The Wickedness of Today

18 Jul

WickedYou can listen and download the podcast here.

Last week, we started by asking the question, what does it cost to be righteous? The answer is that it just might cost everything. Sometimes we find ourselves at odds with the government and it’s just not right to fine people who are doing right. We still live in a society where wrongdoing is punished and there are ways to redress wrongs that have been committed. In a faith based setting, you can’t run down and correct all the nasty things that are said about you. David said in Ps. 54:1, “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” You must rest on the fact that God is the vindicator of the righteous and if people know you, they’ll know your character. We need to be calm, cool, and collected in our dealings with people and sometimes the best answer is silence. If people part company with you because you have been set apart for the Gospel, that’s one thing, but separating yourself from God’s people and God’s Word is a good sign that there’s spiritual sickness in that person. Ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse to live in the folly of your own mind. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 18:3-8 that says, “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn. The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook. To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”

We started last week with something for today and we’ll begin this morning in the same manner. “When a wicked man comes, contempt also comes, and with dishonor comes scorn.” Solomon has often used the adjectives wicked and foolish interchangeably, but that word contempt carries some significance. Contempt carries the idea of having no value, worthless, or beneath consideration. Some have wrongly assigned the contempt to the wicked one, but that’s not what Solomon is saying. When you put it together with all that we have learned in recent verses, Solomon is talking about contempt the wicked have for all things holy and pure. When that wicked guy comes; the guy that says the Bible is outdated, foolish, not relevant, old fashioned, too mean or judgmental, when that person raises his fist and declares that a loving God would not do x, y, or z, he is demonstrating contempt for God’s holy and perfect Word. When the wicked walk into your life, so does their contempt. Ps. 14:1-3 gives us this incredible truth, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” We see this happening all around us, but what’s even more disturbing is that we’re seeing it in Christian circles too. Fewer and fewer people are standing solidly on the truth found in God’s Word. We can attribute this to a number of reasons, but I think the primary reason just might be that we have people that profess to be followers of Christ that just are not. We have professing believers that don’t read or study God’s Word, that don’t participate in the things of the church and don’t even want to. These same folks are ones that will claim their relationship with God is special or wonderful. They might even say they pray all the time. I want you to really ponder this question: when you sin; when you fall short of the glory of God, when you fail to live up to the standard of perfection, does God say, “It’s okay, it doesn’t matter.” Do you say that when your employee messes up? Your child? Your friend? When we fall into that trap, we minimize the power of God to perform actual transformation in our lives and we cheapen the incredible sacrifice Christ made on the cross. Don’t live under the false premise that God’s love erases His judgment.

The scorn Solomon mentions means contempt or disdain expressed openly. It really doesn’t freak me out when lost people do this regarding God’s Word. In 1 Cor. 2:14 Paul said, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” There is a bridge that is established when you make a decision to follow Christ. There is a connection made when the Holy Spirit enters you. Things that were unexplainable to you now come together. Things you had such difficulty understanding are now received by faith. I have no problem saying, “I can’t explain it, I just believe it.” How can you believe so easily? They might ask. It’s really a dumb question. Some people aren’t willing to take that step of faith with Jesus even though they do it in nearly every facet of life. People that don’t understand the internal combustion engine have no issues driving a car. People that don’t understand how an airplane can fly have no problem stepping onto that plane. People that have no idea how electricity gets distributed from the power plant to the home have no issues flipping that light switch. People that don’t understand how medicine works still follow the prescription. But when it comes to spiritual matters, they want full disclosure and complete understanding. Have you ever tried explaining the inexplicable? Have you ever tried comprehending the incomprehensible? Have you ever tried figuring out a miracle?

It would be really helpful for you to read 1 Cor. 2 to give us the context for Paul’s statement I quoted a moment ago. Our responsibility is not to convince people about Jesus although there is a tremendous need to reason through the Scriptures. Our responsibility is to demonstrate what Jesus has done in our lives. I think that might be the reason why some professing believers want to distance themselves from absolute truth of Scripture. There’s little to no demonstration of God in their lives. And one final, very timely passage found in 2 Tim. 3:1-9: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.” The times in which we are living in did not catch the Holy Spirit of God by surprise.

Solomon provides us with some more word pictures. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” Let me help you with this word picture. In our area we have what’s known as shallow wells. While the water drawn may be cool and seem refreshing, it’s not fit for anything except to irrigate your lawn. It contains Sulfur, iron, calcium, magnesium, organic compounds, and bacteria. It stinks; it leaves stains behind, it doesn’t taste good, and the well is affected by drought and overuse. If you want real refreshment that’s suitable for human consumption, you have to dig deep. “The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook” that does not run out. Real wisdom comes from deep within the soul because its source is God. Let me run through these next verses because they’re different ways to say what Solomon has already said. Pro. 18:5-7 says, “To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. A fool’s lips bring strife, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” All familiar stuff.

