle is that good listening leads to good parenting. For most of us, if our children listened to what we told them and followed that guidance, they would be far better off. As parents, if we followed the guidance of Scripture, we’d be better off too. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a good or bad person, if the kids would learn from our mistakes, missteps, and miscues, they’d at least know better. You can talk to career criminals and they will typically tell you they don’t want their kids to grow up to be like them. Solomon hits this on the head when he says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Parents who truly love their children discipline them. The word here means correction and we must assume that there was instruction at some point that the child did not adhere to and as a result, there must be consequences. There are children that are wonderfully compliant; there are children that are terribly rebellious. There are parents that are wonderfully godly and there are parents that are awful. I think it’s very likely that each of us fits into all the categories at various times and there are an almost infinite number of combinations too. Even kids can exercise the wisdom Solomon talks about if they would just listen to their parents. Early in their little lives, kids learn by being told no. The kid reaches for the glass on the table. The little one gets close to the stairs. As they get older and are able to understand more, actual instruction takes place, expectations are laid out, goals are established. Scoffers don’t listen, they want to do things on their own, they don’t want correction, they don’t want input. Remember way back in Pro. 1:22, “How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” This is not a good characteristic. There are some wonderful, godly parents that have children that rebel, that choose the wrong path, that stray from a life of faith. There are also horribly uninvolved parents that have children grow up to be wonderful, godly people. The grace of God is the great cycle breaker. Lay aside all those things the world says are marks of achievement and be the person God wants you to be. No matter your upbringing or where you came from, you can be the person God designed you to be. That is success in God’s eyes.

Not every kid in Scripture listened to his parents. Not every kid in Scripture had good parents. Some well intentioned people will tell you that when a kid messes up, it’s always the parent’s fault. There must be something in the family’s closets that led to the crime, the pregnancy, the rebellion, the bad grades, the drugs, etc. The truth is, sometimes kids make bad choices that lead to bad consequences. No matter how much love is demonstrated, no matter how much prayer and fasting is done, no matter how involved the parents are, sometimes kids exercise that free will in ways that are contrary to God’s principles. The wise son listens to the parents and the scoffer does not. Good things come out the mouths of the righteous Solomon says in v. 2, “but the desire of the treacherous is violence.” In keeping with the speaking theme from the last chapter, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Remember, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to remain silent. How many lives are hurt because we don’t control our tongue? We cannot excuse hurtful words by declaring it’s the truth. Truth can be used as a weapon and we must guard against that. I am in no way saying do not tell the truth, but check your heart first and then be loving and kind as the truth is told.

Verse 4 seems out of place in this passage, but it really goes hand in hand with v. 2. The fruit of a man’s mouth in v. 2 are his words and because of that, “The soul of the diligent is made fat.” We saw the importance of diligence in chapter 12 as it relates to a work ethic and now as it relates to the soul. When you exercise diligence in your spiritual walk, your soul gets fat. This is a good thing. Your soul is fed and properly nourished. On the other hand, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing” is a parallel to, “The desire of the treacherous is violence.” Even the longing of the sluggard is unfulfilled.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when people lie to me. People lie for many reasons: to protect themselves or others, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, etc. “A righteous man hates falsehood.” And “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless.” These are two principles to live by. Two principles that will keep the wise person from trouble. Part of following God is hating what God hates and loving what God loves. And you’ve heard that sometimes Christians are better known for what we are against than what we are for. Sometimes the love of God in our lives is not as evident when we focus on what we hate. The truth is that God hates all sin not just the ones that are in the news. It’s okay to take a stand and I encourage you to stand when it’s appropriate to stand and fight when it’s appropriate to fight. The righteousness of Christ is what we need to use to filter our thoughts and actions. Falsehood isn’t just lying. It’s deception, it’s cover up, it’s bad business practice, it’s everything that is contrary to what is good, and right, and pure. It should be a common thing for righteous people to hate lying, but anyone is susceptible to falsehood. Pastors have been fired for plagiarizing sermons, ministry leaders have embezzled funds from their organizations, church leaders have done unspeakable things.

The, “wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.” And “wickedness subverts the sinner.” Now these are some pretty harsh descriptions. We know what wicked is. Solomon has gone to great lengths to describe and characterize wickedness. “Acts disgustingly” literally means cause a stench or stir up a foul odor. Solomon continues to go to new depths to describe the overall awfulness of the wicked. Wicked people prefer falsehood, it is who they are. The best way to understand, “Wickedness subverts the sinner” is that the wicked will bring shame to other people and to themselves. They will cause disgrace to come to people that were foolish enough to trust or associate with them. If you hang out with thieves, you’ll probably be considered a thief. If you hang out with druggies, you’ll likely be considered a druggie. If you hang out with people who are wicked, others will conclude you are wicked. There in lies the great dilemma for Christians.

