Tag Archives: Money

Sharing is Caring

10 Jul

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Last week, the disciples were ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus and they responded in prayer. They established a pattern for prayer that we should follow in our lives: pray first, pray together, pray with confidence, pray biblically, and pray expectantly. As we continue our journey through Acts, we’ll see how vital prayer is in accomplishing the mission God has set before us. This morning, we’ll see what happens when people are truly transformed by God.

Acts 4:32-35 says, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.”

Let’s be clear on something. The disciples have just prayed and God answered by shaking the place where they were and they were, “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” This is not a contradiction to 2:4. They were empowered again by the Holy Spirit which leads to v. 32. Luke tells us, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The word congregation is better translated multitude. At this point in the young church, there are at least 8120 men. There had to be lots of women and children that aren’t numbered so it’s reasonable to conclude that the number of believers far exceeds 8120. Don’t use this as an excuse to justify the attendance at a particular church as a measure of success. The point Luke is making here is that of those people that made up the assembly that believed in the finished work of Jesus Christ, those that made a profession of faith and lived like Jesus, those people, “Were of one heart and soul.” You’ve heard that phrase heart and soul before. It should be obvious that Luke is not talking about a physical heart or soul, but a spirit of oneness, a spirit of togetherness, a spirit of community. This passage is very similar to 2:42-47, but one theme stands out in this passage compared to the previous passage at the end of chapter 2.

The overarching premise here is that of unity. This spirit of unity led them to do something very contrary to our way of thinking. “And not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” That doesn’t mean they didn’t own anything themselves. This isn’t some justification for socialism or a misguided notion of fairness. The idea of fairness is running rampant through our society. We think it’s not fair that someone has a better car than we do. It’s not fair that my kid doesn’t get a trophy. It’s not fair that they got promoted and I didn’t. The idea of fairness has spread to the church too. It’s not fair that they get to teach and I don’t. It’s not fair they get to sing and I don’t. Thankfully, we haven’t really experienced those kinds of things at 3RC.

The defining point where selfishness gives way to selflessness is found in that word, “believed.” Jesus always transforms the heart. Show me someone that remains the same after salvation, and I’ll show you someone that is not genuinely saved. Only in the modern church do we deemphasize the power of God and accept simple profession of faith without corresponding transformation. The murderer Saul was radically transformed into the Apostle Paul. The greedy tax collector Zaccheus was transformed to the point that he gave away half his wealth and if he cheated someone he paid back four times the amount. Peter was an uneducated fisherman and forsook all he knew to follow Christ and was transformed into the leader of the Apostles. Don’t tell me that God doesn’t have the power to transform lives today. The same power that transformed those Bible guys, transformed me. Paul told us, “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

These believers were so radically transformed, they had all things in common. We tend to think of things as our own. I earned it; it’s my money; it’s my room; it’s my toy; it’s my guitar. This selfish nature is destroyed by Christ. Our attitude should be, what’s mine is yours. If you need it, I have it. “And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.” The apostles continued telling people about what they saw after Jesus died. The resurrection of Christ is a pivotal event in the history of the world. I don’t have the time to go through all the reasons why it’s so important, but the short answer is that Jesus’ resurrection confirms the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah and it validates who He said He was.

At this point, Luke focuses on one particular aspect in the life of the new believers and that is sharing. This idea of sharing is nothing new to these people. Luke mentioned the idea of common property in v. 32. This goes back to the ideals of Greek society attributed to Pythagorean and Plato that there is no private ownership of anything. That ideal likely never materialized, but the concept would not be foreign to the people that the Apostles are now teaching. This idea of sharing is more in keeping with the Old Testament promises of God. Deut. 15:4-5 says, “However, there will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today.” These believers were experiencing the power of God and, “abundant grace was upon them all.” Peter referenced the last days in 2:17 and they are experiencing God’s blessing in 4:33, and now they are working toward the ideal that there should be no poor people among them.

Is this an ideal or is it something that can actually be achieved? Again, we can point to society today where we have so called experts saying it’s not fair that executives make so much money. We have government programs for people that fall below a certain income level. We have government grants that are available for some people to go to college. We have Obama phones because everyone needs a cell phone. These are all programs designed to even the playing field of society. But did these first century believers seek to even the playing field? I can answer that with one emphatic word: no.

So how did it work? Look at vs. 34-35. There were believers that had property. They voluntarily and willingly sold property when there was a need. There is no evidence to suggest this was mandatory, but when a need arose, they sacrificed some of what they owned and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. Before you go and put your house on the market, this is what they used to do. Now if the Lord is leading you to do this, by all means go ahead and do it. In reality, we have to go back to the first century context of what a need is. A need is to require something because it is essential or very important rather than just desirable.

Over the years, I have become very jaded over the subject of needs. The vast majority of people that have come across my path wanting help from the church are not affiliated with any church and are not affiliated with Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the way, the church has become the go to place to make ends meet. From car repairs to cable bills, from rent to utilities, from gas to medical bills, I have seen a lot. Strangers coming to the church expecting to get what they want. They want the church to help them because they think that’s the way it should be. Before you get all judgmental on me and say we should help our folks, most people that come to the church wanting money are not in need; they are in want. I have watched people spend foolishly then come to the church and expect to be bailed out. If you have ever been involved with church finances, you will quickly agree. We will help our members in one way or another. It might be with money, but it also might be with biblical, financial counsel, and accountability. Sometimes we talk about giving up that Starbucks or passing on a new outfit, or you’ll be encouraged to eat at home instead of eating out and then we can give to a good church cause, but these early believers were selling property and land to meet the needs of other believers.

We have such abundance in the church. We fill our homes with stuff and when it overflows, we put stuff in the attic, then is spills into the garage, then we build a shed, and that overflows so we put our stuff in a storage unit. We end up paying money to store stuff we don’t use and likely won’t use. Why? Because we’ve bought into the idea of the American dream. I’ve never heard of the Honduran dream or the Brazilian dream, or the Paraguayan dream. The American Dream was publicly defined in 1931 by historian James Truslow Adams. He coined the phrase in his book, Epic of America. In the book, he says, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” He goes on to say the American Dream is not, “. . . a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

The America Dream seems contrary to the example of the early church. Maybe you’ll point out that what the early church did was descriptive and not prescriptive. You might say, “We don’t have to sell our houses and land to meet people’s needs,” and I would agree. I think it would be appropriate to look at an Old Testament passage from a book few people have read let alone studied. Take the time to turn to Haggai 1. To quickly set the context, a remnant had returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. There is economic hardship in the land of Judah. Look at the five things Haggai says is going on in vs. 5-6. Even though they’ve planted a bunch of crops, they’re not getting much in the way of harvest. Since the harvest isn’t so good, there’s not much food to satisfy their hunger. There’s not enough to drink to quench their thirst – the word drunk here means satisfy fully. They just can’t keep warm with the clothes they have. For the people that do work, it seems like they just put their money into a pocket full of holes where it disappears. The people have got to be thinking, “How in the world can we afford to rebuild the temple when we can’t even afford to take care of our families?” Many today would ask the same question, “How can I afford to sow into the work of the Lord, when I’m having trouble making ends meet?” I cannot afford to tithe or give.

