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.

Creative Genius

9 Mar

CreateYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned some leadership lessons from wisdom herself. We learned of the wisdom triad that includes prudence, knowledge, and discretion. Since we have incredible reverence for the Lord, we hate evil because He does. We saw the value wisdom plays in effective leadership whether you’re a king, ruler, prince, or noble. It applies to leaders today as well. We learned that wisdom provides tangible and intangible results. She is still better than gold and silver. This morning, not only is wisdom essential in our walk of faith, wisdom played an instrumental part in the creation of the world.

Take a moment and read Pro. 8:22-31.

When was the birth of wisdom? We come to the focus of the chapter and learn that wisdom has been around for years. The first verse in this section points out the fact that the Lord possessed wisdom, “at the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” This points to creation. A real work that God accomplished. It will probably come as no surprise to you that I believe in a literal six day creation account. I have come to this realization by faith through my study of the Scriptures. It is totally implausible that all that we know in this physical world simply happened by chance. The earth and solar system being created through an explosion is like throwing all the individual parts for a space ship in a room and expecting it to manufacturer itself into that complex piece of machinery. Maybe you’re in the camp that says, I just can’t believe it the way the Bible describes, I need to understand it. I submit to you that you may not understand the inner workings of the internal combustion engine yet that does not prevent you from putting the key in the ignition, cranking it up and driving down the road.

There are numerous passages throughout Scripture that refer directly or indirectly to God’s hands on approach to creation. The idea of a big bang came about in the first to the middle part of the 20th century. The short version of the theory states that all space, time, and energy came into being from a minuscule particle of something that appeared somewhere for reasons no one can explain and then for some reason exploded causing the creation of all the universes, galaxies, stars and so on that we have now including earth and animals which led somehow, to the evolving of humanity. That is quite the leap of faith. Gen. 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That seems to be a very clear statement. One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is found in John’s gospel, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (John 1:1) The culmination of that passage is found in v. 14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  When we line that up with what Solomon is telling us, it stating the same thing. Wisdom was there from everlasting. “From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.”

Before you jump to conclusions, I do not believe Solomon is telling us that wisdom and Jesus Christ are one in the same. It is true that Paul said in Col. 1:16, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Jesus wasn’t just there as a bystander, He was an active participant. I have gone through all of this to establish that wisdom is an inherent characteristic of God that was essential in creation and is essential to our walk of faith. When you look at vs. 22-26, you’ll see wisdom was present before those things happened. In v. 26 we learn that wisdom is literally older than dirt. Solomon tells us that wisdom never had a birth, wisdom is. As long as there was God, there was wisdom. You cannot separate the two.

Wisdom’s involvement with creation is seen in vs. 27-29 where we see that wisdom played an important role in creation. Could God have created all that we know apart from wisdom? That is an incomprehensible question because we’ve already established that you cannot separate one from the other. Wisdom is as much an attribute of God as His presence in eternity. There is incredible complexity in our universe, in our animal world, and in us. That couldn’t have happened by chance and it could not have happened without wisdom’s influence.

I want you to think of the things we take for granted. Maybe you’re thinking what do I take for granted? Exactly my point. The necessary things in our life that if allowed by God to stop, we would cease to exist. From the rotation of the earth on its axis that gives us night and day to the rotation of earth around the sun that gives us seasons, and the marking of time. From the blinking of the eye to the beating of your heart, God is involved. Our bodies are designed to respond in ways few people think about. If it’s bright out, the pupil closes to prevent the retina from being blinded with light. The opposite happens when it’s dark allowing more light in so you can see. When you get cold, the hair on your body stands on end trapping air to provide a layer of air for insulation. No one ever thinks of blinking or breathing and you certainly don’t think to send platelets to a repair a cut on your finger. Wisdom was essential in creating our bodies to function properly and efficiently.

These last two verses indicate the joy that wisdom demonstrates at the creation. Wisdom was with God the entire time of creation and now stands beside Him as an artisan. Wisdom is a master craftsman in God’s design. There is an intimacy between God and wisdom, but wisdom did not design all that we know; God is the designer. Let’s bring it all home. If God felt it needful to include wisdom in what He did, don’t you think it is reasonable for us to make wisdom a part of our lives? As God the Father and His one and only Son Jesus Christ looked at what they had created, there was rejoicing. Following the work of His creation each day God said, “It is good.” (Gen. 1) Imagine the joy. You think about when you make something and you look at it with joy. That’s the feeling God had. “Rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men” Delight means great pleasure. Even though God knew that we would sin, that we would choose ourselves over Him, He still has great pleasure in us. That great pleasure was manifested in the redemption plan that was in place before the foundations of the earth were laid out.