To help us understand what Solomon is saying, let me remind you of what Jude says. Jude 23 says, “And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” These folks are in the most danger of eternal punishment. Jude says have mercy on them even though they are engaged in sin. No matter what, we demonstrate the mercies of God that are renewed each and every day in our lives. We exercise mercy to those that are deeply entrenched in sin, but we do it with fear knowing that there by the grace of God go I. We tread carefully, “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Some think this is an illusion to Zech. 3:3 referring to Joshua, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” The word “filthy” here refers to excrement. Joshua was not actually wearing dirty clothes. Jude is referring to the ceremonial cleanliness requirements of the high priest. The idea is that if you are ceremonially clean and you touch something unclean, you then become unclean. You cannot transfer cleanliness. Jude is saying when you show mercy to that person in sin, be careful that they do not contaminate you. The flesh Jude mentions refers to sin. Be careful that the mercy you demonstrate is not twisted into acceptance of sin. You can see how easily it is to be drawn to compromise, especially if you don’t know the standard of truth.

Solomon talks about the illusion of wealth next. Take a look at vs. 7-11. This passage is broken into three points. In vs. 7-8, we are told don’t judge a book by its cover. People do a lot to appear to be something they are not. What motivates them, I can only imagine. Perhaps pride, perhaps something else. Earthly riches do not equate to God’s riches and vice versa. There was the rich man in Luke 12:21 that was not rich toward God. We’re also reminded of the one in 2 Cor. 6:10 that had nothing yet possessed all things. Wealth is relative. In 9-10 we are reminded that the light of Christ should shine brightly in our lives regardless of the circumstances. Insolence means disrespectful. This verse is also translated, pride only breeds quarrels. You know this is true. This is the person that refuses to listen to the insight, wisdom, or counsel of another. Wise people know they don’t know everything and are not afraid to get some outside assistance. Verse 11 presents us with an idea we have seen before. If you work hard, you can get stuff and keep it. If you get stuff by deceitful, unethical, or illegal means, it will be taken from you. This also conveys the idea of easy wealth – wealth that was obtained without working. Think inheritance or the lottery. Wealth not earned is often quickly lost.

When you consider all that Solomon has said in these 11 verses, it can seem pretty overwhelming. If you have parents, listen to them. Learn from them so you don’t make the same mistakes they did. Even if you have made terrible decisions in the past, there is no where you can go where the grace of God cannot reach you. Allow Jesus Christ to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you new. When that grace covers you, it changes your life, your attitudes, your desires and your outlook on life. That’s just four things that demonstrate you are new in Christ.

Independently Dependent

6 Jul

FreedomTake a listen to the podcast here.

We’ll take a break from Proverbs this week to honor Independence Day. America celebrated its 239th birthday yesterday. In some ways, that’s a very long time. When compared with the history of other nations, it’s just a drop in the bucket. We celebrated yesterday with a parade, great festival food, cooking out, swimming, having a good time with family and friends and capped it all off with a great fireworks display. We celebrate freedom, but it was not always this way.

In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” It was not independence that motivated early Americans, but individual rights. People living in the colonies in those early years were British Americans; citizens of Great Britain. Their main concern was the British Parliament imposed taxes on them to pay for the French and Indian War (7 Years War). There was the Molasses Act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, Townshend Act, the Tea Act and others. The Colonists called them the Intolerable Acts. Effectively, everything that was bought or sold, imported or exported had a tax placed on it or was regulated. These excess taxes 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. They had no voice, no influence, and no input. The British government would do what they wanted regardless of the will of the people or what those people believed. This led to the Battle at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 when, “The shot heard ‘round the world” was fired from the North Bridge.  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. On July 4th, the final wording was ratified and signed by the 56 members of the Continental Congress representing the 13 colonies. The United States of America was born out of a desire to be free from the tyranny of a repressive government bent on controlling its citizens. Abraham Lincoln said, “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