In v. 7, the Lord says, “Consider your ways.” Haggai doesn’t stop there. Look at vs. 8-11. The real call is to evaluate your priorities. Have you ever thought that perhaps your current economic situation is a result of misplaced priorities? The people of Haggai’s time sure didn’t. They were content to hang out in their paneled houses all the while neglecting God’s house. In other words, they were more concerned about how their own houses looked. Their priorities were messed up. These early believers Luke is talking about are way different than the remnant that returned to Jerusalem. I think it’s fair to ask, is your attitude more like those exiles that returned to Jerusalem or these early believers? The early believers sold their stuff when there was a need and brought the proceeds to the Apostles. In the church today, we operate a little differently. We receive tithes and offerings as a way to support the mission of the church God established in Scripture and to fulfill the vision of your pastors. That financial support typically comes in through giving a portion of the wages people earn through their vocation. The attitude of these first century believers demonstrates an attitude of sharing. We are grateful for all the Lord provides for us at 3RC and I don’t take for granted the blessings He has poured out on me. But sometimes, we focus more on what we don’t have than on what we do have and on what God can do. These believers used what God had blessed them with to meet the needs of others in the church.

What’s mine is yours. If you have a need, we must be willing to see those needs met. There is no reason anyone in the church should walk around naked or hungry, but if you have Netflix and the fastest interned available and can’t pay the electric bill, there’s some issues. As Paul said in Phil. 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

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Are We Supposed to Forgive and Forget?

12 Sep

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Last week we started by asking the question, what is your word worth? Do you keep your promises? It’s better to be poor with integrity than get out of poverty by dishonesty. We saw the standard for morality is found in the living Word of God. Don’t do foolish things and then blame God when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. We finished by talking about lying. It’s never good, right, or acceptable and that was the whole truth. This morning, we’ll do some review and dig into the topic of forgiveness.

Pro. 19:6-11 says, “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone. He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good. A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish. Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes. A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”

This is not a new principle. We saw this briefly last week. “Many will seek the favor or a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends abandon him; He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” This just goes to reaffirm the idea that rich people attract others. Rich people can get places with their money. People fawn over rich people. Just look at the entertainment and sports industries. Because of their fame and fortune, society seeks these people out for guidance, wisdom, their ideas, and their opinions. I’ve always thought it strange that celebrities and sports figures frequently are asked their opinion on matters they know nothing about. They’re sought out simply because they are famous. What is this infatuation we have with celebrities? We even have paparazzi follow them around taking pictures like we don’t know they go to the beach, or go shopping, or go out to eat. They tell us what movie or concert they went to, what they ate and if they’ve gained any weight. While rich people are sought after, have you ever thought about the fact that no one is taking pictures of the other side? Nobody follows the poor around. In fact, sometimes they are told to move along. They’re told they can’t be in public places. This is the exact application Solomon is talking about.

We hear a lot that God is no respecter of persons. That’s true, but when we use it in that application it refers to a Jew and Gentile comparison. “For there is no partiality with God.” (Rom. 2:11) Acts 10 records two visions: one that Cornelius had and one that Peter had. Cornelius’ vision included Peter coming to see him. Peter’s vision included a sheet coming down from the sky that had all kinds of four footed animals and creeping things in it. As he was contemplating the vision, the Spirit told him that three men sent by Cornelius were looking for him. Cornelius was of the Italian Cohort and is widely believed to be the first Gentile convert to Christ. In Acts 10:34 after Peter was told to go the home of Cornelius, he said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.” But Solomon is talking about the tendency we have. Ja. 2:1-7 speaks about what Solomon is talking about. It says, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?” It is wrong to demonstrate favor because a person is rich. This is yet another example of how riches can affect a relationship with Christ. If this happens in the church, rich people can get the idea that God favors them which is very far from the truth.

Let’s do a quick review. “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.” Remember that, “No one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.” (Eph. 5:29) Make an effort to gain wisdom; it will benefit your soul. Verse 9 is a direct restatement of v. 5.

Solomon gets pretty critical in the next verse. He says, “Luxury is not fitting for a fool; much less for a slave to rule over princes.” Luxury is a state of great comfort. Obviously what one considers luxurious might not be so to another. Our facilities here are quite plain and simple, nothing we would consider fancy. Compare our church to a common church in Southeast Romania, and it is quite luxurious. We have heating and air conditioning, indoor plumbing, running water, and padded seats. All of which are missing from your common village church in Romania. When we mention luxury, it can be attributed to a house, a car, a boat, or really anything that is over the top for the common person. Solomon says it makes no sense for a fool to live in the lap of luxury. The fool is out of place. He doesn’t know how to handle it because he has lived a life of foolishness. Think about the lottery winner. A January article on cleveland.com said about 70% of lottery winners end up bankrupt. “People who were little, ordinary people all of a sudden become extraordinary,” said Steve Lewit, CEO of Wealth Financial Group in Chicago. “They’re euphoric. They lose all sense of reality. They think they’re invincible and powerful. They think they’re Superman.” That certainly describes a fool, doesn’t it?

It is equally out of place for a, “Slave to rule over princes.” The fool we can get, but this part is challenging to understand. The best I can come up with is to compare this to the workplace. Employees are not slaves and supervisors and managers are not royalty, but this seems a good application. If given the chance, most entry level employees lack the breadth of knowledge and experience to effectively manage the company. Although they may say or think they can, they really can’t. They are most likely unqualified to lead so a leadership position is inappropriate. That’s what Solomon is saying. Over the years, they might gain the knowledge necessary to fill that position, but not right now.

Another review. “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” We’ve seen this principle before in Proverbs. “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.” (Pro. 14:29) And in Pro. 16:32: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” It’s the same thing again, but with a modification I want to spend some time on. Solomon is reminding us of the spiritual gift of self-control. It’s easy to let yourself go and lose control. It’s easy to be angry right up until you realize what a fool you’ve made of yourself. Many of us can quote the Bible passage that tells us, “Be angry, and yet do not sin,” but we rarely quote the rest of the verse that gives us the rationale behind the command. That snippet is found in one of the most comprehensive chapters in Scripture regarding our daily lives. We looked at several verses a couple of weeks ago and it’s found in Ephesians 4. Paul painstakingly walks us through the rationale behind his words. The pinnacle of his reasoning is found in v. 22-24. “In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Former manner of life goes with the old self. The old self was being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit. The new self is renewed in the mind. The new self is in the likeness of God. The new self is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Listen to the reason we’re not supposed to sin when we get angry: “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph. 4:26b-27) If you get angry and you sin, you give the devil an opportunity. Opportunity is also translated place. Give the devil an inch and he’ll take a mile. Entertain one thought and he’ll flood your mind. The opposite of the discrete man is found in Pro. 14:17: “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated.” It is far wiser to be slow to anger. It’s far wiser to consider your words. It’s far wiser to take a breath before speaking. The guy that is slow to anger, “It is to his glory to overlook a transgression.” Overlook here literally means ignore. Before you jump to conclusions, this does not mean that we should forgive and forget – a principle not found in the Bible. Should we forgive? Absolutely. Even if the person isn’t going to change? Absolutely. Even if the person doesn’t ask for it? Absolutely. Maybe you’re thinking that God forgets our sin. Heb. 8:12 says, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”         That sounds an awful lot like forgive and forget. Let’s think about this for a second. Can God, who knows all things and sees all things, really forget something? The short answer is no, so what are we talking about?

