Tag Archives: Evil

Evil of a Different Kind

25 Apr

EvilCheck out the podcast here.

Last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that we are here on this planet to live our lives to their fullest for Christ. We are driven to work to exemplify the transformation that is not only possible, but should exist in us because of the work accomplished by Christ. Only people that are worthless seek to harm others or damage their reputation. Don’t allow yourself to get burned by the words of people that are valueless – and that is a challenging concept. Recognize the schemes of the devil. He wants us to live our lives apart from Christ and other Christ followers. He wants to destroy us and make us ineffective for Christ. Don’t be fooled by that. Don’t think the worst of other people. You like it when you get the benefit of the doubt and you should be willing to do the same for others. This morning, we’ll see evil portrayed again and where wisdom can generally be found.

Pro. 16:29-31 says, “A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good. He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things;
he who compresses his lips brings evil to pass. A gray head is a crown of glory;
it is found in the way of righteousness.”

They might be living close to you. If you live in a neighborhood and most of us do, the people Solomon warns us about may be living next door. “A man of violence entices his neighbor.” I think it’s important to identify just what kind of man Solomon is talking about. A man of violence is someone that uses physical force with the intent of bringing physical harm, damage, or death to another. The man of violence is a bully and I don’t like bullies. This is someone that will use violence against you to get you to do something he wants you to do. Bullies tend to pick on the weak; people that they think won’t or can’t defend themselves. Entice is an interesting word. It means to attract someone, usually to do something, by arousing hope, interest, or desire. This is the kind of guy that tries to get other people to turn to the same life he leads; he tries to lure them into a life that is contrary to God’s desires. At the beginning of this book Solomon said, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” (Pro. 1:10) The easy answer is to just say no.

You can apply this to peer pressure as well. Although violence isn’t often used to exert peer pressure, the application can be made. What I find really curious is that peer pressure is rarely used to exert pressure in a good way. Have you ever thought of that? That’s because people who want the best for others don’t typically use pressure to accomplish that mission. In a biblical context, we use things like prayer, love, compassion, and empathy to show people the hope that’s found in Jesus Christ. This man of violence uses his power to entice, “His neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good.” We’ve talked about the way before. It’s a metaphorical path that leads either to God or away from God. If you succumb to the pressures of the man of violence, you’ll place yourself on a path leading away from God. It’s a way that’s, “not good.” I don’t know how clearer Solomon can be. 2 Pet. 3:17 says, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” Don’t let your guard down. Just because you are being led somewhere doesn’t mean you have to follow.

“He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things; he who compresses his lips brings evil to pass.” These are two outward facial expressions. It’s tough to control facial expressions; I see lots of them when I preach. Solomon is giving us some tips to identify this type of person. Have you ever had a conversation with someone that closes his eyes, or won’t look you in the eye? It can be a little off putting. This wink may confirm or signal something to a co-conspirator or accomplice. The word can also mean that the person is thinking, plotting, and scheming and this is the general meaning here. He’s devising, “perverse things.”  The meaning of the word perverse has been consistent throughout Proverbs. It is a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave unacceptably. Even outside of biblical boundaries, there is behavior that is not generally accepted in society. While the type of acceptable behavior seems to grow with each day, there are still things that are generally frowned upon and some things are downright disgusting and reprehensible. The, “compresses his lips” phrase is the other facial expression that confirms his twisted plans. He wants to bring, “evil to pass.” This is not the kind of person you want in your life. Oddly enough, there are followers of Christ that hold on to people that just aren’t good for them. Maybe it’s a desire to see them come to Christ, maybe it’s a desire to hold on to the past, maybe there is no choice because this person is a family member. If that’s the case, then we really need to heed Peter’s words when he said, “be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”

In what seems like another weird transition, Solomon talks about hair. “A gray head is a crown of glory.” In our image driven society, people seek to look younger. When was the last time you noticed someone actually color their hair gray? I just wanted to look older and wiser. I don’t think that happens too much. Generally, gray hair is found on people who are old. Children do not cause gray hair. Stress does not cause gray hair. Solomon knows why hair turns gray and now so do I. I did some research into the matter to find out the correlation between wisdom and gray hair and what I found out will rock your world. Scientists say that everyone’s hair will eventually turn gray and then white. The age at which you’ll see that first gray hair is largely determined by genetics. You’ll probably get your first strand of gray around the same age your parents and grandparents started to go gray. Smoking increases the rate of graying. Anemia, poor nutrition, insufficient B vitamins, and untreated thyroid conditions can also speed the rate of graying. The graying process has to do with the production of melanin, which is the same pigment in your skin. These pigment cells produce eumelanin which is brown and pheomelanin which is red. As those cells that produce melanin die with age, less and less pigment is deposited in the hair and it turns gray and eventually white.

Let me lay out some assumptions that will help us understand this “Crown of glory” Solomon refers to. Gray hair is part of the natural process as the body ages. Solomon assumes that as you age in Christ, you gain life experience, you gain biblical knowledge and understanding. This increase in biblical knowledge and understanding leads to wisdom. That wisdom prolongs life. Pro. 3:1-2, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments; for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” As you get older, you’re supposed to get wiser. The older you are, the wiser you should be. Lev. 19:32 says, “You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.” Our culture generally does not do this. Here, old folks are often placed in nursing homes or assisted living centers. In other cultures, the aged are brought into the homes of the adult children. We should seek out wisdom from someone that is old. Older people provide a wealth of knowledge and experience. Learn from them! If old people are, “found in the way of righteousness, their age will be their honor. Old age is honorable and commands respect. Remember the verse from Leviticus I just read. There is a but. There’s always a but. If the old is found in wickedness, all bets are off. The crown of glory is forfeited. Honor is forfeited, but maintaining the path of righteousness is their crown.