Solomon addresses something that I think is destroying a lot of people. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Solomon’s talking about gossip. Before we go any further, we need to understand what gossip is. Gossip is generally defined as idle talk or rumor; especially about the personal or private affairs of others. For the most part, we seem to enjoy gossip, unless it’s about us. We have tabloid newspapers like the National Enquirer, the Globe, and the Star. We have gossip columns, celebrity gossip, and TMZ. Gossip is expressly forbidden in Scripture, but we find it’s commonplace in the church. Sometimes it’s veiled as a prayer request and it rarely comes from the one needing prayer. It comes in the form of, “Pray for so and so . . . they’re having a hard time with their husband’s drinking.” “Pray for . . . their children are so disobedient and rebellious.” “Pray for . . . they’re behind in their mortgage.” “Pray for . . . they’re so sick,” and then a long list of details regarding the sickness is shared. Sometimes it’s even shared with a pained look and there seems to be genuine hurt from the teller. Look at the word picture. “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels.” Dainty means delicately small and pretty. I should tell you that the word morsel is also translated wound. Look at the results of taking in that dainty morsel. “They go down into the innermost parts of the body.” Here’s what gossip does. It gets in your system and destroys you from the inside out. It affects the hearer and the one about whom the tale is told. Think about it like this: there are things that are harmless when applied to the skin, but can be deadly if taken internally. Hydrogen peroxide comes to mind. On some medication, you’ll see the warning label: external use only. Gossip gets in you and affects you in ways you cannot overestimate. Gossip hurts people. So what if it’s the truth? Gossip often comes in unsubstantiated claims. I love it when someone tells me, “People are saying . . .” Really, who are those people? Oh, just people. Those people won’t be named because the one passing on the information doesn’t want it to come back to them because they’re gossiping. Now if you hear something, it’s okay to check it out. Remember, even if it’s the truth, it may not need to be shared.

Solomon uses the terms foolish and wicked interchangeably. Someone that says God’s Word is outdated or irrelevant will bring contempt for anything that is holy and pure, and godly. Even though fewer and fewer people are willing to stand in agreement with the unchanging Word of God does not mean you have to. Don’t dismiss the power of God to change your life. He wants to change you if you’ll allow Him to. A decision to follow Christ will bridge the gap in your understanding of things that are inexplicable, but there will always be things about God that cannot be understood. Biblical and godly wisdom provide an inexhaustible fountain of cool, refreshing living water. Don’t be a gossip. It hurts the listener and the one that it’s about.

What Does It Cost to be Righteous?

11 Jul

You can listen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We started by asking the question, what does it cost to be righteous? The answer just might be everything. Sometimes we find ourselves at odds with the government and it’s just not right to impose punishment on people who are doing right. We still live in a society where wrongdoing is punished and there are ways to redress wrongs that have been committed. In a faith based setting, you can’t run down and correct all the nasty things that are said about you. David said in Ps. 54:1, “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” You must rest on the fact that God is the vindicator of the righteous and if people know you, they’ll know your character. We need to be calm, cool, and collected in our dealings with people and sometimes the best answer is silence. If people part company with you because you have been set apart for the Gospel, that’s one thing, but when people separate themselves from God’s people and God’s Word, it’s a good sign that there’s sickness in the spiritual health of that person. Ignorance of God’s Word is no excuse to live in the folly of your own mind.

Our Allegience

6 Jul

Fireworks1 EditCheck out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy is what the Doctor Ordered

20 Jun

PrescriptionCheck out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Wisdom be Bought?

13 Jun

MoneyListen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheap Grace

9 Jun Featured Image -- 5559

This is worth the read.

danielthree18

cheap grace

We bought new phones over the weekend. Our contract was up, there was a deal, my phone had quit taking photos, Keith’s had quit holding a charge; it was time to upgrade.

Keith and I are very careful with our money (mostly). When we set out to buy something, especially something important, like a phone, we are willing to spend a little more for a solid piece of equipment than shelling out cash over and over again for cheap pieces of junk.

Our phones weren’t cheap. In fact, they weren’t quite as inexpensive as we had hoped, but there was a deal, we had some sort of promotion…I’m sure you know how it goes. So we spent a little more than we anticipated, but since our last set of phones lasted three years, we fully expect these to last at least that long, if not longer.