When you put your faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross to atone for sin, you are positionally justified. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, it is just as if you had never sinned. The reason God forgets is because He looks at us and sees the atonement Christ made. Rom. 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We aren’t condemned for sin. Once you enter into an authentic relationship with Christ, it’s not a matter of heaven and hell. You are positionally safe, but you have to align that with other verses that talk about God’s desire that we put off the old self that fulfilled the desires of the flesh and we put on the new self. God doesn’t want us to sin and that should be our desire. So forgive and forget is not a viable reality. Is it hard to move forward? Paul said it like this: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Phil. 3:13) Don’t let Satan hold you hostage to your past. Overlook transgressions doesn’t mean that we throw wisdom out the window. The easiest way to understand this is to illustrate it. If someone has a history of theft, do we forgive him? Absolutely, but we aren’t going to make him the treasurer. If someone demonstrates a lack of discretion on social media, do we forgive them? Of course, but they aren’t going to be an administrator on our Facebook page. I think you get the idea. Forgiving behavior does not mean that appropriate consequences will not be handed down either by the church, the law, or your friends. What I find strange is that people who are suffering as a result of their decisions complain about the consequences from those decisions.

We did some review about money and learned that God doesn’t care how much you have. God’s position on money hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t impress us if people have a lot of money. It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury. It just doesn’t make sense and even if somehow they enter into a luxurious lifestyle, it won’t last long. We saw the importance of self-control. It is one of the bench marks of salvation. We went through the 4th Chapter of Ephesians. It’s a chapter I encourage you to review from time to time. Forgetting a wrong-doing does not mean no consequences will result. As an authentic believer, you are positionally secure in Jesus Christ. Because of this, you need to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.

Can Wisdom be Bought?

13 Jun

MoneyListen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us a great word picture about dealing with a fool. It’s better to deal with an angry momma bear than it is to deal with a fool. When you have the supernatural love of Christ, forgiveness should come easier and easier for us, but forgiveness does not mean that there won’t be consequences. Don’t repay evil for good. The best way to win an argument with a fool is to not start one. People that justify the actions of the wicked or condemn the actions of the righteous are both an abomination to the Lord. This morning, Solomon starts with a rhetorical question.

Here’s what Pro. 17:16-21 says, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense? A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A man lacking in sense pledges and becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor. He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction. He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil. He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.”

If you weren’t sure where Solomon stands, he makes it clear here. This verse is hilarious to me, “Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no sense?” I can hear Solomon’s voice go up when he asks this. This is just like a fool. If wisdom could be bought, which it can’t, would the fool be standing in line to get it? He’s too foolish to know that he lacks wisdom. The phrase “he has no sense” literally means there is no heart. The heart is the center of one’s being; it is the seat of emotion. In Lu. 24:25 Jesus said to His disciples, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus was saying the slow of heart don’t get what the prophets are saying. You’ve experienced this too, I am sure. You’ve heard the expression he has no heart or he’s heartless. That normally is attributed to someone that has no capacity for empathy or understanding. That’s what Solomon is saying. The fool has the money in his hand to buy wisdom, but lacks the capacity to actually obtain wisdom. While true biblical wisdom can only be found from God, biblical wisdom is available from godly parents, church leaders, pastors, as well as your common, garden variety, authentic believer. The only problem with that is the fool has no capacity for it and that’s what Solomon is saying. The very thing needed for a fool to become not a fool – wisdom – is unattainable because of his heart. So can one become biblically wise? Pro. 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” so if a fool decides to put down his foolish ways and follow God, yes it’s not only possible, it’s expected.

What exactly is unconditional love? You’ve heard me say often that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Solomon says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” The Beatles got by with a little help from their friends. The Rembrandts sang “I’ll be there for You” on a show called, “Friends.” Bette Midler told her BFF that she was, “The Wind beneath My Wings.” James Taylor said, “Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.” Queen said, “You’re My Best friend.” Michael W. Smith said that, “Friends are Friends Forever.”

Solomon is talking about real friendship. How do you know you have real friends? Pro. 18:24 says, “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I think we often confuse acquaintances with friends. How do you define a real friend? You’ve heard the phrase a friend in need is a friend indeed. Real friends will stick by you no matter what. Real friends will tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear. Real friends are there and you don’t have to ask them to be. Real friends call you and don’t want anything. Real friends don’t have expectations. Real friends are generally not those listed as friends on Facebook. In my estimation, if you have one, two, or three real friends, you’re doing well. I think many people shy away from developing true friendships because that means opening up to one another.  It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to develop trust. Notice Solomon says, “A friend loves at all times.” Love here is a verb – it’s an action word. This love is a demonstration of the strong and lasting bonds of true friendship. When that occurs, Solomon concludes that, “A brother is born for adversity.” Adversity means difficulty or misfortune. When troubles come, the friend is there. When adversity strikes, the friend is there. When tragedy occurs, the friend is there. You can’t run off a real friend.

Here’s some more foolishness. “A man lacking sense pledges and becomes a guarantor in the presence of his neighbor.” In Pro. 6:1 Solomon warned against being surety for your neighbor. In Pro. 11:15 he warned against being surety for a stranger. Solomon just said that a real friend is born for adversity, but that doesn’t mean covering someone else’s debt. That’s the meaning here. It’s a third party – a friend of a friend. Realistically, the fool doesn’t know how to biblically use money and certainly doesn’t understand how monetary dealings between friends can complicate relationships. The wise person doesn’t allow himself to be trapped like that and the good friend doesn’t even bring it up. “He who loves transgression loves strife.” Transgression means sin, plain and simple. Strife means angry or bitter disagreement. I don’t know anyone with good sense that enjoys strife. I guess the caveat is good sense. Strife can result from disagreeing about the truth. There are some really hot topic issues out there that people get instantly insane about. Bathrooms, animal rights, global warming, school prayer, and politics immediately come to mind. There are folks that want to talk about these and other issues, but it’s not really a discussion, it’s a diatribe. Fewer and fewer people are actually willing to sit down and hear a biblical perspective on an issue and this is exacerbated by people that are unwilling to study something out for themselves preferring to pick up what is put out on social media or the most popular blogs. Still others make the point that they don’t want to rock the boat; they don’t want to stir up what they call trouble. I’ve been that guy pleading with other believers in the room to help me out in a discussion and take up the mantle of biblical truth only for those others to avert their eyes.