It’s hard for us to comprehend the complexity of God and how He could create all things knowing that we would quickly turn what God defined as very good into what we know. His delight in you and me means that in His wisdom, He would need to send Jesus to die for us. Just when we begin to think we’ve got it figured out, the enormity that is God pushes us to realize that without Him, there is nothing. How does that impact how you live? Do you live with wisdom to guide you, or do you choose to go it alone? Solomon closes this section out by saying, Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.” (Pro. 8:32-36.)

Leadership Wisdom

2 Mar

LeadershipYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Wisdom spoke. She spoke noble and right things. Her message is available and she can be found. Wisdom is not just for the educated elite, but is available to any and all that will listen. She is far more valuable than gold and jewels. This morning, wisdom continues to speak and she offers up a guarantee and gives us some points to consider.

I encourage you to take the time and read our text for today found in Pro. 8:12-21.

Let’s look at wisdom’s clarity. Just when I think we’re beginning to understand the depth of godly wisdom, she gives us additional insight into how truly incredible she is. She, “dwells with prudence.”    Prudence means showing care or concern for the future. And it can also mean careful good judgment that allows someone to avoid danger or risks. In the context of Proverbs, it conveys the idea of sensible behavior. She also finds, “knowledge and discretion.” These are three qualities that form the wisdom triad. When these qualities are ingrained in you, it becomes easier to live the life that God expects. When these qualities are evident in your life, it demonstrates the power of God. Everything we do should point back to God. When we allow this triad to work in our lives, Solomon tells us it helps us do three things.

First, because we fear the Lord, we “hate evil.” Remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7) Evil is a general term wisdom uses for anything that could be considered ungodly. Specifically, “Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.” So wisdom is a hater too. Remember the haughty eyes that God hates? We have the same thing here; pride and arrogance which always seem to go hand in hand. Have you ever been around someone like this? Wisdom mentions the “evil way.” I want to spend a bit of time here. I frequently talk about manner of life and this is what wisdom is referring to. Much is being said about how we should be as individuals and as a church. Society has told us that it is unloving and judgmental to say some form of behavior is wrong. We’re called intolerant because we adhere to a biblical worldview. I submit to you that it is unloving and ungodly to allow people to boldly enter hell without ever hearing the message of hope that is found in Christ.

If you have paid attention to the things that God and wisdom hate, you would quickly realize that nowhere is it said that God hates people. He might call us names like stiff necked, obstinate, and stubborn, but that simply describes our behavior. Just because things might not be going your way or it seems like the world is against you doesn’t mean God is against you. The evil way is not the godly way. We need to evaluate our manner of life. Is there anything in our lives that would indicate we’re not walking on the path of righteousness? The wise person does not approach the cliff to see just how close he can get to the edge without falling over. Once you fall, it’s too late. The wise person recognizes the danger and stays away. That’s really wisdom’s message. Once wisdom tells us what she hates, she tells us what she is. “Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.” Counsel means what you think it means. It is guidance, advice, direction, but always from a godly perspective. Job 12:13 says, “With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding.” These qualities are who wisdom is; they are inherent to her character. Do these words sound familiar? Isaiah 9:6 says, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;  And the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,  Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

What does leadership look like in practice? You may not consider yourself a leader, but one thing is for sure, you cannot lead effectively without wisdom. Well, I suppose you can, but your leadership won’t last long and you likely won’t be followed. Remember that Solomon prayed for wisdom to lead his people. It seems unlikely that anyone could lead a nation effectively that does not possess wisdom. In our world today this is definitely lacking. In context, we’re still talking about biblical wisdom and the only way to have that is for the Lord to give wisdom according to Pro. 2:6. Rom. 13:1 says that all authority is established by God so leaders need to rule in accordance with God’s instructions and principles. When your decisions are made apart from the counsel of God, they are sure to fail. Solomon calls out kings, rulers, princes, and nobles, but this principle applies to anyone in leadership.

