Redirection

Last week, Pastor Mike told us the apostles continued their work in Jerusalem. The Spirit of God was moving there and Simon, that misguided magician, believed in the power of God and was baptized and went with Phillip. Simon was continually amazed by what he saw, but thought he could purchase the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked Simon and encouraged him to repent of what was in his heart. We left with Simon asking Pete to pray for him not grasping the power of God. This morning, we’ll see what happens when you’re sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

I hope you’ll take the time to look at Acts 8:25-40.

We start with a Holy Spirit detour. How many of you are planners? Don’t you just hate it when you have everything all planned out and then something happens that causes you to change plans? Like Hurricane Irma? She messed up a lot of people’s plans. I had a haircut scheduled for the Wednesday after and it was cancelled. For many of us, Irma brought minor inconveniences, but for a lot of people in the Caribbean Islands and in south Florida, their lives were changed forever. I think we have all experienced the curve balls of life, but what about when the Holy Spirit redirects you? Acts 8:25 says, “So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.” The apostles were working their way back to Jerusalem and were sharing the truth of the Gospel as they went. There was no exclusivity in the message; it was available and applicable to all who would listen. Phillip began his ministry to the Samaritans in 8:5 and that mission was very fruitful.

Sometimes the best laid plans are changed. Remember Samaria is in the northern kingdom and the apostles are going back to Jerusalem. “But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.)” Instead of going to Jerusalem with the apostles, Philip is singled out for an individual mission. How do you respond when God changes your plan? Understand there’s a difference between God’s plan and your plan. Herein lies a real danger when you go around playing the “God is leading me card” to justify your scatterbrained plans. I know some people that God seems to be toying with. He tells them to do one thing, then He changes it a week later, only to change it again, and again. My God is not wishy washy.

I love how Philip responds to this change of plans. Luke tells us that Philip, “Got up and went.” Obedience. Nike faith. He just did it. I know what you’re thinking because I’ve heard it before: “If God would tell me things, if He’d speak to me then I’d do it.” God tells us to do things all the time that we ignore. Honor your mother and father. Give generously and sacrificially to the work of the Lord. Study your Bible. Share your faith, love people, pray for those in authority. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. Be holy, be honest, be trustworthy. You see, God tells us a lot of things that we ignore or dismiss.        For most of us, a simple life of obedience is what God desires. There are people that God has called to a national or international platform to share the truth of Christ, but for most of us, loving God, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and living a life of obedience brings Him honor and glory and has God saying well done. So, Philip gets up and goes where God told him to go. Notice that there is no plan of action that the Spirit lays out, no guidance, no inkling of what God had in store for Philip – he is simply told to go. Philip heads down the desert road, the road that leads to Egypt.

As God’s timing would have it, Philip comes face to face with a guy that, “was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.” Really get this in your mind. Philip is walking where God wanted him to go and because of his immediate obedience, he meets a man that is coming from Jerusalem where he worshiped. Luke gives us some pretty good details about this man. He was Ethiopian – a Gentile. He was a eunuch. In biblical days, slaves were sometimes castrated as young boys and then used as keepers of harems and the treasury. One Bible scholar says that eunuchs were particularly trustworthy and that’s why they were often put in charge of the treasury. This practice became so widespread that the term eunuch and treasurer became synonymous. I share this because it is likely this man is a physical eunuch because both terms are used. That’s important because the man had just come from Jerusalem where he worshiped so he was probably a convert to Judaism. Deut. 23:1 says, “No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.”  He would have worshiped at the court of the Gentiles and not in the temple. This man is an official of Candace who is queen of the Ethiopians. Candace is to Ethiopia as Pharaoh is to Egypt. Candace is her title, not her name. This guy is in charge of all the queen’s treasure. He’s sitting in his chariot reading from the book of Isaiah.       So now you’re caught up on this Ethiopian eunuch.

“Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Philip does and asks the guy, “Do you understand what you are reading.” Philip’s not being mean. In fact, the eunuch says, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me.” This is critical and I don’t want you to miss this. This man is reading Scripture through the lens of someone that does not understand Jesus, that has not embraced Messiah. He needs someone whose eyes have been opened to the truth to explain Scripture to him. 1 Cor. 2:14 says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

So what’s the point? The eunuch is reading from Is. 53:7-8. We know this passage is talking about the Messiah, but put yourself in the eunuch’s place. He does not understand the passage. It’s confusing to him. He knows what it says, but not who Isaiah is talking about. I can picture the excitement building in Philip and he is probably praying and asking that the Lord would give him the right words to say. So, he asks Philip, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?” And there it is. The purpose for God sending Philip down this long and dusty road. Acts 8:35 says, “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” Philip didn’t say, “Well Bub, here’s a pamphlet that will explain it.” He didn’t say, “I’ve got a great book that will help you.” He didn’t say, “Let me call Peter, he can explain this stuff really well.” He didn’t say, “Come back to Jerusalem, my small group is awesome and you can get your questions answered there.” Why am I telling you what Philip didn’t say? Because those are the things I hear people say in response to someone that is asking questions about Jesus. If you are a believer in the Messiah, you have the answers to the questions people are asking. So, you better be studied up, prayed up, and ready to tell people why you have hope. Don’t outsource your faith.

Philip opens his mouth and speaks on behalf of Jesus who is the Messiah. The Scripture the eunuch read from was the starting off point. “Beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.” What did Philip say in response to that question? Philip must have presented the Gospel in a way the eunuch understood. He must have covered sin and its penalty. He must have shared the virgin birth of Christ and why that’s important. He must have shared about the sinless life of Christ and how the sacrifice of Christ atoned for sin. Keep in mind that the eunuch was coming from the temple so he would understand sacrifice and atonement. Philip must have shared about Christ’s crucifixion, His shed blood, and His death. I’m certain he shared about Christ being in the tomb for three days and then being miraculously resurrected in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He must have shared about Christ walking the earth for 40 days before ascending to heaven. He must have shared all about what Christ had done in him and in his friends. He must have shared about the picture of baptism. How can I come to that conclusion? After a while, “the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” The eunuch understood; he got it and wanted to have what Philip had. You may or may not have v. 37 in your Bible. It does not appear in early manuscripts of Acts. It was probably added by a scribe at some point during copying to bring a conclusion to the eunuch’s conversion. With or without v. 37, the conclusion is the same. The eunuch heard the truth and responded to it. He wanted to be baptized as sign of his conversion.

The story takes a shocking turn here. The eunuch stops the chariot and he and Philip go down into the water where he is baptized. Like other places in the New Testament, baptism is by immersion. They come up out of the water and, “The Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.” Standing there dripping wet, Philip disappears right before the eunuch’s eyes. One second, Philip is there, and literally the next second he is not. That would freak people out today, but the eunuch? He went on his way rejoicing. “But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.” Philip landed about 37 miles away and continued what he knew to do and that is preach the Gospel.

Philip surrendered to an unknown mission. God changed his plans to go back to Jerusalem and he was obedient. Because of his obedience, the Ethiopian eunuch was miraculously saved and became the first foreign convert in Scripture. The seed of the Gospel is carried to Africa. Philip’s ministry is really incredible. He began evangelizing the Samarians – a half-bred people despised by Jews. He shares with the crowds in Samaria and they responded. On the desert road, we see Philip engaged in personal evangelism – one on one. The message he shared was identical. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – the good news of the Gospel. The expected response was the same: believe and be baptized. In all cases, the response to the Gospel brought joy and it should be the same for us today.

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God is Always on the Throne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing with Heavenly and Earthly Relationships

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Last week, we began by asking the rhetorical question, who is without sin? The cleansing we enjoy is not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus did. Youngsters say what comes to mind because they haven’t developed the ability to hide their motives. We looked at a number of principles for daily, principled living for the home, the job, and at church. This morning, we’ll finish up this chapter by looking at some important relationships.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 20:20-30 and I hope you take the time to read it.

We start with a relationship that everyone has. Not everyone may have children, but everyone has parents. “He who curses his father or his mother, his lamp will go out in time of darkness.” Ex. 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Under the Law, cursing your parents was a capital offense; it was punishable by death. That seems pretty harsh by today’s standards. Rebellious kids can be extraordinarily draining on parents. When this occurs, the lamp will go out. We’re not talking literally, we’re talking metaphorically. In Survivor, when you’re voted out, they snuff your torch signifying your death in the game. This is the illusion Solomon is giving us. When it’s dark out, you need a lamp to see. If you’re rebellious to your parents, you are metaphorically put in the dark.

