Tag Archives: Instruction

The Folly of Speaking without Thought

8 Aug

ThinkCheck out the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs, Solomon said that as Christians in the workplace, we should be known for our work ethic. That work mandate goes all the way back to Genesis, but work didn’t become drudgery until the ground became cursed because of the fall. If you’re able to work, you should work to support yourself and your family. Being a slacker in your work will lead to destruction. When you’re feeling blue, or your down, or your up and excited about life, remember always that the name of the Lord is an incredible reminder about who is really is. Don’t follow what you think God is, follow what the Bible says He is. Safety can only be found in the Lord so put your trust in God, not in riches. This morning, we’ll continue looking at some current events.

I hope you’ll take the time to read our passage today found in Pro. 18:13-17.

We start off with something that is running rampant today. “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” Contextually, Solomon is still speaking of a fool, but this is something we all can get sucked into. Back in Pro. 17:27 Solomon talked about someone that retrains his words, but here, we move in a different direction. This is very applicable today. Before all the facts are presented, before all the evidence is collected, before the things necessary to make a decision are evaluated and considered, an answer is given. Someone that gives an answer without listening first can come off arrogant and rude. Have you ever heard of the two-minute rule? You won’t find it written anywhere, but it’s a good principle. This rule says you have to listen to a conversation for at least two minutes before butting in and giving your opinion. Without listening first, you really have no idea what’s being said. If you give an answer before listening, it could be perceived that you are unwilling to listen to counter opinions. If you jump in without listening, you might be labeled intolerant or bigoted. You’ve never had a conversation like that with anyone, have you? They always have an answer for what you’re saying? There’s always a ready defense and it typically involves fault or blame resting squarely with someone else. This type of person also represents an unteachable spirit. Solomon’s conclusion is when you are unwilling to listen before giving an answer, then, “it is folly and shame to him.” The folly and shame is assigned to the one giving an answer. This is the general rule because there is no understanding before speaking. When you speak before thinking, it generally leads to nonsense.

Solomon now says that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You hear this next principle a lot about people as they age. “The spirit of a man can endure his sickness, but as for a broken spirit, who can bear it?” Our body begins breaking down from the moment of birth. We get older and older and no matter the health and beauty products out there, nothing can suspend the aging process. This principle also presents itself when someone is sick and I don’t mean they have a cold or the flu. Sheer will power can counteract sickness. Maybe you’ve heard it said when someone is seriously ill that they’re in good spirits. That’s what Solomon is saying. They’re not letting their physical ailment get them down. They remain focused on the things that are important. I’m not saying health is not important, but on the eternal scale, your health on earth certainly falls to the bottom of the list. Really it’s God’s Spirit working with your spirit to help you stay focused on what’s important. Certainly no one who has ever had to endure watching a loved one be sick or battle a disease would say it’s enjoyable, but there is definitely something different when the Spirit of God is involved. Have you ever had to deal with someone that is defeated because they’re going through some type of illness or even injury? They’re not very fun to be around. A defeatist’s attitude can sink you pretty fast. The doctors are all incompetent, nothing works, the medication is not helping, all hope is lost. That’s the kind of person you want to get away from. That’s someone suffering from a broken spirit and Solomon asks, “Who can bear it?” Of course the answer is no one. It’s difficult enough to go through aging and various ailments with God, I cannot imagine doing life apart from God. No comfort, no strength, no courage, no endurance, no will, no hope.

We’ve heard this next one before. “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Solomon said something similar in 1:5, 4:5, 4:7, 9:9, 10:14, and 15:14. Each of those verses talks about what is common in people that are wise. The wise person is open to learning. He acknowledges he doesn’t know everything and is willing to learn. When you teach someone that is wise, they get wiser. He’s gaining knowledge which leads to understanding. This is quite the opposite of the fool. The fool thinks he knows things, but does not. He’s too foolish to know that he doesn’t know things. As I was writing this, I had a thought. As we progress through history, are we becoming smarter? Just in my lifetime, I’ve seen the advent of color TV, cordless and cellular phones, the smoke detector, the home computer, GPS, MRIs, DNA, LEDs, ATMs, MP3s, the internet, flat screen TVs, cable, satellite, and streaming TV. How about these inventions which fall in the “taking it for way granted category”: cruise control, electronic ignition, front wheel drive, and cordless tools.

Smart people tend to get smarter and people that aren’t smart tend not to get smarter. That’s what Solomon has consistently said throughout this book. The principle applies to secular pursuits, but Solomon is really talking about biblical wisdom. His reasoning is that if you possess biblical wisdom because you are a genuine follower of Christ, that wisdom will spill over into everyday life. That’s the theme throughout Scripture. Being a child of God should mean something.