We started off talking about a different kind of evil. Don’t allow yourself to succumb to peer pressure. Watch out for the neighbor that tries to lead you in a way that is not good. You should be able to recognize this guy because he winks his eyes and devises perverse plans. Be on guard, watch out, remain steadfast. As you pay attention, you’ll grow in knowledge and understanding which leads to wisdom which leads to longer life which leads to the development of gray hair which is the normal course of our spiritual walk with Christ. Gray hair is like wearing a crown so treat your elders with respect.

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Curious Creating

8 Feb

CuriousYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that it’s easy to conclude that our plans are good and right, but asked did we consider God’s plan? It’s a good idea to step back and see eternity’s plan from God’s perspective. A great way to evaluate your plans is to use Scripture. God evaluates plans based on motive and His sight is perfect. Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean God wants you to be engaged in it. Just because you’re presented with a good opportunity doesn’t mean that God wants you to take advantage of it. When you’re in a vibrant, daily, engaged relationship with God through His Son, His plans become your plans. This morning, Solomon addresses a question many people ask.

Pro. 16:4-6 says, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil. Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.”

Here’s a question of the ages. Solomon begins by telling us, “The Lord made everything for its own purpose.” If you’ve ever watched Ask This Old House on PBS, they have a segment where they show an obscure tool or piece of equipment and the guys on the show try to figure out what it’s called and what its purpose is. I have a number of tools in my shop that are not obvious as to what they’re for, but they are invaluable for getting the job done quickly and correctly. That’s what Solomon is telling us. Everything God created has a purpose. We may not understand it all, but all things have a purpose. When you consider the far away planets, stars, and galaxies, it points to the incredible creative power of God. Those things in the sky are incredibly beautiful. They’ve provided astronomers with objects to spend years studying. We love spending time on the beach and we marvel at the incredible diversity of the fish living in the sea. The seas also provide opportunity to get from one place to another. Scientists continue to discover new species in the animal kingdom. We still find new ways to use items we’ve had around for years. There are 438 million hits when you Google new uses for old items.

Everything God created has its own purpose. Of course, sin corrupted many of the intended purposes of God’s creation. That’s what happened to the wicked. They are part of the rebellion of Lucifer and his demons which were a driving force behind Adam and Eve’s poor decision making skills. The progression of evil started before the garden and culminated in Gen. 6. Gen. 6:6 says, “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” In that pivotal chapter, you’ll remember that we’re introduced to a new character who was given very clear instructions. His name was Noah and to say he built a boat would be a tremendous understatement. Even though the wicked exist, God had an intended purpose and plan for them, but they had and continue to have other plans. Rev. 4:11, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Sin changed God’s design for humanity. “Even the wicked for the day of evil.” They were not created evil, but became that way because of sin. And they have a purpose too. Perhaps it’s to show God’s mercy or show His wrath. Maybe it’s to show judgment or maybe grace. Even the wicked will serve God’s purpose.

Here’s another restatement. Pride is on the list of things God hates and Solomon repeats it again. “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” There again is the root of where it begins. Everything starts in the heart. We’re not talking parental pride which is really delight, we’re talking personal pride. We’re talking my way is better than anyone else’s. Pride is what sets sinners against God. Pride causes people to go their own way. Pride causes people to consider only themselves. Pride says it’s all about me. Pride says I don’t need anyone else. Solomon says “proud in heart” which gives us the idea that this is really who a person is. It’s not a prideful moment, this is who they are. Remember the word picture for abomination – rotting flesh. As a result of the rotting flesh that is your heart, Solomon reminds us that, “He will not be unpunished.” When we read verses like this, I think we too often think in terms of our timeline. Don’t confuse the here and now with eternity. Nobody gets away with it.  Remember in Pro. 11:21 Solomon said, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished.”  Do you ever wonder why I use so many cross references? A great principle in Bible study is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. The Bible does not and will not contradict itself. That’s why we study the whole counsel of God’s Word and don’t pick and choose topics that won’t challenge us. When you work through the Bible, you will come across every modern issue we face.

Next, Solomon points to the future. This is a pretty exciting verse and contrasts what he just said. The proud person won’t go unpunished, but “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for.”  God cannot allow sin to go unjudged. We have people these days that say God has changed and that the rules of the Old Testament are no longer valid. I think we lack a fundamental truth that is found in God’s Word. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Paul is writing to those misguided people at Corinth. Even in all their fussing and fighting, Paul says they, “Have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 1:2) Jesus Christ affected the change. This is what Solomon is pointing to. Solomon is talking about the atonement found only in Christ. Ps. 85:10 says, “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Lovingkindness is also translated mercy. Tit. 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” It’s not anything that we have done because God did it all for us in the person that is Jesus Christ.