“An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” If your mind is drawn to the prodigal son, you’re on the right track. This verse is connected to the previous verse about parents. Inheritances typically come from the parents and sometimes the worst thing you can do for your kids is give them money or possessions they don’t have to earn. There’s nothing wrong with providing for your children in the future, but the kids shouldn’t expect it. And most certainly, they shouldn’t demand it early. That’s what the prodigal did in Luke 15. In Lu. 15:12, the son says, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.” The son leaves and, “squandered his estate on loose living.” (Lu. 15:13) Easy money does not guarantee financial stability.

Our next relationship involves the Lord. “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” Paul repeated this in Rom. 12:17-19, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Paul quotes Deut. 32:35. The Lord will take care of you and will fight your battles on your behalf, but don’t assume that your enemies will be struck down. We’ve got to keep Paul’s command in the forefront of our mind when dealing with people that provide us with challenges. As much at it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Do what you can to foster peace: do what you can to be kind and loving, patient and compassionate. If people don’t respond the way you think they ought to, so what? It’s not on you. Don’t think you’ve always got to be the one looking out for yourself. Many times, He puts someone in the path that will fight on your behalf, but it’s still God working.

“Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good.” We saw this exact principle in 20:10 and way back in 11:1.Don’t be dishonest in your business dealings.

“Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way?” I’d like to spend a bit of time here to talk about some important principles that many people discount. Keep in mind that Solomon said in 19:21, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.” And back in Pro. 16:9 when Solomon said, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” In everything we do, we have a necessary dependence on God. That is not a bad thing. Our understanding of what goes on around us is severely limited. We can only see so far and we rarely understand or consider the impact our actions have on others. When you talk about God’s sovereignty, there is a tendency to become fatalistic. Whatever happens, happens, and that’s the way God wants it. We become like little puppets controlled by God. I think that’s the wrong way to look at life. Of course, we should have a desire to follow God’s will and I believe He has a purpose for us to fulfill. I don’t think it’s necessarily to have a global impact or somehow accomplish incredible things for Christ. I think for most of us, a simple life of passionate, zealous, and complete obedience will accomplish much for the Kingdom of God.

We often cannot comprehend what God is accomplishing behind the scenes of life and we would be foolish to think that it doesn’t matter. Humanity has free will, but God is the One that connects the ties that bind us together to accomplish His will. While I can assuredly say that not everyone follows God, everyone does play a part in fulfilling God’s will. God knows all the variables; He knows everything that can and or will change; He knows how the weather affects us, how people affect us; He knows all that and He is still the One that controls the universe. The fatalist says that nothing I do will change what will happen. Not true. Follow God and watch Him work in you and through you. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if my parents had not divorced; I wonder if my dad had not changed companies that led us to SC; I wonder what would have been if I went to Carolina instead of Winthrop. I wonder if I had not joined the Navy or only served for six years; I wonder if Kari and I had not married. I could go on and on, but God knew the decisions I would make that affected not just my life, but the lives of all the people in the last 53 years that I affected and those lives that affected me; good or bad, positive or negative. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have through God.

“It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry.” This is a strangely worded verse has been interpreted several different ways. When taken in light of Eccl. 5:4-6 and Pro. 18:7, it seems the best interpretation is don’t make promises you cannot keep. It doesn’t matter if it’s a promise to God, although that one is really bad, or promises to a person that you either cannot keep or do not intend to keep. A common occurrence these days is saying you’re going to do something and in the back of your mind it’s true unless anything else comes up. One of the troubling things to me is how quick people are to let go of commitments they have made. It can be as simple as a child agreeing to clean their room and then doesn’t or being a member of a church committing to participate and support the body and then allowing that commitment to be superseded by other things. There truly are few people that can be relied upon.

Let’s shift over to royalty. Back when kings ruled the land, part of their responsibility was to mete out justice. This is handled by judges today and this is the angle I’m coming from. “A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them.” Winnows means scatter. Wisdom dictates that you separate criminals so they cannot devise evil schemes against people. It’s a great idea, but we put criminals together. One of the best places to learn how to commit crime is in jail or prison. We don’t do a great job of rehabilitating criminals that are incarcerated. Here’s a good question: is that what prisons are for? I submit to you that jail and prison are a place to go to pay the debt owed to society for the crime that has been committed. “Driving the threshing wheel” over someone gives further evidence to support a separation. The threshing wheel was used to separate grain from the chaff. A common form of the threshing wheel consisted of a couple of wooden planks that had several rollers attached underneath that were fitted with iron teeth. The thresher sat on the planks that were pulled by a team of oxen. As the threshing wheel rolled, the iron teeth would separate the grain. If you picture the threshing wheel rolling over a man, you can imagine the damage that might occur – even death. Our constitution protects people from cruel or unusual punishment so this method of punishment would obviously not be used here. Solomon is telling us that it takes a wise judge to mete out the proper punishment. I’ve got to remind you that biblical wisdom comes from God. The wise ruler must distinguish between the godless and the good and also has to use discernment in determining the punishment required.

