Lipstick on a Pig

18 May

lipstick-on-a-pigYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that our lifestyle does impact the community we live in. As the behavior and thinking of people move away from God, the impact in the community or society is evident. God does not declare that it’s progressive thinking or tolerance, it is simply ungodly. We combat this with a lifestyle that demonstrates the power of God in our lives that is evident by our love for one another and for others. This morning, Solomon provides us some vivid word pictures as he continues telling us how to live for God.

In Pro. 11:22-27 Solomon says, As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.  The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath. There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with our first and perhaps most vivid word picture. “As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout so is a woman who lacks discretion.” I love this verse because it’s so true. Solomon is talking about beauty and this is another way of saying that beauty is more than skin deep. It’s much more important to have inner beauty, but that’s not what the world says. That’s why you see so many beauty enhancing products. That’s why you see products that claim to be age defying. Our society is so desperate to look good on the outside that we forget what God looks at. 1 Pet. 3:3, “Your adornment must not be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses.” Are you thinking this is a crazy analogy? Gen. 24 tells us the story of Abraham sending his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant prayed a very specific prayer so that he would know that God had sent just the right girl for Isaac. He ends up in Mesopotamia and comes upon a spring where he could water his camels and see his very specific prayer played out. A beautiful young girl named Rebekah walks up and Abraham’s servant says to her, “‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him’; and I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists.” (Gen. 24:47) This was a practice in the days of the patriarchs to signify a marriage or a wife.

Think of putting a ring on a pig’s snout. Pigs represented what was unclean, dirty, forbidden, they represented a threat to agriculture, they were overall useless. Dogs and pigs are often considered along the same lines. The behavior of these two animals reveals who they really are. 2 Pet. 2:2 says, “It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” It is nonsensical to put a ring on a pig’s snout. It’s equally nonsensical to look only at the external beauty of a woman and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You can dress up a pig and put lipstick on it, but it’s still a pig. A woman can be gorgeous on the outside and look horrible on the inside. In this context discretion means moral perception. So put it all together, a beautiful woman that lacks discretion is ethically bankrupt, is valueless, and morally ugly. Now, that is a word picture.

Here’s another comparison. Verse 23 reminds us, “The desire of the righteous is only good, but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.” Again, Solomon paints with a broad brush. All of us can have unrighteous desires from time to time, but Solomon is telling us that the overall desires of the righteous are good. You want good things for people; you want them to get that new car, that promotion, that new house, to have children or adopt a child, or to find the spouse they long for. You don’t want them to endure pain or suffering and your heart breaks when theirs breaks. That is the thought pattern of the righteous. You don’t have the attitude of judgment; they can’t afford that car or house. They wouldn’t be very good parents. That’s the way the wicked think. The righteous want what’s good for people, the wicked want what is bad and they really want wrath. Wrath is generally attributed to God’s judgment and that’s accurate here too. They don’t want God’s discipline which is designed for our growth and demonstrates God’s love for us; they want God to exercise judgment to satisfy their own twisted desires, they want God to remove those that stand in the way of what they want.

Here is something I want you to think about. Have you noticed how divisive it is has gotten today, even among believers? Have you ever heard anyone affiliated with the church at large say that as Christians we just need to love everyone like God does and we need to accept people where they are? The church, at least the American church, is no longer doctrinally and theologically sound, but is bent toward feeling and emotion. Ravi Zacharias said it this way,

“We manufacture feelings in our churches. We manufacture emotions in our churches. Feelings have come unhinged from the mind and unbelief. Feelings are a powerful thing, but they should follow belief, not create belief. In our churches this whole move towards this emotional celebratory stunts that was born in doctrinal vacuum where the person knows less and less of why they believe what they believe but more and more of how ecstatic they are because of it has been a dangerous amputation that has taken place.” (The Truth Project)

The real issue that divides people is the Word of God. Are we going to believe what the Word says, or are we going to allow people that claim a relationship with God to define the Bible as outdated, irrelevant, intolerant, and simply not essential for life? Everyone here can likely think of a divisive issue that is in the news today and probably has had a conversation about it this week. This all plays nicely into Satan’s schemes to shift the focus away from the truth that will set people free and that will lead authentic believers into a passionate, zealous pursuit of Christ where there is no giving up or giving in.

Solomon now makes some direct comparisons with two character traits that are in direct opposition to one another. Vs. 26-27 tells us, “He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” There has been much talk regarding finances and there will be much more before we finish this study. One of the predominate reasons Solomon brings it up is that money is necessary. God promises to provide for us and for most people, working at a job to earn wages is the process by which is happens. Even when we go way back, although actual currency may not have be exchanged, bartering of goods and services were necessary to ensure people had what was needed to sustain life. We do have examples of God supernaturally providing for the physical needs of people. In Ex. 16, God provided manna and quail for the Israelites as they wandered. 1 Ki. 17 tell us of Elijah and the cruse of oil and jar of flour that did not run out. In Matt. 15, we see Jesus feeding 4000 with just seven loaves a few fish. We see the principle of working all the way back to the garden when God gave the mandate to Adam and Eve to take care of it in Gen. 2. I have given you this background to help you understand the importance of working in order to be generous, but it is not a prerequisite. In God’s economy, you will not be able to out give God, but it’s not a competition. People who think if they give, then they will lack have not tested God. Solomon says when you give, you increase all the more. When generosity is demonstrated, more will be given.

Look at the disclaimer in v. 24, “Withholds what is justly due.” The issue here really revolves around hoarding. When you refuse to give or even sell what you have, v. 26 says, “The people will curse him.” I think of fictional characters like Mr. Scrooge and Mr. Potter. They had lots of wealth, but they were hated by the people. They were hated because they refused to share their abundant wealth. These folks were known for their shady business dealings, but let me be clear. I’m not in favor of Robin Hood tactics. We’re talking about generosity from a godly perspective. God expects us to share when we have bounty to those in need and when we’re in need, God will provide through the generosity of others. Sometimes though, the opposite happens. People who have relied on the generosity of others often fail to exercise the same generosity when they have more than they need. Those who are generous tend to continue to have more than they need and they continue to give it away. Most of us are born with a sense of self-preservation – it’s our sin nature. Generosity comes supernaturally and those that exercise this Christ like characteristic will be prosperous according to v. 26. It means to be successful or flourish, especially financially. The more generous you are, the more prosperous you will be. Again, we’re talking generally.

Finally Solomon says, “He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.” Just by trying to find good, by searching to do what is good for others and for yourself will find favor with God. Nothing is said of achieving it, but God takes pleasure in you looking for good. On the other hand, if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.

If you are righteous, you’re going to want what’s good for everyone. You’ll go looking for it and that is pleasing to God. If you withhold what is rightly due someone, the people will not be happy. We’re to be generous, not greedy. We’ll check this topic of generosity in greater detail next time.

Community Disorganizers

11 May

You can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon laid out some principles that will help us sail smoothly through life. Righteous people are delivered from death where the wicked take their place. A very important principle Solomon introduced is the value and wisdom of godly counsel. Smooth sailing does not mean there won’t be issues or trouble in this life, but the righteousness of the godly provide the tools necessary to glorify God and remain steadfast in His will. This morning, Solomon provides us some principles that apply as we engage in activities typically associated with the community.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 11:15-21.