Wisdom also has tangible benefits. You sometimes hear business people talk about return on investment or ROI. Unless there is a significant ROI, there is a hesitancy to spend money on something. This model has made its way into the church too. What price do you put on eternity? Wisdom says, “I love those who love me.” Do you love wisdom? How would you know? Think about the people and things you love. It’s obvious the love you have. Wisdom should be no different. Do you scoff or ignore wisdom? “Those who diligently seek me will find me.” It’s not a wild goose chase where you’ll never catch what you’re looking for. If you go looking, you’ll find wisdom. But you have to be diligent. Careful and conscientious. We exercise diligence in other areas of our lives and wisdom is far more important than those other things. People will say, “No. Sports, school, work, pursuit of pleasure, and, spending time with my family is important.” See there’s the mistake people make. No one ever said those things aren’t important, they’re just not as important as seeking God. Are you really seeking wisdom? She can be found, she is not elusive. Ps.119:33 says, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall observe it to the end.”

Let’s answer the question that many people are asking . . . including people in the church, “What’s in it for me?” Her benefits are tangible and they are found in vs. 18-19: “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver.” But wait! That’s not all. Check out the last two verses. The idea of righteousness here refers to our horizontal relationships with people and our vertical relationship with God. Justice here is better translated judgment and justice. These are character qualities that set us apart from the norm. Look at the final thing wisdom offers. “To endow those who love me with wealth that I may fill their treasuries.” If you’re thinking that your treasury isn’t full, maybe you don’t love wisdom. Matt. 6:20, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.”

Solomon asked for wisdom and he got that and wealth. If you really love wisdom, you’re going to seek her and you will find her. Then you will follow her where she leads you. You’ll be walking in God’s will and that is the best place to be. Our inheritance, “is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”  (1 Peter 1:4)

Wisdom Speaks

23 Feb

speakYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded his son of the importance of remembering the instructions and commands of God. Then he told us the incredible story of watching that senseless young man walk to his certain death by getting involved with a married woman. She had one thing on her mind as she led him like a dumb animal to the slaughterhouse. It wasn’t Solomon’s son that he was watching, but he is relating the story so that he will not fall into the same trap. We would be wise to heed the same warnings. This morning, we leave the adulteress in Sheol and we hear from wisdom herself.

I encourage you to read our passage in Pro. 8:1-11.

This is not wisdom’s first call. Remember back in Pro. 1:20-33 we heard wisdom shouting for all to hear, but three types of people did not listen. The naïve ones loved being simple minded. The scoffers delighted in their scoffing. The fools hate knowledge. So Solomon asks a rhetorical question in v. 1. He answers his own question by telling us exactly where to find wisdom. Vs. 2-3 says, “On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance to the doors she cries out.” Another way to put this is wisdom can be found where the people are gathering. Cities typically were founded at the intersection of two roads, “where the paths meet” which we would call an intersection or crossroads. There’s only a few ways to get into St. Marys. As a result, our economy suffers because you can’t really pass through – St. Marys must be the destination. In the old days when people travelled by boat, cities on the water were vitally important. Port cities were and continue to be important to moving goods across the globe.

So if wisdom is right in the middle of people, it tells us that the common man, the regular guy can gain wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is not just for the educated and not just for the religious elite. Wisdom is accessible to the young and to the old if we’ll just listen. No need to climb the mountain to reach the wise old sage to glean from his vast storehouses of knowledge and experience. All you have to do is listen. Who’s she calling to? “To you O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O naïve ones, understand prudence; and, O fools, understand wisdom.” Notice that naive ones and fools are called out. Everyone can benefit from wisdom, but these people in particular can greatly benefit by listening to what wisdom says.