The next verse is a really beautiful depiction of Christ’s love. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being.” When you look at God’s design for humanity, this makes perfect sense. Each of us has life breathed into our soul by God. Every human conceived, whether that life was actually born or not, was created by the power of God. Rom. 1:20 tells us that God put in us a desire to know Him. Humans are the only segment of God’s creation created in the image of God. We are created in God’s image with the ability to think and understand. In 1 Cor. 2:11, Paul said, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The spirit of man is an illusion to our conscience which has been designed in us by our Creator.

Solomon mentions two virtues of a good king. “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.” Loyalty and righteousness come from the same Hebrew word which means covenant loyalty. Loyalty means a strong feeling of support or allegiance. In context, Solomon is talking about a mutual loyalty between the king and his kingdom. By application, you can see the far reaching implications of loyalty. I’ll ask the question, what are you loyal to? Certainly, family comes to mind. There are people loyal to their jobs, sometimes at the expense of loyalty to their families. Given that we’ve just finished the college football season, we saw a lot of people very loyal to their teams. When it comes to your loyalty to God, how is that demonstrated? If we keep the meaning of loyalty in mind, can you demonstrate a strong feeling of support or allegiance to God if you don’t pray, read or study your Bible? What about not participating in the things of the church? I often wonder how someone can say they pray and read their Bible faithfully yet don’t participate in church. Coming to church every week is included in that, but I’m talking about a daily loyalty to God because He is worthy of our loyalty.

“The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.” Young men tend to rely on strength while older men tend to rely on wisdom. I’m not as strong as I used to be, but I’m a whole lot wiser than I used to be, and that’s not to say that I have my wisdom tank filled.

Finally, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.” This is still talking about kings and punishment. Stripes refer to actual punishment inflicted as a result of a wrongdoing. “Strokes reach the innermost being” refers back to verse 27.

I know we’ve covered a lot of ground today. We started by looking at the parental relationship and the implications of being a bad child. Solomon spoke of being a virtuous king and the responsibility that comes with punishment. We saw some important aspects of our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to conduct a critical self-evaluation of your faith. Ask someone you love and trust to provide you with some feedback.

Smooth Sailing . . . For Some

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Last week Solomon told us God is more concerned with your character than your comfort. Solomon called out corrupt business practices and pride. We must avoid these not only because it leads to dishonor, but also because those qualities cannot be part of our character make up as a follower of Christ. The righteousness we have through Christ will deliver us into eternity with Christ and death will not harm us. This morning, Solomon tells us the key to ironing out our path.

I encourage you to take the time and read our passage for today found in Pro. 11:5-14.

Where does responsibility rest? That’s a great question to ask. It’s a question that fewer and fewer people are willing to answer. It seems that few people are willing to take responsibility for their actions. We’re a blaming society where we know one thing is for sure – it’s not my fault. It’s always the other guy’s fault. We hear things like,

If she would have been a better wife, I wouldn’t have . . .
If he wouldn’t make me so mad I wouldn’t . . .
If my boss paid me more I wouldn’t have to cheat on my taxes.