The first principle we’ll look at today  has been said before and the question remains, who would do this? Back in 6:1 Solomon used the conditional clause, “If you have become surety for your neighbor.” That verse was generally directed at debt and it was conditional. The principle comes full circle when Solomon says, “He who is a guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it.” The answer does not have to do with sin, but with wisdom. There is no prohibition against cosigning a loan for someone. Insert the word someone for stranger and you get the application for us. Since we’re talking about wisdom and not sin, you need to evaluate the circumstances. Solomon is saying when you act as surety for someone, as a guarantor for someone, you “will surely suffer for it.” Not everyone that has served in that capacity has suffered for it. He’s speaking in general terms. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? The word used here for suffering means to be affected by something. Even if that person you act as a guarantor for pays back the loan, you still had that responsibility hanging over your head. You take on the responsibility for the loan because you know the person, you know his circumstances, you know their habits, and their values. You believe it’s safe. When you get involved in the financial affairs of others, it’s generally painful. That’s what Solomon is saying. “But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” If you don’t cosign this loan, I won’t be able to buy that car, house, boat, etc. There is no scriptural mandate to take on the responsibility of someone else’s debt. When you have a general aversion to this, Solomon says you are secure. There’s nothing in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it, nothing hanging over your head. You free up brain cells because it’s one less thing to think about.

Our second principle tells us, “A gracious woman attains honor.” I love that word gracious. I think of the ladies of Downton Abby with their proper manners, their decorum, their sophistication, their elegance. Of course, it’s easy to do all that when you have someone else that gets you dressed and feeds you and takes care of all the chores. Gracious here means courteous, kind, and pleasant. You do not have to be wealthy to be gracious. He’s talking about the beautiful character of a gracious woman. Families and communities honor such women. I think of women like Barbara and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Of course those are all famous women. I also think of my wife whom I absolutely adore. It’s not just because she’s gorgeous, she is a true woman of God. In the context of Proverbs, I think graciousness and godliness go hand in hand. We’re not talking about perfection, but a passionate pursuit of Christ.

What’s very curious is the contrast Solomon uses next. “A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches.” It’s good to be ruthless in business, right? We have shows like the Shark Tank and the Apprentice that demonstrate the ruthlessness needed to get ahead in business. Being ruthless is how you get rich in business. It means showing no compassion. Cut throat, eliminate the competition, work harder and smarter than the other guy. We even have corporate espionage. This is the only place in Proverbs where Solomon makes a comparison of this type between a man and a woman. He compares a kindhearted or gracious woman and a ruthless man. That ruthless man wants to get ahead and he’ll get ahead by any means necessary. They seek respect and honor by what they do, but the gracious woman gains honor by being nice. It seems that grace is better than strength and honor is better than wealth. If you let that verse stand alone, it can easily be misunderstood. When you take v. 16 with v. 17, the whole picture becomes clearer. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Look at the pattern of the people in these two verses: kind woman; ruthless man; merciful man; cruel man. It seems mercy has a medicinal quality to it – someone that practices mercy makes himself good. When you are cruel, you end up hurting yourself so don’t be cruel.

Here’s a familiar principle. Vs. 19-20 says, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” We see a pattern here as in the previous two verses. Solomon talks about wickedness, righteousness, righteousness, and wickedness. Those exact words may not be used, but they convey the same idea. Solomon is driving home the point of the results of wicked behavior. “The wicked earn deceptive wages.” Those wages are deceptive because they are fleeting. Those riches are left behind and all are made equal at death. The wealth of a person is not taken into consideration at judgment. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If you’re thinking that’s not the same thing, Solomon goes on to say, “But he who sows righteousness will attain to life.” That life will be long, healthy, and prosperous. The opposite is true, when you pursue evil, you will die. You can’t blame God when your evil ways, your evil behavior, and your evil manner of life leads to your death. Paul’s next thought was, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Goodness and evil are incompatible. Those qualities may have been part of your character, but God changes you through Christ. That’s where true freedom lies. The wicked earn deceptive wages, but the righteous are paid in wages that are eternal. That’s what verse 19 is saying. When you are consistent and persistent in righteousness, you attain life. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. If you are truly a child of the King, this quality is supernaturally infused into your DNA. That’s why I get so weary with people profess to be Christians and the only evidence to support that is occasional church attendance and some don’t even do that. Pursuers of evil bring about their own death. To close out this section, Solomon gives us another contrast and it has to do with judgment.

Verse 20 says, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord.” Perverse means an obstinate desire to behave unacceptably and in context, it’s from God’s perspective. Perverse is translated “froward” in other versions which means hypocrisy and double dealings. Justice is pretended, but wrongdoing is what’s in store. Notice that it’s the heart – the seat of the soul. What’s in the heart comes out. You can pretend with other people, you might even fool yourself, but you can’t hide it from God. “. . . .but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” I’m sure you know why this is. It’s a no brainer really. Walk refers to manner of life. It refers to who a person is . . . . really. I think people spend a lot of effort pretending to be something they are not. People pretend they have a relationship with God, but without a corresponding lifestyle of godliness. Its often veiled in false spirituality where the words lead, led, feel, moving, etc. are used to put people into an incontestable position to do what they want to do. I always find it amusing that this leading rarely is to a place of deeper commitment, devotion, or duty, but rather to places of limited accountability and lower expectations. God takes great pleasure in His children that are willing to follow Him in directions they were not expecting.

Just to be sure you know exactly where Solomon is coming from, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendents of the righteous will be delivered.” I think we all know that evil will be dealt with, but the second part is not so clear. Do not read that to say if you are a child of God, your children have a place reserved for them because of who you are. Don’t equate deliverance with eternity. Deliverance does not mean salvation.  The idea is that your behavior affects not just you, but your children and your grandchildren too. Sometimes God sees fit to deliver because of their godly ancestors. The Old Testament is filled with examples of this.

In these verses, Solomon speaks of the affect of our lifestyle on our community. That lifestyle, whether godly or wicked impacts people. As the behavior and thinking of the people move away from godliness, the morality of the society declines. I think we would agree that we can see this happening all around us. The answer is not for us to shrink away from godliness, but to boldly live our lives as an example of Christ’s transforming power in our lives.

Smooth Sailing . . . For Some

4 May

smooth-sailingYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us God is more concerned with your character than your comfort. Solomon called out corrupt business practices and pride. We must avoid these not only because it leads to dishonor, but also because those qualities cannot be part of our character make up as a follower of Christ. The righteousness we have through Christ will deliver us into eternity with Christ and death will not harm us. This morning, Solomon tells us the key to ironing out our path.

I encourage you to take the time and read our passage for today found in Pro. 11:5-14.

Where does responsibility rest? That’s a great question to ask. It’s a question that fewer and fewer people are willing to answer. It seems that few people are willing to take responsibility for their actions. We’re a blaming society where we know one thing is for sure – it’s not my fault. It’s always the other guy’s fault. We hear things like,

If she would have been a better wife, I wouldn’t have . . .
If he wouldn’t make me so mad I wouldn’t . . .
If my boss paid me more I wouldn’t have to cheat on my taxes.

 You even hear people making excuses for others. He couldn’t help it, he comes from a broken home. He couldn’t help it, he has an anger issue. Where does the responsibility rest? Solomon tells us the answer. “The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.” Righteous people do what is right in God’s eyes and that’s what smooths the path. This is a general principle that generally happens. Even when the path is rocky, the righteousness imparted on the believer because of who he is in Christ enables that person to be blameless. Blameless can mean perfect, but that’s not the meaning here. Blameless means innocent of wrongdoing. There really are instances of ignorance, you just didn’t know, but you don’t follow that with, it’s not my fault, someone should have told me. That attitude demonstrates irresponsibility. Righteous people do not put themselves in situations where they can be compromised. They make wise choices. Their best friends are not people with opposite values and ethics. They surround themselves with people that will hold them accountable, that will tell them the truth in love; that will help them stay on the godly path. These people exemplify the principle Solomon told us about back in Pro. 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Maybe you’ve heard the saying God helps those that help themselves. The reality is that God has expectations for us, but He is the One that is working unseen to carve out your path, the One that evaluates everything in your life to see if it fits in with His plan. The key element to a straight path, is in the first part of that verse. Don’t expect smooth paths when you don’t acknowledge Him in all your ways. Don’t expect smooth sailing when you make a decision apart from God and then inform Him what’s going to happen. Don’t expect smooth sailing when you’re disobedient. For the wicked person, he, “will fall by his own wickedness.” The wicked have no one to blame but themselves, but they don’t take responsibility for their actions. The decisions they make directly impact their outcome. The principles they follow lead to their demise. Their code or lack of code causes their downfall. They alone are responsible. Verse 6 says the same thing as verse 5, but uses different words. 