So what does wisdom say? She says a lot that’s contained in vs. 6-10. Let’s talk about them individually to get the full effect. “Listen, for I speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things.” Noble means having fine personal qualities of high moral principles. Do you know anyone that as soon as they begin speaking, a hush fall over the room? They’re like E.F. Hutton. When this person begins speaking, it’s obvious they speak the truth and really know what they’re talking about. These people really are few and far between. Wisdom is like that person only way better. Whenever wisdom speaks, people ought to listen. “For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Every word of wisdom is true. 1 Cor. 1:24 says, “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Our wonderfully loving and just God is the source of truth. Since, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) His Word is unchanging. There are no revisions or alterations. No addendums. It is complete, accurate, timely, and applicable for every situation we face in life. People everywhere have continuously tried to pass off the Bible as irrelevant, archaic, hard to understand, full of contradictions, and sometimes barbaric. Some of these criticisms come from professing believers. Side note, can someone be an authentic believer in Jesus Christ and deny the inerrancy of the Bible? 2 Tim. 3:16-17 seem to tie that one up neatly. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Wisdom says that, “Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

Verse 8 says, “All utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them.” Nothing dishonest or unacceptable are contained within its pages. Ps. 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words.” There are no hidden motives and no secret agenda. Why do some people find it difficult to understand the Bible? There are numerous factors that contribute to difficulty in understanding God’s Word. It could be that people read it for the wrong reasons. It could be due to misinterpretation or taking things of context. It could be due a lack of understanding of the culture and times in which it was written. It could be that people don’t have the necessary scriptural foundation. Instead of trying to figure it out ourselves, let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture to provide us the clarity needed. 1 Cor. 2:14 reminds us, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:3-4, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” So there you have it. From my understanding of Scripture, a lack of understanding of God’s Word could be because the person reading it is not saved.

Your next obvious question is, “I’m saved and I don’t understand everything I read.” Don’t freak out! You’re not alone. No where does it say you’ll know and understand everything in Scripture. The most common thing I see is people aren’t willing to take the time and really read and study Scripture. They’re not willing to work diligently to understand. It’s easier to Google it or ask a friend. 2 Tim. 2:15 is a verse you hear me quote often and I love the King James Version translation of it, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” NAS translates it like this, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The onus is on the individual. No one can relieve you of the responsibility to study God’s Word. Remember what Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Here’s the true test. When we set this study up, we looked at 1 Kings 3:5 where God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We know that Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted him that and so much more. Solomon acknowledged that he was young and didn’t know anything – he was humble, yet walked faithfully in the statutes of God. See, that’s what sets up Solomon, it wasn’t because he was King David’s son. He was already doing what he was supposed to do in God’s eyes and that’s why God granted the incredible gift of wisdom. That’s why wisdom says, “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.” There will come a day that silver and gold will be useless. We must think with an eternal mindset rather than a mindset focused on the here and now. We push off the things that matter for eternity in favor of what we can see right now. That’s not how it works in God’s economy. Remember Jesus’ words as recorded by the tax collector in Matt 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The instructions, commands, and principles of Scripture are eternal.

One day, you may end up poor by earthly standards; you may be there right now. You can have everything you consider valuable taken away, stolen, repossessed, or destroyed. All that you hold near and dear, whether it’s your children, spouse, job, friends, or family can be ripped away from you. I can tell you from studying God’s Word myself that when that time comes and all you have is God and His Word, it will be enough. Don’t wait until that happens to learn the value of God’s Word. Never take it for granted. “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.”

The Scarlet Letter

16 Feb

Scarlet LetterYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we walked down memory lane as Solomon reminded his son of some great principles. Remember the commandments and instructions that he taught. Those instructions will provide the path of righteousness to keep you from people that do not have your best interests in mind. Specifically, stay away from another man’s wife; stay away from another woman’s husband. When it comes to the adulteress’s husband, there will be no satisfying his rage. This morning, as is his custom to this point, Solomon reminds his son about the instructions he has been given and then gives some more warnings about the adulteress.

You really need your Bible for this one. Take a look at Pro. 7:1-5 as we begin with a general reminder. Solomon opens up the chapter with some general reminder principles. He uses some great phrases like, “Keep my words.” “Treasure  . . . keep my commandments.” He opened up this book by saying, Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Pro. 1:8) Take care of God’s commandments; hold on to them because they are valuable. It’s a theme given throughout Scripture. 1 John 2:3, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

“Keep my teaching as the apple of your eye.” This is a really great phrase and it doesn’t mean what you might think. Being the apple of one’s eye typically means you cherish something. The word translated apple literally means pupil. It is the center of the eye that allows light to enter. That light falls on the retina where it is translated to the image you see just like a projector displays images on a screen. It’s an incredible process that we take for granted. If the light no longer is allowed to enter our eye, we trip, we fall, we stumble, we can’t find our way, and we wander. Without the eye, we are rendered blind. Consider what Solomon is saying to his son and to us. Keep the instructions I have given you. While the eye is essential to keep one from stumbling on a literal path, Solomon’s instructions are essential for keeping us on God’s holy path. “Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” This seems to refer to the Jewish custom of binding the phylacteries on the hand and forehead. Phylacteries were little boxes that would be tied to the hands and forehead that contained four Scripture passages: Ex. 13:1-10, 11-16, Deut. 6:4-9, 11:13-21. Each passage refers to the binding of God’s Word to your hands and foreheads. At the very least, it means remember what the Word says.

