Follow the Leader

LeaderCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that we have hope that is found in Jesus Christ. We must be diligent to be good messengers and listen to those around us who have walked where we walk. We have reverence and trust in God and therefore follow His words even when we don’t understand. This morning, we’ll look at one incredibly important concept.

In Pro. 13:20 Solomon says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Solomon starts off with a proven principle. “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” This seems so obvious, but so neglected. Smart people hang out with smart people. Wise people hang out with wise people. Godly people hang out with godly people. I recently had a revelation. Too many of us have a cry wolf attitude in the wrong things of life. One of our children comes down with a fever or other symptom and we frantically search WebMD to diagnose the mystery ailment. We post on Facebook for all our self taught doctor friends to weigh in with their diagnosis and recommended course of action and then we go to the doctor and tell him how to treat the child. Our car makes a funny noise and we immediately take it to the mechanic. Our child expresses an interest in a sport and we buy them the best equipment and get them into a program. Someone posts about an issue they’re having and we comment about what they should do. We’ve got the answer for everyone else. Something happens in our personal life or we go through some kind of trial and we isolate ourselves from those that can provide us what we need. My experience is that church participation is a barometer for our spiritual temperature.

If you want to be encouraged, walk with people that are encouraging. If you want to know more about Jesus Christ, walk with people that know Him. I know I’ve said it before, but we seem to be much more willing to stick out difficult situations in every other aspect of our lives except our walk with Christ. The littlest thing sets us off. Love that is supposed be unconditional has limits. Grace that is expected on a personal level is withheld from others. For some reason we are very hesitant to try and restore relationships with one another in a church setting, but have little difficulty doing this in other settings. If and when we’re approached in a loving manner, we immediately go on the defensive and don’t even consider the love a person has for us or the courage it takes to confront an issue head on. Then we blame God and quit.

1 Jo. 3:18, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” That is what Solomon is saying. It’s not enough to speak truth or believe truth. That’s good, but it cannot stop there. The truth must be a critical element of who we are inside. The truth provides demostrative evidence that we belong to Jesus. Col. 1:10 says, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” We often listen to the nonsense from society that issues the edict that no one is to judge. Paul says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  (Gal. 6:1) The idea that we are prohibited to tell people the truth so we don’t come across judgmental is nonsensical and the people that make such claims, well, they just don’t know the Bible. I encourage you to take a look at Eph. 5:11-15. Paul gives us something very important for us to do. This comes also with other cautions because stopping at saying something is wrong does not meet the intent of what Paul is telling us to do. Jesus asked the question in Matt. 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Jesus is pointing out that sometimes we can be very critical of others and miss something that is in our own lives. He’s not saying you’re forbidden from pointing out the speck, but first you need to evaluate your own life. That does not mean perfection. That’s what people often say though. When some issue is pointed out, the first thing out of their mouth is a laundry list of things that are wrong with us. We need to be receptive to the correction that comes from other seasoned, experienced, and mature believers. We must be more flexible in the church, more willing to allow Christ to change us, but there it is again. I’m thinking that some folks that profess to be believers don’t want anyone in their business because they don’t want to grow, they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to be more like Christ because they are not followers of Christ. You cannot be a follower of Christ without a relationship with Him. Just because someone comes to church doesn’t make them a believer. We must make discipleship an intentional aspect of our lives. We must be willing to be discipled and to make disciples. We must be a fellowship where love and acceptance is infused into us by the Spirit of God.

If you want to be wise, walk with wise people, but Solomon says the opposite is also true. “But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Are you wondering why I don’t skip over this stuff? How many different ways is Solomon going to say it? That’s a valid question so we have to ask ourselves, why? Why does Solomon take up so much space saying the same thing over and over? Let’s change up the question. If you’re a spouse, how many times do you tell your other half the same thing? If you’re a parent, how many times do you tell your child the same thing? If you’re a manager or supervisor, how many times do you tell your people the same thing over and over again? If you’re a teacher, how many times do you tell your students the same thing over and over? If you’re a coach, how many times do you tell the team the same thing over and over again? You tell them until they get it. That’s what God is doing through Solomon. He’s reminding us of things we should know, but fail to put into practice on a consistent basis. If you hang with people that do not share your beliefs, values, and ethics, there is a far better chance that you will alter your standards because of them rather than vice versa. Paul emphatically states, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33) When your best pal is a biblical fool, you will likely become foolish. Remember Solomon defines a fool as someone that has the right answer yet does not follow it. Harm will come. Solomon is talking guarantees. Be careful who you spend time with. Of course God wants you to share the truth with people that are far from Him. There’s a difference between having a meal with someone and being their best friend. One of the most challenging things experienced after salvation is making a break from those people that do not hold the same values.