So what happens when a wicked man dies? It’s a question people have asked over the ages. Solomon says, “When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of strong men perished.” Everything that guy put his confidence in for the future vanishes. What he thought would get him to his goals, did not. He thought operating his business in whatever way necessary to get ahead would bring him success. He thought his riches would carry him through. He thought making himself number one was the way to go. All those expectations gone. Sometimes you might think: it sure seems like the wicked do get ahead in life. Those that are unkind, untrustworthy, unloving, unethical, immoral: it sometimes seems like they prosper. We must look at our world through God’s eyes. Those that have lofty positions here on earth do not transfer to eternity. Remember the rich man and Lazarus I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The rich man had it all on earth, but Lazarus had nothing. In eternity, the roles are reversed. The wicked think they have it going on, but at least in death, the playing field is leveled and a just and holy God makes things right. The righteous are delivered from trouble and the wicked takes his place. I know there is a huge temptation to pray that God will make His justice swift and visible, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out like that. We’ve got to understand that He is working things out for our good, for His good, for His glory, for His plan, for His purpose and He is under no obligation to let us in on that plan!

Probably all of us in here understand the power of words. We’ve talked about it over and over yet Solomon sees the need to one again remind us of the way the wicked uses speech. “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor.” Sticks and stones the saying goes, but that’s not what Solomon means here. In light if what we have seen to this point, it could mean actual words, but when you take it with the other verses, it seems more likely Solomon is referring to false accusations. You’ve heard that fences make good neighbors because there is often trouble between neighbors. It seems like there’s one on every street. He’s the one that always has a problem with one neighbor or another. He says things about them that are not true, he has little to no integrity. “But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.” This is a slander versus integrity issue. I know it’s difficult to hear things about you that are false and our natural inclination is to try and counteract those false statements. If people know you, they’ll typically default to what they know. This is a generality. I have been on the receiving end of people believing lies about me and I have had the fortune to have people defend me. The people that believe lies pushed aside what they knew about me, what they’ve seen demonstrated in my life, what they knew to be against my character and believed something that simply wasn’t true. Remember the first half of verse 6. Deliverance from these difficult situations comes through righteousness because that’s who we are in Christ. 

Does the good guy always win? Verses 10-11 convey the same idea so we’ll look at them together. Why does the city rejoice with the righteous? Because an intrinsic characteristic of righteous people is they share good fortune with others. They are not self centered or selfish. On the other hand, “When the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.” All you have to do is check out some YouTube videos to see this in real life. We don’t like seeing someone being taken advantage of or bullied. Who can forget the joy in the streets when that statue of Saddam Hussein came down in 2003. We like it when judgment comes . . . to others.

Check out vs. 12-13. This is a reiteration of the principle that fools are loose with their lips and wise people know when to keep silent. A talebearer is a gossip. It’s someone that is a constant talker and I think it’s fair to say that this person is always in someone else’s business. They generally can’t be trusted to maintain confidentiality. Sometimes it’s under the guise of, “I told so and so because I was really concerned about you.” Confidence is confidence and there are only rare exceptions to this rule. The word conceal can have a negative connotation. Here is means discretion. Just because there is knowledge, does not mean it needs to come out. I’ve heard people say really mean or unkind things and offer the caveat that it’s the truth. Just because something is true does not mean it needs to be said. There is much wisdom in silence. Solomon has said it before.

Now perhaps one of the most important principles in Scripture. “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” KJV translates it, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Counselor means the ability to steer or pilot. It is someone qualified or trained to give guidance on personal, social, psychological, or spiritual matters. It does not mean the random stranger at Walmart. It does not mean the person that will tell you what you want to hear. It is not anyone that starts off with, “Whatever makes you happy. . .” It doesn’t mean continuously asking people until you get the answer you want. It doesn’t mean avoiding people that will tell you the truth either or avoiding people that you know will disagree with you because deep down, you know what you are seeking isn’t the wisest thing to do in the current circumstances. I can’t tell you how many people have informed me of a decision they have made in their spiritual walk of faith or regarding church and never one time talked to me. On the other hand, just because you think you can offer guidance does not mean you can. If you do not have a fundamental understanding of God’s Word, you may not be ready to offer guidance, but you can pray for that person. I have not experienced everything that you may be going through, but that does not mean I cannot give you wise, biblical counsel. Solomon is not just talking biblical guidance here either. There are people around you that can offer life guidance too. People that have expertise in areas like car or home repair, investing, relationships, they can recommend a good book or a good school, day care, or medical professional. You were not intended to go it alone. Some believe this principle also applies to government with the idea that a government that has checks and balances built into it is far superior to governments led by a single ruler.

Cities rejoice at the good fortune of righteous people and God makes sure that the wicked perish for their wickedness. That’s why we need to convey the message of redemption through Jesus Christ. Seek wise biblical advice from God’s Word and those that He has placed in your life after all, two godly heads are better than one. If you want smooth sailing in your life, you must follow the principles of Scripture. That’s not a guarantee that there won’t be storms or treacherous waves, crises, or tragedies, but you’ll have the confidence to know that God will help you through.

Character Matters

27 Apr

character-mattersYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that it’s tough to avoid issues when there’s a lot of talking. The tongue of the righteous is worth a lot, it’s like silver. If you use restraint in your speech, you’re classified as wise. Our speech really is an incredible indicator of what’s in our hearts. He also told us what’s it’s like to deal with lazy people. It’s nauseating, it’s irritating, and aggravating. This morning, Solomon hits on a topic he’s mentioned before, but gives us some additional insight into what qualities make up a person. Over the next couple of weeks as we look at these series of verses, we’ll see Solomon use the familiar pattern of contrasts that he love so much.

Proverbs 11:1-4 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

What is character and why does it matter? Character can be defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Character is who a person is and it’s normally shaped by a person’s upbringing. Honesty and integrity are part of that make up. A lack of honesty and integrity also form that make up. Have you ever asked your kids to lie for you? You probably didn’t call it that when you told them if my boss calls, tell him I’m sick. If so and so calls, tell them I’m not here. Have you ever kept the extra change the clerk gave you? Are you habitually late? Are you generally unreliable? We might conclude these are minor things, but it reveals who we really are and that matters.

So Solomon brings out a business practice, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.” Back in the day, balances were used for nearly all commercial transactions. An item was placed on a balance and a stone or stones would be placed on the opposite side and balanced out to give a weight to whatever item was being sold. There was often corruption with merchants that used a false balance. In other words, the balance would not give an accurate weight of the item. This verse can be applied to any fraudulent or unscrupulous business practices. We see this evident today as well. From the guy selling meat and seafood off the back of his truck to the guy selling homemade DVDs of first run movies. From Jay Bans and Foakley sunglasses to the “authentic” Coach purses and Rolex watches found in the straw market in the Bahamas. Locals will remember the Cisco Travel Center at I-95 exit 1 in our little town that gave you 19 gallons of gas for the price of 20. God takes a dim view on crooked businessmen and calls these deceitful tactics an abomination.

