Good Kid, Bad Kid

23 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Tale of Two Women

16 Mar

Dame Folly - ProverbsYou can listen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creative Genius

9 Mar

CreateYou can listen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leadership Wisdom

2 Mar

LeadershipYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom Speaks

23 Feb

speakYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scarlet Letter

16 Feb

Scarlet LetterYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Walk Down Memory Lane

9 Feb

Memory LaneCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that there are six things the Lord hates and the seventh that is an abomination to Him. The qualities Solomon listed are ones that should obviously be avoided and with the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s not only possible, it’s expected. This morning, Solomon wraps up the instructions regarding sexual purity and provides the benefits of following the principles taught.

To set up Solomon’s message, take the time to read Pro. 6:20-35.

Here are some great reminders. Who doesn’t need to be reminded of important truths? Solomon takes the times to reiterate what he has already said. Anytime Scripture is repeated, we really need to pay attention to what is being said. The reminders here are no exception. Instead of going through them one at a time, let me paint with a broad brush. In context, the understanding in these instructions come from the vantage point that they are being given by loving, godly, passionate, authentic believers in Christ. They’re not instructions to be taught only, but followed. Solomon personifies his instructions by the using the words guide, watch, and talk. This confirms the idea that the instructions are not just helpful hints, but essential elements in the walk of faith. The principles apply even for those that do not walk with Christ. He also uses the words lamp and way to indicate that the instructions will guide you into doing the right thing. If you’re not sure what is right or wrong, follow Solomon’s instructions. Allow biblical instructions to light the path that you walk on so you won’t trip and fall on the rocky path of life and so you don’t blindly walk through life. When you’re driving and visibility is reduced due to rain or fog, you slow down. When it’s dark, you turn on the lights so you can see. This is the principle Solomon is telling us. He’s giving us the tools needed to remain pure and holy in relationships.

Here’s Solomon’s reasoning. If you follow the instruction he provides, something magical happens. It’s found in v. 24, “To keep you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” Keep here means avoid. These principles are designed to help you avoid, “the evil woman” and, “the smooth tongue of the adulteress.” It looks like these are two separate women that are dangerous for different reasons. “Do not desire her beauty in your heart nor let her capture you with her eyelids.” This woman is not ugly. It’s no secret that men are drawn to the visuals of a woman. You’ve heard the phrase coined by English poet Sir Thomas Overbury in his poem entitled “A Wife” in 1613 that beauty is only skin deep and that is absolutely true. If all you want is beauty, you’re going to find yourself wanting as the beauty fades. Don’t get trapped by her beauty, by her flattery, or her honey dripping lips. Once you’re trapped, escape is difficult. It seems pretty clear not to get yourself trapped by the honey lipped harlot, but look at v. 26 for something not so clear. Exact translation from the Hebrew is difficult and I am not a Hebrew scholar, but experts seem to conclude the best translation is, “Although the price of a prostitute may be as much as a loaf of bread, another man’s wife hunts the precious life.” The key in understanding this verse is with the phrase, “the precious life.” A prostitute expects a small payment in return for a service, but the adulteress wants the man’s life. Neither is acceptable and it goes to show us the ridiculousness of engaging in activities outside of marriage. One commentator remarked, “Going to the immoral woman is the quintessential act of self-degradation.” Listen to Solomon’s reasoning and incredible word picture in vs. 27-28, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” These are rhetorical questions. The answer is of course not. If you play with fire, you will get burned. Just to be clear, Solomon says, “So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her will not go unpunished.”

It looks like Solomon is shifting gears I the next verses, but he’s not. Verse 30 says, “Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry.” Hunger is the motivator to steal, not greed. Most people have compassion for people that are hungry and would understand why one would steal food. Just because you understand something doesn’t mean it’s right. Look at what happens to this guy in v. 31. Not only does he have to pay back what he stole, he has to repay it sevenfold. In other words, if you steal a loaf of bread, seven loaves must be paid back. So even though there’s compassion, there must be restitution. According to the Law, if you couldn’t pay the restitution the thief would be sold. The rest of the verse says the thief will also forfeit the wealth of this house. Solomon brings it back to adultery. It is nonsensical to think that someone would do such a thing of folly and v 32 confirms that, “The one who commit adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he would destroy himself does it.” Happiness and joy will not be found, but look what will. “Wounds and disgrace and his reproach will not be blotted out.” This most likely refers to the injuries sustained at the hands of the husband that finds out you’ve been carrying on with his wife. There is a certain stigma associated with adultery. No sin is too great for God and this is true for adultery. You have probably figured out by now that people are not as forgiving as God. When trust is broken, it’s very difficult to get back, not impossible, but very difficult. Forgiveness is given and often I hear complaints from the one that committed the adultery that the other spouse doesn’t trust them. I typically respond, “Too bad!” That’s the consequences for your actions.