Be careful reading the next verse. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.” The gift Solomon mentions is not a spiritual gift. Some commentators think this verse is talking about the practice of bearing gifts. Gen. 43:11 tells, “Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” The Magi brought gifts to the new born King. There are times that bringing a gift is right and appropriate. Someone moves into a new home; you give them a gift. You go before the President; you bring a gift. You see this very often. The champions of various sports typically go to the White House and they present the President a jersey or football, or some other memento of their accomplishment. It’s a demonstration of gratefulness or in recognition of position and authority. I think in reading this and from the cross references, the gift here is more like a bribe.  Your spouse brings you flowers, chocolates, a new car, an appliance, or ammunition in order to gain favor with you. A bribe always has strings attached to it. But it may not be a blatant bribe; it might be an endowment, or a scholarship fund named in honor of the bestowed. A gift given can open doors otherwise shut.

Our last one for today. “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” This verse is why we have the judicial system set up the way it is. There are two sides to every story and you can’t take the word of one party. If you think this is only relevant in the criminal or civil world, think again. I deal with this in counseling all the time. He said this, she said that and the stories rarely match up. What you have to consider, even in a church setting, is that people will lie to protect themselves. If you take action or draw conclusions based on the word of one person, you’ll likely come to an erroneous conclusion. I’ve had people come to me first with the hopes that since they’re the first one to tell me something, that I’ll believe them. Listen again, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” What seems right and what is right may be two different things. Don’t be too quick to judge. Be willing to do some investigative work. If someone comes to you in an effort to resolve some issue, be willing to talk with all the parties involved.

I want to caution you though. Paul told Timothy, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (1 Tim. 5:19) In some translations, elder is translated leader. If you’re going to bring an accusation against a church leader, you better have your ducks in a row. Unfortunately, this is a verse that is rarely followed. Someone has a beef with the pastor or church leader, and a conviction is handed down without so much as talking to the person. Say it ain’t so! Yes, this happens all the time. People leave the church because of something that was said without bothering to find out what was said. Or people get upset over some perceived wrong or injustice. I can tell you it is quite upsetting. I may have told you this and if I have, pretend you’re hearing it for the first time. At our last church, I had someone come to me and tell me that an individual had left the church because of something I said. I was a little perplexed because I didn’t remember speaking with this individual. When I dug a little deeper, I found out that the man had been eavesdropping on a private conversation I was having with someone and they totally got wrong what I was saying because apparently, they started eavesdropping sometime after the conversation started. If you believe everything you hear, you’re in for a very long, drama filled life. I think this verse goes along with the verse we looked at about gossip in 18:8.

We started off this morning with Solomon giving a principle we can all live by: think before you speak. There is rarely any issue that must be dealt with that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to think before acting. Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of someone that doesn’t do this. Yes, this issue is rampant in social media, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow the crowd. If you’re a child of the King and you get sick or diagnosed with some disease, allow the Spirit of God to minister to you through the illness. When your spirit is broken, no one can bear that. Don’t allow defeat to enter your mind. Be willing to learn, no matter what state of life you’re in; that’s what biblically wise people do. Bring gifts when appropriate, but not with the hope that they’ll get you anywhere. Before drawing conclusions about an issue, make sure you get all the facts from everyone involved. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in the folly of speaking without thought.

Looks can be Deceiving

13 Jul

LooksYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs we learned that we should use God’s Word as a compass for our lives. We should allow the perfect Word of God to guide us on the path of righteousness. We’re to work hard and not be lazy, something you’ll hear over and over again from Solomon. If you are anxious, your heart is weighed down. We combat these feelings of heaviness with the truths and comforts found in God’s Word. This morning, we have three very pointed topics Solomon wants us to understand.

Take the time to read Pro. 13:1-11 for yourself to understand the context.