While we were in…

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The Consequence of Evil

6 Jun

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that the best way to obtain peace is to get along with everyone. That may not be the easiest thing, but as much as it’s up to you, be at peace with people. Love keeps no record of wrong doing so if you are wronged or feel you’ve been wronged, it’s better to let love cover it than it is to go around blabbing about how you’ve been wronged by humanity. It’s a lot easier to deal with wise people than with fools. Somebody that has understanding will get what you’re saying, but no matter how much talking you do, a fool just won’t get it. Rebellious people seek evil, but rest assured, judgment is coming. This morning, we look at some very vivid word pictures.

BearIn Pro. 17:12-15 Solomon says, “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly. He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house. The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

This is how bad it is. “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.” Picture this in your mind. You’ve seen or heard about how protective a momma bear can be. Think of how protective you can be over your kids. There is a God given maternal instinct when it comes to their children. Someone messes with your kids, they have to deal with mom. That strong, intense, protective instinct comes from God. You take a cub away from momma bear and you’re liable to get your arm ripped off at the shoulder. Solomon is saying it’s better to go up against an angry momma bear than it is to deal with a fool. It’s better to put your life on the line than to engage in any type of discussion with a fool. Specifically, a “fool in his folly.” Folly means silliness. This verse does go hand in hand with v. 10. Solomon’s talking about dealing with the stubbornness and the wrongness of the fool. It is tiresome, burdensome, and draining to be around fools. A person that can take criticism and learn from it is much more approachable and can function significantly better in society. People that cannot take criticism or correction can cause chaos in society. You’ve probably dealt with them. The rules don’t apply to them whether it’s a no smoking area and they’re smoking or they’re parked in a no parking zone and you let them know. It’s better to deal with an angry bear than to deal with fools and if you’ve ever had opportunity to experience what I’m talking about; you’re nodding your head in affirmation.

Let’s talk about forgiveness. In verse 9, Solomon mentioned concealing a transgression is a demonstration of love. When you have that supernatural love in you because of your relationship with God through Christ, forgiveness should come easier and easier. Forgiveness does not have to be asked for to be given. “He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” This goes hand in hand with v. 9. You have to ask yourself, what kind of person would take vengeance against a good deed? David showed Nabal kindness that Nabal repaid with evil. In fact, Nabal’s wife Abigail described him as a, “worthless man . . . Nabal is his name and folly is with him” (1 Sam. 25:25) It’s one thing to repay evil with evil and we’re not supposed to do that, but to repay good with evil is totally anti-Jesus. This is difficult for us to grasp because it seems so ludicrous that someone would get mad over a good deed. Are you familiar with the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished?” David said in Ps 35:12, “They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul.” Where forgiveness is supposed to abound, Solomon says there are those that actually take offense against those that are doing good. This person will not only have zero friends, but he will be most miserable. The phrase, “Evil will not depart from his house,” gives us the indication that the punishment or judgment or whatever penalty comes as a result of opposing good will continue from generation to generation.

Put this on a t-shirt. Solomon has given us many t-shirt or meme worthy quotes and this one is a doozy. “The beginning of strife is like letting water out, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” Great advice and here’s what it means. Have you ever been in a no win argument? No matter what you say, it won’t make a difference? Your words aren’t heard or are dismissed immediately? The person talking to you won’t let you get a work in edge wise? There’s a reason or excuse for everything you say? No responsibility is taken? If you’ve lived for any length of time, you likely have been on the receiving end of such a conversation; perhaps you were the giver. Figure out who these people are. One wrong word, a sentence taken out of context, or a look is all it will take to set this person off and then you’re in it. It’s like you’re on a round-a-bout and you can’t get off. The best thing to do is avoid it all together. In theory, these people should not exist in the church. Once again, I want to point out the greatest hurts and pains in my life have come from the hands of professing believers. I would like to hold out hope that as believers, we want to learn and grow and when people talk to us about whatever an issue might be, that we’re willing to listen and receive the correction that comes as a result of the Holy Spirit working. But that’s not really what Solomon is talking about here.

Those words are like the levies in New Orleans that began to let go as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Once the water started flowing, there was no containing it and the levies gave out. That’s what Solomon is talking about. So his guidance is to avoid those arguments before they start. How do I do that Pastor Ian? Great question. There are some great and not so great ways to make this happen. First, you need to recognize who these people are and what makes them tick. Believe it or not, you may have people in your life that really live to make life terribly miserable for you. There are really no good reasons for this except they most likely are really miserable themselves and cannot understand how you can maintain a good attitude in the midst of adversity. Second, maintain an attitude of prayer for people that you will come into contact with today. Use the opportunities God gives you to share the truth that has taken residence in your heart. Trust that God will give you whatever you need at the time you need it. Third, be patient! God can help you grow in this area. Fourth, don’t give up. Finally, if you think that staying home will help you avoid these kind of people, they’ll come knocking on your door or call you on the phone. This is part of our walk of faith. Now, if you have to deal with these people in a church context, that’s a different animal all together.