Verses 34-35 are in response to the adultery. The assumption is this response is from the angry husband of the woman that engaged in adultery. Jealous means fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions. We don’t think of a spouse as a possession, but even in a marriage ceremony, I ask, “Who gives this woman to this man?” The standard response is, “Her mother and I.” There is a sense of belonging in marriage, an exclusiveness that is reserved for a man and a woman. We must think of marriage as God thinks of it: the union of one man and one woman that become one flesh. That’s why adultery is so damaging. You’re ripping apart the flesh. That’s why, “Jealously enrages a man.” It’s understandable and the rage the husband feels is an unstoppable force that cannot be satisfied. There is no possibility of restitution for what was taken cannot be returned. No amount of money will make it right. Song 8:6, “Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord.”

Adultery may seem like a deal breaker, may seem like an end to a relationship. It doesn’t have to be. Men, be very wary of a woman that approaches you in a way that would jeopardize the relationship with your wife. If you’re carrying on with someone you’re not married to, stop! There is a chance for reconciliation if you’ll allow the Lord to be a part of it.

God’s Hatred for Sin

2 Feb

HateYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we learned about the scoundrel. We saw that wickedness and worthlessness are evident by a number of characteristics that should not be present in the life of an authentic believer. The scoundrel is always devising evil. This morning, we hit a passage of Scripture that might be familiar to you and is contrary to the message some “religious” people tout that God is only love.

Pro. 6:16-19 says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

God is a hater. Okay, let’s qualify that. Can a loving and all powerful God hate something? Before we get into specifics, people who make the claim that God is only love have not studied the Bible. God has a nearly infinite list of awesome characteristics that we should strive to emulate. He is patient, kind, compassionate, empathetic, creative, understanding, decisive, dependable, generous, gentle, humble, strong, loyal, meek, just, balanced, truthful, wise, and totally awesome. We could go on and on.

So we come to this passage of seven things that God hates. This list is not all inclusive as we have other Scriptures listing additional things that God hates. Before we get to the list, let’s see how Solomon sets it up. “There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him.” Hate means an intense dislike for or a strong aversion towards something or someone. Abomination is more difficult to define and the best I can come up with is it means detestable or loathsome. Just because there is a list, do not assume that some sins are okay or not as bad as others. You may have heard sin broken up into mortal and venial sin. Venial sin is a lesser sin that is forgivable while mortal sin ruptures a person’s link with God’s saving grace. Don’t confuse this list of seven with the seven deadly sins. The seven deadly sins may lead to mortal sin. 1 Jo. 5:16-17 tells us, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” One denomination uses this passage in their statement of faith to justify the concept that some sins are more severe than others. I quote, “The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”

So let’s clear this up. Sin is sin in God’s eyes. Rom. 6:23a tells us that, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin leads to death. “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8) God does not want us to sin, and He knows that we still have a sin nature and a natural desire to sin. That’s why He gives us the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to overcome that nature. No sin is too great for God to forgive. Yes, the wages of sin is death – both spiritual and physical, BUT, “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 6:23b)

So let’s check out the list. Remember biblical lists often are ordered in severity or importance. Sometimes the lists go from bad to worse and this is the case here. As we go through the list, look for the body parts mentioned that generally flow from the top of the head to the feet. Notice also that the first five refer to general moral characteristics such as pride, deceit, violence, etc. “Haughty eyes.” This phrase is also translated a proud look. Haughty means arrogantly superior or disdainful. It is a self importance and a putting oneself ahead of everyone and everything else. It is the exact opposite of the primary virtue we should have that Paul mentions in Eph. 4:2 when he says, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” Remember that, “God is opposed to the proud” according to Ja. 4:6. Solomon mentions pride numerous times throughout this book.