I’m not suggesting that we go around starting arguments with other people, but I am suggesting that we become secure in our faith in order to defend what we believe in and why when the opportunity presents itself. “He who loves transgression loves strife; he who raises his door seeks destruction.” That’s a strange combination isn’t it? “Raises his door” is a metaphor for opening the mouth. Transgression and strife generally go hand in hand. One of the problems with people that talk too much is they tend not to know when it’s best to remain silent. Strife can lead to a host of biblical problems. Anger, bitterness, doubt, resentment, discontentment. Solomon assumes this isn’t going on in the life of the believer, but it is happening in the life of a fool. We’ve seen some really anti-Christian behavior so far in this series and those behaviors shouldn’t be part of the life of the authentic believer. We’re not talking momentarily losing your mind and doing something that dishonors God; we’re talking this is the way it is in your life. We need to continuously be growing in the area of our behavior. It’s incomprehensible to the writers of Scripture for us not to become more and more like Jesus. It’s a process that occurs each and every day. Strife will come into our lives, but let’s not be the source of it.

One last one for today. “He who has a crooked mind finds no good, and he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.” This is another written for today. Crooked means bent or twisted. I’m sure you’ve talked with people like this. You wonder how in the world they can think the way they think. You ask yourself, “Where do they come up with this stuff?” Yes, this also happens in the church. People saying the Bible says something that it does not. People quoting things they’ve heard in church that have no biblical basis. You’ve heard hate the sin, love the sinner. More and more people are defining themselves by their sin. We should hate sin – God hates sin and has given us a list of things He hates along with numerous biblical principles regarding sin. What’s curious though is we seem to be ready to hate the sin in everyone else’s life, yet are not so quick to hate when it comes to our own life. Hating sin is falling out of favor in society today. Have you heard, this too shall pass? It likely has some beginning in Matt. 24:35 that says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” We generally say this during times of trouble or grief. Not everything in our lives passes. Sometimes heartache lasts a lifetime.  How about, God just wants me happy? He’s not against your happiness, but He’s more concerned with your holiness. What about cleanliness is next to godliness? I’m not even sure why we say this. Is it to try and get kids to wash their hands before they eat? I don’t know many kids that care about being godly so it’s kind of silly. Parents, just whoop your kids if they don’t obey. There are others and you might think, what’s the big deal. The only source of absolute truth is the Bible and God provided His word as a testimony of Him, as a manual for life, as the basis for all that we know about what really matters. Some of these sayings are paraphrases of biblical truth and others are total heresy. Even if a catchphrase is encouraging or edifying, if it isn’t in the Bible, we can’t guarantee it’s the Word of God. The only way we’ll know for sure is to study the Bible for ourselves.

In another obvious statement, Solomon says, “He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.” No one can pick what kind of child they have. When a child chooses to go his own way and ignore the teachings of his father, sorrow will follow. Remember that Solomon is speaking from his perspective – the perspective of a God fearing man. Lifelong sorrow in our life can come as a result of the decisions of our children. While all of our children can make foolish decisions, “The father of a fool has no joy.” None. Zero. Nada.

We began this morning saying that if wisdom could be bought, the fool doesn’t have enough sense to make the purchase. The fool has no capacity for wisdom. We talked about real friendship – don’t confuse friendship with acquaintances. Real friends are hard to come by; developing true friendship takes time and effort. Fools are also bad with money. They don’t understand how financial issues can come between people. Someone that loves sin loves to argue. Know when to remain silent and don’t start arguments for the sake of arguments. You can’t choose how your children will turn out so do the best to raise your kids in a godly home because no parent likes to have a fool for a child.

Absolute Corruption

7 Mar

Absolute PowerYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us about royal rules. We want leaders who are sensitive to the Lord’s leading and will listen to God. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of in business and God doesn’t like it at all. Being in leadership comes with expectations. Whether it’s in government, the church, school, or the fast food restaurant, we want leaders who exemplify the righteousness of Christ. We don’t want our leaders to act wickedly or unrighteously. There are royal rules that need to be followed if leaders are to act in a godly manner. This morning, we’ll see how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Pro. 16:14-16 says, “The fury of a king is like messengers of death, but a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain. How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.”

Solomon starts off like a trailer for an action movie. “The fury of a king is like messengers of death.” What guy wouldn’t go see a movie like that? This has all the makings of an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone blockbuster. When you talk about absolute power, a king might come to mind. If you remember the statistics about ruling authority from last week, few royal figures today wield the absolute power that can be so frightening. This verse is talking about real power. The power can be far reaching and oppressive. Here’s something to think about: when was the last time you heard of a ruler with absolute authority that actually took care of his people? The absolute power quote really is, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The quote is attributed to English historian and author Lord Acton who wrote that opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. Someone that has absolute authority is very likely to abuse that authority. So when Solomon says, “The fury of the king is like messengers of death,” he’s talking about the far reaching power of absolute rulers. In biblical times and in the middle ages, kings typically attempted to expand their kingdoms. They generally did this by force, coercion, threats, and intimidation. The more ruthless the king, the more expansive the territory.

Fury means extreme anger. Their power was absolute and arbitrary. When the king wanted someone dead, they got dead. When the king wanted someone to live, they lived. There didn’t need to be any logical reason or thought behind it. When kings get furious, people die. Solomon says, “But a wise man will appease it.” The right words spoken at the right time can have a huge calming effect. In 1 Sam. 19, King Saul was so furious with David that he wanted to put him to death. Enter Saul’s son Jonathan who speaks to King Saul with wisdom and adoration for David and causes Saul to change his mind. 1 Sam. 19:6 says, “Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” Jonathan used wisdom when talking with Saul and appeased his anger such that David would not be killed. I encourage you to read the whole story.

How about some royal favor? It’s not good to be in the line of fire with a furious king, but what happens on the opposite side? This is the place to be. Solomon says, “In the light of the king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.” This is where I want to be. With a furious king, you could be put to death just because. But in the light, it’s “like a cloud with the spring rain.” Talk about a contrast. Spring rain brings restoration, it brings new beginnings, it brings life! Remember Solomon is king of Israel. He doesn’t want Israel to do anything that will cause his wrath because he can be like other fury filled kings that were around in his day. It’s awesome to find favor with the king. It’s even awesomer to find favor with the King of kings. Favor with God is like that life giving spring rain that brings restoration and new life.

Solomon makes a great comparison. He says, “How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.” What price do you put on wisdom and understanding? If only you could buy it. In our culture, wisdom and understanding of the things of God are not as prevalent as they used to be. Even if you could buy, I think few people would make the purchase. Listen to Rom. 1:18-23, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” That’s really what Solomon is saying. Remember Solomon could have asked for all the riches in the world, but he chose to ask God for wisdom. He ended up with both. Think about it this way. If you’re wise, can you use wisdom to gain wealth? Of course, but is achieving wealth the be all to end all? That’s what culture tells us, but the biblically wise person thinks eternally. There is no direct correlation between how much we have here and what we will have in eternity. All material possessions will be left on this earth when you die.

