God is Always on the Throne

Check out the podcast here.

Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We started by looking at the parental relationship and the implications of being a bad child. Solomon spoke of being a virtuous king and the responsibility that comes when you’re the one determining punishment. We saw some important aspects of our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to conduct a critical self-evaluation of your faith and also suggest you ask someone you love and trust to provide you with some feedback regarding your walk of faith. This morning, we’re going to look at who is ultimately in charge.

Our passage today comes from Pro. 21:1-9. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.

throneSo, who’s in charge? That’s a great question that many people ask, particularly in times of national or international crisis. Solomon reminds us that, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” What’s that really mean? Are we all just puppets in a crazy game controlled by God? The answer lies in the very difficult concept of God’s sovereignty. I really believe that if you take God out of the equation, life would implode. It is God who keeps everything in motion. In Is. 46:10 God said, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

Ultimately, God’s purpose will always be accomplished. Don’t confuse sovereignty with God’s will. When we consider the model prayer offered by Jesus in Matt. 6, He prayed that God’s, “will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is not always accomplished here. One significant example is people dying without receiving the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 3:9 tells us that God is, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” So, what can be gained by people dying apart from Christ? I can honestly say I don’t know. God uses everything at His disposal to accomplish His ultimate goals. He often uses you and me to accomplish it. That is the privilege of free will. God wants us to choose to do His will just like you want your kids to choose to do what’s right instead of forcing them to. Sometimes you might use enticements or rewards for your kids to do what you want. You supervisors and managers will sometimes do the same thing – a bonus or time off. But it really does your heart good to see people do what’s right because it’s the right thing and they choose to do what is right. When you consider a higher plain, God will lead and guide people to do what will ultimately accomplish His plan. For us, it’s spending eternity with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I don’t know what lies beyond that and does it really matter?

 We saw God’s way, now look at man’s way. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.” Back in Pro. 16:2 Solomon said, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.”  There’s not much difference in the two verses. Evaluating the motives of people can be very difficult. I confess that I sometimes am not a good discerner of people. I tend to believe what people say at face value, but I do learn to read them. When you consider motives, you can do the right thing for the right reason, the right thing for the wrong reason, and you can do the wrong thing for the right reason. Does that sound like gibberish? Let me give you some examples to help you understand. Here’s the right thing for the wrong reason. You financially support the work of the ministry because you can take a tax deduction. Your kids are good and obedient all day so they gain favor to go out that night. You volunteer to teach a class so everyone sees how smart you are.  What about the wrong thing for the right reason? You steal food to feed your family. You lie to someone to avoid hurting their feelings. You withhold the truth from someone so you don’t alienate them. The best and wisest thing to do is the right thing for the right reason. You give to the work of the ministry knowing that ministry costs money and God has blessed you with financial resources. You speak the truth in love regardless of the consequences knowing that truth sets people free. That’s where God wants us. If you’re not sure, pray like David when he said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24)

This leads right into the next verse. “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” When I read this verse, I immediately thought about Samuel and Saul. In 1 Sam. 15, the prophet Samuel was sent to anoint Saul as king of Israel. Samuel gave Saul this command from the Lord: “Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” (1 Sam. 15:3) Those instructions are clear. So, Saul got together his troops and went to battle and defeated the Amalekites. The Bible says, “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” (1 Sam. 15:9) Saul is the king of Israel and blamed the people for his disobedience. The conclusion is found in 1 Sam. 15:22-28 that tells us by one act of disobedience, Saul is stripped of his throne. Obedience is the utmost and highest principle in the Bible. As I often say, everything we do can be placed securely under the umbrella of obedience. Giving, prayer, Bible reading and study, serving God and others, as well as a boatload of other commands and principles in Scripture.

Let’s review some principles already covered. “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, is sin.” Don’t be proud or your torch will be snuffed out. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.” The way to gain advantage in this world is to work hard. The word diligent means careful and conscientious in one’s work. The assumption is that the work is not sinful and the hard work puts you in a favorable position. If you’re hasty: that is, you cut corners, take the easy way instead of the right way – you’ll come to poverty. “The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death.” Dishonesty and fraud get you nowhere. Cheating is stealing whether it’s knowledge or material goods. “The violence of the wicked will drag them away, because they refuse to act with justice.” This verse is tied to the previous one. Solomon is talking about the violence that the wicked use against others. The violence they engage in will come right back to them. “The way of a guilty man is crooked, but as for the pure, his conduct is upright.” It’s a contrast between the guilty/wicked and the godly/pure. Evil people do evil things. Righteous people do righteous things. The only power in us to do what is good, right, holy, and pure comes because God has granted us the power of the Holy Spirit when we accept the gift of His one and only Son. When we go back to Genesis, we learn that. “The Lord said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” (Gen. 7:1) Noah was righteous and that’s why he was spared.