We finish today with a quick warning. “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” Is this a verse for today or what? We really are living in the day of the Judges: “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 17:6) “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20) “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.” (Ex. 23:7) It’s like Solomon wrote this today. Our world has been turned upside down in many ways. The righteous are deemed intolerant and judgmental and the biblically defined wicked are not only given free reign, they’re actually praised as being champions of humanity. Don’t get freaked out by this! Understand that this is all allowed by God to serve His greater purpose. We’re still on a mission to share the love of Christ especially in these last days. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:11-13)

I’m assuming that you don’t just throw your opinion out there. I’m assuming that when people attack you or say mean things to you it’s because the love of Christ oozes from every pore of your body. I’m assuming when you interject into a conversation that you are coming from the perspective that the person you’re talking to just might not know something is biblically wrong. You might just be talking to someone that has a secular worldview; someone that listens to the media bias of today: someone that follows the ever changing morals and values of society. You’ve got to remember your audience. Jesus is not telling us to go be a champion against every non-biblical thing going on, but he is telling us to share the truths of God when given the opportunity and if people attack because of that, don’t sweat it – they’re attacking Jesus. I think a lot of people don’t want to listen to us when we share biblical truth is because they don’t see us living a holy life; I think there are a lot of people in the church today that don’t look and act any different than the general public.   And I’ve got the reason for that. Church has become a social organization where it’s something you do. Transformation is not taught or emulated in the pulpits. Discipleship is nearly non-existent and there are little to no expectations for church members and that’s if the church has members. One local church has partners which provides an indication of equality. The pastor is the same as the teacher is the same as the nursery worker is the same as the person who occasionally participates. A church like that is not functioning as a church. There must be a chain of command, there must be structure, there must be procedures and policies or else we fall into the same mindset that was in the day of the Judges, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 17:6)

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

The Wisdom of Silence

30 May

SilenceCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that grandchildren are awesome and are a crown to old men. Grandparents should influence their grandchildren, but God’s design is for parents to raise their children not grandparents raise grandchildren. When I say this, please don’t think that I’m saying it’s sinful, wrong, or unethical for grandparents to raise their kid’s kids. We are in challenging times and we must adapt and overcome, and what a blessing it is to have grandchildren and grandparents in your lives. Excellent speech doesn’t taste good in the mouth of the fool just like speaking nonsense or lies is foreign to someone of high moral character – a quality all Christians should be growing in. Finally, Solomon told us that bribes work like magic, but you shouldn’t have to bribe someone to receive love or forgiveness. Today, we kick off a series of verses that relate to how we interact with others, but don’t seem to follow any particular pattern.

Pro. 17:9-11 says, “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends. A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. A rebellious man seeks only evil,
So a cruel messenger will be sent against him.”

Our first verse seems like a contrary principle from what we’ve already heard. “He who conceals a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” The best way to have peace is to get along with everyone. That seems to be obvious. I’ve often said, you may not want to go on vacation with everyone, but you should be able to get along with others. If you want to maintain or establish a friendship with someone, you’ve got to be willing to overlook the faults of others, just like they need to be willing to overlook your faults. If you’re the one that doesn’t seem to make friends, you’re the only one that doesn’t get invited to the party, when you enter the room everyone else leaves, you’re the one that people don’t want to be around, you have to stop and ask yourself some really hard questions. Is it me? Am I hard to approach? Am I hard to get along with? Am I hard to like? Sometimes we default to, “Well, I’m very outspoken and people just need to deal with it.” “People don’t like me because I’m confident,” or “people don’t like me because I’m a Christian.” Solomon is not talking about a cover up or some other conspiracy, he’s talking about behavior with one another. Not every transgression needs to be punished with death or shunning. That’s what Solomon is saying here.   If something occurred because of forgetfulness, forget it. If something happened because it was an oversight, overlook it. Sometimes people that say others just need to get over something are the very ones holding onto something. That’s what he’s saying. Some things should be let go. There is a place for accountability, but there’s a place for grace and mercy too. One of the worst things you can do in a situation is talk about it with other people. Solomon says it this way, “But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.” As hard as this may be to believe, I have people ask me why other people did something to them. Often, I don’t even know the people to whom they are referring and I cannot imagine why a person would do something. I guess it comes with the territory, but I’m no mind reader. I don’t know why your co-worker has been a jerk to you. I don’t know why your neighbor’s dog seems like he’s out to get you. I don’t know why that stranger cut you off in traffic. I don’t know why your kid is being bullied. I don’t know why that telemarketer keeps calling. I can only chalk it up to the fact that we live in a fallen world and people sometimes don’t act right. It really is that simple. If your neighbor is a jerk, love them anyway. If your co-worker is mean, love them anyway. No good will come of repeating how jerky they are. If someone has an issue with you, don’t you want them to come and talk to you about it? In a society that seems to be offended by any perceived injustice, we need not be so easily offended. In Pro. 10:12 Solomon said, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” One of the marks of a growing believer is that forgiveness comes easily because it’s supernaturally placed. That’s a great indicator that God is working in you.