I asked a moment ago, what price do you put on wisdom and understanding? Wisdom is not something that you can learn. Pro. 2:6 told us, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Pro. 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” If you go way back to the beginning of this, Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Pro. 1:7) Wisdom is something we can obtain because as followers of Christ, God can and will give it to us. James 1:5-8 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” There’s the caveat. It’s like saying, well . . . I’ll pray about it, but God doesn’t hear my prayers. God can do that, but He won’t do it for me.

Maybe you’re thinking, you know, it’s easy for Solomon to say it’s better to have wisdom than gold, but wisdom doesn’t pay the bills. Actually, it does. Exercising biblical wisdom could prevent you from getting into financial binds in the first place. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve counselled over the years that made financial decisions that could only be classified as stupid. They’ve determined what they want to do and they do it without thinking of the impact of their decision. Those unwise decisions generally lead to other issues that are brought to light under the intense pressure of trying to make ends meet. Heavenly wisdom enables you to make decisions from God’s perspective.

Power can lead to corruption and absolute power can lead to absolute corruption. You’ve probably heard the quote that says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Exercising biblical wisdom can placate the fury of kings. It’s great to find favor with earthly kings, but it’s far better to find favor with the King of kings. As Christ followers we have a responsibility to passionately follow Him who is the source of great wisdom. “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Lu. 12:48) Biblical wisdom is essential in making sound decisions in our lives. When we utilize biblical wisdom, we utilize the incredible power of God and avoid absolute corruption.

Money and Planning

22 Feb

PlanningCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we asked the question, can we all get along. We learned about the importance of the Bible and knowing what it says. Confrontation is not something that is fun, but is a necessity. The Apostle Paul talked of the importance of coming together as a church and he assumed that it’s a regular occurrence. This morning, we talk about two topics that are essential to our lives; money and planning.

Proverbs 16:8-9 says, “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice. The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

And now for some more money talk. The Bible has a lot to say about finances and we see it again here. “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.” Someone that equates prosperity with righteousness has a very narrow view of Christianity and likely has never left this country. Solomon says it’s better to be right with God and not have everything under the sun than it is to have a lot and be at odds with God. Remember back in 15:27 he said, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house.” He’s not saying it’s wrong to have a lot. He’s saying it’s better to have a little that was obtained honestly than it is to have a lot that was obtained by injustice. So the obvious question surrounds injustice. What is Solomon talking about? Injustice here is defined as an unjust act or occurrence. Not everyone that has a lot gained it dishonestly, but Solomon is providing a contrast. He knows that we have a tendency to compare ourselves to others and we don’t need to do that. The assumption is also that if you’re reading these words, you’re likely someone who wants to walk with God, who has a desire to live a holy and godly life or you’re at least seeking how you can be reconciled to God. I think that’s a good assumption for most of Scripture. There are things in Scripture meant only for believers, but the principles found in the Bible are good and right regardless of who puts them into practice. I think of all the scams out there that defraud people of what they earned. I think of the theft related crime out there that defrauds people of their own property. I think there is even an idea among some people that take from the “rich” because they can afford it, but this isn’t a political issue. Solomon is contrasting righteousness with unrighteousness – plain and simple. The righteous man walks with God; the unrighteous man does not.

Here’s some strategic planning. “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Planning is one of the keys to success regardless of your vocation. Moms plan weekly menus to facilitate nutritional and supermarket success. College students plan their classes to make sure they meet the requirements of their degrees. Coaches plan practices to make sure their athletes are ready for competition. Some of you guys even planned a nice Valentine’s Day date with your sweetheart. People use planning for everyday life, but it’s important in your spiritual life too. Solomon is saying that men make plans to accomplish goals, but it is, “The Lord that directs his steps.” This ties in with the ways of a man’s heart. We have lots of verses regarding the leading and guiding of the Lord. Ps. 37:23 reminds us, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” We’re not talking about getting from one geographic place to another. People today spend a lot of time planning out their lives. Solomon is talking about seeking God and fulfilling the plans He has for you. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing wrong with making plans for your life, but God must be considered before everything else. What will you do if and when God changes your plan? Will you be willing to submit yourself to God? Regarding worldly planning, Ja. 4:14-15 says, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” Are you afraid of the Lord’s will? I think it’s a valid question. Are you willing to accept His will for your life? 

Thank You Father, May I Have Another?

12 Oct

KidYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some tried and true principles that I called MVPs. The Bible is filled with them. Make sure your speech is edifying. Use your words to provide what people need to live victoriously for Jesus. Satan is the biggest pervertor of things that are godly and holy and righteous.  Don’t be fooled by his twistilations. This morning, Solomon gives us some wisdom regarding the mouth.

Our passage comes from Pro. 15:5-7 that says, A fool rejects his father’s discipline, but he who regards reproof is sensible. Great wealth is in the house of the righteous, but trouble is in the income of the wicked. The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.

Solomon gets right to it. Having a child that is foolish might be one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. If you think your kids are not foolish, think again. Remember a biblical fool is one that has the right answer or the right thing to do presented to them and chooses not to do it. Biblical fools can’t recognize wisdom even when it slaps them in the face because they are unregenerate sinners. Each of us can be foolish at times, but that’s not how we should be characterized. In 13:24 Solomon talked about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. In 13:1 Solomon said, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline.” Here he says, “A fool rejects his father’s discipline.” Reject is better translated despise. This shows you how deep in the heart foolishness resides. Discipline is also translated correction. This can be applied in a wide variety of ways. There is a typically a period of time in most kid’s lives where nobody knows as much as they do. It generally starts about middle school and continues into the teenage years. In many cases it lasts well into high school and college. Part of this is a desire to be independent and out from under the blanket of authority and safety provided by parents. The foolish kid rejects correction from his father. It is despised for any number of reasons. Perhaps because of the dreaded “h” word – hypocrisy. Dad says don’t smoke while puffing away. Dad says finish school and get a good job while he sits at home not working and not looking. Dad says do your chores and does nothing around the house.

“But he who regards reproof is sensible.” Solomon’s assumption is that the correction comes from a godly, loving father. I know this isn’t always the case, but since we’re using the Bible as our guide and we’re in church, this is the direction that I am coming from. Kids ought to listen to their fathers. They have experienced more than you. They have had failures and made poor decisions. Learn from them so that you do not repeat their mistakes. These are things the sensible kid does. There most likely will come a time when a kid realizes that dad was right. For some, the realization comes too late. You might remember lessons your dad taught you while you were a child and now that you’re all grown up, you’ve come to understand the wisdom that he had.