Let’s spend some time on the next one. Solomon says, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” He makes a comparison between two things. Living in a relatively uncomfortable place at peace or living in a comfortable place with an uncomfortable situation. No one lives on a roof, right? In biblical times, the roof of a dwelling was typically flat and often served many purposes. In 1 Sam. 9:25, “Samuel spoke with Saul on the roof.” In 2 Sam. 11:2, David walked around the roof where he saw a beautiful woman bathing. In Ps. 102:7, David was, “like a lonely bird on a housetop.” In Acts 10:9, “Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.” The roof was a great location for prayer, meditation, meetings, and was sometimes used as a place to sleep.

It’s better to be on that rooftop than it is with a contentious woman. Just what is a contentious woman? This woman is quarrelsome, prone to argue, disagreeable, and is no fun to be around. What does she argue about? Anything and everything. She fights against everything done. She is desperate to be the boss, to be in charge and to control everything that happens in the home. If the man tries to exercise his authority, she gets all the more contentious. He finds it more comfortable to retreat to the roof. As we have seen, Proverbs is a book of wisdom and perhaps this is the wisest thing for the man to do. Go to the roof where he won’t be tempted to engage in her contentions. Little is accomplished by arguing with someone that will not hear the other side, will not listen to reason, and will not accept what they consider defeat. I can imagine that it’s difficult living with some spouses. I know that some people come from dysfunctional homes where the love of God was not prevalent. I know it may be tough to be at home because of what you have to deal with. Wisdom dictates the best course of action. You still need to be the man that God has called you to be. Have you loved your wife unconditionally? Have you demonstrated it? A dedicated time of earnest prayer away from the fussing and fighting is better to do than quit. Too many people take the easier road and that’s to give up. I’ve heard a ton of reasons why not holding true to the marriage covenant is the only course of action. When you say, “I do,” that’s a very serious commitment that should only be broken by death.

Don’t take the road that Adam took when he blamed Eve. Take responsibility for the relationship as the one that is in authority. And don’t what if: what if she won’t follow? What if she leaves me? I assure you that God understands what you’re going through and He understands the seriousness of the marriage covenant. We just saw in 21:1: “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” When God told Abraham that Sarah was to have a baby and she overheard and then laughed, God asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14) It really comes down to a matter of trust and no one ever said it was easy, fun, or would change overnight, but don’t exclude the power of God from the equation. Waiting on God to move and work in people’s lives is tough, especially when they’re in your own home or family.

We are privileged to play a part in God’s plan for humanity. Whatever that role may be, we’re part of getting accomplished what God wants to accomplish. Our motives should be pure and holy as we seek to fulfill the purpose He has for our lives. Do right in all facets of life because it’s the right thing to do. Be obedient to His leading, but line His leading up with Scripture. God’s not wishy washy, so don’t you be either. We quickly covered a number of principles for daily living that we’ve seen before in Proverbs. It’s best to be honest always. We closed out with a very difficult relationship. If the woman in your life is contentious, show her the unconditional love of Christ. If you’re the contentious woman, I pray that you would allow the power of God to transform your life because He is always on the throne.

Advertisements

A Walk Down Memory Lane

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.

Noah: A Movie Review

NoahI don’t often review movies or books on my blog, but I feel the need to take a closer look at the movie Noah. I’ve been doing an inductive study of Genesis with Precept Camden on Sunday nights and the timing of the movie lines up with our study in Genesis.