Not only do businesses need to practice honesty in their dealings, but so does the customer. It has become quite commonplace for customers to try and swindle businesses. From the fake slip and fall in a store to the stealing of an item with an attempt to then return it, or the girl that buys the prom dress then returns it after prom. God expects honesty in all business dealings regardless of which side you’re on. As is his custom, Solomon offers the contrast that, “A just weight is His delight.” Does it seem strange that time is taken to mention this? It does because honesty is an integral part of godliness. You cannot be dishonest and be godly at the same time, it’s that simple. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying the customer is always right. That’s utter nonsense. Sometimes the customer is right and business owners need to acknowledge that. One thing is for sure, God takes pleasure in seeing people engage in honest business.

Here is it again. Solomon talks about pride once again. This time it’s not in a list of things God hates, but instead refers to who a person is. “When pride comes, then comes dishonor.” The end result of pride, whatever form it may take, always leads to dishonor. Dishonor is a state of shame or disgrace. 1 Cor. 10:12 reminds us, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Those that are filled with pride will fall at some point. This verse is consistent with a familiar verse found in Pro. 16:18 tells us that pride goes before the fall. When you’re proud, you take your eyes off of what’s important. The focus turns inward, it’s a self serving characteristic. When you read the biblical account of Lucifer’s fall in Isaiah 14, you will see that Lucifer was driven by pride. That passage has several occurrences of the phrase I will. That’s a good tip off to what the root is. This was the same appeal the serpent made to Adam and Eve in the garden. “You will be like God” the serpent told Eve. She wanted to be something she was not and could not be. Pride is a sin. Hold on a minute, you say; I’m proud of my kids, am I wrong? There is a difference in the pride you feel in your children and that which is self centered. No one would criticize a parent for saying I take great delight in my child. When Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” (Lu. 3:22) It’s the same thing as saying, this is my son, I’m proud of him. Of course, that can lead to a sinful pride where your child does no wrong and is way better than that other kid. The contrast to the proud is the humility of the wise. That’s how we know the pride Solomon is talking about is sinful. The idea is proud people are not generally wise or else they wouldn’t be prideful. Wise people know they haven’t arrived, they know they don’t have everything together, and they don’t pretend to either.

When no one is watching, authentic believers maintain their character. “The integrity of the upright will guide them.” Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. I lean strongly to the idea that integrity cannot be learned: you either have it or you don’t. I do believe it can be supernaturally given. I do believe that God can do an incredible work in someone’s heart that transforms the DNA of an individual into something supernatural. When that transformation takes place, that integrity will guide them. The opposite is true, “But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” In this context crookedness means exactly what you’re thinking it means. It’s their dishonesty, their underhanded tactics, they’re deceit, their overall opposite way of life. Wickedness and treacherous are used synonymously. It is this way of life that will destroy them. It’s a repeat of Pro. 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” It’s because it’s who he is. No matter how rich or wealthy you think you are, in the end it just doesn’t matter. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath.” At death, everyone becomes equal. Royalty is removed, status is removed, position is removed and everyone is the same. On that day, presidents are the same as paupers. Kings are the same as commoners. Death is the great equalizer. Ez. 7:19 says, “They will fling their silver into the streets and their gold will become an abhorrent thing; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling.” The understanding is the day of wrath refers to what will happen to the wicked because there is no relationship with Christ. If there was, there wouldn’t be wickedness or treachery.

“But righteousness delivers from death.” Yes, righteous people die all the time. That’s not what Solomon’s talking about. The death we experience is a separation of body and soul. The physical body dies, but the soul lives on. Some theologians believe Solomon is referring to the second death mentioned four times in Revelation. That’s the death commonly associated with the lake of fire. A person dies first physically and temporarily, but this second death is eternal. Righteousness can only be gained through a relationship with Jesus Christ and that is what Solomon says will deliver us. We will likely still experience a physical death, but not a spiritual death. Our souls will live on in eternity with God the Father, His one and only Son, and the Holy Spirit of God.

In this short passage, Solomon links arrogance and pride to fraudulent or corrupt business practices and links humility to wisdom. Money gained by corrupt business practices will do no good on the Day of Judgment. That corruption is part of the DNA of the wicked, but humility and integrity are character traits that are the best to display in our day to day lives and reflect the power of God in our lives.

The Shotgun Approach – Part 2

20 Apr

Shotgun ApproachYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we began looking at a series of verses that came quickly and unfortunately, we ran out of time. We saw that transgression is unavoidable when there is constant talking. Someone who speaks all the time and does not listen will cause problems. But if you restrain your lips, Solomon declares that you are wise. We briefly talked about riches and poverty and neither equate with the riches of God. This morning, we’ll continue these rapid fire principles.

Maybe you read Pro. 10:24-32 last week, but take the time to read it again.

Here we go again. For context’s sake, let me review from last week. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. This is a huge contrast. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it, he runs to it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. There is a truth that hangs in the back of the fool’s mind though. “What the wicked fears will come upon him.” While these thoughts may not dominate his thinking, they’re there floating in the back of his mind. They know it’s coming, they know the hammer will drop, they know that there will be judgment, but they lack the wisdom to do anything about it. Ps. 90:11, “Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?”

Again the opposite is true for the man of understanding because, “The desire of the righteous will be granted.” Let’s spend a bit of time here because there are some that will immediately draw a conclusion that Solomon is talking cold, hard, cash. There are some that will tell you that your material possessions are directly proportional to your spirituality or favor with God. They’ll even quote verses like Ps. 37:4 that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” They treat God like He is some genie in a bottle that exists to grant their wishes. So let’s go back to the verse. The first thing you need to evaluate is are you righteous? Remember this is the character or quality of being, thinking, and doing what is right in God’s eyes. When you look at it like that, the goals or desires of the righteous will match the goals and desires of God. The desires of the righteous are the same as God’s. That desire is in line with God’s will and God’s plans. When we think in this light, verses that deal with this make more sense. 1 Jo. 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” God is not against you having things, but is that the end game? Of course it can’t be because that’s not consistent with Scripture. If I’m righteous, then my desires will line up with God’s will and His will will be done. It may not be in this lifetime, but it will certainly come to pass. What is lurking in the back of the fool’s mind will occur, so what happens to the wicked? The speed by which this certain destruction of the wicked is seen, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” The wicked will be consumed by judgment from a holy and pure God and the time for changing his ways will be over. The wicked ignored biblical teaching, godly instruction and wisdom for a lifetime and now he will endure judgment for eternity. The righteous man built his foundation on the rock that is Jesus Christ.

The next verse is a great word picture and it describes the pain associated with a lazy person. Verse 26 says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who sent him.” While vinegar might be great in salad dressing and it’s quite effective in pickling things, try drinking it as a beverage. We’re literally talking sour grapes here just like in Ez. 18:2. It’s a stomach turner, it’s irritating, annoying, and unpleasant. So is smoke in your eyes and that’s what Solomon is saying about someone that doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do. Maybe you’ve dealt with someone like this and had to endure their nonsense. Clear instructions for a task are given, but they’re so lazy, you’d rather just do it yourself. It’s almost like their job is to frustrate others. They spend more time trying to get out of work than the actual work would take.