We need to hang with people that will challenge us to soar higher, to walk closer to God, to be more like Christ. If you want to be more like Christ which is God’s desire for us, you need to walk along side of people that have the same goals. You need to be actively engaged in the walk of faith.


Character Matters

character-mattersYou can listen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scoundrel

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.

The Value of Hard Work

Hard WorkYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon talked about drinking your own water. The mandates he gave were really metaphorical instructions to remain faithful in marriage. Don’t be under the false assumption that what happens between two consenting adults is no one’s business. Everything we do is before God’s eyes. Pay attention to the instructions of Scripture so you don’t wander in your own foolishness. As we begin Chapter 6, we’ll see four divisions in the text that don’t deal specifically with wisdom or parental guidance. This morning, Solomon shifts gears and introduces two new subjects.

Find your Bible and read Pro. 6:1-11.

Solomon enters a land I tell people never to go. He enters what if land and gives us a couple of conditional phrases. His first is, “If you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger.” There are a couple of words that we don’t really use much anymore. Surety means taking on the responsibility for a debt. You may know it as a cosigner. There is no specific prohibition against cosigning a loan. Paul said he would take care of any outstanding debt regarding the slave Philemon in v. 18 by saying, “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” (Phl. 18) One thing we know for sure is that it’s wrong to take on debt you cannot repay. When you cosign a loan, you’re taking the responsibility for that loan in the event the one taking the loan cannot repay it. So if you cosign a loan, understand that you could responsible for the entire loan amount. There will be much more regarding finances later in Proverbs. Remember this; creditors these days get you hooked by selling you on a monthly payment rather than telling you the entire debt. “Have given a pledge for a stranger” is an interesting phrase. It goes along with the first part regarding surety. The word “given” means to clap the palms or strike the hands. This looks a lot like a handshake. We apply this verse in broad terms as not giving surety or taking on the debt of another. But the verse is directed at your neighbor or a stranger. As I was reading this, I’m thinking, who would do that? And then it just struck me. In this context, pledge means a promise of charity. It could mean don’t promise money to anyone. The principle is a good one.

This leads right into the next conditional phrase, “If you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth.” Think of debt as a trap. You have made promises that you are obligated to keep. A quick application of this might be the housing crash of a few years ago. People were given loans for houses they could not afford and then the banks were blamed when the houses were foreclosed. They said they would pay the debt, but were not able to.

So what’s a guy to do? Getting caught in the trap of debt is not a life ending sentence. Solomon provides the solution in vs. 3-5. Notice that the individual is to deliver himself. No bail outs, no hands outs, no absolution of debt. Several years ago, I heard an older, seasoned Christian counsel a younger one who was feeling the weight of a mortgage. The counsel was, just let it go back to the bank. Even if you’re protected under bankruptcy, you are still obligated to pay your debts biblically. Part of getting out from under that bondage is to, “Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor.” In some connotations, importune means to prostitute yourself. While the word is typically associated with sexual activity, it can also mean offer your services to another. We can conclude from the abundance of principles in the Bible regarding sexual purity that this verse has to be talking about offering your services to work off a debt. That makes sense because Solomon goes on to say, “Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.” Do not rest until that debt is paid off. When we work hard to pay off a debt we, “Deliver yourself like a gazelle for the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” We escape the snare that has us trapped. We are set free from the debt that has entangled us.