The word atonement is typically translated propitiation in the New Testament. The “atonement of iniquity” Solomon mentions is the same “propitiation for our sins” that John talks about in 1 Jo. 4:10. “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for.” Iniquity is a synonym for sin. There is no amount of doing that will erase your sin. There is no process that will earn your way to heaven or that will cause God to forget. It’s not what we do or did, but what God did in Christ. Why would He do this? Paul says it this way in Eph 2:4: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” That came to light in Jo. 3:16 that many people in and out of the church know, but have not fully understood: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is what Solomon is talking about. When you have a life atoned for by Christ, Solomon concludes, “By the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” Once again the idea is not that you go through life looking over your shoulder because you’re afraid of God like you’re afraid of being mugged or attacked. Solomon is talking about a reverential respect for who God is. It’s a recognition of the incredibleness and awesomeness of God, but it’s also recognizing that perfect justice will come from God – at some point.

Remembering who God is helps us keep away from those things that are not pleasing to Him. Sometimes we focus on what we think we’re not allowed to do as if God is preventing us from having fun. Growing up, there were lots of things I was not allowed to do, but I was allowed to do way more things than I was not. My parents established rules for my well-being and safety and so I wouldn’t annoy anyone. I followed them . . . mostly. God has established principles and rules for our safety and well-being and for His glory. Having respect and reverence for God with some straight up ‘I don’t want to face His judgement’ thinking will keep us away from evil. I’m not a fan of catch phrases or slogans in church, but the old WWJD does have an application. Of course you need to apply it biblically, but if you have in the front of your mind, “Is this                   going to glorify God or edify His people?” principle going through your mind, I’m certain we would not do a lot of the things we do.

There are questions we all want answers to. God did not create the wicked, but did allow His creation to choose the path of disobedience and rebellion to become the antithesis of His design. Evil and wickedness are present in the world and God will use even that to gain glory. If your life is characterized by pride, you’re like rotting flesh and you will not be unpunished. God loved us so much that He gave us His Son Jesus Christ who atones for our sin. Truth and mercy kiss each other in the person of Christ. Since we have such reverence and love for God, we keep away from evil. All this is part of God’s curious creation where He is the epicenter.

Timing is Everything

11 Jan

TimingListen to the podcast here.

When we were last in Proverbs before Thanksgiving, Solomon told us to seek guidance from others. Seek answers from God and get good counsel to confirm it. If something is weighing heavily on you and you think it’s from God, speak with someone that will provide you with solid, biblical, godly, and timely guidance from Scripture. There is rarely anything God gives us that must begin immediately. It took God six days to create the heavens and the earth and all that is within it. Paul spent years walking around Asia and Europe to get the message of Jesus out to the Gentiles and it took more than a century for Noah to build a boat. This morning, Solomon gives us several principles that stand alone.

Take the time to read Pro. 15:23-26.

There is a time and a place to speak. We’ve said before that not everything needs to be said and what does need to be said doesn’t necessarily need to be said right now. Solomon starts by saying, “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word.” This is definitely a feel good verse. It’s a verse suitable to put on a bumper sticker, Facebook meme, or e-card. But good things said can be off putting when they’re spoken at the wrong time. The wise person knows when to say that good word and when to remain silent. Notice that the perspective is from the giver of the good and timely words. We saw in the last Proverbs message that we should seek wise counsel and it’s from the perspective of receiving that counsel and the joy of getting good guidance. Here Solomon is talking about the blessing of giving that good guidance. It’s not a prideful thing in order for us to confirm how awesome we are. People sometimes come to me for advice and counsel. I know I give good advice because I just tell folks what the Bible says. I try to be persuasive, convincing, and confident in the words I say and it gives me joy and a good feeling that people are listening to the Bible. I get great joy in knowing that the Word is alive and able to help people that need its comfort, guidance, wise counsel, and all the other tangible things that come from within its living pages. You have that same opportunity to give the life changing bread of life!

Here’s another meme worthy quote. “The path of life leads upward for the wise that he may keep away from Sheol below.” The path of life is the same as the way is the same as the gate is the same as the road is the same as the highway. They’re all different ways of saying stay on the path that leads to righteousness. Stay on the path that leads to the Promised Land. Stay on the road that leads to eternity with God. The wise individual knows the dangers that lurk just off the path. When you stay on the path, you will keep away from Sheol, the place of the dead which lies below. Paul said, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) He also said, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) Too often we think of earth as our eternal home and all our efforts are used to secure heaven on earth which just can’t happen.

Don’t be filled with pride. Solomon says, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud.” There is a difference in parental pride and personal pride. Speaking to Jesus in Lu. 3:22 God said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” That’s the idea of parental pride – it’s a delight or satisfaction in your children. Of course that can spill over fairly easily into personal pride when we think our kids are better than everyone else’s kids. It’s typically manifested in statements like, “My child would never do that.” Solomon is talking about an elevated sense of self-worth. It’s a theme repeated often in Scripture. Pride is the principle that it’s all about me. Ps. 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” God is at the pinnacle of humanity; He is at the top of everything and does not take a back seat to anything that we consider important. When you magnify yourself over the Lord, you set yourself up in opposition to the first commandment that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) That’s what pride is, right? It’s the idea of self-centeredness. It’s the idea that the world revolves around you. Over and over God says, “It’s all about Me.” That’s what the first commandment is about.       That’s why we have a commandment against idolatry. The house of the proud will come crashing down. Maybe not physically, but that also might be true. God will do what He must to get people to acknowledge that He is what the universe revolves around. There is coming a day where everyone will recognize Jesus for who He is. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

The house of the proud will be destroyed, “But He will establish the boundary of the widow.” Being a widow in Scripture is not always glamorous. There are special provisions given to widows because their primary source of support is gone. The church is supposed to, “Honor widows who are widows indeed.” (1 Tim. 5:3) For all the effort and work that goes into accumulating things here, all will be lost, but the boundary of the widow? God will expand her territory and take care of those that are oppressed and afflicted.