The remaining verses are familiar comparison and contrasts. Look at s. 27-32. Painting with a broad brush Solomon says if you’re wise, you’ll typically live longer. Yes, sometimes good and righteous people die by what we define as too young. This is a generality. If you don’t have a fear of the Lord, your life will be shortened. Again, there are some pretty awful people that live to a ripe old age. “The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes.” It is our blessed hope, the hope of Christ. Paul says it this way to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Tit. 2:11-14) The wicked have no hope, they have nothing to hope in, but believers, “Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” (Rom. 12:12)

On the other hand, Ps. 112:10 says, “The wicked will see it and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish.” “The way of the Lord” should be a familiar phrase and means exactly what you think it means. It is the godly way, the Bible way, the righteous and upright way. It is the way of holiness. What is in our hearts will flow out of our mouths and for some people, those words will betray what’s in their heart. So how can you avoid behavior that is contrary to the way of the Lord? Verse 32 is pretty clear.

When we have the righteousness of Christ, our desires line up with God’s desires. His will is our will. I think it is clear in these verses that our behavior characterizes who we follow. Solomon has given numerous examples of the folly and foolishness of the wicked that are all inconsistent with a life that belongs to Christ. We may do foolish things at times, but that is not who we are. Follow the path of wisdom because it is the path of God.

The Shotgun Approach

13 Apr

ShotgunYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we enjoyed a wonderful Easter service as we celebrated the risen Savior. When we were last in Proverbs, we learned that wicked people are generally defined as those without a relationship with Christ. The memory of the blessed will be remembered fondly, but the names of the wicked will rot. Wise people want to be wiser and welcome instruction. Solomon said to stay on the path of righteousness and do not go astray. This morning, Solomon quickly gives us 14 principles to adapt to our lives and they are going to come fairly fast so let’s hang on.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read our passage found in Pro. 10:18-32.

Here we go. V. 18 really goes with the previous section, but it seemed more appropriate to include it here with v. 19-21. Solomon is not saying put your hatred out in the open. When you inwardly hate someone, but try not to show it, you’re a liar. It’s not okay to hate people and you can’t excuse it by convincing yourself that at least your honest about your hatred. Notice the second phrase is connected with the word “and” so it’s not a contrast. The word slander is better translated stupid. Our speech may be the quickest identifier of what’s in our hearts and when you’re together with someone you don’t like, it’s pretty obvious to everyone else. He’s saying when you hate someone, you’re forced to lie about it because you have to pretend you like the person. So the right thing is not to hate to begin with. Solomon continues with a principle you’ll hear time and time again in Proverbs as well as other parts of Scripture. When you talk all the time, Solomon is saying it’s next to impossible to avoid issues. This is the kind of person that has an opinion on everything, and is likely a self proclaimed expert on those topics. Always talking, but not really saying anything. They love to hear the sound of their own voice. They’ve been there. They were the first, the best, or the only. They ignore the two minute rule. Mark Twain is generally attributed to saying, “Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I think he likely got this principle from Proverbs.

This is particularly evident during times of national crisis. People express their opinion, but their opinion is not based on fact, research, or personal discovery. People think something just because they think it. Sometimes, it’s okay to say nothing, but when that principle is ignored, “transgression is unavoidable.” That means there will be trouble. The word translated transgression can also mean sin, rebellion, or breach of trust. Have you ever had a conversation that stated with, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but . . .” Lying lips sink ships is an old Navy adage. Don’t be a gossip! Here’s the opposite, “But he who restrains his lips is wise.” There is wisdom in listening. You know how frustrating it is to be in a setting where something is said and five minutes later, someone says the same thing because they weren’t listening? I just have to say this. No you don’t! Don’t think something needs to be said. Some more painting with a broad brush. “The heart of the wicked is worth little.” He didn’t say worth nothing. The contrast is, “The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver.” The word choice means tested by fire or purified and the phrase worth little means dross or the impurities that are removed during the purification process. This leads beautifully into v. 21, “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.” So when we put vs. 20-21 together we get a really vivid word picture. Words spoken with wisdom are worth their weight in silver. They are valuable, they are timeless, they are reliable, and they are useful. “The lips of the righteous feed many” because they speak the unchanging truths of the Word of God which is the bread of life which is Jesus Christ. The Word of God provides the spiritual food that is so necessary in satisfying the hunger of authentic believers. What comes from the abundance of the heart of a fool is worth little. Little substance, little value, little principle, little thought. If your heart is filled with biblical wisdom, that’s what flows out. If your heart is filled with nonsense, that also will come out. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools starve to death and that’s the way they want it.

Let’s talk about cash. Money is a theme repeated often in Scripture and Solomon has lots to say about it. Here he says, “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that money makes the world go round. Many people have their sights set on the world’s riches. We’re consumed with the idea of money and wealth. And it’s not necessarily that you’re rich as much as having people think you’re rich by what you have. By the car you drive, or the neighborhood you live in, or the school you went to. Even Christians have bought into these cultural definitions that are not exemplified in Scripture. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re rich and just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you’re poor. In God’s economy, money has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It is the blessings of God that make one rich. Shift your thinking to eternity. A couple of scriptural examples jump out at me. One is the rich man and Lazarus of Lu.16:19-31. The other is the widow that gave all she had in Luke 21:1-4.

Here’s another topic shift. Even though these seem random, it all flows together. In v. 23, Solomon conveys the total deprivation of the foolish. “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool.” They do it for pleasure, for fun, for enjoyment, for amusement. They sin for the fun of it without regard to right or wrong, without regard for consequence. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  This is a huge contrast. The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. 

There are such contrasts in this series of verses. As believers, we should be a vivid contrast to the worlds and its system of thinking.  I encourage you to think before speaking. Oh the problems that could be avoided by simply keeping our mouths closed! Pursue wisdom while she can be found.

The Miracle of Easter

6 Apr

CrossYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we checked out Solomon’s words regarding wisdom and learned that no matter the path you’re on, there’s always opportunity to get back on the right path. Maybe you’re here and you’re thinking, I don’t know the right path to take. I didn’t even know there was a path. Today is your lucky day! Today, Easter is celebrated all over the world, but do we really understand this day that many people celebrate? Is it just another consumer holiday where we look forward to seeing everyone’s new outfits and enjoy chocolate and jelly beans? Maybe you enjoy Easter because it generally marks the beginning of Spring. I don’t want you to miss the miraculous and eternal significance of Easter. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s go back in time from the first Easter to a week or so earlier.

Take the time to read our passage for this morning found in Luke 19:28-40.

So who is this Jesus? The name Jesus brings many thoughts to people’s minds. Names are like that; they mean a lot. Sometimes nicknames are commonly associated with people and are instantaneously recognized. Old Blue Eyes – Frank Sinatra. The King of Pop – Michael Jackson. The King – Elvis. Michael Jordan is known as Air Jordan. There are the not so great people like Ivan the terrible , Jack the Ripper, Bloody Mary, and Vlad the Impaler. Biblically we have John – the Baptizer. Lydia – the seller of purple. Few people call him just Thomas without preceding it with doubting. These descriptive names are no different for Jesus.

In Matt. 1:21 an angel appeared to Joseph and told him, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, f He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus means Jehovah is salvation. Jesus most often referred to Himself as the Son of Man. He is known as the Messiah. The Light of the world. The Prince of Peace. The bright and morning star. He is the alpha and the omega. He is the redeemer, the advocate, the bread of life. He is the power of God. He is the Lamb of God, the good shepherd, the high priest. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the resurrection and the life. That’s who Jesus is. This Jesus was loved by people of all walks of life. This is the Jesus that the prophet Micah said would come to rule Israel, One whose, “Goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” While loved and adored by the common people, this Jesus was despised by the religious groups of the day – the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus upset the apple cart; He rocked the boat; He went against the flow, He said things that were different than what those religious people had been taught and what they believed. They called Jesus a blasphemer, they judged Jesus because He hung out with the less desirables; the tax collectors and sinners. They accused Him of violating the Sabbath because He encouraged His disciples to pick grain when they were hungry. They didn’t like this, in fact, “The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely to see if He healed on the Sabbath, so that they might find reason to accuse Him.” (Luke 6:7) Jesus taught on the Sabbath, Jesus healed on the Sabbath.