What is freedom? Freedom is often misunderstood in America. We speak of being free, but are we really free? Some define freedom as the ability to do what you want to do. In the first amendment to our constitution, we speak of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the press and the mostly forgotten freedom to petition the government to redress wrongs. This was something the colonists were not able to do with King George. Even with these freedom guaranteed by our constitution, are we really free? Many would respond by saying yes, we are free. Yet with our so called freedom, we also have restrictions. These restrictions are known as laws. Every civil society has laws and our founding fathers were not attempting to exercise undue restraints on our freedom. The Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedoms, but even these individual freedoms are restricted. Your individual freedoms cannot trample on the individual freedoms of another. Our laws are designed to protect people and give us the ability to live among one another in relative peace. We are free, but if you choose to exercise the broadest definition of freedom and ignore the measures we have in place to maintain good order and discipline, there is an entire segment of government established to ensure that what freedom you do enjoy will be taken away.

Although we live in the greatest country on the planet, Americans may never know true freedom. In the pledge of allegiance, we speak of liberty and justice for all.  America’s freedom was won by the spilled blood of our fighting men and women. But there can never really be liberty apart from the One who is able to guarantee our complete freedom. Some will use their freedom to reject God which does not bring freedom. Some will use their freedom to denounce the activities of the very people that bought their freedom. We celebrate our independence, yet most Americans remain slaves to sin. We have seen recently that many are enslaved by their past. We must move from the throne of tyranny to the throne of grace. As Christians, our freedom was won by the spilled blood of Jesus Christ. In Jo. 8:36 Jesus said, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” So what of this Christian freedom? Some would argue that this freedom in Christ gives us the liberty to do as we please, to live our lives in any way that we see fit. 1 Pet. 2:16, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.”At the core of our Christian freedom is complete obedience to God and His Son. It is an awesome responsibility to carry the truth found in Christ. It is a privilege to share in God’s plan to reach humanity with the only real truth that will free men from the oppression of sin. Instead of hoping that someone will share the truth of our freedom with others, we must offer our service to the King just like the prophet Isaiah did when he said, “Here am I, send me.”

Many Christians are content to sit back and watch others to do the work while they enjoy the benefits of that work. Thomas Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” It has been said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. We say we love God and we love Jesus, but does it stop at that? If we are truly Christians, we must carry the Gospel message with us, telling others what will bring true freedom. Living and spreading the Gospel is sometimes tiring, sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful, but is always worth it. Is. 40:31 says, “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”

We have a responsibility. As a nation, we have the responsibility to stand up to nations that do not have freedom. We have a responsibility to stand up to tyrannical, oppressive leaders to promote the freedoms we enjoy in America. Our freedom in Christ is far more important than the freedom we enjoy as Americans. We have freedom from the control and bondage of sin. We can live our lives wholly committed and sold out to the freedom and liberty found in Christ. This is our responsibility; our duty; our privilege. Is. 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” We have the keys that can unlock the prison doors of people’s lives that will allow them to be truly free. Many Christians use this Christian liberty to do nothing. As with our American freedom, there are some content to let others to carry on freedom’s work. Some will even criticize how that work is done, but don’t want to get into the fight for Christ themselves. We must fight for freedom! We must join shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, hand in hand to carry this truth to whoever we can! 2 Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

True liberty and true freedom will never be found in a government or in a country. True freedom can only come through the finished work of God in His One and only Son Jesus Christ. Our responsibility is to share this truth with others, to live out this truth in our daily lives, to be committed to the truth found in Christ. Ja. 1:25 says, “But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” As Americans we celebrate our independence, but as a child of God, I declare my total and complete dependence on God and His Son Jesus Christ and I can boldly say, free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I am free at last.

Righteousness as a Compass

29 Jun

CompassYou can check out the live version here.

Last week we looked at a fool’s life. The fool thinks he’s right and doesn’t listen to anyone around him. He’s immediately known when things don’t go his way because his anger betrays him. Even if he can control himself, his words readily identify him as a fool. Don’t be a liar, tell the truth and that truth comes from God because His Word is truth. This morning, Solomon continues providing direction for our lives.