I want to hit one more principle. “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord.” Remember abomination conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Those plans don’t have to come to fruition for God to be displeased. We’ve seen this before. Back in Pro. 6:18, having, “A heart that devises wicked plans,” is in the list of things God hates. Remember the heart is the seat of emotion. What comes out of the mouth reveals what’s inside the heart. When wickedness resides in the heart, evil thoughts and darkness result. When Jesus is in the heart, righteousness and goodness reside there. Because what’s in the heart flows out, the result is Jesus. “Pleasant words are pure.” By definition, goodness and righteousness are there because of Jesus and His working in your life. Jesus being Lord of your life leads to pleasant thoughts, which leads to pleasant words, which leads to pleasing Jesus and many of the people that cross your path. David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps.19:14)

It’s good to be back in Proverbs. Be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play.

Wisdom, Truth, and Folly

14 Sep

TruthCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us not to believe everything we hear. Check things out, that’s what people of wisdom do. Foolishness can be inherited from your parents, but Jesus Christ can break that cycle by transforming you into His image. The poor will be with us always, but that doesn’t mean ignore them. Be intentional with the Gospel because that’s what can change eternity for a person. This morning, Solomon continues with themes already presented in Proverbs.

Pro. 14:22-25 says, Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good. In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The crown of the wise is their riches, but the folly of fools is foolishness. A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.”

Will evil triumph? It’s a question we often ask ourselves as we see the things in this world spiraling out of control. Solomon says, “Will they not go astray who devise evil?” It’s a rhetorical question. If you devise evil, you are astray. If you are astray, it’s because evil is a part of your makeup. Again, Solomon is talking way of life, habit of life, this is who you are. The answer is yes, those that go astray devise evil. Just because they are in the evil business, does not mean that God is fooled, it doesn’t mean God turned His back, and it doesn’t mean God is not aware of what’s going on. These folks think they can outwit God, but His justice is perfect. We must maintain confidence, as hard as that may be at times, that God is in control and that He will prevail.

The other side of the coin is, “Kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.” People have their own definition of good and that goodness is often compared with people who are horrible.  It generally goes like this: “I may not be perfect, but I’m no murderer.” So whose definition of good are you going by? Let’s go by the definition Solomon uses. Good means that which gratifies the senses and derivatively that which gives aesthetic or moral satisfaction. Moral satisfaction. So in the ever changing tide of moral relativism, what is moral? You have to go to the unchanging standard of morality found in the Bible. Is it any wonder how confused people are as the standards continue to change? So they’re not really standards. Solomon says those that devise or plan good will be rewarded with kindness and truth. I think most people like to be treated that way. Is. 32:8 says “But the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble plans he stands.” Noble means having fine personal qualities or high moral principles

Solomon says talk is cheap. I love this next verse. “In all labor there is profit.” Everyone has been designed to work. The kind of work you do depends on the way God wired you. There are a nearly innumerable variety of things to do to earn a living. Our first example of working goes all the way back to Genesis. Gen. 2:2: “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested o the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Then in Gen. 2:15 God gave Adam the responsibility to cultivate and keep the garden – to work in it. Work had been around since the beginning. In all labor, in all work there is a benefit, there is a profit. You don’t have to see a paycheck for it to be work. Every woman that has kept a home and every mom that has raised kids knows that even though there is no paycheck, it’s still work. Anyone that has tended a garden and produced food knows it’s work. Anyone that has worked in the church or helped a neighbor or family member knows that not all work pays, but there is profit or benefit. When you work you have a sense of accomplishment. I know sometimes moms can feel like they’re just spinning their wheels in the home. The laundry gets done and next week you have to do it again. The house gets picked up only to have to pick it up again tomorrow. You mop the floor and it rains; you clean your house and have to clean it again next week. A lot of the work we do is repetitive and ongoing. I’m reminded of the term labor used in the delivery of a baby. It’s funny to me that we use that term because the real work occurs over the almost two decades following the labor, longer in some cases

The opposite of labor is, “But mere talk leads only to poverty.” These are not people looking for a job and cannot get hired. These are people talking about working, but fail to do anything to get hired to work somewhere. It also applies to people that don’t do anything around the home. They don’t take care of the yard, the cars, the dishes, the laundry, or the kids. They talk about working without ever really getting around to working. Let’s take a look at this idea of work from the Apostle Paul. You really need to find 2 Thes. 3:7-13 and take the time to read it. There are jobs available for people willing to work. You might have to show up at a particular time and that might mean going to bed at a reasonable hour and setting something that is called an alarm clock. You might have to work for a certain period of time called a work day. You might have to relocate somewhere and it might be cold there. If you don’t make enough to support yourself or your family, you might have to work two jobs. God demonstrated work and designed us to work.