“A lying tongue.” All lies are sin. I would say this includes exaggeration, but not hyperbole. Saying you caught a 30 pound bass is when you caught nothing is a lie. Saying you’re so tired you could sleep for a year is hyperbole – an exaggeration used for effect and is not to be taken literally. Don’t lie – ever. Solomon is talking about a person that has no regard for truth, they consistently lie; they are habitual liars.

“And hands that shed innocent blood.” Innocent does not mean perfect in this passage, it means not guilty of a crime or offense. Solomon is describing a person who is prone to violence. Someone that would commit murder if the circumstances presented themselves. This describes someone that has little or no value for human life. They would engage in violence over a presumed wrong, someone always looking for a fight.

“A heart that devises wicked plans.”Always scheming or devising ways in which to gain an advantage over another person. Following the rules or laws is done when it’s convenient or serves a specific purpose. If the rules don’t meet those criteria, they’re ignored.

“Feet that run rapidly to evil.” This is an excitement or eagerness to sin. This is someone that evaluates the opportunity to sin. It’s someone that receives extra change and considers is good luck that he got away with something. The benefit is secondary. It’s like the speeder that gets a warning and not a citation. It’s not that no fine has to be paid although that’s good. The real joy comes from getting away with breaking the law. If you do some casual research into these characteristics, you’ll find they are consistent with sociopathic behavior. That’s not consistent with the godliness that is expected of authentic believers. All of us likely have committed one or more of these things that God hates, but before you get all antsy about this, Solomon is talking about consistent, habitual behavior.

Here’s the break out in the last two on the list. While each of the seven in the list are moral character flaws, the last two represent something a bit different. “A false witness who utters lies.”  Solomon already said in v. 17 that God hates, “a lying tongue.” This one is different. Literally, this is someone that lies under oath or in direct examination. Think about a courtroom. Lying under oath is called perjury which is punishable as a felony under the criminal code. Lying when you promise to tell the truth undermines the fabric of society. Finally, “And one who spreads strife among brothers.” Strife means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. This can happen in the workplace, in the school, in your neighborhood, and in the church. This is an attempt to drive people apart. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re making other people unhappy. Some folks don’t know they’re unhappy until they’re told. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion in the church and even here at C4. The common thread is there is no desire for resolution or reconciliation. Someone gets upset and tries to get others upset too. If and when I hear of it, my practice is to make contact and see what I can do to resolve whatever perceived or real issue there is. I’m often told everything is fine, yet they separate themselves from the body. It’s rarely an individual thing. It affects the spouse, the kids, the person’s friends, others that know him; it affects relationships.

What is particularly troubling is that disagreement or conflict may occur in other facets of life like school, work, with coaches or players on a team, with neighbors, but rarely does that result in any change. A child can be bullied at school and the child continues to go. You can work for the worst boss in the world, but you continue to go to work. You can have a neighbor that complains about everything you do: they don’t like your kids, your pets, the way you park your car or your Christmas decorations, but you don’t move. Someone doesn’t speak to you at church and you quit. Someone doesn’t like your new profile picture and you quit. Yes, it does get that trivial in the church. We’ve become unwilling to be a people that work things out; that acknowledge people’s differences with understanding – we have unattainable expectations for everyone else and none for ourselves. This is a character flaw that God does not approve of.

God is indeed a God of love, but that doesn’t mean he loves everything. This list of Solomon’s is not all inclusive. God hates all sin, yet loves the one committing sin. We must learn to overcome the faults of others and love people regardless of what they do or do not do. We must love unconditionally and love people to lead them to an authentic and passionate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

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Wordless Wednesday

28 Jan

4 Wheel Bus

The Scoundrel

26 Jan

SCoundrelYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about the value of hard work. He talked about being surety for a neighbor and how unwise that may be. While debt is not necessarily a sin, taking on debt that you cannot repay most assuredly is a sin. If you’re in debt, work hard to pay off that debt to get out from under the lender. Solomon told us to consider the hard working ant that labors even though no one is in charge; they do what needs to get done. Solomon also said don’t be lazy. This morning, Solomon continues his warnings against laziness and uses some really harsh words.