Solomon’s first principle is that good listening leads to good parenting. For most of us, if our children listened to what we told them and followed that guidance, they would be far better off. As parents, if we followed the guidance of Scripture, we’d be better off too. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a good or bad person, if the kids would learn from our mistakes, missteps, and miscues, they’d at least know better. You can talk to career criminals and they will typically tell you they don’t want their kids to grow up to be like them. Solomon hits this on the head when he says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Parents who truly love their children discipline them. The word here means correction and we must assume that there was instruction at some point that the child did not adhere to and as a result, there must be consequences. There are children that are wonderfully compliant; there are children that are terribly rebellious. There are parents that are wonderfully godly and there are parents that are awful. I think it’s very likely that each of us fits into all the categories at various times and there are an almost infinite number of combinations too. Even kids can exercise the wisdom Solomon talks about if they would just listen to their parents. Early in their little lives, kids learn by being told no. The kid reaches for the glass on the table. The little one gets close to the stairs. As they get older and are able to understand more, actual instruction takes place, expectations are laid out, goals are established. Scoffers don’t listen, they want to do things on their own, they don’t want correction, they don’t want input. Remember way back in Pro. 1:22, “How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” This is not a good characteristic. There are some wonderful, godly parents that have children that rebel, that choose the wrong path, that stray from a life of faith. There are also horribly uninvolved parents that have children grow up to be wonderful, godly people. The grace of God is the great cycle breaker. Lay aside all those things the world says are marks of achievement and be the person God wants you to be. No matter your upbringing or where you came from, you can be the person God designed you to be. That is success in God’s eyes.

Not every kid in Scripture listened to his parents. Not every kid in Scripture had good parents. Some well intentioned people will tell you that when a kid messes up, it’s always the parent’s fault. There must be something in the family’s closets that led to the crime, the pregnancy, the rebellion, the bad grades, the drugs, etc. The truth is, sometimes kids make bad choices that lead to bad consequences. No matter how much love is demonstrated, no matter how much prayer and fasting is done, no matter how involved the parents are, sometimes kids exercise that free will in ways that are contrary to God’s principles. The wise son listens to the parents and the scoffer does not. Good things come out the mouths of the righteous Solomon says in v. 2, “but the desire of the treacherous is violence.” In keeping with the speaking theme from the last chapter, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Remember, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to remain silent. How many lives are hurt because we don’t control our tongue? We cannot excuse hurtful words by declaring it’s the truth. Truth can be used as a weapon and we must guard against that. I am in no way saying do not tell the truth, but check your heart first and then be loving and kind as the truth is told.

Verse 4 seems out of place in this passage, but it really goes hand in hand with v. 2. The fruit of a man’s mouth in v. 2 are his words and because of that, “The soul of the diligent is made fat.” We saw the importance of diligence in chapter 12 as it relates to a work ethic and now as it relates to the soul. When you exercise diligence in your spiritual walk, your soul gets fat. This is a good thing. Your soul is fed and properly nourished. On the other hand, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing” is a parallel to, “The desire of the treacherous is violence.” Even the longing of the sluggard is unfulfilled.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when people lie to me. People lie for many reasons: to protect themselves or others, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, etc. “A righteous man hates falsehood.” And “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless.” These are two principles to live by. Two principles that will keep the wise person from trouble. Part of following God is hating what God hates and loving what God loves. And you’ve heard that sometimes Christians are better known for what we are against than what we are for. Sometimes the love of God in our lives is not as evident when we focus on what we hate. The truth is that God hates all sin not just the ones that are in the news. It’s okay to take a stand and I encourage you to stand when it’s appropriate to stand and fight when it’s appropriate to fight. The righteousness of Christ is what we need to use to filter our thoughts and actions. Falsehood isn’t just lying. It’s deception, it’s cover up, it’s bad business practice, it’s everything that is contrary to what is good, and right, and pure. It should be a common thing for righteous people to hate lying, but anyone is susceptible to falsehood. Pastors have been fired for plagiarizing sermons, ministry leaders have embezzled funds from their organizations, church leaders have done unspeakable things.

The, “wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.” And “wickedness subverts the sinner.” Now these are some pretty harsh descriptions. We know what wicked is. Solomon has gone to great lengths to describe and characterize wickedness. “Acts disgustingly” literally means cause a stench or stir up a foul odor. Solomon continues to go to new depths to describe the overall awfulness of the wicked. Wicked people prefer falsehood, it is who they are. The best way to understand, “Wickedness subverts the sinner” is that the wicked will bring shame to other people and to themselves. They will cause disgrace to come to people that were foolish enough to trust or associate with them. If you hang out with thieves, you’ll probably be considered a thief. If you hang out with druggies, you’ll likely be considered a druggie. If you hang out with people who are wicked, others will conclude you are wicked. There in lies the great dilemma for Christians.