The next verse looks like a departure. “The crown of the wise is their riches.” It often seem like money makes the world go round.    It doesn’t, but sometimes it seems like it does. Having wealth can get you into places that others cannot go. I remember Kari and I were in the market for a newer vehicle a number of years ago and we had stopped at a car dealership on the way home from the beach. We were dressed in beach clothing and were a bit shocked that we couldn’t seem to draw the attention of a salesman because we looked like we couldn’t buy a car. Having wealth and more importantly the wisdom in how best to use it is what Solomon is talking about here. There is a huge opportunity to use your wealth for God’s glory to further His Kingdom. Not everyone can go at any time, but instead saying I can’t do that, we have to ask ourselves, what can I do? If you have any kind of wealth, and wealth is relative, you can use it wisely to further the Kingdom. “But the folly of fools is foolishness.” Solomon has made it really clear that fools act foolishly because they lack wisdom. If you cheat, you’ll be labeled as a cheater. If you lie, you’ll be called a liar. If you scream, you’ll be called a screamer. If you act like a fool, you’ll be called foolish. So there really is no departure. Wise people seek knowledge and that’s why they’re wise. Fools continue to seek folly and that’s why they’re fools.

There so many applications for the next verse. “A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.” You really have to evaluate this on more than a surface level. The Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament says, “Save from evils.” KJV translates it, “A true witness delivereth souls.” This verse is really talking about the eternal truth of Jesus Christ. Lives are saved for eternity because of the truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Conversely, if you tell lies about Jesus Christ, you’re treacherous. Treacherous means that you’re guilty of betrayal or deception. So you have to ask yourself, why would anyone speak deceptively about Christ? Why would anyone say that all roads lead to heaven? Why would anyone say that Jesus is just one way to heaven? Why would anyone say you can be a Christian and live any way you want? Why would anyone say, “You surely will not die.” (Gen. 3:4) People tell lies about Jesus for many reasons. Lack of knowledge which is called ignorance. It sounds better or makes them feel better about where they are. They have a misguided notion about who God really is. They’re lazy – they don’t take the time to discover truth for themselves. I could go on, but ultimately, people tell lies about Jesus because there is one that does not want you to know the truth. There is one that wants you shifted off the true path. There is one that wants you to accept a partial truth, one that wants you to think of yourself before others, that wants you to think yourself more highly than you ought to, one that seeks your destruction, one that is a liar. One that wants you to follow your own desires. In Jo. 8:44 Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” When we speak the truth about Jesus, it will set people free. Satan is on the offensive and we’re sitting behind enemy lines in safety letting others take up the battle for us. Don’t be fooled: Satan will not stop in his effort to ruin you. 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Do good for the cause of Christ. Talk is cheap. Tell the truth about Jesus and live it out every single day and snatch people out of an eternity in hell. That’s the mission of the church. That’s your mission should you choose to accept it.

Thoughts Lead to Deeds

15 Jun

ThoughtsYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded us that we should be on a lifelong journey in our pursuit to know Christ. Our learning never ends and he said we should be loving instruction. We don’t dismiss instructions from people that are godlier than we are, that are more experienced than we are, that are more like Christ than we are. This morning, we’ll discover additional characteristics of the righteous and the wicked and look at the speech of each.

I encourage you to take the time and read Pro. 12:5-14 so you understand where Solomon is coming from.

Verses 5-7 contain the familiar patter we’ve seen Solomon use before. He speaks of the righteous, wicked, wicked, righteous, wicked, and righteous. “The thoughts of the righteous are just.” You know this because he said it in 11:23. In Ps. 119:15 David said, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” That’s a good principle to live by. If you’ve ever wondered how to clear your mind, this is one way to do it. For many of us, if we could get a handle on our thoughts, we’d be free from many of the issues that seem to plague us. An issue marinates in our mind and it grows because we continue to think about it. Oftentimes, there is a small issue, but is allowed to grow big and strong and it festers. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) The thoughts of the righteous, those that belong to Christ, are just and fair. The righteous give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t you just hate it when someone thinks the worst of you? That’s something that the wicked do. “But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood.” Notice in the previous verse, Solomon talked about thoughts and now those thoughts give way to words. I cannot emphasize strongly enough just how important our words are. The wicked are deceitful; there are often hidden agendas or motives. What you see or hear may not be what you get. The words of the wicked are full of lies, slander, false accusations, and half-truths which put people’s lives in danger. In a practical application, I think of the false teaching out there about who God is. God is love and patience and all the things that go along with the idea that God approves of all people and it doesn’t matter how one thinks or acts because God is love. People that have no idea who God really is are defining who God is and other people are being led astray. People are acting wickedly and may not even know it. I think Solomon is talking more along the lines of people that do know what they’re doing and are intentional about it.

“But the mouth of the upright will deliver them. The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” Our speech should define who we belong to. As I have often said, it is a primary indicator of who has our heart. Our words should reflect the love of Christ in all circumstances. Our speech often denies who we belong to and is a primary indicator of our relationship with Christ. We should take the advice of James and be quick to hear and slow to speak, and slow to anger. (Ja. 1:19) Even though the wicked may prosper in the short run, or at least seem to prosper, they will be overthrown and will be no more. The house of the righteous will stand because it’s built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s righteous.

