Sweet Success

HoneyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech; they just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool. This morning, we’ll see some sweet success.

Pro. 16:24-25 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

I like this first verse. Solomon rephrases something he’s already talked about when he says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Even though we’ve seen words to this effect in Proverbs, I wanted to spend some time here because I think the word picture is so beautiful. A honeycomb is the storage place for honey and that’s the word Solomon intends. Honey is an incredible substance. On their trip to see the second in command in Egypt, Jacob (Israel) told his boys to, “Take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11) The Promised Land was a land flowing with milk and honey. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands and then later returned to find the lion full on honey which he scooped out and ate as he walked. (Jud. 14:8) Jonathan’s eyes were brightened after eating honey in 1 Sam. 14:27. Honey was a regular part of John the Baptizer’s diet. (Matt. 3:4) Honey’s health benefits are widely publicized and it never goes bad. We use the word honey as a term of endearment.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb; they are comforting and soothing. There are many things I find pleasant, but may have no impact on eternity. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Solomon compares pleasant words to something that tastes good. The quickest way for a restaurant to fail is to have lousy food. A good, dark, strong cup of coffee brings me intense delight and comfort. And I’m sure you’ve heard the term comfort food. This type of food is supposed to transport you back to childhood where all your dreams were reality and you had no responsibility, no demands, no pressure, and no stress. Pleasant words are supposed to have an even bigger effect than that. Pleasant words can have a healing effect like a balm. I wonder if Solomon is thinking about the words penned by his father David in Ps. 19:7-11. The Law of God and the Word of God are eternally important for us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) That’s why Solomon says pleasant words are, “Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Does this next verse sound familiar? Verse 25 is exactly the same as 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Solomon to say the same thing again? We’ve had a number of verses so far that convey the same overall meaning. Do you take it for granted? This is a caution against doing things on your own and it needs to be said again. When I tell you a cross reference for this verse is found in Pro. 12:15 it’ll all make sense, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Solomon is always contrasting wisdom and folly or righteous and unrighteous. When you consider your own ways and do not take the input of others, the end result is not generally good. There seems to be a right way to do things, but when you rely on yourself, it’s typically not good. It might turn out okay occasionally because even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Solomon is trying to get us to realize that we need other people in our lives. We don’t see loners in the Bible. The most vibrant, engaged Christians are those that are actively engaged in community. The followers that are growing the most are those that are engaged in fellowship with others that help them grow. The most authentic believers are those that are willing to place themselves under the authority of others; they don’t just do their own thing. If the way you’re going seems right to you but you’re alone, how will your course be corrected? If you just follow your heart, where will you be led? The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Sometimes it seems like we’re that three-year-old trying to tie his shoes saying, “I can do it myself.” It seems like we’re so desperate to do things on our own and we not only ignore godly guidance, we have a tendency to be offended if offered advice from someone older or more experienced. At the risk of tiring out this example, we have these mentors or guides in every aspect of life. The coach tells you what play to run or if you don’t come to practice, you can’t play. The teacher tells you to use a #2 pencil. The IRS tells you that your return must be postmarked no later than April 15th. The military tells you exactly how to wear your uniform. IKEA tells you how to put together their furniture.

We have little to no issue with this. After all, we want to play and we want to win. We want the computer to see our answers so we can pass the test. We don’t want to get a monetary penalty for filing late. We want our cool IKEA furniture to look right. When we transfer these same instructional ideas to the church, what happens? The music leader tells you your solo is cut or you’re singing flat. Someone offers some marriage advice or parenting guidance and all of a sudden, it’s none of your business. We have some misguided notion in the church that the only people that can offer advice are perfect people. Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but how about learn from what I’ve messed up on and from what works for us. My kids aren’t perfect and I’ll tell you where I messed up so you won’t make the same mistakes I did. All of us tend to learn more from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, so why is it we’re so hard pressed against spiritual advice? “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The most vibrant, effective ministries are the ones where there is a spirit of unity, a spirit of mutual love and respect where Jesus is elevated to His appropriate place above all other things. It’s a place where the focus is on the main thing. It is entirely unrealistic to think we will have success in every single thing we do. Thomas Edison figured out 2000 ways the light bulb didn’t work before finding one that did. Our first year going to Romania was not what we would define as a success, but the lessons learned were invaluable in refining the goals for how we do mission work in Romania. Every trip we learned something that didn’t work and that forced us to self-examine what we were doing. Each year at C4, we learn things. I don’t want us to get so routine and stagnant, that we just continue on regardless of how ineffective we might be. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we’ll continue. The church is a living, breathing organism. We are made up of people that are learning and growing Do you want to be more effective in life? In ministry? In Eternity? Surround yourself with people who want the same thing. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. There is no room in your life for people who will tell you what you what you want to hear, who will lie to you, who won’t hold you accountable. That’s not love. That’s foolish. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others.

Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success.

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A Matter of Trust

trustYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that God has provided us with the latest, up to date, accurate road map that offers a guarantee on finding the destination . . . if we’ll just use it. Staying on God’s highway will cause you to depart from evil. It doesn’t mean evil will be eliminated from your life, but it won’t take hold of you because you evaluate it from God’s perspective. Solomon tied the dreadful sin of pride with robbery – an angle you may not have previously looked at. The prosperity of the thief is short lived, so that’s not even an option for the Christ follower. Society tells us life is all about us, but that’s a deviation from God’s plan. Life here on earth is all about God and life in eternity is all about God. You’ve probably heard that you can’t trust anyone, but this morning, we’ll see how trust plays into real life.

Proverbs 16:20-23 says, “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
But the discipline of fools is folly. The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

Who can you trust? It’s a question often asked. Some people will say, “You can’t trust anyone.” Others will say you can’t trust certain people. There are people that have betrayed your trust that resulted in you trusting no one and then conclude, “I have trust issues.” You’ve heard me say, “You can trust me.” So what’s Solomon talking about? He says, “He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.”  So we have to first know what the word is. Pro. 13:13 says, “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Solomon is talking about a willingness to place yourself under the authority of the written Word of God. Just because someone doesn’t like the Bible, understand it, believe it, or follow it, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable. People can disagree and hate the Bible, but it doesn’t make it less applicable to them. Even if they don’t know everything in it, they’re still accountable to it and so are we as believers. When you pay attention to the commandments, teachings, and principles of Scripture, you’ll find good. Good in this verse means pleasant and joyful; that which pleases the senses or give moral satisfaction. Paul uses the Greek form of the word good when he says, “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:12)

We don’t need to be afraid of the word of God because it brings life changing instruction for us. “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” That means that you lay aside what you don’t understand and you simply place your confidence in the One that created all that you see around you. You place your complete confidence in the One that hand crafted the human body. You place your complete trust in the One that keeps the stars in the sky, that causes the earth to continue rotating that gives us night and day, that gives us glorious sunrises and sunsets. You’re placing your complete confidence in the One that knows tomorrow as well as He knows yesterday. It is a choice and the choice is yours. Remember, this phrase is attached to the previous phrase about giving attention to the word. It’s the written word of God. When you read it, study it, and get to know the Author of it, it becomes easier to place your complete confidence in the Lord.

The proof is in the pudding. Most people that you are around probably have a good idea about who you really are. It’s very difficult to hide your true identity from those people that you spend a lot of time with. Your family, co-workers, and classmates probably are not fooled by who you really are. Sometimes, people of faith go undercover. Don’t be afraid of revealing your true identity of faith. Don’t apologize for being a follower of Christ. If you’re a true follower, you’ll never be able to hide it anyway because you will be different. That’s what Solomon is saying here, “The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” Let’s break this down and start with, “The wise in heart.”  The heart is the same heart that Solomon refers to as the center of who you are that we’ve seen numerous times. If you’re wise in heart, it’s who you are regardless of how you came to be like that. Contextually, we’re talking biblical wisdom as we’ve seen before. I think we’ve established throughout this study that real wisdom comes from God; real wisdom comes from  understanding the Bible and when you have that understanding, other people will recognize it in you. That’s why you will be called understanding.

Our behavior says a lot about who we are. If you have some time, I encourage to look at Acts 11:19-26. The people recognized their actions and called them Christians. It happened in Antioch first because the people were acting like Christ and other people called them Christians. We didn’t come up with the description ourselves. Other people saw Christ in these early disciples and concluded they were like Him. When you are wise in heart, the conclusion is that you are controlled by Christ. Since you’re controlled by Christ, you have the fruit of self-control. Since you have self-control, you’re able to control what, when, and how you say things. This is the, “Sweetness of speech” in the verse. The Hebrew word for sweetness can also be translated pleasant and persuasiveness is better translated learning. When we take it all together, Solomon is conveying the idea that when wisdom fills your heart, you’re able to increase learning in others. People will be drawn to you to find out what makes you tick; they’ll seek you out for answers to life’s issues because you exude wisdom, not in a haughty arrogant way, but a confidence in knowing who you serve.