This next passage is going to hit home with something I believe might just be crippling people. Solomon tells us to consider the insect world. Most of us don’t give a second thought to an ant. We apply insecticide to make sure they don’t hang out in our houses. We smoosh them with our hands or feet. They are pretty interesting creatures. More than 10,000 ant species are known. They can lift and carry more than three times their own weight. Solomon says watch them and learn from them. They have no chief, officer, or ruler according to v. 7. In other words, no one tells them what to do. They know what needs to be done and they do it. Ants work hard all summer long to prepare for winter and they do it without anyone or anything beating them over the head. Learn from them. Compare the ant to the sluggard. He’s not talking about the shell-less gastropod that eats your plants. A sluggard is a person that is lazy. One that is slow moving or inactive. The ant is hard working and needs no leader. The sluggard can have someone standing over them and still not get done what needs to get done.

Look at Solomon’s rhetorical questions in v. 9 as he says, “How will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” How long are going to lounge around not doing what needs to get done? Get off the couch, get out of the recliner, quit napping, put your phone down, get up and get to work! Solomon answers his own how long questions by saying, “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” Just five more minutes, hit the snooze. You get five more minutes, then want five more. The more you get, the more you want. I’ll get to it, I’ll do it tomorrow. Solomon is saying what no politically correct person will say. Laziness leads to poverty, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Look at the progression. Lack of foresight, poor preparation, laziness, too much sleep, poverty. The poverty doesn’t come in like a thief, it comes in like a slow rolling train, “like a vagabond.”

Then what happens? “And your need like an armed man.” Need means something that is essential for life. In other words, your needs are like an armed man – literally like someone that has a gun. The gunmen takes you by surprise; there is no opposing him. He’ll take what he wants and there is nothing you can do to stop it. You realize: I’m hungry, I need to buy food. Your needs come upon you suddenly. We’re not talking about a lazy day here; we’re talking about a lazy lifestyle. Is your life characterized by inactivity? Solomon is talking physically, but is there a spiritual application? Are you a sluggard when it comes to your spiritual walk with Christ? Just give me five more minutes, then I’ll get up. I’ll take care of that later. The church has become a reflection of society rather than a reflection of the transforming power of Christ. We are developing a generation of entitled Christians that scream what’s in it for me? People who’ve been professing believers for years that have never lifted a finger in service to Christ in or out of the church. We have professing believers that claim they don’t like to or don’t have time to read God’s word, they don’t like to or have never prayed, they’ve never given any money to support the work of the ministry, in fact they’ve done little to nothing to support their claim of being a believer in the One that created all that we know from the power of His voice. This one of a kind, incredible, loving, omni-present, omniscient, all powerful being is somehow too weak to make a change in your life. We have a responsibility as a church to teach and expect transformation. I acknowledge that the process takes time, but what do you say to someone that does not want to change, that wants to continues in the lifestyle they’ve always had, that wants to live life on the fence and be in the world and in the church, to discount the fundamental principles of Scripture, that refuses to listen to spiritual or earthly authority, and does not want to be accountable to anyone or anything? What do you say to that person? Repent!!

There is no time like the present to allow Jesus to modify your life. You will not regret it. What you will regret . . . at some point . . . is the years of inactivity, excuses, and laziness. There is value in hard work. Don’t let the cares and concerns of this world derail you from following Christ.

Parental Love . . . Again

Dad's LoveYesterday I did something that I rarely do. I preached the same message I preached a couple of week ago. As I’ve studied through the great book of Proverbs, I’m reminded over and over again the importance of teaching and the importance of learning God’s Word. That’s how we connect with God. That’s how we get to know God. That’s how we learn to follow Jesus Christ. That’s how we discover truth. In an age where common sense is no longer common, it seems downright elusive. Biblical sense comes from knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ. Do you want to know God? Get to know Jesus Christ. Do you think there’s another way? According to John 14:6, think again.

The ancient book of Proverbs is exactly what we need today. In it you’ll find guidance on finances, time management, prioritizing our lives, sexual purity, and parenting as well as a host of other topics. Biblical wisdom begins with the realization that Jesus Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to God. That path must go through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. It is the only way.

So are you wondering, how different can the same message be? Perhaps you’ll be as surprised as I was.

I encourage you to listen to the message here.