Don’t misinterpret this next one. “Great wealth is in the house of the righteous.” If you’re thinking, we don’t have great wealth at our house you have to follow that up with the question, “Are we righteous?” If you immediately think of money, think again. We have Americanized this verse and equate it with material wealth. That interpretation only works in first world countries. We typically assume that first world country means countries like us. We’ve heard of third world countries, but have you ever wondered about second world countries? Those terms come from a model developed after World War II and generally refer to geopolitical positions. Countries that allied themselves with the United States were termed first world. These countries are generally capitalistic, developed, and industrialized. These are countries in western Europe like Belgium, France, Spain and also the land down under – Australia. It also includes other countries like Israel, Japan, and South Korea. Second world countries were typically communist or socialist that allied themselves with the mighty USSR that today include countries in northern and eastern Europe like Russia, Latvia, Bulgaria, and my beloved Romania. A third world country doesn’t fit into either category and include capitalist countries like Venezuela and communist countries like North Korea. We often use this term to describe developing and undeveloped nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Included in this third world are very rich countries like Saudi Arabia and very poor countries like Mali.

Of the roughly 7 billion people living on planet earth, only about 15% live in first world countries. It hardly makes sense that the wealth Solomon refers to would mean dollars. This is yet another example of why we need to study the Scriptures for ourselves. There is a whole segment of the church that wants to equate material wealth with God’s blessing. The wealth – or better translated treasure – that Solomon refers to is something far better than silver or gold. What price do you put on grace? Or forgiveness? Or mercy? Or hope? Or patience? Those gifts of God are priceless and are a result of righteousness. That doesn’t mean there won’t be material wealth, but even when there isn’t money in the account, the treasures of God are in the storehouses of the righteous.

“But trouble is in the income of the wicked.” You can read that as actual income or what comes into the home. There is guilt and shame; pride and passion. There is envy and strife. Maybe you know someone or a family that could be classified as wicked and maybe they seem to be prospering by every definition of the word. Remember 14:32: “The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing.” God will mete out perfect justice at some point that will bring greatest glory to Himself. You focus on doing what you ought to do and let God handle what He ought to do.

Here’s another variation of an MVP. “The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not so.” We just heard this in verse 2. This demonstrates just how much a blessing that wise person is and how burdensome a fool is. This verse also alludes to the idea that we need to be teaching others. Spread means to open out as to increase in surface area. Your knowledge, which leads to wisdom, should be scattered for all to pick up. Keep in mind what Solomon said about wisdom resting in the heart. There is a balance between telling everyone everything you know and using your knowledge and wisdom in appropriate settings. I believe that God will provide opportunities for you to demonstrate your knowledge and wisdom. I think all too often we’re looking for those life changing, global moments that for most of us will never come. What we fail to see is that God provides huge, eternity impacting opportunities each and every day. For most of us, living a life of authenticity is the best opportunity for others watching us to know that something is different. Knowledge is spread when you open your mouth and share the truth of God. Your knowledge of God is transformed into wisdom because the Holy Spirit gives you exactly what you need when you need it.

So there are ministry opportunities God provides, but another area is personal teaching. It presents itself in the area of discipleship. Who are you investing in? The people you hang out with, are you seeking to disciple them? As a church, our primary mission is to, Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) The emphasis is on make disciples. Jesus said we do this in two ways. If you’re hanging out with people and Jesus is not part of those interactions, then something is dreadfully wrong. “But the hearts of fools are not so.” The fool has no desire to spread the truth of God because he doesn’t know it. Fool and knowledge don’t belong in the same sentence. If you have the knowledge of God and do not use it to further the Kingdom of God, don’t use it to share the good news of salvation, don’t use it to strengthen other’s walk with Christ, then you are a fool.

Nobody likes to get spanked, and nobody likes to do the spanking. Discipline helps us get back on the correct path. Fools reject that correction. When you’re being corrected, regardless of your age, look for God in that correction. The treasures of God don’t always equate to money so don’t be fooled into thinking wealth equals righteousness. Finally, use the opportunities God provides to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. Take the time to disciple those in your sphere of influence. That will be the greatest legacy we can leave.

Household Troubles

1 Jun

TroubleYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were together, Solomon provided some vivid word pictures about beauty. It is far more important to have the inner beauty of God than external beauty. We learned that the desire of godly people is only good. Godly people rejoice in the good fortune of others. We also saw the comparison of the greedy to the giving. This morning, we’ll continue down the road of generosity and riches to see where it takes us.

Pro. 11:28-31 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf. He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins souls. If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!”

This is a beautiful segue from our last message. Solomon compared greedy to generous and he reminds us, “He who trusts in riches will fall.” (Pro. 11:28) Rich is a relative term that we typically associate with the ultra-wealthy. According to the Social Security Administration, the average income of an American is about $44,000 a year. That seemed a bit high, so I lowered the income to $25,000 a year and checked globalrichlist.com to determine what rich is on a global scale. If you make $25,000 a year, you are in the top 2% of the richest people in the world. The point is that riches are fleeting; they can disappear in an instant. People that brag about how much money they have are in a dangerous place. In 1 Tim. 6:17 Paul said, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies  us with all things to enjoy.” If you’re hope is in your job, your investments, your 401k, or any other financial type account, at some point, you’ll find yourself lacking. Of course it’s nice to have money, but that’s not where our hope lies. In this congregation, I doubt anyone is putting their hope of eternity in their finances. For the most part, I know you, I know your families, I know where you live, and what you do for a living. While this idea may not apply to anyone here, you probably cross paths with people that have this type of thinking. It’s always about the money. It seems like every conversation you have with them is about money. They tell you how much everything costs or what things are worth. They track the rise and fall of the stock market, they want their kids to have the best education so they have the best job. Maybe they talk about retiring at 40 or 50. Life is more than money.

Think of the hope you can offer someone that is hung up on money, but that doesn’t mean the conversation will be an easy one. Jesus said, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 19:24) All the financial and material blessings you have on this earth will be left behind. The idea is the rich may not see a need for Jesus because they have what this world offers. When you stand before the Lord, riches will fail you. “But the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.” Maybe you’ve heard this type of analogy before. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Ps. 1:3, “He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” Righteousness causes us to flourish. Flourish means to develop in a healthy or vigorous manner. When riches fail, righteousness remains. No one can take that away because we are grafted into Christ and the more we grow, the more we look like Jesus.

What looks like a shift in topics is not. Solomon speaks of the household. “He who troubles his own house will inherit wind, and the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.” These represent extremes in the home. There are a couple of different schools of thought on this verse. When you take the whole passage as one, which is the most accurate way to do it, you get the idea that there is a person that causes trouble in the house. You might quickly conclude that person is a child. I don’t really think Solomon is talking about children because there are other parts of Proverbs that we have seen already that deal with kids and there are others that we will see later that talk about kids. It seems that Solomon is talking about mismanagement in the home. Solomon is talking about the head of the household that does not take care of those under his authority – particularly servants. They don’t have adequate food, shelter, or any of the others things you would expect in a home. So who’s in charge of the home? The man, the husband, the father. If the leader of the home is consumed with riches and getting ahead in this world, that will lead to other less than desirable traits. Have you ever encountered someone that is like this? He totally neglects his family for the pursuit of riches. He’s not involved at all in leading the family. He can’t tell you what grade the kids are in, doesn’t know their activities, he really doesn’t know anything that is happening in the home. It seems that most scholars lean to this interpretation.