This leads directly into the next verse. “Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly.” We’ve seen where understanding comes from. I’m not talking about understanding how atoms split to make energy or how an engine works. I’m talking about understanding what really matters. I think we’ve been pretty clear about that. The only thing that matters here is preparation for eternity. We all need a fundamental understanding of what is at stake so we have the proper perspective. When Jesus came to earth and walked around Galilee and Jerusalem, it wasn’t just to teach great things or provide an example to follow. He understood the importance of what He was called to do. I think many of us discount the importance of what we are called to do. That fountain of life flows freely from those who have the understanding of their purpose. The purpose I’m talking about is far more important than a vocation. We have a vocation to fund our primary calling and that primary calling is the same for every believer. We are to point people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When a believer has that purpose in mind, it’s like a free flowing fountain that satisfies all who drink from it.

The opposite is also true. “But the discipline of fools is folly.” Discipline here doesn’t mean punishment, it means learning. You’ve heard of academic disciplines. That’s the meaning here. Solomon is talking about areas of learning, but it can also be applied to the nonsense that fools teach. Foolish people tend to get more and more foolish because as they live their lives in their foolishness, they tend to move farther and farther away from wisdom. Solomon gives us another restated verse when he says, “The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips.”

Trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech. They just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool.

Royal Rules


CrownCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon spoke of financial issues again and said it’s better to have a little and be righteous than to have a lot because you were engaged in injustice. It can be pretty scary to place blind trust in someone, but we do it all the time with our doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and align your goals and ambitions with God’s first. This morning, we dig into the responsibility of kings.

Pro. 16:10-13 tells us, “A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment. A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern. It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved.”

We don’t have a king. You’ve probably figured that out. I know the temptation exists to ignore this first verse because we don’t operate with a king in the U.S. I need to remind you who is writing these inspired words of God. He is the king of Israel so he knows what he’s talking about and understands the importance of the words he’s writing. “A divine decision is in the lips of the king.” While this has some significant application for today, I’m going to tell you the decision that Solomon refers to. When we began our study in Proverbs, we went to 1 Kings 3 and checked out Solomon’s early life. In 1 Ki. 3:5, God told Solomon, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We learned that Solomon asked God for, “An understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” God rewarded Solomon by giving him wisdom to discern and also gave him a pile of cash. Later in 1 Ki. 3, we come to Solomon’s first dilemma. Two harlots come to Solomon about a dead baby. They each say the dead baby belongs to the other. It’s a pretty complicated dilemma, but Solomon quickly dispenses judgment and all of Israel was floored by his wisdom. That decision is brilliant because it reflects the wisdom of God. That’s what Solomon is saying. When you are in tune with God, you’ll render decisions that come from a biblical worldview.

We don’t have a king, but we have leaders in nearly every facet of life. Our leaders should make decisions based on a fear and reverence for God because He is the standard of right and wrong, of morality and faith, of wisdom and justice. Our reality is most likely far from that ideal. So we should sincerely pray for our leaders to employ godly wisdom in their decisions. Remember, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Pro. 21:1) I wonder what would happen if the church collectively and individually prayed for the world’s leaders to govern biblically.

Solomon shifts gears a bit and talks about the wheels of justice. Solomon declares, “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord, all the weights of the bag are His concern” The balance was used in the market place to weigh out a product against a standard. We do the same thing today. You go to the grocery store and you pay a price per pound for many items purchased like vegetables, meat, and sugar. Sometimes crooked merchants would use a faulty balance or weights that were rigged to deprive customers of getting what they paid for. Weights were standardized back in the day as they are today. You’d be pretty ticked off if you paid for five pounds of coffee and received only four pounds. There was a huge scandal in our area back in 2005-2006. The owners and operators of three gas station/travel plazas were indicted on charges of conspiracy and fraud. They had rigged the gas pumps to dispense 19 gallons for every 20 purchased. That’s 5% difference. Not much, but in just two years, the FBI estimated that amounted to about 7 million dollars. This is exactly what Solomon is talking about. God is concerned when people fall victim to unjust business practices. Why? Because God knows that you need to buy things to live and He takes a really dim view on people that engage in fraudulent business practices.