So now we know who Jesus is, but why do we need Jesus? The religious crowd of the day despised Jesus because He threatened their power, their control, their desire to be elevated above others, their desire to be better than anyone else, their desire to control their own destiny, their desire and requirement for everyone to follow the Law. The Law was an interesting thing. Various religions and even denominations attempt to control people by requiring the strict following of a set of rules and regulations. Rom. 3:19-20 tells us, “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Even though the Pharisees wanted everyone to keep the Law, they were powerless to keep it – all the Law did was show people they were law breakers. We need Jesus because no matter how good we think we are, the Bible says there is not a single person that is good. The Bible is very clear about our need for redemption. We need redemption because according to Rom. 6:6 we are slaves to sin. Sin owns us, it is our master. Rom. 3:23 says, “All have sinned.” 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Rom. 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”

What is sin? If we redefine what sin is, it’s easier to deal with. In our culture, we conform to the idea that personal feelings are the barometer of right and wrong, of morality and truth. We seek comfort and the least resistant path. We seek to please ourselves. We listen to so called “Christian teachers” or influential people who make us feel better about following our own path, about living in sin. Instead of calling people to repentance and authentic Christian living, these people refuse to call sin what God calls sin. We have a whole new generation of people that have succumbed to cultural pressure that it’s intolerant, judgmental, and unloving to declare God’s truth as absolute. I love Paul’s description of this found in Gal. 5:19-21 that says, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Evident is from the word that mean plainly recognized. These are the things of the flesh – they are incompatible with a life that follows God. Left to our own devices, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

We know who Jesus is, and we know why we need Jesus, now finally, what should we do with Jesus? In answering this very question to the Jews that gathered in the treasury at the temple in Jo. 8:34-36: “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. ‘The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.’” There is freedom in Christ. It’s freedom from the penalty of sin, not from the consequences. God will not and cannot allow us to get away with sin, but don’t expect to see someone’s nose grow if they tell a lie. We live in such a hectic, no time for anything world; a world where we seek instant gratification. Our cure then, comes not by redefining sin or by avoiding it. Our cure comes by admitting our sin, turning from it and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Easter          is about hope, it’s about life; it’s about fulfilled promises; it’s about Jesus. Maybe you’re thinking, “I want to be free, how do I get this freedom?” To answer that question, we need to go again to the standard of truth. Remember that each of us is a sinner, we have all done wrong. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” As with any gift, you must accept it; just because it has your name on it does not make it yours until you receive it. Maybe if we just try harder to be good and righteous. No, the answer to sin is not to try harder to avoid it or change who you are. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good you are, it’s not enough. Eph. 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Rom. 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confess is a great word. It means the same thing as agree. In other words, when you confess to God your failure to meet His standard or admit your wrongdoings, you are agreeing with Him.

Maybe you’re thinking God won’t accept you like you are. Pastor Ian if you only knew about me. Maybe you’re thinking, when I give up ___________, I will be good enough and I’ll trust in Christ. Here’s the good news: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) We don’t have to try harder because God knows that apart from Christ, we can do nothing. (Jo. 15:5) Rom. 10:13 says, “For ‘WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” You are that whoever. It is a guarantee. Becoming a Christian is a choice; it is a decision only you can make for yourself. Being a Christian really means being a follower of Christ. God changes your heart, changes your attitude, and you joyfully want to follow Jesus. It’s not something you do begrudgingly. Being a follower of Christ gives you freedom! You are not a Christian because you live in America or because you attend church, or because you pray or read the Bible, or go to a Bible study. You are a Christian because you have made a decision to trust in what Christ did to pay the penalty for sin; you choose to follow Christ. Paul gives us this hope in Rom. 6:10-11, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (Jo. 1:12) So how did we get to the point of death? What began just five or so days earlier as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt with people waving palm branches and expressing their adoration for this man from Galilee, was overwhelmed by the crowds in Jerusalem that demanded His death by crucifixion. They got what they asked for and Jesus was sentenced to die on a cross for being found guilty of nothing. Jesus dies a horrible death on the cross and was buried in a tomb.

The rest of the story is found in Luke 24:1-9. Easter is all about the penalty Jesus Christ paid to cover our sin debt. He shed His blood for you, because of His incredible, unending, unconditional love. He is not here because He is risen. Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the new life that He can give you.

You have heard about who Jesus is and why we need Jesus. You have heard about what you should do with Jesus now there remains just one question. What will you do about what you know?Risen

A Fool’s Mouth

30 Mar

You can listen to the podcast hereA Fool's Mouth.

Last week we saw the differences between the good kid and the bad kid. Solomon compared and contrasted wisdom and foolishness along with the joys and sorrows for the parents that result from the behavior of the kids. He spoke of the folly of a life of crime and ill gotten gains and gave us some great principles about the importance of a good work ethic. God will provide for those that are wise and diligent. This morning, Solomon continues to compare wisdom and folly and we’ll see some parallel verses to emphasize the teaching.

Grab your Bible and read our passage today taken from Pro. 10:6-17.

Here’s some affirmation. Solomon starts out this series of verses with some encouragement. “Blessings are on the head of the righteous” and by contrast, “but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” If we remember, righteousness is the character or quality of doing, thinking, or believing what is right from God’s perspective. Blessing on the head may point to the practice of a father blessing the first born by placing his hand on the boy’s head. Regardless, the significance of the blessing is because of righteousness. On the other hand, we have wickedness that covers up true intentions. He can’t help it because that’s who he is. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” When Christ is the Lord of your life, the goodness that comes from knowing Him flows out of your heart. The opposite is also true. Ja. 3:11 says, “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” The wicked really can’t control what they say. If you’re a Christian, these things ought not to be. There should be no profane thing come from the mouth of an authentic believer. Do you know a professing believer that uses profanity? Just after Paul tells believers to be imitators of God and to walk in love he says, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:4) Paul goes on to say in Eph. 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The wicked do not control their speech.

“The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot.” That’s quite the word picture. When I mention names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David, Boaz, the widow that gave all she had, Stephen who was the first martyred for his faith, our hearts are filled with wonderful memories of how God used them in His plan. If we move forward in time, we think of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, Jim Elliot, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Brother Andrew. I also think of people like Bill Moore, Bob Duryea, and David Lawson that I love and respect that are not so well known. These names affirm Ps. 112:6b that says, “The righteous will be remembered forever.” When I mention names like Salome, the Pharisees, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, and Bin Laden, the flip side is true too, “The names of the wicked will rot.” These are names we’d like to forget. Verses 7-10 are arranged in a parallel format. “The wise of heart will receive instruction” in v. 7. No pride or arrogance. This person knows they don’t know everything and don’t mind learning. On the other hand, “A babbling fool will be ruined.” This person’s gums are flapping so much they don’t hear anything anyone says to them. The things being said are not valuable, it’s just noise. “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” There is nothing to fear, no need to worry about anything, no anxiety because integrity is part of who they are. Integrity can be defined as having strong moral principles with those morals defined by Scripture. Remember in Pro. 2:7 Solomon said, “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.” Integrity is as much a part of this person’s life as breathing. In contrast, “He who perverts his ways will be found out.” Pervert here means crooked. Attach the word to salesman, politician, cop, lawyer, or businessman and you get the idea of what Solomon is talking about. People like this will eventually get found out. It may be later rather than sooner, but at some point, the truth will come out. The second part of v. 10 is identical to v. 8, but the first part is a bit different. This goes back to 6:13 when Solomon talks about finding a mark or someone to take advantage of or commit a crime against. This section concludes when Solomon says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” It should be obvious when speaking with someone that walks with God. Think about the satisfaction when you take a drink of cold water when you’re dry and thirsty and that’s what it should be like. Don’t miss that key word referring to the wicked. Conceal means they are hiding their true motivation. There is likely a hidden agenda behind what at first, may appear okay.