Pro. 6:12-15 says, “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth, who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers; who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, who spreads strife. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.”

Here are some character traits to avoid. Solomon kicks this passage off with a description of a worthless and wicked man. Worthless is also translated scoundrel, naughty, and a man of Belial. Contextually accurate definitions are important when studying Scripture. Belial is a general term in the Old Testament meaning wicked. In the New Testament, the term is synonymous with Satan. Solomon says this is what a person is, no debate or discussion. Worthless means having no real value and wicked means ungodly or evil. That seems extraordinarily harsh. Please understand this is not the intrinsic value of a person. Everyone has value, but Solomon is saying there comes a point that a person is characterized by what he does. Jesus died for any and everyone and He can change the path of any person. He can take the hardest of people and transform them, but it has to be completed in accordance with God’s character. God will not subvert the free will of men. I believe He does all He can to draw people into a relationship with Him through His one and only Son. The people Solomon refers to are not worthless and wicked by happenstance. It is because of what they do. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

How can we spot this type of person? Thankfully, Solomon gives us some clues as to how to identify a worthless or wicked person. There are six indicators for this type of person so they should be pretty easy to spot. First, this person, “Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” That’s a curious description. How does one walk with his mouth? It means the manner or habit of life that I so often talk about. Having a perverse mouth is who the person is; it is his character, it is how he is defined. Perverse means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave unacceptably. Obstinate means stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action despite attempts to persuade one to do so. God, through the writing of this book, tells us that this is the type of behavior they want to engage in. Ungodly behavior is a choice.

The second clue is this person, “winks with the eye.” In this context, it isn’t a friendly gesture. It is a subtle, crafty expression. It is meant to convey a message to an accomplice, a cohort in crime. Third and fourth he “signals with his feet” and “points with his fingers.” Signal here literally means scrape with the feet. The jury is still out on this one, but this phrase seems to give an indication of singling out a victim. Fifth, “with perversity in his heart continually devises evil.” Remember that perversity means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. The heart is the seat of the soul. This guy is always planning the destruction, plotting evil for the sake of evil. Always looking to see who he can take advantage of. Finally this person, “spreads strife.”   Strife is a word we hear on occasion. It means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. Conflict is not always bad, but here it gives an indication that strife is the goal. We see these kinds of people at work, at school, at family reunions, and yes . . . even at church. When you see them, you might think of going the opposite direction. These people are always ticked off about something or someone and they can’t wait to get you onboard with them. We’ll see next week that God really hates it when this goes on in any context and that would include with people who profess to be believers. These are the outward indicators of wickedness.

Solomon’s conclusion regarding these people is set off by the word therefore. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.” Calamity is an event that causes great and sudden damage or distress. Remember this is a worthless or wicked person. The pain and suffering he causes will be meted out to him. His destruction is certain. It comes without warning; the chances for transformation are no more. All the opportunities to turn to the One that can provide deliverance is gone. “He will be broken.” This is a result of what the person has done. Don’t forget the intentional nature of his behavior. The word broken means to break into pieces like a ship that is wrecked. There’s no hope for repair. The pieces cannot be put back together. There is complete ruin. “There will be no healing.” No healing because of what he has done because that is who he is. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that outward actions are a direct indication of who controls you. People like this do exist, but they shouldn’t exist in the church. Now I’m not talking that they wouldn’t be welcomed in the church and loved on or ministered to. If Jesus lives in your heart, this type of behavior is not just reprehensible; it is a complete mischaracterization of the power of Christ. I’ve often said it and I will say it again. If you’re breathing, there is hope. The only hope is for a complete transformation is giving Christ the freedom to do so. The character traits Solomon has written about are in direct opposition to the fruit of the Spirit which is, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) That’s why it’s so painful to see Christians behave in a manner that is contrary to what they claim.

The wicked person who is characterized by his deceit, his malice, his perversity, and his desire to do evil will be broken instantly with no hope for repair. There are people like this around and you may even know someone like this. Perhaps God will give you an opportunity to share the life changing power of Christ with them.

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