Solomon now addresses the area of respect. I would venture that most people would like to be respected. We want to be treated and spoken to respectfully. What’s funny is that even when we don’t treat people respectfully, we still want the respect we believe we deserve. “A man will be praised according to his insight.” Praised means approval or admiration. Insight means understanding. Insight can also be translated – you guessed it – wisdom. This is a guy that lives by wisdom; that provides practical evidence of a life that is guided by wisdom. This is a smart guy, well mannered, stately, honorable, and all the other adjectives you can come up with for a man held in high regard because of who has his heart rather than any office or position of authority he might hold. Listen to how David is described: “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” (1 Sam. 18:5) This is a man that is recognized and appreciated because of the wisdom that exudes from his being. David wasn’t just pleasing to his friends; he was pleasing to all the people – the common folk and to the servants. It says a lot about a man when the servants have high regard for you. To put it in a modern context, think of the supervisor employee relationships. David was a man of honor and integrity. Instead of being respected, “But one of perverse mind will be despised.”  Perverse here means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. We are living in a day according to Is. 5:20 where evil is being called good and good is being called evil, but there still remains behavior that is generally viewed as acceptable or generally viewed as wrong.

Solomon now provides us with a series of one liners. “Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant than he who honors himself and lacks bread.” This is an interesting collection of words so let me rephrase it. It’s better to work hard, be considered average and have someone to help you around the house than it is to pretend you’re something you are not and have nothing to eat. Another way to say it is it’s better to be unknown and be able to afford a servant than it is to pretend to be rich, but can’t even eat. “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” This is for all the animal lovers out there. Animals were an important part of life back in Solomon’s day. They provided the power to work the land, to make flour from grain, to mill corn, provide milk, provide transportation as well as a number of other uses. The righteous man recognizes their importance and takes care of the animals to make sure they have what they need not just to survive, but to prosper. On the other hand, the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Even when they are trying to emulate some good qualities, they fall short.

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” If you work your land, you’ll always have food to eat. This applies even if you’re not a farmer. If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll have food to eat. Pursue worthless things is also translated chase fantasies. All kinds of things are coming to mind. I’m sure people back in the day made fun of people like Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright brothers. There is a difference between having a vision and being visionary. Chasing a fantasy is telling the judges that you can sing when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. “The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields fruit.” Wicked people want what other wicked people have. Pirates steal from other pirates. Drug dealers steal from other drug dealers. The righteous are planted in good soil rooted in Jesus Christ. When you’re a healthy plant rooted in good soil, you can’t help but produce fruit.

The next ten verses or so deal specifically with the speech of the wicked and the speech of the righteous. “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.” Proverbs has a lot to say about getting trapped. We saw this first back in 6:2 and in context Solomon was talking about debt – making promises to repay what could not be repaid. Now he’s talking about talking too much. It could be slanderous speech, gossip, speaking out of turn, or having an opinion about anything and everything and then making sure everyone knows that opinion. We see that on Facebook all the time. Matthew Henry refers to this as cutting one’s own throat with his tongue. Ps. 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” The righteous are delivered by the wisdom of their speech and that wisdom comes from God. “A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.” Sticks and stones the saying goes, but I think that’s way off the mark. We cannot overestimate the power of words. With our words we have the power to edify or tear down. The power to lift up or lash out. The power to encourage or the power to deflate. The tongue is just like the rudder that controls the direction of a ship: even though it’s very small, it can change the course of that big vessel pretty quickly. Think of a time you used words that picked someone up, that encouraged them, that gave them the hope they needed to go on, or the words you used to help them resolve some conflict. The righteous man uses his words for good and is deeply satisfied. When you work for the Lord, the Lord will reward you, but that’s not why we serve Him. All the good you do for the Kingdom is doing something. Keep working and allow God to work things out. The good you do for the Kingdom does not go unnoticed.

Thoughts often lead to deeds. When you can control your thoughts, life is easier. There are always challenges, but God gives you what you need to be an over comer when you need it. Don’t waste your time chasing fantasies. The righteous continue to do what is righteous and the wicked continue to do what is wicked. Use your words to encourage and edify rather than tear down.

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.

Solomon’s Purpose

16 Jun

PurposeYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we began our adventure into Proverbs. We found out how Solomon came to be king of Israel and we discovered how he came to be so wise. As I said last week, I encourage you to read one chapter of Proverbs each and every day of the month. This morning we’ll find out why Solomon, through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put these proverbs together.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read Pro. 1:2-6.

If you take even a quick glance, you’ll discover it doesn’t take long for Solomon to get to the point. He says we are, “To know wisdom and instruction.” As we established last week, Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for. Godly wisdom enables us to see the world through His eyes. That wisdom is increasingly unheard of today. What was common sense in the past no longer is today. I think there are a number of reasons that we could attribute that to, but I think the predominant one is that we have continued to deviate from the standard of Scripture. What was once taught in the home, is now outsourced to others. When I was growing up, kindergarten was optional. Now we have parents getting their kids in “school” while they’re still very young. Now don’t go getting all crazy on me, I know that moms may have to work to support themselves, but that’s a symptom of the real issue. We’ve deviated from the biblical standards of morality and ethics. Just because something is culturally acceptable does not make it biblical.

Freedictionary.com says wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting. This lines up with what Solomon asked God for. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” (1 Ki. 3:9) So if you’re going to determine what is right or wrong, good or evil, you must have a standard of determination. It must be unchanging; it must be divinely inspired, it must be accurate, it must be available. All of these are available in the copy of God’s Word you hold in your hand. Solomon says we can know wisdom. The word know is the same word that means grasp or ascertain that is used in the New Testament. This is the Hebrew form of the word while the N.T. uses the Greek. His use of the word, “know” indicates this wisdom should be common among people who follow Christ. We can, “Discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity.” This is what the Holy Spirit through Solomon’s words offer to us. Deut. 4:6 says, “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”  The “them” in this verse refers to the statutes and judgments from the previous verse.