 You even hear people making excuses for others. He couldn’t help it, he comes from a broken home. He couldn’t help it, he has an anger issue. Where does the responsibility rest? Solomon tells us the answer. “The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.” Righteous people do what is right in God’s eyes and that’s what smooths the path. This is a general principle that generally happens. Even when the path is rocky, the righteousness imparted on the believer because of who he is in Christ enables that person to be blameless. Blameless can mean perfect, but that’s not the meaning here. Blameless means innocent of wrongdoing. There really are instances of ignorance, you just didn’t know, but you don’t follow that with, it’s not my fault, someone should have told me. That attitude demonstrates irresponsibility. Righteous people do not put themselves in situations where they can be compromised. They make wise choices. Their best friends are not people with opposite values and ethics. They surround themselves with people that will hold them accountable, that will tell them the truth in love; that will help them stay on the godly path. These people exemplify the principle Solomon told us about back in Pro. 3:6, “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

Maybe you’ve heard the saying God helps those that help themselves. The reality is that God has expectations for us, but He is the One that is working unseen to carve out your path, the One that evaluates everything in your life to see if it fits in with His plan. The key element to a straight path, is in the first part of that verse. Don’t expect smooth paths when you don’t acknowledge Him in all your ways. Don’t expect smooth sailing when you make a decision apart from God and then inform Him what’s going to happen. Don’t expect smooth sailing when you’re disobedient. For the wicked person, he, “will fall by his own wickedness.” The wicked have no one to blame but themselves, but they don’t take responsibility for their actions. The decisions they make directly impact their outcome. The principles they follow lead to their demise. Their code or lack of code causes their downfall. They alone are responsible. Verse 6 says the same thing as verse 5, but uses different words. 

So what happens when a wicked man dies? It’s a question people have asked over the ages. Solomon says, “When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of strong men perished.” Everything that guy put his confidence in for the future vanishes. What he thought would get him to his goals, did not. He thought operating his business in whatever way necessary to get ahead would bring him success. He thought his riches would carry him through. He thought making himself number one was the way to go. All those expectations gone. Sometimes you might think: it sure seems like the wicked do get ahead in life. Those that are unkind, untrustworthy, unloving, unethical, immoral: it sometimes seems like they prosper. We must look at our world through God’s eyes. Those that have lofty positions here on earth do not transfer to eternity. Remember the rich man and Lazarus I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. The rich man had it all on earth, but Lazarus had nothing. In eternity, the roles are reversed. The wicked think they have it going on, but at least in death, the playing field is leveled and a just and holy God makes things right. The righteous are delivered from trouble and the wicked takes his place. I know there is a huge temptation to pray that God will make His justice swift and visible, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out like that. We’ve got to understand that He is working things out for our good, for His good, for His glory, for His plan, for His purpose and He is under no obligation to let us in on that plan!

Probably all of us in here understand the power of words. We’ve talked about it over and over yet Solomon sees the need to one again remind us of the way the wicked uses speech. “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor.” Sticks and stones the saying goes, but that’s not what Solomon means here. In light if what we have seen to this point, it could mean actual words, but when you take it with the other verses, it seems more likely Solomon is referring to false accusations. You’ve heard that fences make good neighbors because there is often trouble between neighbors. It seems like there’s one on every street. He’s the one that always has a problem with one neighbor or another. He says things about them that are not true, he has little to no integrity. “But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.” This is a slander versus integrity issue. I know it’s difficult to hear things about you that are false and our natural inclination is to try and counteract those false statements. If people know you, they’ll typically default to what they know. This is a generality. I have been on the receiving end of people believing lies about me and I have had the fortune to have people defend me. The people that believe lies pushed aside what they knew about me, what they’ve seen demonstrated in my life, what they knew to be against my character and believed something that simply wasn’t true. Remember the first half of verse 6. Deliverance from these difficult situations comes through righteousness because that’s who we are in Christ. 

Does the good guy always win? Verses 10-11 convey the same idea so we’ll look at them together. Why does the city rejoice with the righteous? Because an intrinsic characteristic of righteous people is they share good fortune with others. They are not self centered or selfish. On the other hand, “When the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.” All you have to do is check out some YouTube videos to see this in real life. We don’t like seeing someone being taken advantage of or bullied. Who can forget the joy in the streets when that statue of Saddam Hussein came down in 2003. We like it when judgment comes . . . to others.

Check out vs. 12-13. This is a reiteration of the principle that fools are loose with their lips and wise people know when to keep silent. A talebearer is a gossip. It’s someone that is a constant talker and I think it’s fair to say that this person is always in someone else’s business. They generally can’t be trusted to maintain confidentiality. Sometimes it’s under the guise of, “I told so and so because I was really concerned about you.” Confidence is confidence and there are only rare exceptions to this rule. The word conceal can have a negative connotation. Here is means discretion. Just because there is knowledge, does not mean it needs to come out. I’ve heard people say really mean or unkind things and offer the caveat that it’s the truth. Just because something is true does not mean it needs to be said. There is much wisdom in silence. Solomon has said it before.