The troubler of his own house inherits the wind. At least he gets something right? Think about this for a second in the time in which this was written. Wind was useless, it was noisy, it kicked up dirt and sand, and was overall unpleasant. Now you get the idea. If it’s your responsibility to take care of the household and if you don’t, your inheritance is worthless. In fact not just that, but the fool becomes servant to the wise. Wisdom always wins out. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” This is more than just a nice verse. Think of the metaphor. The seed of one fruit can generate a tree that will produce fruit over the life of that tree. Remember, Solomon is still comparing wise to foolish, godliness to wickedness, good to evil. In light of those comparisons, the benefits of a righteous person cannot be underestimated. The overall good that person infuses into life are immeasurable. Where I live, we have a lot of citrus trees. When you consider the fruit produced by a healthy tree, you typically have more fruit than one family can consume. The righteousness produced by that godly individual not only benefits that person’s family, but provides spiritual nourishment to those around him.

The second part of that verse has been the subject of some controversy among Hebrew Bible scholars. Since I am not an expert in the Hebrew language, I am limited in how far I can understand this. The phrase, “wins souls” is translated to kill where it’s used in other places in Scripture. In fact, the Revised Standard Version read, “But lawlessness takes away lives.” The New Revised Standard Version and the Holman Christian Standard reads, “But violence takes lives away.” The Message reads, “A violent life destroys souls.” When we consider the comparisons in these verses and read the verse to say, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away,” it seems to make more sense. We’ve seen patterns in Solomon’s writings to this point so it makes sense to interpret it this way. What’s the point? According to 2 Tim. 2:15, we are to rightly divide the word of truth. Solomon has been making a great case to support the principle that leading a life of wickedness, evil, deception, and ungodliness leads to death while leading a life of godliness and wisdom leads to life. So if you want to read there is wisdom in saving souls – that’s a good principle to live by. I would even suggest it’s a principle we’re commanded to follow in Matt. 28:19-20 as the primary mission of the church. If you think that’s too much info, change your thinking. Don’t fall into the trap that you just don’t need to know all that. Remember what Ravi Zacharias said, we have people that “know[s] less and less of why they believe what they believe.”

Finally, Solomon says, “If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how more the wicked and the sinner!” Since we’re still in comparison mode, it’s fair to say that there are often times God gives us what we deserve. Heb. 12:6 reminds us that God disciplines us not just to correct unacceptable behavior, but also because He loves us. It’s the same reason you discipline your children. Many times, He chooses not to give what us we deserve and that’s called mercy. Solomon is saying that if God chooses to hold us accountable and we have examples of this in Adam, Moses, and David among a whole host of other regular people we see in Scripture, He will also hold the wicked accountable. Peter says it this way, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17)

The wicked will not get a free pass. Solomon has gone to great lengths to teach us about wisdom. He’s taken the time to compare godliness and wickedness: greed and generosity. We are challenged over and over again to live a life that glorifies God. Are we going to accept the challenge and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, or are we going to believe the lie that God doesn’t care how we live as long as we’re sincere.

The Shotgun Approach – Part 2

20 Apr

Shotgun ApproachYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

Last week we began looking at a series of verses that came quickly and unfortunately, we ran out of time. We saw that transgression is unavoidable when there is constant talking. Someone who speaks all the time and does not listen will cause problems. But if you restrain your lips, Solomon declares that you are wise. We briefly talked about riches and poverty and neither equate with the riches of God. This morning, we’ll continue these rapid fire principles.

Maybe you read Pro. 10:24-32 last week, but take the time to read it again.

Here we go again. For context’s sake, let me review from last week. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. This is a huge contrast. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it, he runs to it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. There is a truth that hangs in the back of the fool’s mind though. “What the wicked fears will come upon him.” While these thoughts may not dominate his thinking, they’re there floating in the back of his mind. They know it’s coming, they know the hammer will drop, they know that there will be judgment, but they lack the wisdom to do anything about it. Ps. 90:11, “Who understands the power of Your anger and Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?”

Again the opposite is true for the man of understanding because, “The desire of the righteous will be granted.” Let’s spend a bit of time here because there are some that will immediately draw a conclusion that Solomon is talking cold, hard, cash. There are some that will tell you that your material possessions are directly proportional to your spirituality or favor with God. They’ll even quote verses like Ps. 37:4 that says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” They treat God like He is some genie in a bottle that exists to grant their wishes. So let’s go back to the verse. The first thing you need to evaluate is are you righteous? Remember this is the character or quality of being, thinking, and doing what is right in God’s eyes. When you look at it like that, the goals or desires of the righteous will match the goals and desires of God. The desires of the righteous are the same as God’s. That desire is in line with God’s will and God’s plans. When we think in this light, verses that deal with this make more sense. 1 Jo. 5:14 says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” God is not against you having things, but is that the end game? Of course it can’t be because that’s not consistent with Scripture. If I’m righteous, then my desires will line up with God’s will and His will will be done. It may not be in this lifetime, but it will certainly come to pass. What is lurking in the back of the fool’s mind will occur, so what happens to the wicked? The speed by which this certain destruction of the wicked is seen, “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” The wicked will be consumed by judgment from a holy and pure God and the time for changing his ways will be over. The wicked ignored biblical teaching, godly instruction and wisdom for a lifetime and now he will endure judgment for eternity. The righteous man built his foundation on the rock that is Jesus Christ.

The next verse is a great word picture and it describes the pain associated with a lazy person. Verse 26 says, “Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who sent him.” While vinegar might be great in salad dressing and it’s quite effective in pickling things, try drinking it as a beverage. We’re literally talking sour grapes here just like in Ez. 18:2. It’s a stomach turner, it’s irritating, annoying, and unpleasant. So is smoke in your eyes and that’s what Solomon is saying about someone that doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do. Maybe you’ve dealt with someone like this and had to endure their nonsense. Clear instructions for a task are given, but they’re so lazy, you’d rather just do it yourself. It’s almost like their job is to frustrate others. They spend more time trying to get out of work than the actual work would take.

The remaining verses are familiar comparison and contrasts. Look at s. 27-32. Painting with a broad brush Solomon says if you’re wise, you’ll typically live longer. Yes, sometimes good and righteous people die by what we define as too young. This is a generality. If you don’t have a fear of the Lord, your life will be shortened. Again, there are some pretty awful people that live to a ripe old age. “The hope of the righteous is gladness, but the expectation of the wicked perishes.” It is our blessed hope, the hope of Christ. Paul says it this way to Titus: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” (Tit. 2:11-14) The wicked have no hope, they have nothing to hope in, but believers, “Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer.” (Rom. 12:12)

On the other hand, Ps. 112:10 says, “The wicked will see it and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked will perish.” “The way of the Lord” should be a familiar phrase and means exactly what you think it means. It is the godly way, the Bible way, the righteous and upright way. It is the way of holiness. What is in our hearts will flow out of our mouths and for some people, those words will betray what’s in their heart. So how can you avoid behavior that is contrary to the way of the Lord? Verse 32 is pretty clear.