There are certain expectations we have for people. We have expectations for teachers to teach our kids what they need to know to live a productive life. We expect our employers to pay us for the jobs we do. We expect firefighters to show up if our house catches on fire. We expect our military to defend and protect us against all enemies near and far. When we talk about royalty, we have a disconnect because don’t have an earthly king or queen. You might have heard of Queen Elizabeth II. She’s the longest reigning queen in history. Of the 44 countries or territories with a monarch, Queen Elizabeth rules over 11 of those. What’s interesting is that the Queen doesn’t rule with absolute authority. She has limits to what she can do. Of the 44, only 6 monarchs rule with absolute authority and one of those is the Pope.

“It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness.” What if I made a word substitution and said, “It is an abomination for leaders to commit wicked acts, for the office is established on righteousness.” If we apply this to our leaders, we get the understanding Solomon is going for. Paul said in Rom. 13:1-2, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Our leaders should act responsibly and appropriately and if they don’t, they should be held accountable. Leaders ought not to lead with an iron fist, but with compassion, consideration, integrity, and honor. Dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Qadaffi made people follow them out of fear. Those that opposed or stood up to them were killed. That’s not the way God wants it to be. Isaiah said it like this: “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (Is. 16:5) Solomon is setting up whoever might succeed him as king. Good kings mete out justice. Good kings have high moral character. A good and righteous king hates wickedness in others and won’t even consider wickedness in his own life even though he might be in a position and have the power to act wickedly and get away with it. Good kings rule with lovingkindness.

Here’s another royal quality that goes with what he just said. “Righteous lips are the delight of kings and he who speaks right is loved.” This is not how the king speaks, but for those that speak to them. Have you heard the term yes man? This type of person tells their leaders what they think they want to hear instead of the truth. They use empty flattery. Real leaders want honest feedback even if it might be displeasing to them. In an ideal world, your supervisor, work leader, manager, or whoever you report to wants you to speak truthfully. Real leaders take on board what is said. Undercover Boss uses this technique in a mildly deceptive way. The boss goes undercover in his or her organization to find out what is really going on in the company because it can be challenging to find people that will tell the truth to their leader. When you do speak right, you will be loved by your boss – at least you should be. It’s an entirely different scenario when leaders ignore or dismiss what they’re told. If you stay in the work force any length of time, you’ll likely work for someone that doesn’t care what you think, doesn’t want to hear new or innovative ideas, that’s totally satisfied with the status quo, or doesn’t think you’re competent enough to have a good idea. That makes for a tough work environment. The best leaders to work for or have are the leaders that love Jesus because the righteousness that is present in them compels them to be like Jesus. What does that look like? They love Jesus so they want to lead like Christ. They love Jesus so they want to lead righteously. They love Jesus so they want to lead courageously, respectfully, full of grace and truth. They love Jesus so they want to please Him. That’s a great leader to work for.

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 really 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.

Can We All Get Along?

Get AlongYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we saw some questions we all want answers to. God did not create the wicked, but did allow His creation to choose the path of disobedience and rebellion to become the antithesis of His design. Evil and wickedness are present in the world and God will use even that to gain glory. If your life is characterized by pride, you’re like rotting flesh and you will not be unpunished. God loved us so much that He gave us His Son Jesus Christ who atones for our sin. Truth and mercy kiss each other in the person of Christ. Since we have such reverence and love for God, we keep away from evil. All this is part of God’s curious creation where He is at the center. This morning if asked the question, “Can’t we all just get along?” Solomon tells us, yes we can.

Pro. 16:7 says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

Here’s a really good question for today. As the increasing stream of intolerance and hatred spread throughout society and in social and mainstream media, I think it’s a fair question to ask. Is it possible to get along with others? Even in venues where we agree for the most part, you still see divisions among people who claim to love one another. In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he said, “When you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it.” (1 Cor. 11:18) What I really love about this verse is notice that Paul says when you come together as a church. Paul says, “when” not if and not sometimes. This coming together is a regular part of the believer’s lives at Corinth. Believers meeting together under the umbrella of Jesus Christ so please don’t try and feed me any nonsense that you can be engaged in a vibrant, authentic relationship with Christ apart from the local church. So what if there isn’t one? Start making disciples.