Now perhaps one of the most important principles in Scripture. “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” KJV translates it, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Counselor means the ability to steer or pilot. It is someone qualified or trained to give guidance on personal, social, psychological, or spiritual matters. It does not mean the random stranger at Walmart. It does not mean the person that will tell you what you want to hear. It is not anyone that starts off with, “Whatever makes you happy. . .” It doesn’t mean continuously asking people until you get the answer you want. It doesn’t mean avoiding people that will tell you the truth either or avoiding people that you know will disagree with you because deep down, you know what you are seeking isn’t the wisest thing to do in the current circumstances. I can’t tell you how many people have informed me of a decision they have made in their spiritual walk of faith or regarding church and never one time talked to me. On the other hand, just because you think you can offer guidance does not mean you can. If you do not have a fundamental understanding of God’s Word, you may not be ready to offer guidance, but you can pray for that person. I have not experienced everything that you may be going through, but that does not mean I cannot give you wise, biblical counsel. Solomon is not just talking biblical guidance here either. There are people around you that can offer life guidance too. People that have expertise in areas like car or home repair, investing, relationships, they can recommend a good book or a good school, day care, or medical professional. You were not intended to go it alone. Some believe this principle also applies to government with the idea that a government that has checks and balances built into it is far superior to governments led by a single ruler.

Cities rejoice at the good fortune of righteous people and God makes sure that the wicked perish for their wickedness. That’s why we need to convey the message of redemption through Jesus Christ. Seek wise biblical advice from God’s Word and those that He has placed in your life after all, two godly heads are better than one. If you want smooth sailing in your life, you must follow the principles of Scripture. That’s not a guarantee that there won’t be storms or treacherous waves, crises, or tragedies, but you’ll have the confidence to know that God will help you through.

Remember . . . . Again

RememberYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that wisdom is a protector, a deliverer, and provides a safety net as we walk the tight rope of life. Biblical wisdom is a great friend to have; we just need to pursue her while she can be found. This morning, Solomon gives us the conclusion to that giant conditional clause as he warned his son about the dangers encountered from people that don’t walk with God.

Pro. 3:1-4 says, My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

Repetition is always a key in Bible ready and study. Anytime we see a word or phrase repeated in Scripture, we need to pay attention to it. If God takes the time to repeat Himself, we need to understand what He’s saying. Solomon repeats the same principle he gave to his son back in 1:8 and in 2:1-2. Here’s his first reminder. “Do not forget my teaching.” Our lives are filled with reminders. I use Google calendar for my appointments and it sends me email, text, and pop up reminders of meetings and events on my calendar so I don’t forget. I need reminders because my mind is human and I tend to forget things. We put reminders on the fridge and write notes to ourselves and do all sorts of things so we don’t forget. What’s funny though is we don’t seem to forget the things we really want to remember. “Do not forget my teaching,” Solomon says, “But let your heart keep my commandments.” Whatever you need to do to remember, do it.

It is fairly easy to lose a skill you have if you don’t practice it. We have practice for all kinds of things. Sports. Musical instruments. Drill teams. We do these things to maintain the skill set we have and also to improve. We can and should do the same thing with the commands and instructions of God. Solomon is telling his son to transfer the head knowledge he has and get it into his heart. Get the teaching of God to the innermost core of his being. Whatever is in your heart will naturally pour out of you. Ps. 119:11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” When God is in your heart, that’s what should come out when you’re squeezed.

Solomon tells his son that when he gets God’s word in his heart, “Length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” As we progress through Proverbs, we’ll see this formula for long life. It’s reminiscent of Deuteronomy. Deut. 8:11, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today.” Obedience brings reward – it is as simple as that. But, we aren’t obedient to be blessed or rewarded, we’re obedient because it’s the right thing to do and it pleases God. That being said, I am not prepared to say that if you’re presented with a decision and as you think about it and determine to do what is right or pleasing to God in order to get a reward or blessing is necessarily wrong. When you treasure God’s Word in your heart, the formulaic response to life is for God to come out. In our walk with Christ, if you reduce decisions down to reward versus punishment, I think you’ll be on the right track. You do it with your kids, don’t you? If you tell your child to do some task and you say, if you do that, I’ll give you a cookie. Aren’t you rewarding the child because they were obedient? Over time, you expect the right behavior because they have been taught and know what’s expected of them. You wouldn’t give a cookie to your teenager for picking up his toys, would you? Obedience leads to peace – a quietness of the heart, calm, tranquil, at rest.