To help us understand what Solomon is saying, let me remind you of what Jude says. Jude 23 says, “And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” These folks are in the most danger of eternal punishment. Jude says have mercy on them even though they are engaged in sin. No matter what, we demonstrate the mercies of God that are renewed each and every day in our lives. We exercise mercy to those that are deeply entrenched in sin, but we do it with fear knowing that there by the grace of God go I. We tread carefully, “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Some think this is an illusion to Zech. 3:3 referring to Joshua, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” The word “filthy” here refers to excrement. Joshua was not actually wearing dirty clothes. Jude is referring to the ceremonial cleanliness requirements of the high priest. The idea is that if you are ceremonially clean and you touch something unclean, you then become unclean. You cannot transfer cleanliness. Jude is saying when you show mercy to that person in sin, be careful that they do not contaminate you. The flesh Jude mentions refers to sin. Be careful that the mercy you demonstrate is not twisted into acceptance of sin. You can see how easily it is to be drawn to compromise, especially if you don’t know the standard of truth.

Solomon talks about the illusion of wealth next. Take a look at vs. 7-11. This passage is broken into three points. In vs. 7-8, we are told don’t judge a book by its cover. People do a lot to appear to be something they are not. What motivates them, I can only imagine. Perhaps pride, perhaps something else. Earthly riches do not equate to God’s riches and vice versa. There was the rich man in Luke 12:21 that was not rich toward God. We’re also reminded of the one in 2 Cor. 6:10 that had nothing yet possessed all things. Wealth is relative. In 9-10 we are reminded that the light of Christ should shine brightly in our lives regardless of the circumstances. Insolence means disrespectful. This verse is also translated, pride only breeds quarrels. You know this is true. This is the person that refuses to listen to the insight, wisdom, or counsel of another. Wise people know they don’t know everything and are not afraid to get some outside assistance. Verse 11 presents us with an idea we have seen before. If you work hard, you can get stuff and keep it. If you get stuff by deceitful, unethical, or illegal means, it will be taken from you. This also conveys the idea of easy wealth – wealth that was obtained without working. Think inheritance or the lottery. Wealth not earned is often quickly lost.

When you consider all that Solomon has said in these 11 verses, it can seem pretty overwhelming. If you have parents, listen to them. Learn from them so you don’t make the same mistakes they did. Even if you have made terrible decisions in the past, there is no where you can go where the grace of God cannot reach you. Allow Jesus Christ to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you new. When that grace covers you, it changes your life, your attitudes, your desires and your outlook on life. That’s just four things that demonstrate you are new in Christ.

Lifelong Learning

8 Jun

LearningYou can check out the podcast Lifelong Learning.

Last week Solomon reminded us of the folly in trusting in the world’s riches and we found out that when we think globally about our finances, we are rich. He referred to the troubler in the house that will have no inheritance. We also saw the wonderful reminder of just how far reaching the impact of a righteous person is – both to his household and the community. This morning, we’ll see some familiar principles that just make plain sense.

In our passage today Solomon writes, “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. A good man will obtain favor from the Lord, but He will condemn a man who devises evil. A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved. An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.” (Pro. 12:1-4)

Education is a lifelong pursuit. In America, we have systems in place to ensure our children are educated with the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education is so important, there are laws that require parents to have their kids in school. Our government funds public school through taxes in order to educate our kids. Other countries in the world are not so fortunate – the mid-central area of Africa is the world’s worst for education. Research shows that kids who are not educated are at a higher risk for substance abuse, gang activity, and criminal activity. Kids who aren’t educated are also, “more likely to have health issues, experience mental health disorders, and be incarcerated. Why the background? To help us understand the practical application of what Solomon says here. “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge.” The word translated discipline means instruction. Rom. 15:4 says, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Everything in Scripture is valuable. It is through the Scriptures that we get to know God better; that we get to know Christ better and understand how the Holy Spirit functions in conjunction with the Father and the Son.

A hunger for God’s Word can be developed and I am an example of that. In the beginning of my walk with Christ, no one that I can remember told me I needed to study God’s Word. Maybe someone did, but I didn’t get it. That’s just one reason why it is so important to have godly people in your life. We have these mentor type of people in nearly every facet of life including school, sports, clubs, and jobs. For some reason, in our walk of faith which is the most import aspect of life we will ever engage in, we prefer to go it alone, to figure it out by ourselves, to neglect it, to dismiss the importance of our faith, or be content with where we are. If our faith were like our other endeavors, we’d be sent back a grade, benched, kicked out of the club, or fired. Why do I keep coming back to the same thing? Because we’re not identifying who our enemy is. We think it’s other people, parents, teachers, bosses and the real enemy prowls around looking for people to destroy. When we deemphasize the importance of the written Word, we fall neatly into his trap. I was unknowingly trapped by Satan until I finally figured out what God was trying to tell me. I sometimes wonder how long He had been telling me and if others around me had told me the same thing, would I have gotten it sooner? It doesn’t matter because I can’t get that time back. What’s important is that you learn from my mistake and don’t repeat what I did. In this area, God’s desire is the same for all of us. You don’t have to be a vocational pastor or engage in vocational ministry to benefit from the principles of Scripture – they are for all people! 1 Pet. 2:2, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Matt. 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Solomon is telling us that we should have an attitude that expresses a longing, a deep desire to get into the Word. Think of the moment in time when you were physically more hungry or thirsty than you had even been. All you could think about was food. You couldn’t wait to get that meal. That is the natural, physical desire for nourishment; the exact same desire we should have for the spiritual nourishment that sustains us in our walk of faith.