Pro. 12:23-28 says, A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence. In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with an opening salvo of some pretty common sense type stuff. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you are obligated to share that knowledge with every breathing human you come in to contact with. “A prudent man conceals knowledge.” That doesn’t mean cover up or deceit. It means just because you know something, you don’t have to share it. If you have the knowledge and wisdom, it’s okay to wait to be asked. I can admit that I have a problem doing this. I have spent a lifetime filling my brain with great and wonderful things that I want to share with you. It’s best to wait for that knowledge to be sought than it is to go around telling everyone what you know. One the other hand, “But the heart of the fool proclaims folly.” This principle applies if you’re in a seminar, conference, small groups, classroom, or meeting. When I read this verse, my mind is drawn to Bible study. Kay Arthur has said that Bible study often becomes an arena where we share our common ignorance. There is a time in Bible study to share what people think, but that comes after a thorough examination of the Scriptures. Have you ever sat in a classroom and the teacher says, today we’re going to look at nuclear fission. What do you think about that? What does that mean to you? Of course not, that’s not how it works. Too many people think things that are contrary to Scripture because they didn’t take the time to consult what it says. That’s what the fool does. He says what he thinks without any careful consideration. We established last week that you can’t trust your heart of stone. What’s really sad is that the fool doesn’t know he’s being a fool and won’t listen to the wisdom of others. In Eccl. 10:3 Solomon said, “Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.” Everyone else knows it.

A principle that is lacking is found next when Solomon says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” The idea is that we should be diligent in all aspects of our lives. That diligence applies to our relationships, our studies if we’re in school, our jobs, and our walk of faith and everything that entails. What reputation do you have when it comes to your life? Have you ever heard the saying your reputation precedes you? You will become known by who you actually are rather than what you want to become. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort required in whatever you choose to do, you will end up answering to those that are diligent. This is another indictment on lazy people. We’re not talking a lazy day, but a lifestyle of laziness.

While laziness might plague some folks, the next one is going to resonate with many.“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.” Wow is there truth in that. One of the hardest things I do on a regular basis is care for people that don’t care. How can you minister to people that do not want to be ministered to? How can you shepherd people that don’t want a shepherd? How can you teach to people that do not want to be taught? How can you encourage people that want to remain discouraged? The short answer is you can’t. For me, the most difficult thing to determine is when to follow the words of Jesus, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:14) That doesn’t mean you pretend they’re dead, but you give them over to the Holy Spirit. Understand the ground with which you’re working. Notice Solomon is not declaring anxiety to be wrong, misguided or sinful. Anxiety is an emotion and as with other emotions, they are given by God. Solomon doesn’t leave you hanging, but gives you the cure. “A good word makes it glad.” You are often afforded the opportunity to employ this principle. Someone comes to you with something that is weighing that person down or you’re weighed down. Remember v. 18 says, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” This healing is found in God and His Word. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:19) The reminders of Scripture about who God is provide the hope for us to trust in Him.

In Matt. 11:28-30, Jesus gave us this very powerful metaphor: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” This yoke gives us the picture of being physically connected to Christ. The metaphor stems from the practice of training young oxen to work the fields. A training yoke was placed on them and they worked alongside the older more experienced oxen. They were physically connected. Where the more experienced older ox went, so did the ox in training. Too often we try to plow the fields of life alone, but we were never ordained to be alone. We are never called upon to go it by ourselves. We are never faced with aloneness or isolation because Jesus is physically connected to us. The idea Jesus is presenting is that we learn from Him because we are tied to Him. We are connected to Him. He shares in our triumphs, our joys, and our celebrations, and He also shares in our pain, suffering, and trials. We sometimes forget that. In your darkest hour, He is the Light. In your moment of greatest need, He is there.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but in v. 26 Solomon gives us a better principle. “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor.” This is consistent with other verses. There is no stopping the righteous man because he is following Christ. The righteous are righteous because of Christ and that always comes out. It should be evident in our day to day lives and other people will recognize it in you. It’s awesome to be righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. It’s even more awesome when we use that righteousness as a tool to show other people Jesus. In direct opposition to the righteousness of Christ, “But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” The wicked continue doing wicked things. They are of no help to someone seeking truth, seeking righteousness, seeking the things in life Christ wants us to experience. “Lead them astray” literally means cause to wander. This is intentional. I’m not talking about someone who had pure motives, but ends up giving wrong or bad guidance. I’m certain I have done that. The wicked are intentional about their wickedness. They are on the path of destruction and will take anyone foolish enough to go with them. We combat this with the righteousness of Christ.

Another character trait Solomon seems to hammer is that of laziness. “A lazy man does not roast his prey.” The exact meaning of roast is difficult to determine, but the principle seems clear. This guy is so lazy that if he does hunt, he doesn’t want to take the time to cook what he caught. “But the precious possession of a man is diligence.” I find it interesting that people place so much value on things that really don’t matter. To Solomon, this character trait matters. Of diligence, he says it’s precious – it is something of great value. Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. It’s used numerous times in Scripture and we’ve seen it several times in Proverbs. Isaiah cried out, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” (Is. 26:9) Paul said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) This is a work ethic. It is a way of life. I’ve often heard people say very positively about others, “He’s a hard worker.” It’s a complement. Who wants to be characterized as lazy? Laziness is still generally considered an unacceptable character trait.