Now for some good general principles. The next seven verses provide nice and neat comparisons and contrasts. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Remember strife is in the list of seven things the Lord hates. This seems like hypocrisy so let’s try and clear that up. Solomon is saying hatred is a driving force to strife. Strife is discord, angry disagreement or conflict. That’s what the people who claim Christians are intolerant and judgmental are doing. It’s not differing points of view where love dominates the conversation, but one sided arguments that conclude with change your mind and agree with me or you’re being judgmental, intolerant, and hateful. We can do a whole lot to help this by being mindful of what we say and what we do. If someone accuses or labels you, step back and see why before you go on the offensive and organize a retaliatory attack. Remember truth spoken without loves comes across harsh. I am in no way saying compromise Scripture, but evaluate how that truth is delivered. Peter’s words are very important and we must keep them at the forefront of our minds. 1 Pet.4:8 says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” The first phrases of vs. 13 and 14 include references to speech. Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning and wise men store up knowledge. This phrasing should be very familiar to us. When you continue to seek wisdom, you will find it. You’ll stockpile it in your brain for continual use. This wisdom then flows effortlessly out of your mouth. But look at the contrast in the second phrase of each verse. “But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding” and “But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.” This likely refers to the punishment received because of wrongdoing. Foolish people don’t store up wisdom. They’re like oil and water. Fools are not known for their insight or discernment.

Let’s talk money. Vs. 15-16 says, “The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty. The wages of the righteous is life. The income of the wicked, punishment.” Solomon is not saying if you’re righteous, you’ll be rich. He’s also not saying if you’re poor, you’re wicked or foolish. So what is he really saying? Rich people can be under the false notion that God’s favor is on them because they are rich. Poor people can conclude that God is against them because they are poor. Don’t make conclusions based on money or possessions. “The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty.” His wealth provides his protection. He thinks he’s safe in there, but what is he being protected from? Don’t focus on what you do or do not have. That’s the short sightedness of earthly riches. Rich people are not automatically happy and poor people are not automatically sad. That’s western world thinking. We must not focus on the here and now, but on eternity. Working at righteousness yields eternal life. Understand that I do not mean earning your salvation, but that salvation necessarily means working out your faith. The wages or payment of righteousness is life. The wages of the wicked is death. It’s as easy as that: following Christ means life, following wickedness or folly means death. This line of reasoning continues when Solomon says, “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray.” I believe you can leave the path of foolishness at any time. At the same time, you can be knocked off the path of righteousness by ignoring good, clear, biblical principles for life. It is a lifelong pursuit.

Even when if you are hopelessly lost, all you have to do is enable GPS on your phone to find out where you are. You can follow the directions to get back on the right road. The same is true in our Christian walk of faith. Maybe you’ve been on the wrong road, hopelessly lost and wandering trying to find the way. Enable GPS – God’s Perfect System.

Good Kid, Bad Kid

23 Mar

Good KidYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we heard from two women. They both provided banquets for us to feast upon. Wisdom in particular was inviting people to join her, especially the foolish and the naive. Even though the invitations have been sent, there is no guarantee that people will come. Even though you set the table, you can’t make people eat. Wisdom offers instruction, knowledge, and understanding. Folly offers death. It seems like an easy choice. This morning, we’re going to check out some more common sense teaching that is now uncommon. 

Pro. 10:1-5 says, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother. Ill-gotten gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked. Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.”Bad Kid

Solomon begins speaking in rapid fire sentences. Hang on! “The proverbs of Solomon” set off this new section of Scripture where the principles and instructions seem to come very quickly and for the most part, they look like they’re not closely related with one another. In the first few verses, Solomon contrasts the differences between a good kid and a bad kid based on the familiar wisdom versus folly comparisons. “A wise son makes his father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” Don’t assume that a dad doesn’t care if his son is foolish or a mom doesn’t care if her son is wise. That’s not the point. The idea here is that the mood or tone of the household can be established based on the actions of the kids. Kids can stress parents to the max and perhaps you have experienced this firsthand. Our kids can sometimes upset the entire family with their behavior. That’s what Solomon is saying here. The wisdom Solomon is talking about is the same wisdom he’s been talking about. The process of gaining wisdom for adults is the same for kids. It stems from biblical and godly instruction which leads to knowledge, which leads to understanding, which leads to wisdom. The process takes times for your kids just like it took time for you. One caveat here, don’t expect your kids to live a life of godliness and wisdom if you don’t. The walk of faith is not a do as I say and not as I do arrangement. All your teaching will be thrown out the window if your life does not reflect your teaching because kids pick up on the hypocrisy of our lives. If the teaching of Scripture is awesome and great enough for your kids to follow, isn’t it awesome and great enough for us adults to follow? The foolishness of children grieves mother and father. Just be sure to understand that some foolishness is simply because they’re kids. Let them be kids. I don’t think the time span here though is little kids, but rather older kids.

And now for something obvious. Perhaps you’ve heard the running joke that if the government would  just made something illegal, we wouldn’t have problems anymore. It what seems to be an obvious principle, Solomon says, “Ill gotten gains do not profit.” Crime doesn’t pay you’ve also heard. Crime does pay: you steal something and it becomes yours; not legally, but for as long as you can get away with it. You steal money and you get richer. You steal a car and you have a ride. You steal someone’s identity and you can become that person. Crime pays; getting caught does not. Solomon is thinking eternally here because the last part of the verse says, “But righteousness delivers from death.” Crime may pay in the short run, but it never pays out farther than that. Our jails and prisons are filled with people that have been convicted of crimes. The United States has about 5% of the world’s population, but almost 25% of the world’s prison population. The reasons for this include harsher sentencing and the public’s demand that crime should be punished. U.S. prisons hold lots of non-violent criminals which other countries do not punish, or do not punish as severely. Any gain received from crime will be short lived because you cannot take it with you. When you face justice from a holy and pure God, consequences will be meted out. What you thought you got away with will be brought to light in perfect, exacting detail.

Not only does righteousness deliver you from death but, “The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger.” Remember what Solomon just said. He was talking about ill gotten gains. He is saying you literally will not starve to death so you don’t have to steal to get food. Even if famine comes, God will provide. If you have your Bible, take the time to find and read Matthew 6:25-33. That passage is another illustration about how God will provide for His children. It takes faith! You’ve probably noticed the contrasts Solomon has used in these first couple of verses. Here Solomon contrasts that lack of hunger with, “But He will reject the craving of the wicked.” If you’re righteous and hungry, God will take care of you. If you’re wicked and hungry, you will remain hungry. Even though it may appear the wicked have all they desire, they will never be satisfied.