These next verses are short, sweet, and stand alone. “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” I really like this verse. Although at first glance this might appear to be an endorsement to smack someone around, it’s not. It’s hyperbole – exaggeration used for effect. Rebuke means to sharply criticize. In the spirit of 2 Tim. 2:15, we need to rightly divide the Word of God, so let me qualify this verse. Solomon has said this type of statement before. Someone who has understanding is someone that is continually undergoing the process of gaining wisdom. This type of person sees where you’re coming from and understands the goal. What’s the goal? Being conformed to the image of Christ. God puts all kinds of people in our lives to help us get there. It’s easy to automatically discount the guidance of another because your flesh rears its ugly head and says, “Who do they think they are!” You can hit the fool over the head with a wisdom stick and he still won’t get it because he lacks the fundamental requirement for godly wisdom and that’s God. Without a relationship with Christ, you can’t get to God. Without God, the wisdom someone might possess on a worldly basis is a poor imitation of godly wisdom. That’s why Solomon says a fool will not understand wisdom even if you try to beat it into him.

Solomon talks next about a rebel with a cause. “A rebellious man seeks only evil, so a cruel messenger will be sent against him.” You want to be a rebel? Rebellious means difficult to control or unmanageable. This rebel may be rebellious toward God, other people, or the government. It’s a general rebellious state and goes along with wickedness and ungodliness present in a fool. I think most people recognize rebellion and what it means, but what about “the cruel messenger” that’s going to be sent out against him? We typically think of cruel as a bad thing and Elvis told us, “Don’t be cruel.” All sin is rebellion against God and if we understand that principle then it seems likely we’re talking about a heavenly messenger. Ps. 78:49 says, “He sent upon them His burning anger, fury and indignation and trouble, a band of destroying angels.” We’re also familiar with the angel of death that came upon the firstborn of Egypt. What we can say for sure is that all rebellion against God will be dealt with in a completely just way.

The best way to obtain peace is to get along with everyone. That may not be the easiest thing, but as much as it’s up to you, be at peace with everyone. Love keeps no record of wrong doing so if you are wronged or feel you’ve been wronged, it’s better to let love cover it than it is to go around blabbing about how you’ve been wronged by humanity. It’s a lot easier to deal with wise people than with fools. Somebody that has understanding will get what you’re saying, but no matter how much talking you do, a fool just won’t get it. Rebellious people seek evil, but rest assured, judgment is coming.

Have I Told You about My Grandchildren?

23 May

KiKi, Granddad, KinseyCheckout the podcast here.

Last week we learned that lying is one of those character traits that you do not want to be known for. We can’t confuse our version of the truth with the absolute truth of Scripture. As believers, we must uphold the truth in our speech and in our actions. We have an obligation to help the needy, but our primary mission is to live our lives authentically for Christ which means sharing the truth of who Christ is. Never glory in the misfortune of others. We love when mercy and grace are extended to us and we must endeavor to exercise mercy and grace to others and balance that with accountability for our actions. Sometimes that can be a tough balancing act, but I assure you, if you follow the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the principles of Scripture, you won’t go wrong. This morning, Solomon talks about the joy of grand kids.

Pro. 17:6-8 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers. Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.”

Here’s another crown. Solomon spoke of the gray head being a crown and now he adds another one. “Grandchildren are the crown of old men.” What an awesome verse that doesn’t mean what you think it does. Solomon’s not talking about just having a boat load of grand-kids as if that in itself is some kind of achievement. He’s talking about something much more important, something significantly more rewarding, something that is eternal. The Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 Jo. 4) By association, it stands to reason that if your children walk with God, then your grandchildren will too. We’re not talking guarantees here, but probabilities. That’s the angle Solomon is taking. Remember, he’s giving all these instructions to his son. The Hebrew patriarch Jacob thought he had lost his son Joseph. Genesis tells us that Joseph was sold into slavery and eventually found himself in Egypt where he rose to be the #2 guy in the land right below Pharaoh. After they were reunited, Israel (Jacob) said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.” (Gen. 48:11) It was a double blessing. Grandchildren can be like that. The normal grandparent loves their grandchildren. The beauty of grandchildren is that you can love them and care for them and then they can go home with their parents. God’s design for the family was not for grandparents to raise grandchildren. That’s the job of the mom and the dad that God designed to be married to one another for as long as they both shall live.