In direct opposition to this Solomon says, “But he who hates reproof is stupid.” Anyone that can have their mistakes corrected, that can broaden their horizons, can learn the better or best way, the right way, the wisest way and yet refuses to learn these things is stupid. Hey Solomon, tell us what you really think. Stupid means lacking intelligence or common sense. Think about how you may have attempted to instruct someone and they refused to listen to you. Think of the person that attempts to put together that toy or piece of furniture, or hang that ceiling fan, but won’t look at the instructions. Think of the person that attempts to repair to a car and there are pieces left over. You try to correct it and they get all bent out and refuse to listen. They’re stupid. Come on, you might be thinking, that’s different. Let me put it in Solomon’s context. I think of all the people that I have had dealings with in a ministry or Bible context that refuse the instructions found in Scripture. They have less experience, less knowledge, less education, less time on this earth, less everything associated with walking by faith, but will not listen to good, solid, biblical guidance. They’re stupid. Harsh you say? Look at the stakes involved. A broken car versus eternity. Overly dramatic? That’s part of Satan’s plan to downplay the importance of walking a life of passionate authenticity for Christ. It does matter what and how we think and it matters what our life looks like.

This segues nicely into the next principle. Solomon then says, “A good man will obtain favor from the Lord.” Don’t confuse this with earning salvation. A good man here is someone that remains good no matter the circumstances. His thoughts are good; his heart is pure; he is in tune with God. The world may be against him, but he remains steadfast in God’s arms. This is the glass half full person, this is the silver lining person, this is the person that continues to keep the mission of this life at the forefront of his mind. Our walk of faith takes no breaks, there is no vacation, there are no off days. The good man seeks to passionately follow Christ all the time, but He will condemn a man who devises evil.”   It’s a straight forward contrast with no deep, hidden meaning. This person cannot be good because he is plotting and planning what is not godly. “A man will not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will not be moved.” This is a neat and tidy restatement of the previous verse. The root of any goodness we have is God. In order to grow big and strong for God, we must be planted in good, fertile soil. We are mighty because of God. He infuses Himself in us. Regardless of how strong the wind blows, we are held firmly by the roots that are planted in God and in His Word.

Here’s another vivid word picture. “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” Who wears crowns? Royalty wear crowns and this presents us with the idea that men are the kings of their castle. So what is an excellent wife? Every man in here has an idea of what an excellent wife might look and act like. To save us from ourselves, let’s make sure we define excellence from God’s perspective. Excellent here means extremely good or outstanding. That probably comes as no surprise to you. It also means virtuous. Virtuous means having high moral standards. Remember the morally ugly woman of 11:22? The excellent woman is not morally ugly. Ruth is one of the most wonderful pictures of godliness in Scripture. She is called a woman of excellence in Ruth 3:11. This woman of virtue is not just loving, godly, and morally pure, she is a crown to her husband. This is symbolic of the crown or wreath that grooms often wore at their wedding. The woman of virtue finishes off the man. The opposite is also true. “But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.”   Shame here means act shamefully. That’s any type of behavior that could be shameful. Gossip, short tempered, arrogant, conceited, immoral, lazy, etc. Before you women get all antsy on me and call me a caveman and a chauvinist, there are abundant principles regarding the behavior of godly women in Scripture. I am not in favor of restricting the vote of women, or not allowing women to walk alone in public, have a job, drive, or any of those things that we might define as antiquated. Let me be clear, while Scripture calls women the weaker vessel, that does not mean women are not as smart, not as valuable, not as wise, not as knowledgeable, etc. as men. That’s not Solomon’s point here. He is simply saying that a wonderful, godly woman is like putting a crown on her husband’s head. Our wives can and often make us as men look very good. Our wives are often called our better half. When that half causes shame in our lives, it’s like a rottenness that destroys from the inside out.