Now Solomon gives some instructions for dealing with people. Verse 3 say, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.” This is a great reminder of how we are supposed to be. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Paul said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) It’s not conditional which means we always maintain kindness and truth. It’s not dependent upon the situation, not dependent upon the people you’re dealing with. We are to, “Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Add this to v. 1 and we really get the sense that this is an internal quality we are to have. Willful control of your actions is great, but when you are totally submitted to the authority of Christ, your innermost being is filled with the love of Christ. Paul said it beautifully in 2 Cor. 3:3, “Being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”

What’s the result? God smiles. When these things are ingrained in us, the godly outcome is that we will find, “Favor and good repute in the sight of God and in man.” What is better than that? God’s favor falls on us. Favor means approval or liking. God likes what we do and smiles down on us. God being pleased is good enough, but look what else happens. Favor comes from man as well. You’ve heard me often say, do things to please God and let Him work everything else out. Seek to please God first.

All this comes because God’s Word is in our hearts. His teachings and principles, and commands are part of our makeup, our part of our DNA. Ps. 119:93 says, “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me.” God’s Word will nurture you, it will sustain you, it will bless you as long as you take the time to remember.

Wisdom Speaks

SpeakYou can listen or download the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to be Useful

Peter's BoatYou can listen to the podcast here.

Most people want to find purpose for their lives. Few people intentionally squander their life on foolish and trivial pursuits. Most Christians would say that they want to make investments that will make an eternal difference. Most would say they want to be involved, make a difference, but what steps are we taking to bring that dream into reality? If you want to make a difference, you need to allow change to come about in your life before you can move on.

Take a look at Luke 5:1-11.

This is a story of obedience. Simon was no different than us. He was trying to make a living. Trying to do what he thought he should. He had been out on the Sea of Galilee all night fishing. He returned from his fishing trip with nothing more than a dirty net. It is hard work being a fisherman, and Simon returned empty handed. He and the other fisherman stretched out their nets on the beach to clean out the sea weed, shells, barnacles, and all the other stuff that was picked up during the night. Simon was probably thinking about the next trip hoping that it would be more profitable.

This area of the Sea of Galilee is a beautiful place. The white sandy beach slopes up from the cool blue water into a hill around the cove that forms a natural amphitheater. Plants and wildlife flourish there. People in the area can grow anything because of the temperate climate. As Simon and the other fishermen were putting their freshly cleaned nets onto their boats, they heard what must have been a dull roar coming from the west. A crowd of people was coming toward him being led by a man that Simon recognized as Jesus. This was not their first meeting. In Luke 4:39, Jesus was at Simon’s house healing his mother-in-law’s high fever. Verse 1 says, “ . . . the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the Word of God.” They got close to hear the Word preached. It wasn’t a concert, but the Word of God. It wasn’t the latest, new, and improved fancy, shmancy program. Remember that at age 12, Christ was able to teach the teachers. He was able to captivate people with His words. He brought the Scriptures to life. His message was articulate and relevant. The people were inspired and moved by His message so much that He was pushed to the water’s edge.

Where was Simon? He and his buddies were in their boats watching. Jesus looks at the crowd and at the boats, and gets on Simon’s boat and asks him to “put out a little way from the land.”  Why had Jesus come to this cove at this time of the morning? Jesus wanted to see Simon. Jesus wanted Simon to hear this message. As Simon sat there, Jesus finishes His teaching and tells Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  This was instruction to Simon alone. Notice that Jesus is not suggesting obedience; He is demanding it. Simon says, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” Notice what Simon didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Jesus, don’t tell me how to fish.  I’m a professional.” He didn’t say, “Jesus, stick to preaching and let me do the fishing.  I know the best fishing holes on this pond.” He didn’t say, “Everybody knows that nighttime is the best time for catching fish on the Sea of Galilee.  And the best fishing is in the shallow water along the Sea’s edge, not in the deep water.” Simon didn’t ask any questions. He didn’t listen to his feelings. I’m sure he was dog-tired after fishing all night. Simon simply obeyed. Jesus was still teaching, but I don’t know if Simon caught on. It was a lesson on obedience; a lesson of purpose. This lesson was to test Simon’s usefulness; to see if he had what it took to make a difference. What was the result of Simon’s obedience? The catch was so large that Simon had to call his partners for help because the amount of fish in the nests was causing the boat to sink. Simon throws himself Jesus’ feet and says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Notice Simon uses the word Lord. In v. 5 Simon used Master, but now uses Lord. Master simply means superintendent, but Lord is from the word that means Messiah. Simon knew.