Of course grandparents will influence their grand-kids and that’s also by design. The Apostle Paul praised Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice for playing a significant part in the sincere faith that Timothy had. (2 Tim. 1:5) The crown Solomon is talking about is the joy to see grandchildren walking in truth serving God with authenticity and passion. In Phil. 4:1 Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” He told the Thessalonians, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” (1 Thes. 2:19) There is another side too. Not all grandchildren bring joy to their grandparents. Sometimes it’s heartache. Keep in mind, we’re talking in a biblical context. We don’t pretend that all is awesome in the world and there are never challenges we face. It’s great to hear wonderful things about our grandchildren and the logic that Solomon uses is because, “The glory of sons is their fathers.” Behind every good kid is a good parent. Again, there is no guarantee that the awesomeness of a parent will be transferred to a kid. And even if your father was not a player in your life or was a horrible dad, that doesn’t mean your life is over and you’ll never amount to anything. We’re still talking a biblical context here and don’t forget who the great cycle breaker is. Don’t underestimate the power of Jesus in a person’s life. As we have said so many times before, having Jesus in your life ought to make a difference.

Solomon now gives us an awesome comparison. “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.” Remember in Solomon’s mind, a fool is synonymous with wickedness. Fools lack wisdom and understanding. This is a tremendous word picture so let’s really look at. Excellent speech literally means a lip of abundance. That’s doesn’t mean fat lips, it’s a word picture. It’s a comparison and a contrast and it’s between a fool and a noble man. Noble can mean being born into a royal family or being part of the highest class of people in society.  Here it means having fine personal qualities or high moral principles. Have you ever been around someone that makes as if he knows what he’s talking about, but really doesn’t? As you talk with them, it’s obvious they’re making stuff up as they go along. Excellent speech doesn’t taste good in the mouth of the fool. Excellent speech is totally foreign to the fool. In fact, when I think of this, I picture the fool having the same reaction as those funny videos of a baby tasting a lemon, or how you respond after taking cough medicine of NyQuil. Having excellent speech and speaking wisdom is completely out of character for the fool. An area that is pretty prolific today is the nonsense people spout off on social media. We’ve got all sorts of people speaking authoritatively on topics they really have no clue about. We’ve got people saying the dumbest things and they’re recorded for posterity for all to read. All you have to do is Google dumb things people say.

What’s particularly interesting to me is the number of people who claim no affiliation with God use the Bible to either condemn or endorse certain views. Ps. 50:16, “But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth?” I think the top one people like to quote is don’t judge. It’s ludicrous for a fool to speak the incredible truths of God. It’s as equally foreign for someone of nobility to speak lies. It would certainly apply to a prince or king, but Solomon is talking about people with character. Is. 32:8, “But the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble plans he stands.” People of high moral character naturally speak like they have that great character trait because it’s who they are in Christ. They don’t have to think, “Okay, now what did I tell that person so I can keep my story straight.” You can’t be partially truthful, or truthful much of the time. You either choose to tell the truth or not.

This next verse isn’t very charming. “A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers.” This verse seems to be a contradiction to good ethical principles so let’s take a closer look at it. A bribe is defined as the practice of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in discharge of his or her public or legal duties. A bribe is therefore illegal and since it’s illegal, it is unbiblical. It used to be that if something were unbiblical it was generally illegal, but that has changed in recent years. The legality of some issues is irrespective of biblical principles. But bribes are illegal and unbiblical so what is Solomon saying? The charm Solomon refers to literally means stone of favor. Bribes can take numerous forms, but the item offered always has some value, at least to the one attempting to be enticed. Don’t confuse bribery with blackmail or extortion. The briber is attempting to get some favor from someone that is in a position to grant that favor. Solomon is saying that there are people of means that think they can get what they want by dangling a precious gem or something else of value in the face of someone that can grant them favor. This is playing off of the often misquoted 1 Tim 6:10 that tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Maybe you’ve heard it said that everyone has a price. Don’t sell out; don’t be enticed by quick riches. This verse would also apply to gifts used to appease anger. Has your spouse ever given you flowers after an argument? Have your kids ever willingly taken on a chore to appease your anger? It’s the same principle. You shouldn’t have to bribe anyone to earn their love or forgiveness. Solomon is not legitimizing or condemning a bribe, he’s simply stating fact. One theologian said, “A bribe works like magic.” When you put it like that, you can see how true this is. People who give gifts often receive special favors.