Part of the lifelong learning we pursue, is a change in our behavior to mimic Christ. He transforms us to look more and more like Him. All of us can change. We should all desire to change to become more and more like Christ.

Leadership Wisdom

2 Mar

LeadershipYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom Speaks

23 Feb

speakYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scarlet Letter

16 Feb

Scarlet LetterYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parental Love

13 Oct

Parental LoveYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at some very serious character flaws. A relationship with God through Christ brings true wisdom and as a result, as followers of Christ we should be different than the world. We should have a biblical world view. No matter how imperfect we are, God’s grace is bestowed upon us and because of this, we’re not defined as foolish. This morning, Solomon provides some urgent instructions and reminders that are applicable for parents today.

Take the time to look up and read Proverbs 4:1-9.

Solomon digresses for a moment imploring sons to pay attention. Verses 1-2 give you a sense of urgency in Solomon’s words. Notice that he is talking to sons – plural. Hear is a verb – it’s an action word. This command is reminiscent of the command found in Deut. 6 for parents. Teaching your children is primarily the responsibility of the parents. This is not something that should be outsourced to babysitters, to daycare, or schools and it’s not the responsibility of the grandparents. All of these people can and should help, but as parents, the design is for a father and a mother to raise a child. This is not an indictment against moms that work. I understand all too well how difficult it can be to make ends meet these days. Are there other options available that do not include sending a child to day care at the ripe old age of 6 weeks? Sometime we think there is no other way to make it unless mom works and sometimes that is the case. I knew a woman that worked a part time job that actually cost the family about $20.00 a week for her to work when you factored in fuel and childcare. Solomon tells sons to hear, “The instruction of a father and give attention that you may gain understanding.” The reason for the instructions is clear – to gain understanding. Gain literally translated means to know. This instruction would include day to day things that a father teaches his child. But the more important teaching includes what he would teach that boy about God. It must start at the beginning. Don’t think you can wait until the teenage years to teach your children about God. Don’t leave this important responsibility to others.

Solomon says he gives, “Sound teaching; do not abandon my instruction.” The teaching is right and true and that’s why it shouldn’t be abandoned or left behind. 2 Tim. 3:14 says, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” When you look at Paul’s opening paragraph to his second letter to Timothy, you notice that Paul mentions that Timothy has a sincere faith like that of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. What is missing is his father and grandfather. Timothy is first mentioned in Acts 16:1 that says, “Paul came also to Derbe and Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.” Notice the contrast between mother and father. This is significant especially in light of what Solomon is telling us.

If you notice in our main text, Solomon gives credit for what he knows to his father. Look at vs. 3-5. As busy as the king must have been, David took the time to teach Solomon. Solomon had 18 brothers and a sister and I would think that the personal level of instruction was important as more children came into the family. But what if the parents are not involved in active instruction? Remember the warrior Joshua? He was one of the twelve men sent by Moses to spy out the Promised Land in Num. 13. Fast forward to the end of Joshua’s life. Jud. 2:10 tells us a horrifying thing: “And there arose a generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work He had done for Israel.” That’s what happens when parents aren’t involved.

Another reminder regarding wisdom. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you.” Don’t take this too lightly. This is conditional, as long as you hold on to her, she’ll guard you. As long as you love her, she’ll watch over you. There’s something obvious in v. 7. “The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom and with your acquiring, get understanding.” The literal translation is, the primary thing is wisdom. Solomon’s thinking if you can get that, the other stuff is easy. Remember we’re talking godly or biblical wisdom here. Those aren’t the only conditions. “Prize her, and she will exalt you.” “She will honor you if you embrace her.”Not only are there eternal rewards, but there are present day rewards too. Verse 9 is rewording 1:9. I like to think of this as a demeanor or attitude. When biblical wisdom is obtained through the knowledge and understanding of the Lord, it should be obvious to those that look at us. Remember it’s the fool that despises wisdom and instruction, but sometimes it seems Christians fall into this category too. We want the promises of God regardless of our actions. We expect God’s blessings when we’re unwilling to follow His principles. We expect a holy and perfect God to turn a blind eye on how we act, what we do, and how we think.

Eph. 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Children are a blessing from the Lord and the best thing you can teach them is to love God. As parents invest in them, but invest the right things into them. Teach them the word of God. If King David took the time with Solomon, shouldn’t we take the time?

Trust Me

11 Aug

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.

Wisdom Speaks

7 Jul

SpeakYou can listen or download the podcast here.

Last week Solomon concluded his introductory warning by telling his son to be careful who is friends are. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. This morning, a concept speaks to us for the first time in this book as Solomon utilizes personification.