So who’s Solomon writing to? His target audience is found in vs. 4-5. There are four target groups Solomon is thinking about as he writes. First there are the naïve. In this passage, naïve means simple ones, it means gullible. They’ll believe anything they hear. When it comes to wisdom, this can be very dangerous particularly when someone tells you something contrary to Scripture.

Second and way more difficult is, “To the youth knowledge and discretion.” That is something seriously lacking in people today. In this context, the term youth identifies anyone between childhood and adulthood. That’s a fairly broad age gap. Have you heard the saying, 30 is the new 20? Basically, life for the typical 30 year old is like that of a 20 year old in yesteryear. Some of that is driven by our economic state. A survey conducted last year revealed 38% of parents had grown children living in the home. In the last half century, pollster Jeffrey Arnett says a new life stage has developed he calls emerging adults. These emerging adults may fall into this category, but Solomon is targeting young and inexperienced people because they typically have no plan. Discretion here refers to the ability to form a plan so that goals can be pursued and achieved. One of the difficulties in the naïve and the young is they often don’t recognize their need for wisdom.

Third is, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning.” Wise people recognize they don’t know everything and continue to learn – they’re teachable. As you mature and move through life, you gain new insight that goes along with experience.

Fourth is, “a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” That wise man seeks the counsel of other wiser, more experienced people. Pro. 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The man of understanding doesn’t follow his own guidance, he asks! If you look carefully at the four groups, clearly anyone and everyone can benefit from the wisdom contained in this book.

Here’s the conclusion to Solomon’s introduction. He has given us the tools to be successful in life. After all that’s his goal. In Solomon’s mind, if we do one thing, we’ll be good. If we simply follow the wisdom of God, everything else will fall into place. The conclusion comes in v. 6, To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.” This sounds sort of like a riddle itself. We really love riddles. There are millions of riddle sites online. There are riddles contained in Scripture. Read about Samson, he loved riddles. Solomon is not talking about silly riddles that entertain or trick someone. He’s talking about the riddles or mysteries of life. Biblical wisdom seeks to eliminate the gray areas of life. But we’ll need the help of God to understand it. Paul told us that, “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.” (1 Cor. 2:14) We need the help of the Holy Spirit.

Solomon’s goal is to impart his wisdom, wisdom received from God, to us. All we have to do is follow it. It sounds simple enough, until we’re faced with our own will. The wise man lays aside what he thinks in favor of the truth found in God’s Word.

Monetary Foolishness

27 May

GreedYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we looked at worry and how it cripples many people in the church. Worry doesn’t indicate a loving concern for people or situations; worry results from a lack of faith or trust in God. This morning we’ll look at the principle of contentment and we’ll look at one thing that can cause unrest in the life of a Christian.

Take a close look at 1 Tim. 6:8-11.

Here’s a reminder. In v. 8 Paul reminds us that we should be content with food and clothing. Content comes from the word that means in a state of satisfaction or accept as adequate. In v. 9 Paul offers the contrast to contentment or satisfaction and that is someone who wants to get rich. I should point out that Paul is talking about someone who plans to get rich rather than what many of us say, “It sure would be nice to have some extra cash.” This is someone who is driven to achieve wealth. That’s his goal; that’s where his energy is directed; it is his motivation. V. 9 provides three adverse side effects to the desire to get rich. First, the desire to get rich leads to temptation. The desire lures people to do things they might not ordinarily do. Perhaps they’ll put money into a risky venture. Perhaps they’ll borrow money for a “sure thing.” Second, these people fall into a snare. They are like an animal that is trapped. The desire is materialistic. Third, once they’re trapped; ruin and destruction will follow. There is no way out, no way to be released, no escape. One writer equates this to material and spiritual disaster. This is a progressive destruction: temptation, snare, destruction. It’s all driven by foolish and harmful desires. It’s not driven by a desire to provide for family.

Here’s the explanation. Paul doesn’t leave us to wonder what he is talking about.  One of the most misquoted verses regarding money in the entire Bible is found in v. 10. Let me point out some obvious and some maybe not so obvious things from this verse. Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is the bottom line to all kinds of evil. Money is amoral.  It is not good or bad in itself. The love of money is not the cause for all evil in the world. The KJV translation is not consistent with the Greek here. It is wrong to say that the love of money leads to all evil. Ambition, lust, idolatry, and a host of other sin can certainly lead to a whole lot of evil. “Some by longing for it [money] have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” Longing for money. Think Judas.  Think Ananias and Sapphira. They were driven by their love for money. That word pierced means make a hole with a sharp object like you would pierce a piece of meat to put on a spit. The idea is that longing for money will bring an all consuming grief to the individual. That’s why people who are consumed with money are never satisfied. There is never enough money. Remember the rich man who came to ask Jesus the question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” After Jesus answered the question, Mark 10:22 tells us the rich young ruler, “Was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.” We all have a choice. We can seek to obtain stuff or we seek Christ.  It is a choice each of us must make.