Grandchildren are awesome and are a crown to old men. Grandparents should influence their grandchildren, but God’s design is for parents to raise children not grandparents raise grandchildren. When I say this, please don’t think that I’m saying it’s sinful, wrong, or unethical for grandparents to raise their kid’s kids. We are in challenging times and we must adapt and overcome, and what a blessing it is to have grandchildren and grandparents in your lives. Excellent speech doesn’t taste good in the mouth of the fool just like speaking nonsense or lies is foreign to someone of high moral character – a quality all Christians should be growing in. Finally, Solomon told us that bribes work like magic, but you shouldn’t have to bribe someone to receive love or forgiveness.

The Lips of the Liar

16 May

LiarCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about life in the home. Is God the center of your home and there’s peace or is there weeping and gnashing of teeth? It’s much better to be at peace and be hungry than to have all you want with stress. There’s no shame in serving others, in fact one of Jesus’ purposes during His earthly life was to give us examples of serving others. A wise servant has more worth than a shameful son, but that doesn’t mean the son is worthless. How do you fare in God’s heart tests? Are you looking forward to getting a participation trophy? Are you hoping to be graded on the curve or are you allowing the trials of life to refine and purify you trusting in God’s glorious plans for you? This morning, Solomon talks about the destructiveness of the tongue.

In our passage today Solomon says, “An evildoer listens to wicked lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker; he who rejoices in calamity will not go unpunished.” (Pro. 17:4-5)

There are people that live a life of lies. Some people believe their kids never do anything wrong. Some people believe everything they read online. Is this what Solomon is talking about? Have you ever met that guy? He’s the one that has done everything you’ve done, only better. Back in March 1985, there was a young, unknown comedian that appeared on the Johnny Carson Show.  He began his routine by stating he was a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous. He said that he didn’t always tell lies, but one day he told a lie and he got away with it. That man would later go on to marry Morgan Fairchild. This guy’s lies were outrageously unbelievable. This is a guy whose life is characterized by falsehood and deceit. Author Daniel Wallace said, “A storyteller makes up things to help other people; a liar makes up things to help himself.” (Daniel Wallace, The Kings and Queens of Roam) This is the type of guy Solomon is talking about. Click on the link: https://youtu.be/BAdroH89CsM

 “An evildoer listens to wicked lips.” The worthless man from Pro. 16:27 dug up evil. The perverse man in Pro. 16:28 spread strife. The slanderer separated intimate friends in Pro. 16:29. A man of violence enticed his neighbor in Pro. 16:30. Now Solomon talks about an evildoer. It’s really a double slam because evildoer and liar are one in the same person. The evildoer listens to lies and then goes on to tell them. Liars tell lies, but they also believe them which is kind of odd. A traveler comes to a fork in the road which leads to two villages. In one village the people always tell lies, and in the other village the people always tell the truth. The traveler needs to conduct business in the village where everyone tells the truth. A man from one of the villages is standing in the middle of the fork, but there is no indication of which village he is from. The traveler approaches the man and asks him one question. From the villager’s answer, he knows which road to follow. What did the traveler ask? The answer is, “Which road goes to your village?” If the person is from the truth telling village, he’s pointing to the truth village because he always tells the truth. If the person if from the lying village, he’d point to the truth village because he’s a liar. I know it’s a silly example, but there are people out there who really do not tell the truth.

Aside from breaking the Ten Commandments and numerous biblical principles, lying is very difficult. It’s hard to be a good liar because you have to remember the lies you told and who you told them to. That’s why it’s pretty easy to identify a liar. Solomon is talking about someone that is a habitual liar. They tell lies and they listen to lies. I’m not sure of anything that will ruin a relationship faster than being untruthful. Lying leads to a breach of trust, a loss of confidence, an unwillingness to listen. Once trust is broken, it’s extraordinarily difficult to build back up.