Grab your Bible and read Proverbs 1:20-33.

We begin with wisdom’s appeal to listeners. The easiest and most utilized excuse for wrong doing is ignorance. We see it all over. Someone commits some form of wrong or evil behavior and the conclusion is they just didn’t know any better. That may be true for some people, but you cannot make a blanket statement that ignorance is justification. Wisdom is in the noisy streets and at the entrance to the cities. Wisdom is not something elusive. She’s not like some wise old sage that you have to climb a mountain in order to get her insight. She is out there trying to make her voice heard. She roams the streets shouting for all to hear. She’s looking for someone to teach, someone that will take her up on her incredible insight. All we have to do is open up God’s Word and we find wisdom.

In v. 22, wisdom speaks about three types of people. Remember the naïve one are simple minded. This verse gives us an indication that they don’t have to stay that way. They love being the way they are. They’re sort of like the kid that doesn’t want to go to school because they know everything they need to know. The scoffers just love to scoff. They ridicule the things of God, the ways of God and any who will choose to follow God. Scoffers come in many forms and look like ordinary people. Sometimes they’re subtle like when they lovingly say, “God wouldn’t want you to live like this.” Sometimes they’re more overt by denying the authority of God’s Word. And of course, the list would not be complete without the fool. The word used here is not quite as strong as the word used in v. 7. This guy rejects wisdom and has become morally insensitive. He is so occupied with the things of the world that the things of God are of no concern to him. We’ll see in later chapters that this type of person is a source of grief to his parents. According to chapter 26, you can’t talk sense to a fool because he’s a fool. Talking to a fool is a waste of time. Ps. 1:1 “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” It’s difficult to determine when to let go of a person like this. If your face is blue, it’s probably time.

Look at wisdom’s guidance. Wisdom issues a pretty clear directive to the people she’s screaming to. It’s never too late to, “Turn to my reproof” she says in v. 23. The ignorant can learn, the scoffers can cease their scoffing, the fool can gain knowledge.   She says, “Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” She’ll do this in any way she can. Ignorance is not bliss and is no excuse or rationale to act in a manner that is inconsistent with God. God is extraordinarily patient with us and with those that rebel against Him, but there will come a day when He has had all he can take. Wisdom called, and you refused. Wisdom stretched out her hand, but you refused to grab hold of her. You neglected all of her counsel, instruction, and correction. You have passed the point of no return. As a result of this, wisdom takes on some very realistic qualities that would be deemed judgmental, hurtful, and just plain offensive. Look at vs. 26-27. These are hard words. Laugh and mock at your calamity? What kind of loving God does that? The kind of loving God that declares there is judgment for sin. The kind of loving God that has standards and holds people accountable for those standards. The kind of loving God that has preserved His Word so we can learn, grow, and be transformed by its power. The kind of loving God that puts wonderful, godly, passionate, and authentic people in our paths to instruct, train, and guide us. Don’t blame God when you’re falling without a parachute. Don’t blame God when you’re sinking in an ocean without a life ring. This sounds incredibly harsh, doesn’t it?

Don’t be shocked, they know their folly. There will come a time when a person realizes all of the truth that has been thrown at them. There is the saying better late than never, but that doesn’t apply here. If you reject wisdom’s cries, judgment comes. It seems too often people only want help when they’re experiencing the consequences for their actions. That’s what is happening here. It’s like people are told over and over, “Don’t do that.” “That’s not a wise decision.” “Be careful.” “You can’t afford that.” “He (or she) is no good for you.” All of those warnings are dismissed and low and behold the consequences arrive and the naïve ones, the scoffers, and the fool cries out, “Help! Help!”

Wisdom responds in vs. 28-30. They’ll call, but there is no answer. They’ll go looking, but wisdom will not be found. Why? Because when there was plenty of time to be proactive, these people chose to be carefree, chose to be complacent, chose to be clueless. They chose to ignore God. And so their consequence is found in vs. 31-32.

The voice of wisdom is the voice of God. 1 Cor. 1:30 says, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” There is a but at the end and it represents a vivid contrast. Verse 33 says, “But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil.” As we eagerly and patiently wait for Christ to return, we are the voice of Christ as we share His power and His redemption. We become the voice of wisdom, because we have the power of Christ in our lives. We don’t hide our light under a basket; we lift it high for all to see.

Solomon’s Son

30 Jun

Father and SonYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we looked at Solomon’s premise. He set up the whole book by saying fools reject sound wisdom and instruction and they are too foolish to know it. This can be overturned by the life changing power of Christ. This morning we’ll find out who Solomon is really writing to and look at his first instruction.