When we have the righteousness of Christ, our desires line up with God’s desires. His will is our will. I think it is clear in these verses that our behavior characterizes who we follow. Solomon has given numerous examples of the folly and foolishness of the wicked that are all inconsistent with a life that belongs to Christ. We may do foolish things at times, but that is not who we are. Follow the path of wisdom because it is the path of God.

A Fool’s Mouth

30 Mar

You can listen to the podcast hereA Fool's Mouth.

Last week we saw the differences between the good kid and the bad kid. Solomon compared and contrasted wisdom and foolishness along with the joys and sorrows for the parents that result from the behavior of the kids. He spoke of the folly of a life of crime and ill gotten gains and gave us some great principles about the importance of a good work ethic. God will provide for those that are wise and diligent. This morning, Solomon continues to compare wisdom and folly and we’ll see some parallel verses to emphasize the teaching.

Grab your Bible and read our passage today taken from Pro. 10:6-17.

Here’s some affirmation. Solomon starts out this series of verses with some encouragement. “Blessings are on the head of the righteous” and by contrast, “but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” If we remember, righteousness is the character or quality of doing, thinking, or believing what is right from God’s perspective. Blessing on the head may point to the practice of a father blessing the first born by placing his hand on the boy’s head. Regardless, the significance of the blessing is because of righteousness. On the other hand, we have wickedness that covers up true intentions. He can’t help it because that’s who he is. Luke 6:45 says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” When Christ is the Lord of your life, the goodness that comes from knowing Him flows out of your heart. The opposite is also true. Ja. 3:11 says, “Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” The wicked really can’t control what they say. If you’re a Christian, these things ought not to be. There should be no profane thing come from the mouth of an authentic believer. Do you know a professing believer that uses profanity? Just after Paul tells believers to be imitators of God and to walk in love he says, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Eph. 5:4) Paul goes on to say in Eph. 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The wicked do not control their speech.

“The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot.” That’s quite the word picture. When I mention names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and David, Boaz, the widow that gave all she had, Stephen who was the first martyred for his faith, our hearts are filled with wonderful memories of how God used them in His plan. If we move forward in time, we think of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, Jim Elliot, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham, and Brother Andrew. I also think of people like Bill Moore, Bob Duryea, and David Lawson that I love and respect that are not so well known. These names affirm Ps. 112:6b that says, “The righteous will be remembered forever.” When I mention names like Salome, the Pharisees, Judas Iscariot, Nero, Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, and Bin Laden, the flip side is true too, “The names of the wicked will rot.” These are names we’d like to forget. Verses 7-10 are arranged in a parallel format. “The wise of heart will receive instruction” in v. 7. No pride or arrogance. This person knows they don’t know everything and don’t mind learning. On the other hand, “A babbling fool will be ruined.” This person’s gums are flapping so much they don’t hear anything anyone says to them. The things being said are not valuable, it’s just noise. “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” There is nothing to fear, no need to worry about anything, no anxiety because integrity is part of who they are. Integrity can be defined as having strong moral principles with those morals defined by Scripture. Remember in Pro. 2:7 Solomon said, “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity.” Integrity is as much a part of this person’s life as breathing. In contrast, “He who perverts his ways will be found out.” Pervert here means crooked. Attach the word to salesman, politician, cop, lawyer, or businessman and you get the idea of what Solomon is talking about. People like this will eventually get found out. It may be later rather than sooner, but at some point, the truth will come out. The second part of v. 10 is identical to v. 8, but the first part is a bit different. This goes back to 6:13 when Solomon talks about finding a mark or someone to take advantage of or commit a crime against. This section concludes when Solomon says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life. But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” It should be obvious when speaking with someone that walks with God. Think about the satisfaction when you take a drink of cold water when you’re dry and thirsty and that’s what it should be like. Don’t miss that key word referring to the wicked. Conceal means they are hiding their true motivation. There is likely a hidden agenda behind what at first, may appear okay.

Now for some good general principles. The next seven verses provide nice and neat comparisons and contrasts. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Remember strife is in the list of seven things the Lord hates. This seems like hypocrisy so let’s try and clear that up. Solomon is saying hatred is a driving force to strife. Strife is discord, angry disagreement or conflict. That’s what the people who claim Christians are intolerant and judgmental are doing. It’s not differing points of view where love dominates the conversation, but one sided arguments that conclude with change your mind and agree with me or you’re being judgmental, intolerant, and hateful. We can do a whole lot to help this by being mindful of what we say and what we do. If someone accuses or labels you, step back and see why before you go on the offensive and organize a retaliatory attack. Remember truth spoken without loves comes across harsh. I am in no way saying compromise Scripture, but evaluate how that truth is delivered. Peter’s words are very important and we must keep them at the forefront of our minds. 1 Pet.4:8 says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” The first phrases of vs. 13 and 14 include references to speech. Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning and wise men store up knowledge. This phrasing should be very familiar to us. When you continue to seek wisdom, you will find it. You’ll stockpile it in your brain for continual use. This wisdom then flows effortlessly out of your mouth. But look at the contrast in the second phrase of each verse. “But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding” and “But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.” This likely refers to the punishment received because of wrongdoing. Foolish people don’t store up wisdom. They’re like oil and water. Fools are not known for their insight or discernment.

Let’s talk money. Vs. 15-16 says, “The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty. The wages of the righteous is life. The income of the wicked, punishment.” Solomon is not saying if you’re righteous, you’ll be rich. He’s also not saying if you’re poor, you’re wicked or foolish. So what is he really saying? Rich people can be under the false notion that God’s favor is on them because they are rich. Poor people can conclude that God is against them because they are poor. Don’t make conclusions based on money or possessions. “The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty.” His wealth provides his protection. He thinks he’s safe in there, but what is he being protected from? Don’t focus on what you do or do not have. That’s the short sightedness of earthly riches. Rich people are not automatically happy and poor people are not automatically sad. That’s western world thinking. We must not focus on the here and now, but on eternity. Working at righteousness yields eternal life. Understand that I do not mean earning your salvation, but that salvation necessarily means working out your faith. The wages or payment of righteousness is life. The wages of the wicked is death. It’s as easy as that: following Christ means life, following wickedness or folly means death. This line of reasoning continues when Solomon says, “He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray.” I believe you can leave the path of foolishness at any time. At the same time, you can be knocked off the path of righteousness by ignoring good, clear, biblical principles for life. It is a lifelong pursuit.

Even when if you are hopelessly lost, all you have to do is enable GPS on your phone to find out where you are. You can follow the directions to get back on the right road. The same is true in our Christian walk of faith. Maybe you’ve been on the wrong road, hopelessly lost and wandering trying to find the way. Enable GPS – God’s Perfect System.

The Value of Hard Work

20 Jan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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