And now Solomon tells his son to speak to wisdom. “Say to wisdom, you are my sister, and call understanding your intimate friend.” Wisdom is again personified as a person. In Matt. 12:50 Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” So we’re not talking a literal relationship, but a type of relationship that would be very close, personal, and intimate. That person can and should be trusted. Solomon’s rationale for these reminders is found in v. 5. The idea is that when love fills your heart and you are guided by the fundamental principles of Scripture, you won’t do things that are unwise or ungodly. If you think that is overly simplified, well it kind of is. People who routinely make poor choices rarely consult Scripture or biblical principles prior to making that decision. Others may consult Scripture then choose to ignore its teaching. It goes back to all those great reminders about keeping and treasuring God’s Word. You cannot say you hold God’s Word dearly when you choose to ignore it.

Solomon says, “Picture this.” He has personified wisdom in previous passages, but now he provides an actual example of something he has seen. Read through vs. 6-23 to get the word picture in your mind of what’s happening. I want to highlight some of the key things in this passage. Solomon says he spots, “A young man lacking sense.” We don’t know the age of the young man, but it seems like he’s not out looking to get himself into trouble. He’s out and about and passes by what Solomon says is “her” corner. Look at the time phrases, “In the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the darkness.” So this young man is really walking back and forth, waiting until she happens to come by. The great guidance from Pro. 5:8 that says, “Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house” is totally blown off. His wait is rewarded as she comes out to meet him and get the picture of what she looks like. “Dressed as a harlot.” Harlot is defined as someone that engages in extramarital sexual relations for commercial purposes. Women dressed enticingly with the hope of luring their prey back to their houses of ill repute.

She was, “cunning of heart.” Cunning means skilled at achieving a goal by deceit  or evasion. “She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not stay at home.” Other translations say, “Loud and wayward,” “Loud and defiant,” and “loud and stubborn.” Consider Tit. 2:5 where Paul instructs wives, “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” This isn’t some chauvinistic, Neanderthal thinking, but so the Word of God will not be dishonored. This woman is the opposite of godliness. She’s out and about in the in the city square when she should be at home. She tells the young man that she has given her peace offerings and has paid her vows and now she comes out to meet this young man lacking sense. It seems like she is using the offerings and vows as license. Vs. 16-17 describe her luxurious accommodations with the fine linens and spices. Verse 19 presents us with the shocking detail that she is married. Her husband is away on business and won’t return for at least a month. Don’t worry she says, we won’t be interrupted. Remember from Pro. 6:34 that, “Jealousy enrages a man.” He’ll never know, don’t sweat it. And now her plan is laid out because she is, “cunning of heart.” She is persuasive, she uses flattery, she is enticing. And the unwitting young man follows her to his death. He’s like the dumb animal that walks right up to the slaughterhouse not realizing that death awaits him. How can someone be so unwitting? How can someone be so blind to reality? How can one be led astray so quickly? Think about the crises you have gotten yourself into when you ignore clear, biblical principles and you ask yourself, “How did I get here?” When you ignore the biblical counsel of a friend, the guidance of a parent, or the wise advice of your pastor, why are you surprised when you end up in a place you don’t want to be?

Solomon provides the sobering conclusion of certainty in vs. 24-27. Once again Solomon says, “Listen to me and pay attention to my words!” Don’t be fooled, don’t get hoodwinked, don’t get taken, be wary, be careful, exercise caution, don’t wander near her! This is not her first rodeo, “For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain.”

If you follow the path of this adulterous woman and women like her, the road always leads to the same place. The destination is certain. “Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.” If you’re on the path, get off before it’s too late. Avoid the trap Satan sets for you. If you ignore these principles, death will result.

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