Don’t get Paul wrong. He is not against getting ahead in the workplace. Christians are to work hard in order to provide for their families. We should be model employees because of who we are in Christ. Christians must have a Kingdom mindset and be driven to glorify Christ in all that we do no matter where we are, no matter what the circumstances. To be true to the context of this passage, Paul was talking about materialism among the heretics in Ephesus. Materialism is a desire to possess stuff instead of a love for the God who made those things. According to Col. 3:5, being transformed by Christ tells us to,  “Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” I agree with Paul and say that materialism and an authentic Christian life are not compatible.

So what’s a guy to do? That’s a valid question Paul answers in v. 11a. Timothy was commanded to flee. The word means run from danger. The danger of what Paul just talked about in vs. 9-10. It’s not just run away, Paul told him to, “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” Timothy was to pursue or constantly strive for six Christian virtues. Pursue means to follow something in order to catch it. This isn’t some wild pipe dream Paul is talking about. Each of the qualities represents something Timothy must maintain to maximize the effectiveness of his ministry. Righteousness means doing what God requires, doing what is right. It reflects interaction with people. Godliness is the quality of being scrupulously observant of all the teachings of Christianity; practicing virtue and avoiding sin. This reflects our relationship with God. Faith and love reflect trust in God and goodwill toward others. Perseverance means to keep going, not giving up. Timothy will need gentleness to deal with the heretics, the false teachers, those that would deny the faith; those that don’t hold to sound doctrine.

Being a good steward is not about pursuing money and telling God how much you’ll give to the church. People whose life’s desire is to get rich, who are consumed with the pursuit of riches are destined for ruin and destruction. We are given instructions as to how Christians are supposed to act. The choice is whether or not to apply what we have learned from the Scriptures.

Noah: A Movie Review

4 Apr

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.

Two Buts

23 Jul

Check out the podcast for this message.

Peter provided some significant and challenging instructions in vs. 8-12. This is the type of personal behavior that we should demonstrate as a manifestation of Christ’s life changing power that resides within us. Peter now shifts to practical application.

1 Peter 3:13-15 says, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Just a quick recap from last week. Peter told us to keep our tongue from evil and lips from speaking deceit, turn away from evil and do good; we are to seek peace and pursue it. We are not to participate in any form of evil and the idea is that the Lord is our protector and we are doing good in service to Him. Obviously Peter knows what is going on in the world and he says, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.” Blessed to suffer. Wow, that’s an oxymoron, but Peter is speaking from personal experience. Remember after Jesus established the church, the apostles were performing many signs and wonders. The Jewish big wigs didn’t like what they were doing. They were thrown in jail, but were released by the Holy Spirit and were found preaching in the market place. So the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the whole senate, and the Jewish elders got together and decided what to with them. It was decided to simply beat them and they were told in Acts 5:40, “Not to speak in the name of Jesus.” Acts 5:41: “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Suffering and hardship did not deter them. I think it made them even more determined to do the work of the Lord. It sure isn’t like that anymore. People look for an excuse not to come to church, look for reasons why they can’t serve. Perhaps the fire of the Lord has gone out, but that’s not possible is it? Acts 5:42 goes on to say, “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” They were being the church that Jesus intended it to be.

Peter says, “Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.” The Apostles weren’t the first ones that had the idea that serving God was what Christians ought to do. How about the three Hebrew children? In Dan. 3:17-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” They had standards. They weren’t going to let a little thing like being burnt to death deter them from serving the Lord. Paul told Timothy, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”  (2 Tim. 1:7) The idea is that we should be motivated by God’s power rather than focus on our weaknesses. God is able to work through us if we’ll only allow Him. The whole idea Peter is expressing is don’t let the man get you down or keep you down. You do what is right regardless of the consequences.

Peter answers his rhetorical question by telling us what not to do, now he tells us to do be ready. V. 15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” There’s that great “but” word again. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Sanctify comes from the word that means to separate from profane things and dedicate to God. Set your heart on God. Peter ties this verse to the previous verse by saying but. This is the contrast. When you set your heart on God, when you focus on Him, any fears you may have, any apprehension that may come, any doubt about what you are doing will all be dissuaded or put to rest, God will put your mind at rest and keep you calm even as you face trials. Pro. 18:10 says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” Set your heart on God and be ready. When your heart and your entire being is focused on God, you will be noticed. When you’re noticed, you need to be ready to explain why you are the way you are. Notice that we are not to get ready, we aren’t to call someone, we aren’t to read a book or go to a conference, we are to, “always be[ing] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” Defense comes from the Greek word apologia where we get our English word apology. It is the ability to make a reasoned statement or argument. Always. That means always. No special time to prepare a defense, no study time, no delays. Notice the verse says, “to everyone who asks you.” Anyone has the right to ask another on what grounds he regards his religion as true. The real meaning behind this verse is that we are to always be ready, willing, and able to give strong reasons why we decided to follow Christ. This is not just how we got saved. It is how and why we got saved. What caused us to embrace the fact that Jesus is the Christ and what caused us to make the decision to follow Him? It is not an intrusion into our personal lives.

When asked this question, some will say, “Religion is a private matter.” “It’s personal.” “I don’t discuss religion.” “That’s not what I believe.” Maybe you’ve heard those very things. We are to, “give an account for the hope that is with us with gentleness and reverence.” People will approach you about religion in many ways. Some want to ridicule you for believing. Some want to criticize you. Some want to harass you. We are to respond gently and recognize the importance of the subject. Pro. 15:1 reminds us that, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

So the question for us today is, are you ready? Are you willing?