I heard the hype. I heard the disdain from Christians who vow to boycott the movie. On a side note, I still don’t get the point of boycotting. Does that ever work? I guess I need to ask Disney. Too often Christians want to take a stand where no stand is needed. We’ll stand against a movie (or book, magazine, a store, etc.) and refuse to spend our hard earned money on that trash or in that place. That is your choice. It’s okay. You can do that. I respect your position. Do we go to the movies for reality? Who doesn’t want to be Jack Reacher or at least have him a a friend? Who wouldn’t want to shoot a web out of your wrist and be able climb the side of a building? Who freaked out when the Terminator found Sarah Connor? We ignored the fact that he was a cyborg from the future. Speaking of the future, didn’t we cheer when Marty McFly came back from the future after setting things straight? I loved the movie The Hunt for Red October. You may or may not know that I spent 23 years in the submarine force of the United States Navy. I know submarines. I know submarine life. It was a very accurate, sometimes eerily accurate portrayal of the cat and mouse games of submarines. Tom Clancy has that knack of writing excellent military novels. I also loved Crimson Tide, a nonsensical, totally unrealistic, implausible scenario of a launch of nuclear missiles from a submarine. The premise of an unauthorized launch of  nuclear missile was nearly as implausible as the Commanding Officer of Alabama having his pet dog at sea with him. I should know, I spend three and a half years stationed on board the Alabama and my Commanding Officer did not have a dog on board. Ask yourself this question, “Am I going to the movies to get a clear (or clearer) understanding of biblical principles?” Or, “Am I going to the movies to be entertained?” That’s for you to decide. I want to be entertained, I want the good guy to win, I want the hero to be heroic, and I want the bad guy to lose. I like the stereotypical happy ending. So that brings us to Noah.

My wife and I went to see the movie with another couple. Yes, we went two by two. Russell Crowe played the title role of Noah and he does an excellent job acting. That’s what he does.  Truth be told, my expectations for this movie were not high on the biblical accuracy scale. Noah was real and he had an ark. That much of the movie is true and that’s about where the truth ends as well. This movie is pure fantasy, a science-fiction epic with all the computer generated graphics to boot. It bears little resemblance to Genesis 5-8. Yes, Noah and the ark are in the movie. Noah has a wife and three sons. Yep, that’s true to the Bible. The animals come two by two. The accuracy pretty much disintegrates from there. The movie’s official website states, “Russell Crowe stars as Noah in the film inspired by the epic story of courage, sacrifice and hope.” There isn’t much hope here.

There is not enough space here to list all the inaccuracies with the biblical account, but as I stated, if you go to the movies for accuracy, you might want to stick with documentaries. Tubal Cain takes a leading villainous role and represents all that is wicked and evil in the world that is the source of the Creator’s anger yet Tubal Cain is mentioned only once in the Bible in Gen. 4:22. If I remember correctly, God is not mentioned by name in the movie. He is called the Creator which is of course, true. Noah’s grandfather is portrayed as a wise man/guru that resides on top of a mountain. According to the movie, only Shem has a wife. Unfortunately for humanity, she is unable to bare children due to an injury sustained as a child. Don’t sweat that . . . Methuselah heals her right after imparting some very sage advice for her. There are the Watchers, rock creatures that look like they were mistakenly dropped on the set of Noah from the set of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. These Watchers are supposed to be the Nephilim of Gen. 6 and work with Noah to save the world. The locals are portrayed as meat eating savages while Noah and his family are vegetarians. The locals are so wicked, they trade their women and children for meat. Ham leaves the ark project in search of a wife among these wicked locals and unfortunately falls into a mass grave that must have been dug to hold all the people killed by the wickedness of man. As luck would have it, there is a fetching young woman that ended up in that same grave. They begin an ill fated romance and Ham promises to get her out of the grave. Seeing that Ham is not at his assigned post, Noah goes looking for him. As the rain begins falling, Ham managed to get his girl out of the pit of death and we see them scrambling among the hoards of people that are fleeing to find refuge on the ark. With the ark in sight, Ham’s girl steps in a animal trap and Ham desperately tries to free her. Thankfully, Noah sees them and unceremoniously leaves the girl in the trap telling Ham that they must get on the ark. Among the throng seeking refuge is Tubal Cain who climbs the construction scaffolding and uses his battle ax to chop a hole through the ark and then climbs in and stows away. Ham later finds him hiding in the ark, but does not reveal the intruder because he’s still angry that his father left his new girlfriend in the animal trap. Ham and Japheth are without wives . . .  at least until the sequel. The movie Noah believes he is to save the animals because mankind has destroyed the creation while the animals are innocent bystanders of this wickedness. The impending doom is designed to destroy humanity and then once Noah and his family deliver the animals to the safety of the new creation now void of people, the remaining humans will die thus ending humanity once and for all. I’m sorry, what?