Solomon says, “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies be at peace with him.” Pay careful attention to the pronouns here. Solomon is talking relationships between men. When a man walks with God, talks with God, communes with God, listens to God, awesome things happen. Solomon is literally saying, when your heart is together with God, then God can turn your foes into friends. Rom. 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” If you were around in 1991, you’ll remember the story of Rodney King. He became the poster child for police brutality when someone began videoing his encounter with police in Los Angeles. Four police officers were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. All were acquitted except one officer on one charge and that sparked the famous Los Angeles riots of 1992 where 55 people were killed and over 2000 were injured. On May 1, 1992 as the riots were in their third day, reporters were asking Rodney King questions and he said, “People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?” As long as there are people, there will be issues that cause division. Christians should be different in the process used to handle differences. We should all get along, but even Paul said, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) It’s a conditional clause. Whatever you can do, be at peace with all men. Solomon is saying God can make it happen. God can cause men to change their mind.

We started off today asking the question, “Can’t we all just get along?” The answer is most definitely yes! When your ways are pleasing to the Lord, He’ll make even your enemies be at peace with you. We saw some questions we all want answers to. 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 and he assumed that it’s a regular occurrence. Be in church. Work things out. Get along with people. Love people.

Get Help!

Get HelpYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw Solomon using one of his favorite writing techniques which is the comparison; specifically comparing the righteous to the wicked. He uses numerous terms and a wide variety of scenarios, but he always concludes that it’s better to walk with God than to walk alone. It’s best to eat lean with love than it is to eat high on the hog with hatred. It’s best to be slow to anger so people can see God in us. Even when there are difficulties, it’s best to stay on the path that God has prepared. This morning, Solomon gives us some very good guidance

Proverbs 15:20-22 says, A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother. Folly is joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight. Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.

Does the first verse sound familiar? Back in 10:1, Solomon said, “A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother.” The sentiment in these two verses is the same. The only difference is the affect on the mom. In 10:1, the foolish son brought grief to his mom. Here Solomon says, “A foolish man despises his mother.” This verse sets up what follows and presents the principle that parents are responsible to teach their kids. It’s awesome when our kids listen to us and follow our teaching. Remember, the idea is that this teaching comes from a loving, godly, biblical perspective. When the kids listen to biblical guidance, everyone’s happy. When they fail to adhere to that teaching, it demonstrates a lack of love and respect from the child to the parent.

Obvious statement #1. “Folly is joy to him who lacks sense.” We all have a natural tendency toward what is wrong. The Apostle Paul said, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The man of folly will naturally tend to gravitate toward those things that are not godly. The King James version translates this verse, “Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom.” Destitute is more descriptive and gives you the idea of just how hopeless it is to follow your own set of ideals and values instead of the godliness of your parents. Of the fool in this verse Matthew Henry writes, “He sins, not only without regret, but with delight, not only repents not of it, but makes his boast of it. This is a certain sign of one that is graceless. The opposite of the man of folly is, “A man of understanding walks straight.” It is a choice. When there’s clear teaching and you choose to do what is not right, not godly, not God honoring, not parent honoring, that is total foolishness. A man who understands walks straight. He walks on the correct path which is godly and righteous.

How about risk versus reward? People can take this next verse to the extreme and twist it around, but I’m going to tell you what is really says and how it really applies to life. “Without consultation, plans are frustrated.” It can be disastrous to act impulsively. We often see this in financial decisions and it typically occurs on the male side of things. Those impulse purchases that result in buyer’s remorse. Car Max has recognized that and gives you five days to return that new to you vehicle if you decide not to keep it. Impulse buying is not what Solomon is talking about, but it can certainly be applied there. This is a book of wisdom. Wisdom begins with knowledge. Knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord. Solomon is talking about life. Are you getting ready to make a major life decision? Get counsel. The fool makes decisions without seeking guidance from those that can help make sense of the factors involved in a decision. There is an unwritten principle in this verse. Don’t seek guidance from people that are not students of God’s Word. Don’t bother with people that are not walking passionately with Christ. I continue to be amazed at the people that post stuff on social media and really expect good, solid counsel from people that have no experience, no training, and no idea how to provide the best wisdom. I have seen with my own eyes people speaking authoritatively on parenting, mental illness, drug use, sexuality, terrorism, policing, law, judicial proceedings, immigration, and the list goes on and on. If you want wisdom, James 1:5 says to ask God for it and often that wisdom comes through other people that are biblically wise.