The next verses seem out of place, but they tie into the work ethic of wisdom. Everyone has a work ethic. It might be a good one, it might be poor. It doesn’t take long for a supervisor to determine which one you are. Solomon says, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand.” Negligent can also be translated lazy. That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Works with a lazy hand. It seems odd that supervisors have to tell employees to show up for work and to be on time, but that is the world that we find ourselves in. While at work, you should work. It seems obvious, but remember that we are living in an age of uncommon sense. Col. 3:23 tells us, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” If you’re a Christian and are lackadaisical in your work, you likely will find yourself unemployed and it’s not because you’re being persecuted. Here’s the other side of it, “But the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Diligent means careful and conscientious. If you work quickly, but sloppily, or your work has to be redone, you slide over into the same category as the wicked. Work hard, work efficiently, work correctly. This goes back to Col. 3:23. If you work to please the Lord, He’s going to see to it that everyone else is pleased. What if they’re not pleased? Who cares! The wise and diligent worker is also a planner. “He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely.” While the Lord will provide in time of need, that doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to do your part. Relying on God’s provision is great, but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and do nothing. The wise person plants his crops in the spring, prays that God will provide water, pulls the weeds and keeps the bugs off, and harvests in the fall in order to prepare for winter.

With the final contrast Solomon says, “But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.” Even if you do all the work to prepare for harvest but don’t follow through, that is shameful. He’s been giving agricultural examples because that was easily understood at the time. To draw a modern parallel, how many people have unfinished projects around the house? You have great plans, but they don’t seem to come to fruition. How about projects you want to get to, but consistently decide to start them tomorrow? Laziness and procrastination are an epidemic in America today. Thankfully, I have a cure. Read, learn, study, memorize, and live out God’s Word.

Solomon has compared and contrasted two types of people. One makes a father glad, the other makes a mother sad. One is hungry, one is not. One is a planner, one is not. One is righteous, one is not. Which one are you?

A Tale of Two Women

16 Mar

Dame Folly - ProverbsYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the creative genius of God and learned that wisdom was needed when the world with all its complexity was formed. Wisdom and God cannot be separated from one another because wisdom is an inherent characteristic of God. Since God needs wisdom, we certainly need wisdom. Over and over Solomon reminds us to listen and follow his instructions. This morning, we check out a tale of two women in striking contrast to one another.

Take the time and read all of Proverbs 9. It won’t take long and it’s really important to see where Solomon goes with these two women.

Our first woman is wisdom. We’ve seen wisdom personified in previous passages. Here she has built her house and it has seven pillars. The exact meaning of that is difficult to determine. Some think it refers to Solomon’s temple and others think it refers to seven days of creation that Solomon talked about in 8:22-31. Woman wisdom invites you to join her for a wonderful banquet. She wants people to attend so much that she sends out her maidens to bring people in. This is reminiscent of the account of the wedding feast in Lu. 14:15-24. I encourage you to read that passage. Lady Wisdom says that you’re invited to a special occasion that serves sumptuous food without end. Are we talking about a physical buffet? Spiritual food is a theme presented in numerous passages of the Bible. Ps. 119:103, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” (Jo. 6:48-51) Only when we partake in spiritual food, is our hunger satisfied.

Have you ever had anyone tell you they have left a church because they weren’t getting fed? “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Heb. 5:12-14) Of course the church has a responsibility to provide spiritual food for you, but let’s be realistic. At most, a person spends about 4-5 hours involved in church related services or activities if involved in Sunday School, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening, and some type of mid-week service. Many churches, including C4 don’t offer Sunday School or Sunday evening because people were not taking advantage of those opportunities. The average, run of the mill Christian typically participates only in the Sunday morning service. No matter how well studied or dynamic the pastor or preacher is, no one can possibly conclude they are not getting fed at church because that’s not our job! Where is the personal responsibility? How can I possibly provide what is needed to sustain you for a week in just one or two hours? Even if you did participate in everything a church offers, you will still be lacking spiritual nourishment because the design is that we feed ourselves! The statement that one is not being fed at church is simply an example of shifting responsibility to someone else. It’s like complaining to the school that the lunch served isn’t enough to keep a kid from getting hungry after they get home.

Look who wisdom really wants at the table: “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!” The table has been set and wisdom says, “Come eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.” The food is prepared and available to you if only you’ll accept the invitation. Remember wisdom wants you to attend so she is proactive with her invitation. Like the wedding feast we read about in Luke 14, people have all the excuses in the world to decline the invitation that will change their lives forever. Even eating a meal that is prepared for you takes effort on your part. You have to pick up a fork and put it to your mouth, chew, and swallow. So even when the food is out there for you, there is something you must to do to take advantage of the nourishment. When your kids were babies, you physically fed them. As they grew and matured, you taught them to feed themselves and sometimes it was really messy, but you knew the importance of teaching them how to eat. If your kids didn’t want to eat, you likely covered it up and put it up for them. When they got hungry enough, you knew they’d eat whatever was put in front of them. The parallel to spiritual food is identical. There it is: the elephant in the room; some  people never grow hungry enough for God’s Word and that’s a huge problem. John 6:27 says, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” I cannot comprehend professing believers that do not grow hungry for God’s Word.  “Forsake your folly and live and proceed in the way of understanding.” Notice the intentionality of the invitation. It involves recognition of one’s folly which is defined as a disdain for God’s truth and discipline. It not only takes forsaking folly, but a turn to the way of understanding. There it is again – understanding.

Solomon tells us something kind of harsh: don’t waste time on a scoffer. Remember back in Pro. 1:22 when he said, “Scoffers delight themselves in scoffing.” Well, nothing has changed. Wisdom doesn’t even bother to invite the scoffer to the banquet. What’s the point? The theme for Proverbs can be found in 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Scoffers don’t want to hear it so only the simple are invited. Accepting the invitation may mean leaving your friends. The fools and the scoffers will try and talk the simple out of going. You don’t need that, it’s for the weak. You won’t have any fun. You’ve met these types of people. They don’t want to listen to the truth, they want to do it their way, they don’t want to be told they’re wrong, don’t want to accept the truth to become wiser and that makes it very difficult to love them. You just keep on loving them and praying for opportunities to demonstrate Christ to them. The gap between the wise and the fool continues to widen. Primarily because the wise continue doing what increases wisdom while the fool continues doing what is foolish.  It’s found in v. 9-10. Wise people do not wake up one day and say, I’m wise enough. The result is that days are multiplied, and years of life are added when you seek wisdom. The opposite is also true. “If you scoff, you alone will bear it.”If you seek wisdom, you will find it.    If you want to be a scoffer, you will reap the consequences.

And on to the woman of folly. “The woman of folly is boisterous, she is naive and knows nothing.” Tell me what you really think. Folly and wisdom are in direct opposition. Wisdom represents the way of God. Folly represents all that is ungodly. Solomon describes her three ways. She is boisterous just like the adulteress he warned us about. Naive here means ignorant or thoughtless. She is without safeguard or restraint. She doesn’t know boundaries. She has no filter. She, “knows nothing” means she doesn’t know what she ought to know. Have you ever heard or said they phrase, “They know better.” She should know better, but she doesn’t because she doesn’t want to know better. Benjamin Franklin said, “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.” That’s folly right there. She invites others to come and dine, but there will be no feast like at the banquet prepared by wisdom. If you’re naive, come on in, you’re welcome here she says. For reasons that are unexplainable, more people flock to lady folly then to lady wisdom. In the short run it’s easier, and the long run is not even considered. Lady folly promises, “Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” Your mind might be drawn to that wonderful banquet set out by woman wisdom. Remember in 5:15 when Solomon said, “Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well?” Contextually, I think the same idea is presented here. Don’t take what isn’t yours. Don’t be lured by the idea of easy money or the idea that a life of crime is the way to go.

The conclusion is found in v. 18 where Solomon says, “But does he not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” The banquet wisdom prepares leads to life. The banquet folly prepares leads to death. Don’t be deceived: folly leads to death.

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