In another somewhat strange transition, Solomon changes subjects. “He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker.” Who would do this? It’s hard for us to really grasp what being poor is. For the past 20 years, the Census Bureau reported that there are about 30 million Americans living in poverty. There are roughly 328 million people in the U.S. which equates to about 9% of the population living in poverty. According to a Poverty Pulse poll conducted by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the vast majority of the general public defines poverty as being homeless and not being able to meet basic needs. According to the Heritage Foundation, “While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. The average poor person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines.” For comparison sake, to be considered impoverished in Romania as an individual, you make about $133 a month. In the U.S. it’s about $990 a month. Poor families in the U.S. do struggle, but according to reports, the struggle is not just for food and housing, but to pay for air conditioning, cable or satellite, internet, and cell phones. According to this same report, “In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as an Xbox or a PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household had a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.”

Why do I go into all this? There’s been a move in the church that we must be the hands and feet of Jesus and there are some that define that as feeding the poor and that’s it. They don’t preach a transformative power of Christ. They teach that you must demonstrate your faith by doing works that affect a small percentage of people. There is little to no discipleship, a lack of strong biblical teaching, and a lack of accountability. Spiritual growth and maturity are reduced to a faith that is manifested by works. Please understand, works are important in our faith. We demonstrate our faith by our works. Take the time and read Ja. 2:14-26. Yes, works are important, but without faith, works are dead. You can’t just assume that since people are involved in working or serving their community that there is a credible relationship with Christ. At the same time, you can’t profess a credible relationship with Christ and never lift a finger in service to Christ. Please don’t forget the fundamental purpose of the church found in the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19-20. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That’s the primary mission of the church. Contrary to popular belief, our primary mission is not to conduct acts of mercy in the community. What’s really curious is that when you Google acts of mercy, the first 14 links are to Catholic organizations. What I cannot find supported in Scripture is the principle of the church conducting acts of mercy, but there are examples in which individuals should demonstrate these merciful acts. At the judgment recorded in Matt. 25:31-46, Jesus speaks of feeding, clothing, and visiting people, as well as a number of other things that we call acts of mercy. The sheep represent believers and they ask Jesus, “When did we see You hungry and feed You?” Jesus has separated the sheep from the goats placing the sheep on his right hand and the goats on His left. One of the key phrases of this passage often ignored, is the phrase, “These brothers of Mine,” in v. 40. Other translations say, “My brethren.” Jesus was relating serving needy believers with serving Him. Over the years, this has come to mean needy in general. I say all this to say you must have an understanding of what we are to do in the context of Scripture. James was incredibly accurate by saying you cannot separate works and faith. You cannot have spiritual maturity and transformation without resultant works of faith. At the same time, acts of work without spiritual transformation are simply works. Before anyone freaks out, there are biblical principles that support helping people. Gal. 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” 1 Tim. 6:18, “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good  works, to be generous and ready to share.” Titus 3:8 says, “be careful to engage in good deeds.” Based on these and other Scriptures, you cannot conclude the mark of righteousness of a church is to be engaged in doing good works in the community. Now, I want to be clear, I am not against doing any event or outreach that does good works for people that are in need. However, there must be an intentional process in mind to demonstrate the love of Christ that culminates in a Gospel message of some kind. I do not know of any example in Scripture, where someone saw the good works of another and concluded that Jesus is the Christ. We use that demonstration of the love of Christ as a springboard to share our faith. I don’t want to lead a church that is active in the community and dead in our hearts. I don’t want us to have the false idea that giving 500 meals a month or giving 100 winter coats out, or reroofing someone’s house means something.

Listen to the severity of what Solomon says, “He who mocks the poor taints his maker; he who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.” In Pro. 14:31 Solomon warned against oppressing the poor and now he adds mocking. Jesus told the disciples, “For you always have the poor with you.” (Matt. 26:11) Solomon is talking about making light of someone’s misfortune. There is some connection with that misfortune and a resultant calamity. If you get excited or are happy about someone’s misfortune, there’s a problem with that. To put in a context we might understand more easily, have you ever thought something along the lines of, “They got what they deserved.” It’s easy to make that conclusion and ignore the grace that has been extended to you. This is a very difficult concept to apply because we are so blind to what is occurring in our own life, but we can so clearly see in the lives of others. In Matt. 7:3-5 Jesus talks about removing the log from your own eye. People have wrongly concluded this means you can’t point out other’s shortcomings or sins. It doesn’t mean that at all.

Lying is one of those character traits that you do not want to be known for. I think sometimes we confuse our truth with real truth. As believers, we must uphold the truth in our speech and in our actions. We have an obligation to help the needy, but our primary mission is to live our lives authentically for Christ which means sharing the truth of who Christ is. Never glory in the misfortune of others. We love when mercy and grace are extended to us and we must endeavor to exercise mercy and grace to others and balance that with accountability for our actions. Sometimes that can be a tough balancing act, but I assure you, if you follow the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and through Scripture, you won’t go wrong.

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