“With many counselors they succeed.” Those counselors are not typically found on Facebook. Those counselors often look like parents, teachers, trusted friends, pastors, and church leaders. This does not mean ask everyone you know until you get the answer you’re looking for. This doesn’t mean ignore all the wonderful advice of those you trust and do what you have already determined to do on your own. When you speak with several people, there ought to be an understanding of confidentiality. There is always a risk when you share personal and private information with people. People seeking to apply this verse share something confidential in order to gain wisdom and valuable biblical insight from another. Unfortunately, that confidentiality is sometimes broken and trust is lost. Then you become very cynical and conclude you can’t trust anyone. Of course this plays right into Satan’s hands and you isolate yourself, quit talking to people, quit praying, quit coming to church, quit reading your Bible and you blame God for your predicament. I have seen this happen with my own eyes. People get focused on other people instead of maintaining focus on Christ. Of course it hurts when someone betrays your trust.

Do you really need wise counsel on good opportunities? After all, God provides those opportunities. Where a door is shut, God opens a window. I find those conclusions nonsensical. I think the genesis of those ideas is that we have determined a course of action to take and we will not be stopped. Even when God shuts the door and screams, “Do not enter.” We think that we must take good opportunities because they are good. On the other hand, just because something is hard means God’s not in it so you should quit. Over the years people have come to me with ideas they said were from God. Good ideas that would be beneficial to the body here or to the community. I’ve shared before that when you come to me with an idea, the first question I will ask, assuming the idea is biblical is, “Are you willing to take the lead on it?” If the answer is no, the idea will stop. When the response is not what they expect, or the work is thankless and challenging or it takes too much time or effort, they simply quit. What was a God ordained idea comes screeching to a halt. That’s why, “With many counselors, they succeed.”

Do you have something that God had placed on your heart or an idea you think is from God that consumes your thought life? Speak with someone that will provide you with solid, biblical, godly, and timely guidance from Scripture. It took six days for God to create all that we know. Paul’s first and second missionary journey each took about two years, and his third about four years. It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. There is rarely anything God gives us that must begin immediately and often things take time to get off the ground and get established. Seek answers from God and get good counsel to confirm it. If you’re having problems in some area of your life, get counsel before it becomes too big that you see no way out. There are wonderful people all around us that have biblical wisdom. Seek them out.

If You’re Happy and You Know It

LuLu PiercyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs, Solomon said everything about the wicked is a stench to God. God wants everyone to come to the conclusion that He is the only way. His ways are right and holy and pure, but time is running out. There is a time coming that will be too late, where the choice made is an eternal choice. You can do it your way and spend eternity separated from Him or do it His way and spend eternity with Him. It seems like it’s an easy choice. This morning, Solomon talks more about the wicked and how they really are and he minces no words.

Our passage today comes from Pro. 15:12-15 where Solomon says, “A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise. A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on folly. All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.”

Here’s another way to say it. Solomon really wants us to understand the mindset of the fool. He uses many words to describe what he calls a fool. We’ve seen wicked, unrighteous, naive, simple, treacherous, and now he uses scoffer once again. “A scoffer does not love one who reproves him, he will not go to the wise.” This is the same scoffer from 1:22 who, “delight themselves in their scoffing.” Let me remind you that scoff means to speak of something in a derisive or mocking manner. If you try and correct the scoffer, he will not be happy about it. I can honestly say at first reading, I had no idea why Solomon would use the word love in this verse. As I thought about it, it makes sense. Think about why you tell people the truth even when you are pretty confident it will lead to heartache. I have to conclude the reason we open ourselves up for attacks is that we have an overwhelming sense of love for people. That love can only come from God and we’re willing to lay aside whatever animosity or hatred comes our way because we really believe that Jesus is the only way and that should mean something in our everyday lives. In the context of Proverbs, when wisdom is mentioned, it’s godly wisdom. It’s the knowledge of God that leads to wisdom. The scoffer makes fun of our commitment to Christ, makes fun of our attitudes, the way we raise our kids, the work we do for Jesus and the church, makes fun of every aspect of our lives. They don’t get it. As a result, the scoffer doesn’t come to us for guidance or advice. Even though we may be experiencing the same things they are, our attitude is different, our outlook is different, our countenance is different, our speech is different; everything about us as believers is different and they don’t want to hear about how Jesus is the answer to all of life’s problems.