Solomon brings it home by saying, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” We look forward to many things in this life: births, marriages, graduations, anniversaries, retirement, Christmas. As Christians, we look forward to eternity. There is no real death because the end of our physical life allows us to pass through the gates of eternity to enjoy face time with God and His only Son. That’s the path of righteousness. That’s the way of righteousness. It is the way of Jesus.

When we act like Christ and talk like Christ, there are people that will be drawn to us and people that will be opposed to us. As a passionate follower of Christ, some people will throw you in the same category as every so-called Christian that they think act hypocritically, unkindly, unloving, ungodly or whatever else to use as justification to hate us that could cause anxiousness within us. We face the same pressures of life others face and that could bring anxiousness. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7) Give due diligence to your walk of faith. Before I go out and try and fix everyone else, I need to make sure I am walking with Christ every moment of everyday. When we passionately live for Christ, people may not like us or approve of us, but we can rest easy knowing that we are in the center of God’s will.

A Fool’s Life

22 Jun

FoolYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some great patterns contrasting the wicked to the righteous. The wicked have hidden agendas and motives. The behavior exhibited by the righteous and the wicked provides evidence of what’s in the heart. Righteous men want what is good and the wicked want what is evil. This morning, Solomon hits the fool squarely in the face

I hope you’ll take the time to look up and read Pro. 12:15-22. It’ll help set the context for what you’ll read.

Solomon begins with the understatement of understatements. When you think about this first verse, you immediate think of someone in your past or someone that currently gives you fits. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” This is so true. You know it because you’ve dealt with people like this. What keeps this guy from becoming wise? He think he’s right about everything. He doesn’t ask anyone for advice, doesn’t research anything, thinks he knows more than Google, fails exams and concludes the teacher doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t think he’s right or have a hunch he’s right – he’s confident he’s right and it doesn’t matter what anyone says because he’s not asking. He determines the path that is right and it can have very broad applications. So how are the fool and the wise different? “But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” The wise person knows and understands he doesn’t know everything. He knows he can learn from someone else. He’s not afraid to ask for help or guidance or advice and he’s selective about who he asks. It can be incredibly frustrating when these two types of people get together in a meeting or collaborate on a project. The fool typically just begins something. The wise person wants to chat about it, wants to brainstorm, wants input from others, wants to evaluate past successes and failures, wants to consider people’s strengths and weaknesses. The fool says, “That’s a waste of time, I’m doing _______.” The fool determines he’s right, the wise seeks the guidance of others to ensure the best decision is made. Obviously, the application for this is very broad. As I have said, we can be foolish from time to time or we can make a foolish decision. But those are, or should be, single points in time and are not how our life is characterized

Be sure the truth will find you out. It’s tough to keep who you really are under wraps. It takes a lot of effort to pretend or play a role. The wise man has the ability to control himself and does, but the fool lacks this character trait. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man conceals dishonor.” When the fool gets angry, regardless of the reason, everyone else knows it. The fool’s anger controls him – he is the ranter, he is the one that flies off the handle, he is the one that others will be embarrassed for him. Does anger have a place in the life of a Christian? The wisest answer is, it depends. People will quickly be reminded of Jesus in the temple driving out people with whips and overturning tables and use that as justification to be angry. Eph. 4:26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” There are some circumstances in which anger is an acceptable emotion, but we should be slow to anger as James says in 1:19 of his book because, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Anger is an emotion and emotion comes from God

There are things in this world that will, and should anger us, but the difference is that anger does not control the wise man. Think about the times we get angry. Our kids don’t listen or don’t perform as we think they should. We get slow service in the restaurant or the fast food place gets our order wrong. A friend doesn’t text or message back. We don’t get that promotion. Our car breaks down or our house needs to be repaired. We drop our cell phone or tablet and the screen shatters. Our internet runs slow or the cable goes out. Someone in church doesn’t speak to us. The pastor says something in a message and we think he’s talking about us

In the famous temple scene where Jesus used a whip and overturned tables, He wasn’t angry for the reason we think. When you study the passage in context, Jesus says, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” “It is written” refers back to Is. 56:7. Isaiah is sharing the vision of foreigners and outcasts joining themselves to the Lord and ministering to Him, and serving Him at His house. As Jesus approached the temple, He saw the court of the Gentiles overrun with merchants that had set up tables to buy and sell. Yes, there was price gouging and improper business practices, but that was only part of the issue. There was literally no room for the foreigners and outcasts to get to God in the temple. “The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised about the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.” (Is. 2:2) The ultimate place of worship at the time – a place where God’s people could meet with God – had been turned into an outdoor shopping mall and the religious leaders of the day let it happen. Jesus was angry because what He saw was not the worship that Isaiah saw and He had enough.