Trust Me

TrustYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that repetition is a key to understanding Scripture and Solomon told his son once again to remember. When he remembers, time will be added to the boy’s life because truth and kindness do not depart from him. As a result, that boy finds favor with God and with man. This morning, Solomon tells us to do something that will likely be very familiar to you and may be the hardest thing ever done.

Proverbs 3:5-8 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”

Is it really that hard? Sorry may be the hardest word to say, but trusting in the Lord may be the hardest thing to do. We are to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” It is not a suggestion or a recommendation, it is a command. Trust God entirely, with all your being, all that you are. This is a total commitment to Him and that’s what He expects. Why do we find it so hard to trust Him? Trust means to have a firm belief in someone or something. We don’t find it hard to trust in general. In fact, I think we are quick to trust. We exercise trust in a wide variety of ways. We trust our schools, teachers, and doctors. We trust planes, trains, and automobiles. We trust our baby sitters. We trust our financial advisors, banks, and doctors. We tend to trust until that trust is broken. When your child lies to you, you have a hard time believing what they say. When your friend breaks your confidence, you have a hard time confiding in them. When trust is broken, it’s difficult to regain. So why is it so hard to trust in God when He has never broken your trust or violated your confidence?   I think this really stems from a lack of understanding about His character. Do we really believe that He loves us with an everlasting love? Do we really believe that His plans are best for us and that when things don’t go as we plan, His plan is better? Do we really believe when He answers a prayer contrary to what we want, that He knows what’s best for us? God has never broken a promise, has never lied, has never betrayed you or anyone else, has never had ulterior motives, has always loved you, and has always been there for you.

Don’t rely, “On your own understanding.” Just like you ask your kids to trust you when they don’t understand, God expects that we trust Him when we don’t understand. Our understanding of God is limited to the capacity of our brain. This goes back to the premise of Proverbs from 1:7. This understanding is all encompassing. It refers not only to our intellect, but also to our moral compass. We don’t look to our own view of morality or ethics; we look to the Lord’s. Isaiah reminds us that, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”  (Is. 53:6) It is not good to exclude God from the decision making process. We tend to compartmentalize decisions. When asked to do something in or for the church, we have to have a period of fasting and praying sometimes for months. When it comes to relationships, or career choices, or major purchases, we make a decision and don’t even ask. When faced with something we want to do, we jump in without consulting God. When faced with something God wants us to do, we have to pray about it and really know for sure. And what God wants is for our good. Jer. 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.”

So what’s next after trust? This is another tough one. “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” What’s curious in this verse is that the word, “all” actually means all. It means every, entire, any, and all things. It doesn’t just apply to spiritual things. This goes back to what I just said about compartmentalizing our life. Too many people have their spiritual life and their secular life. The spiritual life they lead occurs on Sunday during church where they are wonderful followers of Christ. Then there is the secular life they lead the remainder of the week. Can you really be a part time follower of Christ? Not according to this verse and the plethora of other biblical principles found throughout scripture. When we acknowledge Him first then, “He will make your paths straight.” This is no guarantee for a problem free life. This is not a promise that everything will be great and wonderful and awesome and that your bank account and fridge will always be full and that everyone will always like you all of the time and your car will never break down. The path of righteousness is a straight path, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps, potholes, and otherwise rough patches. But you certainly won’t be alone on that road.

Solomon now tells us another thing that many of us have a hard time doing. “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” This is diametrically opposed to 1:7. We’re having trouble in our society with this. It seems we’re all experts in our own minds. On the reality series Pawn Stars, people go into the pawn shop hoping to sell an item they believe is of great value. Rick, the owner is not as confident so he often calls in an expert to verify the authenticity of the item or the proposed value. The potential seller of the item often disagrees with the expert because somehow he knows more than the expert does. Situational ethics are the norm and people do whatever they want and declare that it is the right thing to do. We think we know what’s best or what is right without consulting Scripture, and without including God. We need to develop that biblical worldview that can only come from knowing God.