Don’t go see the movie Noah hoping to get to know the biblical character better through some careful research by film maker Darren Aronofsky. Make no mistake, he made an excellent film. It feels like Gladiator wrapped up in Braveheart with some Waterworld, Lord of the Rings, and 300 thrown in there. It is epic. It is visually appealing. It is not real. It is fantasy. So should you go see the movie? That is up to you, but one could certainly use this movie as a springboard for an honest discussion about God’s deliverance from evil and wickedness through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. Open the Bible to the accurate account of Noah and the world wide flood. It did happen. Does the Bible tell us all that we would like to know about the event? Absolutely not. As a sailor, I have some questions about ark construction and seaworthiness. How did Noah feed the animals and take care of house cleaning. The bottom line is that I have to exercise faith just like Noah did when God told him to do something extraordinary, something Noah likely did not fully understand. We have to realize that we likely don’t have all the information Noah had at the time. We don’t have a dialogue like we do leading up to Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden of Eden. I have to trust that God provided all He believed we would need. Knowing the biblical account of Noah and the reason God told him to build it, the major issue with the movie for me is that Noah is portrayed as a hero, a villain, a heartless non-thinking cretin, a mood swinging Neanderthal, and perhaps most disturbing of all – totally doesn’t understand what the Creator is telling him to do.  Yes, Noah gets the ark right and the animals right . . . well sort of; he failed to get clean animals by seven. The biblical Noah was chosen because he was a contrast to the wickedness of the world. Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord . . . God’s eyes. God would establish His covenant with Noah (Gen. 6:18).

If you’re looking for biblical accuracy, forget this movie. Also forget The Ten Commandments, One Night with the King, Ben-Hur, The Prince of Egypt, and Barabbas among a host of others. I’ve had people tell me, “I’m not paying money to see that because Aronofsky is an atheist.” Do these same people evaluate all filmmaker’s spiritual background? Or is it because an atheist promised to make the least biblically accurate film of all time? He most likely succeeded in accomplishing just that.

The Lord’s Supper

You can listen to the podcast for this message here.

I encourage you to read Ps. 51:1-17 that details how David responded when Nathan confronted him about his sin. He was horrified at what he had done and begged God to cleanse him. Sometimes I believe we take for granted what God did through Christ for us. Sin is a horrible thing that separates us from God. Romans 6 is an incredibly foundational truth for us that are followers of Christ. Before we made the decision to be a follower of Christ, we were slaves to sin. One of the keys for this present day is found in verse 6. We are no longer slaves to sin. We were slaves to sin, but Jesus Christ has freed us from sin’s bondage. We should be actively engaged in serving Christ.

The Lord’s Supper is very significant on our lives and the life of the church. “And they continued steadfastly in the … breaking of bread.” (Acts 2:42) In the early days of the church the breaking of bread was part of a regular meal. Since then it has come to be known as the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. The importance of the Lord’s Supper should never be overestimated. It declares our fundamental beliefs about Christ and His church. It is not only a service of celebration, but of consecration. We not only celebrate the life, death, resurrection, and return of the Savior, but we dedicate ourselves afresh as we identify with the body He gave and the blood He shed, symbolized by the bread and the juice. 2 Cor. 13:5 says, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you unless indeed you fail the test?” Paul says test yourselves. This test is specific. It’s a test to see if you are in the faith. There’s a test for that? The only way to pass a knowledge test is to demonstrate your knowledge. Does your life reflect the glory of the Lord? Is there evidence in your life to demonstrate that you are an authentic child of God? Participating in the Lord’s Supper is reserved for those that have made a decision to be a follower of Christ. There is no minimum age, but I would encourage parents to use this as an opportunity to teach younger ones.

The most common passage used outside of the gospels is found in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. Just before saying this, Paul was talking about unity in the church. There were some divisions in the church between the haves and the have nots. Some who were better off would partake of the supper and perhaps others that were not so well off weren’t able to eat. That’s why in v. 22 Paul said, “Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?” In this passage Paul uses a phrase that troubles many people.  It is, “eats in an unworthy manner” in v. 27. We can’t take this phrase alone; we must take it in context with the rest of the passage. It’s connected to the but in v. 28. There is no expectation of perfection . . . only examination. It’s a balance. If we really evaluate ourselves based on Christ’s standard, none of us is worthy to partake in the Lord’s Supper. That’s why we don’t partake in our own power, but in the power of what Christ did for us. We approach God because of the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. This supper is to remember that sacrifice.