I encourage you to take the time to read Pro. 1:8-19.

Here’s Solomon’s introductory conclusion. Solomon closes his introduction by reminding his son of something every kid should remember. “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction.” Remember in the Hebrew language, hearing is the same as obeying. You’ll hear that phrase, “my son” repeated numerous times so keep looking for it. Solomon is really telling his son to be obedient! Eph. 6:4 reminds, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is the pattern that should set for all Christians. Instruction begins in the home. Parents, don’t rely on other people to teach your kids about God! We all have a responsibility to help, but the primary responsibility rests with the parents of kids. I can’t tell you how many people have crossed the path here that began attending church because they felt it was good for the kids. I always say, well if it’s good for them, don’t you think it might be good for you? Then the look crosses their face like they never thought of that. It’s not just the father’s teaching that’s important, Solomon tells his son, “And do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Both parents have a responsibility to teach the kids and must make it a priority of the home. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deut. 6:6-7) Kids need to listen to their instructions. When kids listen to these instructions there is reward. They’re found in v. 9. You get a wreath for your head and a necklace. The idea is that when we follow wisdom, there are benefits.

Here’s the first instruction. V. 10 contains something that looks very obvious. In essence, Solomon is telling his son to stay on the right path.  Remember the instructions that Solomon gave and obey them. If some gang of sinners entices you, don’t do it, just say no. Solomon doesn’t leave it at that. He explains that a sinner that is intent on recruiting you will use whatever tactic necessary to get you off the course. In this case, Solomon warns that sinners will say or do anything to get you to follow them. The wicked sinner will make sin look attractive. The Bible never paints the picture that sin is not fun. Heb. 11:25 talks about the passing pleasures of sin. The pleasure will pass and the consequences remain. There are always consequences – even if they are unseen. They ambush the innocent. They conceal themselves and wait for people to pass by. They look for the easy score. They attack the innocent without cause and seek to destroy them.

What’s the draw? They say, “We will find all kinds of precious wealth, and fill our houses with spoil.” They circumvent the principle of hard work; they want it fast and easy. What’s easier than killing someone in an ambush and taking their possessions? Crime does pay; getting caught does not.  They offer easy money and v. 14 even offers a family of sorts. You can see what Solomon is talking about when you think of real life gangs. Join us and we’ll be one they say. There is a twisted sense of brotherhood among criminals. They have a code. The people they recruit are offered a sense of belonging, a chance to be a part of something. Those recruits are willing to do whatever is necessary to be accepted. Did you notice the pronouns used in the verse? Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure. Tell your kids it’s okay to go against what everyone else is doing. Given what we know about Solomon, the principles that are contained in Proverbs are designed for those people passionate about following God. The principles are tried and true because they come from God so they can be applied to any person, but in context, we’re talking about kids raised with godly values and morals by godly parents. Kids, be wary of anyone that lures you to violate the principles that are taught by your parents. This can come from within the church as well. Don’t think that everyone has grown and matured to a level that demonstrates a consistent, passionate, and authentic desire to walk with Christ.

The first instruction’s ending. Solomon is very clear about the outcome if his warning is not heeded. If you follow evil and wickedness, you will find it. Solomon tells his son, “Do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path.” This is a very clear command. When teaching your kids, don’t mince words. Don’t be vague, ask probing questions, ask for details. Don’t be under the false assumption that your kids have rights. The only rights they have are what you give them. The intent of the sinners is clear. “Their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed blood.” They’re in a hurry to do wrong; in a hurry to hurt people. Solomon explains the senselessness of what these people are doing. V. 17 says, “Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net in the sight of any bird.”   That’s kind of a strange translation. A better translation would be, “In the eyes of a bird, the net is strewn [with grain] for no reason.” In other words, the bird sees the trap, but doesn’t associate the net with a trap. All he sees is the bait and that’s why he can be trapped.

In essence, Solomon is saying birds are smarter than these evil sinners. The sinners do not see the danger in what they’re doing, they only see the bait. They see short term gain and ignore long term judgment. While they run to evil and devise evil plans to destroy innocent people, they cannot see the correlation between their evil deeds and the judgment that will come as a result of those deeds. V. 18 says, “But they lie in wait for their own blood; they ambush their own lives.” The very opposite of what they promised in v. 11 happens to them. They fall into their own trap. Solomon closes this instruction by painting with a very broad brush. So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors.”

Kids, students: be careful of who your friends are. Parents: know who the friends of your kids are. 1 Cor. 15:33, “Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.”