This is a great segue into the next verse. “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face.” Have you ever heard the expression weaned on a dill pickle? The phrase was coined by Alice Roosevelt Longworth in 1924. She was the oldest daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt and was referring to President Coolidge. Do an image search for Calvin Coolidge and you’ll see exactly what Alice was talking about. Solomon says if you have joy in your heart, then your face should reflect that joy. A smile can change a lot. Neh. 8:10 tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Apostle Paul said in Gal. 5:22 that you have been given joy as part of the spiritual fruit basket. The joy believers have is supernatural joy. Happiness is dependent in circumstances, but real joy comes from the Lord. Joy is found over 200 times in the Bible and often is found alongside shouting and singing. Rejoice is another form of the word and is used over 200 times in the Bible. We often use joy and happiness synonymously, but they are different. A cheerful face can brighten a room, or a house, or a church. I think most of us would prefer to be around people that are full of joy. I don’t want you to think of joy as a temporary emotion.

Solomon knows this because he says, “But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.” We see this all the time. Circumstances can cause us to feel sad. That’s why I’m always skeptical of people that act as though nothing in the world is wrong. Their kids are always perfectly behaved and on the honor roll. Their spouse is the most wonderful, loving, caring, kind, thoughtful person in the world that does no wrong. Their job is so awesome all the time that they really would go to work for free. They’ve got the most wonderful family and don’t even have a weird cousin or crazy uncle. Their appliances always work, their car never breaks down, and their house never needs repair, their grass never needs cutting. They never get sick and neither does anyone else in the family. They never struggle to make ends meet and they enjoy vacations two or three times a year. They even have awesome neighbors. There are plenty of things going on around us that will and should cause us sadness. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:19) The reminders of Scripture about who God is provide the hope for us to trust in Him.

You’ve likely heard the phrase, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” That phrase was and continues to be the slogan for the United Negro College Fund. Solomon says, “The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge.” Notice that it in the present tense. There will never come a time when you know enough, where you have thought enough, where you have studied enough – learning is a lifelong process and that’s what the smart guy does. It’s not knowledge for the sake of knowledge. The expectation is that knowledge leads to wisdom. Matt. 7:7 says, “Seek and you will find.” Too many people want to have found knowledge without doing the seeking. Peter commands us to, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18) Again the contrast to the person seeking knowledge is the fool. “But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.” Picture a buffet of nonsense and that’s what the fool feeds on. He eats foolishness like a ravenous wolf. That’s what satisfies him. He is driven by passion and a hunger for foolishness. That’s why it seems like foolish people get foolisher.

Is it really that bad for the fool? He eats all of the metaphorical food he wants on an endless buffet of nonsense. Can it really be that bad being foolish? “All the days of the afflicted are bad.” When Solomon uses the word all, he means every. The term afflicted is used synonymously with wicked, foolish, simple, naïve, scoffer, etc. Every day is bad because there is no relationship with Christ. There is no rest in Him, no comfort in Him, no strength in Him, no patience in Him, no love in Him, no perseverance in Him, there is nothing in Him because the foolish do not know Him. “But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.” All the things the fool lacks because he does not know God are available in Christ for the righteous. Endless comfort, strength, hope, mercy, grace, and love as well as an unending buffet of spiritual nourishment.  It’s bad for the fool just because he does not know God and it is good for the righteous simply because he does know God.

If you’re happy and you know, then your life should surely show it. As Christians we are cheerful not because of the ever changing circumstances of life. We are cheerful because regardless of those circumstances, Jesus is there. Smile because of Jesus.

Sacrificial Death and Life

LambYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said 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 or poverty equals wickedness. Solomon said one of the greatest legacies we can leave is to have used the opportunities God provided to share the truth of who He is and how much He loves people. That’s called discipleship and should be at the forefront of your mind. This morning, Solomon talks about sacrifice.

We’ll only look at one incredible verse found in Pro. 15:8 that says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.”