That’s hardly the same as us blasting the clerk because the gas pump won’t start. At some point, the pretending will stop and the real you will come out. I have done and said things in my Christian walk that I am ashamed of, embarrassed at, and horrified by. I can honestly say those times are getting fewer and farther between. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me any longer and there are things that I never thought of that are at the forefront of my mind. I am growing, and learning, and being transformed by Christ – present tense – into what He wants me to be. I wanted to spend time here because I am increasingly concerned with Christians that dismiss their behavior or the behavior of other Christians because they use an overall justification model called “I have an anger problem.” I made that model up. I don’t find anger problems in Scripture. We don’t accept when someone lies to us and says I have a truth problem. We don’t accept when someone steals from us and says I have a theft problem. We don’t accept when someone spreads rumors about us and says I have a gossiping problem. We need to accept responsibility for our ungodly behavior and take the steps necessary to restore fellowship with God and one another. I am also growing weary of Christians that have a falling out and do nothing to reconcile with one another.

What Solomon says about behavior moves to the spoken word. Let me read the remainder of our verses today because the theme is the same. (Read 17-22). Let me hit the highlights of what Solomon writes. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness is deceit.” This not a shocker and we need to make sure we use love when speaking the truth (Eph. 4:15). The truth can hurt, but when it is bathed in love, the resulting sting is eased. Remember when you’re told what is right, best, better, wise, or smart and you refuse to listen, Solomon says you’re stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the people that are so easily offended these days are often the most offensive and hard headed people around. Thinking back to Pro. 6:19, a false witness that speaks lies is on the list of seven things the Lord hates. “A false witness, deceit.” Plain and simple and in direct contrast to the truth speaker. “Rashly” in verse 18 means acting or behaving without careful consideration. When you don’t consider your words, they become weapons that pierce to the core. Think about it this way, in the hands of the wrong person, a scalpel can become an instrument of destruction or death, but in the hands of a skilled surgeon, that same scalpel can facilitate the removal of disease, repair broken bones, ease pain and suffering and leave little evidence behind. The words of the wise edify, lift up, and encourage. When in the right hands, they can also bring healing. “Truthful lips will be established forever.” Truth is truth. It is not relative, it is not changing, it is not dependent upon the source. If truth is spoken, it remains the truth regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the people involved, regardless of any variables encountered. Even though we are in the world with all its changing values and standards, we are not of the world. Jesus set the standard in Jo. 17:17 for truth as He was praying to His father, “Your Word is truth.” Since God is unchanging, it makes sense that His Word is also unchanging.

“But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Those liars out there or those that tell lies, it’s only fleeting because the truth always comes out. Typically, all you have to do to find out if someone is lying is continue talking to them. The seat of deceit is the heart. You hear people today saying things like trust your heart or follow your heart to find the course of action or direction you should take. Jeremiah the prophet reminds us that, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Your heart will lie to you because that’s where deceit finds its home. So we need a new heart. Ez. 36:26 says, Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” You can be new in your heart, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus can make a whole new you if you’ll only let Him. One final thought. You’re probably going to have trouble with v. 21 when Solomon says, “No harm befalls the righteous.” Righteous people are harmed all the time: car accidents, they fall victim to crime, they get sick, their kids rebel, they have challenging relationships, and they suffer persecution. Is that what Solomon is talking about? Your first thought might be people that suffer from these kinds of harm aren’t righteous. We know from Rom. 5 that God allows trials to build our perseverance which leads to proven character which leads to hope. Solomon is saying that even when harm comes, whether it be in the form of suffering, persecution, sickness or whatever, that those troubles allowed by God will not cause us to lose hope. Our focus is on God. We are God centered. We understand that God works in us and through us to bring glory to Him.

The fool’s life is not a life we should envy. If people look at you and conclude you are a fool, step back and ask yourself why. Do you think you’re always right and don’t want to listen to guidance. Are you prone to anger? Do you words bear witness that you are a child of the King?

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