“Fear the Lord and turn away from evil,” Solomon tells his son. These two concepts are tied together. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the biblical response is to run from evil. No one is ever better off going against what God says. We don’t act right and do right because we’re afraid of what God might do to us although we should consider the consequences of our actions. We act right and do right because we are followers of Christ: because we firmly believe that God’s ways are the absolute best. What happens? “It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” Just like a cold glass of water on a hot, humid day. God reinvigorates us and renews us to walk in the paths of righteousness.

We all have a decision to make. Are we going to choose to trust in the One and only true God whose ways are always right and best or are we going to doubt? Are you looking for a third option? Trust Him with all that you are. He will never fail you.

The Donkey Said What?

DonkeyYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week it went from bad to worse as Peter told us that these false teachers had eyes full of adultery that evaluated every woman they saw as a potential participant in their ungodly ways. They turned their backs on the right way and followed after the greed loving Balaam. This morning, a rebuke comes from the unlikeliest of places. This should have been included in last week’s message, but there wasn’t enough time.

2 Pet. 2:16-17 says, “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.”

A funny thing happened on the way to Israel. Peter picks up the story of Balaam from Numbers 22 as he was making his way to meet Balak to discuss this cursing of God’s people. Please remember that Balaam is not a true prophet of God. He’s in it for the money. He’s in it to maintain his soft, cushy lifestyle. So Balaam is on his way to meet up with Balak under the pretense of godliness, but is really driven by greed. “But he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with the voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.” (2 Pet. 2:16) Balaam is supposed to be a prophet of God, but doesn’t recognize the Angel of the Lord standing in front of him. You’ve got to go back and read Num. 22:21-35 to get the full picture. Balaam is arguing with a donkey. If the donkey didn’t see the Angel of the Lord, v. 33 says that He would have killed Balaam and let the donkey live. Balaam admitted to sinning against God after he was told.

Even though Balaam appears godly, the contrast from v. 35 tells us the real story: “But you shall speak only the word which I tell you.” It gives the indication that he had his own agenda. Balaam listened because the donkey spoke with the voice of the man. We would call this a miracle – a sign that so many people look for. The rebuke from the donkey was because Balaam was going to meet with Balak. The donkey, “restrained the madness of the prophet.” The donkey had to get involved. It’s pretty bad when someone that calls himself a prophet of God doesn’t know the way of God and doesn’t recognize God when He’s standing in front of him. Balaam was not literally crazy. Peter is saying that any way that is contrary to the right way, the straightway, the pure way, the holy way, the Jesus way is utter madness. If the donkey didn’t get involved, Balaam would have been killed right there instead of dying while fighting against Israel. Unrighteousness always leads to judgment.

Peter has talked about the character of the false teachers. They intentionally lead Christians astray. They malign the way of the truth. They indulge the flesh. They’re daring and self willed. They’re not scared when they revile angelic majesties. They’re unreasoning animals. They lure or entice unstable souls. They revile where they have no knowledge. He has clearly established the character of the false teachers is less than what is expected of a vibrant relationship with Christ. Peter now illustrates the affect they have on other people. It’s always nice to illustrate what you mean so Peter compares things that would be understood by his readers. He says the false teachers are like, “Springs without water.” When you go to a spring, you expect water. Think about traveling in the Middle East. There is a lot of wilderness and rugged terrain and it’s hot. A spring would be a welcome opportunity to rest and recharge. A spring without water is useless. This is a comparison to the deception of the false teachers. Teachers of God’s Word should provide clarity, should provide water for thirsty souls, but in the end people expecting help were left parched, frustrated, and confused. There is a parallel from Jeremiah: For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  (Jer. 2:13) They promised solid Bible teaching, but their teaching led people away from the straight way. Pro. 13:14, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death.” The false teachers are, “Mists driven by a storm.” Again, thinking of Israel as that dry and parched land in desperate need of rain, the mists that could bring relief are blown away. The results of both comparisons are the same. When you need to satisfy a deep thirst, you need water. It’s like giving someone an empty glass to quench their thirst.

These false teachers did not deliver what they promised. They promised no judgment, but God always judges sin. The wages of sin is death. “Black darkness has been reserved” for the false teachers. Once again, Peter hammers coming judgment for these people. Don’t be seduced into thinking that what we do doesn’t matter.