Good intentions mean nothing. Americans are a pretty charitable group of people. We have national programs to enable us to easily give to our favorite charities. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Combined Federal Campaign. In 2014, Americans gave $358.38 billion to charity. That equates to $2974 per household. Is that what Solomon is talking about in this verse? He says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is His delight.” This verse is a lot deeper than it appears at first glance. We have two people contrasted here: the wicked and the upright. Sacrifice depends on what’s going on in the heart. Mindless sacrifice is not what God wants. You’ve heard me talk about the principle of first mention in Scripture. When we look at the first usage of the word worship in Scripture, we go all the way back to Genesis. Gen. 22 tells the account of Abraham’s test from God. I encourage you to take a look at the story in Gen. 22:1-5. If you think Abraham didn’t intend to actually sacrifice his son, Heb. 11:19 says, “He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead.”

Sacrifices were an extremely important part of worship for the Jewish people. There was a whole system of sacrifices to atone for the sins of the people. While there were several occasions to offer sacrifices; the two general types were animal or non-animal. Hands were laid on the sacrifice for the one needing atonement, whether it was for an individual, family, or a nation. When an animal was sacrificed, the animal always died as a part of the sacrifice.  We saw Abraham offering a sacrifice of a ram following the test with Isaac. After Jacob worked out his differences with Laban, he offered a sacrifice to God. As time went on, sacrifices were to be made by priests and only in the temple. The process in which sacrifices were made were extremely specific. I want you to read Lev. 1. Did you see the detail in the procedure? God is very specific in how we are to offer sacrifices. As part of the sacrificial system, the offering became the guilty party and the sacrifice atoned for the sin. Atone means at one. In other words, because of the sacrifice, the guilty was made at one with God at the expense of the sacrifice. Sometimes sacrifices don’t turn out so well because of the attitude in which they are offered. Jer. 6:20, “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba and the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Amos 5:22, “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,  I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.” Hosea 6:6, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The people had to approach God in the manner God set forth, not in their own way.

So what’s the implication for today? After the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., the Jewish people were in a quandary and remain so to this day because there is no place to offer atonement for the people. But something happened prior to 70 A.D. that changed the course of history. When the Apostle John was baptizing in the Jordan, he saw Jesus walking toward him and declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jo. 1:29) Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice to redeem mankind. Heb. 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Christ’s sacrifice made us at one with God for eternity. We no longer need to make sacrifices because the sacrifice of Christ is complete. Heb. 9:27-28, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without  reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” That’s why we don’t need a physical temple to conduct sacrifices. According to Matt. 27:51 following Jesus’ death on the cross, “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” The place where only the High Priest could go was now removed. Paul asked this question to the believers in Corinth, Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

So what is Solomon talking about? When Solomon talks about the sacrifice of the wicked, he’s talking about external sacrifice. He’s talking about going through the motions without a heart that is at one with God. In Rom. 12:1 Paul says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service of worship.” The word for sacrifice is the same word used to describe animal sacrifices. That sacrifice has to be acceptable to God. That means it must be done the way God expects it to be done. We cannot approach God in sacrifice – in worship – the way we want to approach God. Ps. 51:17 says, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” In the days of ritual sacrifice, the sacrifice was totally and completely consumed by fire. Since God established the method and manner in which sacrifices were offered and Paul says we’re to be a living sacrifice, shouldn’t we, therefore, be consumed by God? Shouldn’t we be consumed by Jesus Christ?   In Paul’s thinking, that’s what’s reasonable which means well pleased. God expects us to be consumed by Him. The wicked sacrifice on the outside only. The wicked do not adhere to the prescribed method of sacrifice. “The prayer of the upright is His delight.” That’s what’s in the heart. God wants authenticity in our walk of faith.     

When Saul was king of Israel, he was told by God’s prophet to, “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) Verse 9 goes on to say, “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.” Remember God is very particular when it comes to following what He says. 1 Sam. 15:22, “Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” The wicked do things they want to do because they are wicked. You cannot approach a holy and perfect God the way you want to. He has laid out His expectations for us in His Word.

All we have to do is follow it. You cannot sacrifice in the manner you prescribe and ignore what God demands. Too many people in the church are simply going through the motions without the consuming power of Christ and to God that is an abomination. So a fair question is, do you approach God in the manner that is convenient for you, or do you approach God in the manner He prescribes?