So how do we move past uselessness to get to usefulness? There are truths and insights in this account that will help us to move to a place of usefulness; to make a difference in our world; to find purpose. The ticket to freedom is obedience. We think we know all there is to know about freedom. We want to believe that we are a liberated people. We think freedom means making our own decisions, avoiding the rules, changing the rules, even breaking the rules. People tell us, “Think for yourself, do what is right for you.” For the Christian, freedom comes through yielding our will to God and obeying His rules. Jesus summed this up by saying, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jo. 14:15) Obedience to Christ and His words is one of the most distinguishing marks of a Christian. For Simon, Jesus is not suggesting obedience; He demands it. You cannot be a follower of Christ without being obedient.

Obedience demands action. Listening never substitutes for action. Simon heard the message of Jesus.  He was a captive audience. But Jesus wanted Simon to do more than simply listen. He wanted him to act. James says, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Ja. 1:22) Simon sat in the boat with Jesus and listened to His words. Simon believed in Him and it was time to act. Obedience is faith in action. It is taking the promises and provisions of Christ’s words into obedient behavior that manifests itself in service. Jesus didn’t say, “Believe in Me,” and leave it at that. He said over and over again, “Follow Me.”  In essence Jesus is saying, “Don’t just say you believe me, don’t just say you know me, don’t just say ‘I love you,’ follow me.” Peter Lord former pastor of the Park Avenue Baptist church in Titusville, FL said, “What I believe I do and the rest is just religious talk.”

Obedience calls for doing things that may not make sense. Simon was comfortable fishing at night along the shore line.  To launch out into the deep during the day is another story – that took a step of faith. Most people live in the shallow waters. They simply exist on a superficial level. There’s little depth to their lives because they’re content to just play around the edge, never going out into deeper water. Why?  Because it’s safer in shallow water. Out in the deep water there might be waves, ships, sea monsters. They might get in trouble so they’ll just stay back where it’s safe and comfortable. God’s call to obedience involves risks, involves potential failure in the eyes of others; involves faith. Only those people who are willing to follow the Lord’s lead ever really make a difference.

There was nothing logical to Simon about going out in the open sea and fishing again. It didn’t make sense. Some would say it’s dumb, but Jesus told Simon to go and the key to the whole story is when Simon says, “ . . . but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” (Lu. 5:5) The most powerful test of obedience is to do those things that don’t make sense simply because Jesus says so. Obedience in the little things leads to opportunities in the big things. The fact is that Simon obeyed Jesus. Simon obeyed when Jesus asked to use his boat for a pulpit. Simon obeyed when Jesus asked him to launch out into the deep. Because Simon obeyed, he was in a position to be used by God. Many people want to do something really big for God, to find their “ministry calling” but aren’t obeying God where they are. I think this is where most people are. We’re doing what people consider the menial and behind-the-scene tasks. If we won’t be obedient in the little things, why would God use us in the big things of life. The reality is that if we’re not finding purpose in where we are, what we’re doing now, then we’re not going to make a difference for God anywhere.

What’s keeping you from obeying? There is one object that is present throughout this story. It was the boat. The boat was at the water’s edge. Jesus preached from the boat. The miraculous catch of fish happened on the boat. Simon recognized Jesus as Messiah on the boat. Yet in the end, Simon pulls the boat to the shore and leaves it behind to follow Jesus. The boat represents Simon’s livelihood, his business, his security, his peace of mind, his future. Simon made his boat available to Jesus, and Jesus used Simon’s business as a platform for ministry. We tend to separate the secular from the spiritual. We try to partition off our Christianity from our career. But, Simon’s boat was what was keeping him from a life of total and complete obedience. His boat and what it represents was preventing him from living a fully devoted life of obedience. What about you? What’s your boat? What’s keeping you from a life of usefulness? What is standing between you and a life of obedience? What’s preventing you from making a difference for eternity sake?