I Did It My Way

Frank

Check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about sacrifice. There are prescribed methods to sacrifice laid out in the Old Testament that have far reaching implications in the New Testament and for us today. The sacrifices of the wicked are not pleasing to God because they’re simply going through the motions of sacrifice without a transformed heart. We’re to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord. This morning, Solomon talks more about the wicked and how they really are and he minces no words.

Proverbs 15:9-11 says, The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LordBut He loves one who pursues righteousness.  Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die. Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord, How much more the hearts of men!”

Let’s get right to it. Solomon is a pretty straight forward guy when he says, “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves one who pursues righteousness.” This seems totally contrary to those people, even in the church, that says God loves everyone and He just wants us happy. In this verse, we have a very clear contrast in how God feels about two groups of people. Last week we focused on the sacrifices of the wicked and didn’t spend any time on how God viewed those sacrifices. It’s not that the sacrifices weren’t the right ones necessarily; it’s because they were offered as outward gestures only. It’s like putting a band-aid on an infected cut. You’ve got to treat the infection.

Abomination is a tough word to define, but it conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Think about food left in a refrigerator for a few weeks with no power.       Think about fish carcasses left in a cooler. Think about meat left outside in the sun or road kill that has maggots crawling all in it. The odor is overpowering and so thick you can taste it. Now you’re getting a sense of what abomination means. “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.” The way indicates lifestyle, habits, outside actions, and inner thoughts. This is who they are and that’s why they are an abomination. It’s not that God doesn’t love them as a person. So you’re asking how can such harsh words be spoken by Solomon on behalf of God? Do your kids ever do anything that is detestable to you? Have they ever acted in a manner contrary to your rules? Have they ever been disobedient? Thoughtless? Careless? Have they ever done something their own way instead of the way you prescribed? Of course you still love them. We wrongly conclude that just because God hates something, that somehow contradicts His love. Paul said in Rom. 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners,  Christ died for us.” The only way to be set free from wickedness is through the power of the Holy Spirit through salvation. The wicked do it their way and that is not acceptable to God.

There is an important principle I don’t want you to miss. The contrast to the wicked is that God, “loves one who pursues righteousness.” Pursue means follow after. There is an understanding by the writers of Scripture that when you pursue righteousness, you will grow more and more like Christ. That righteousness will get noticed by God and by people following God. Let me tell you about two men from the olden days: one named Paul and the other named Timothy. When you look at how they met in Lystra, it’s pretty exciting. There are people that believe Paul led Timothy to the Lord, but Scripture doesn’t support that. Acts 16:1-2 says, “Paul also came to Derbe and Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.” The brethren of Lystra, the followers of Christ, spoke well of Timothy – he was already a disciple; a follower of Christ. That’s why Paul wanted Timothy to go with him as he continued his second missionary journey. Then in his first letter to Timothy, Paul gives him instructions for what to do because he will be left in Ephesus as Paul makes his way to Macedonia. As Paul gets to chapter six, he goes into some character qualities that are not consistent with the way of Christ. In 1 Tim 6:11 Paul says, “But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” Pursue is an action word. Timothy is ordered to pursue, to run after, to seek after those godly characteristics with the idea that you will get increasingly closer to the goal. It’s a non-stop activity. In Phil. 3:13 Paul said, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Paul wrote those words about 30 years after his conversion to Christ. We have a mindset that everything should come quickly. Paul was still reaching forward, was still pursuing, was not quitting even after decades of faithful service to Christ. God loves that quality in us. He loves when we keep going. He loves how we get more and more like His one and only Son.

There is a but. While God loves those that pursue righteousness because the idea is you are running after Jesus, there is an alternate reality for many people. “Grievous punishment is for him who forsakes the way; he who hates reproof will die.” Notice who the punishment is reserved for. He expects us to pursue righteousness, but these people are forsaking the way. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14) Few people will find the way. There are many reasons for that and ultimately, the choice is an individual choice. I wonder if we put as much effort into persuading people to live for Christ as we did to persuade people to vote for a certain candidate, how would our communities change? I wonder if we put as much effort into our relationship with Christ as we did our jobs, how would our community change? I wonder if we put as much effort into our walk with Christ as we did anything else on this earth, how would our lives be different and also, how would the lives of those around us be different? Few people find the way of Jesus because we have professing believers not living for Jesus. Yes, everyone has a decision to make, but Solomon is saying the, “grievous punishment is for those that forsake the way.” That means they must know what the way is, they just don’t want anything to do with it. When you point it out, the wicked hate it. God wants a relationship with everyone and as Peter says, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9)

While that is true, there will be people – many people – that reject the truth of Jesus Christ. “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord.” It would be easy to conclude that Solomon is talking about the destination of the wicked and at first glance that’s what I thought. We’ve got to look at this in the context of the chapter. Sheol is a Hebrew word to identify the place of the dead whether righteous or wicked. Job 26:6 says, “Naked is Sheol before Him, and Abaddon has no covering.” Solomon is saying that God knows what’s going on in every corner of every place. There are no limits to His presence; nothing is hidden from Him. Since this is true, Solomon concludes, “How much more the hearts of men!” The heart is the seat of emotion, the center of our being, and the source of what comes out in our life. Matt. 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” You can’t fool God.

Everything about the wicked is a stench to God. Of course God wants everyone to come to the conclusion that He is the only way and choose to follow Him. 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. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thes. 4:16-18)

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.

Advertisements

Righteousness as a Compass

CompassYou can check out the live version here.

Last week we looked at a fool’s life. The fool thinks he’s right and doesn’t listen to anyone around him. He’s immediately known when things don’t go his way because his anger betrays him. Even if he can control himself, his words readily identify him as a fool. Don’t be a liar, tell the truth and that truth comes from God because His Word is truth. This morning, Solomon continues providing direction for our lives.

Pro. 12:23-28 says, A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. The righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. A lazy man does not roast his prey, but the precious possession of a man is diligence. In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

Solomon kicks this passage off with an opening salvo of some pretty common sense type stuff. Just because you know something doesn’t mean you are obligated to share that knowledge with every breathing human you come in to contact with. “A prudent man conceals knowledge.” That doesn’t mean cover up or deceit. It means just because you know something, you don’t have to share it. If you have the knowledge and wisdom, it’s okay to wait to be asked. I can admit that I have a problem doing this. I have spent a lifetime filling my brain with great and wonderful things that I want to share with you. It’s best to wait for that knowledge to be sought than it is to go around telling everyone what you know. One the other hand, “But the heart of the fool proclaims folly.” This principle applies if you’re in a seminar, conference, small groups, classroom, or meeting. When I read this verse, my mind is drawn to Bible study. Kay Arthur has said that Bible study often becomes an arena where we share our common ignorance. There is a time in Bible study to share what people think, but that comes after a thorough examination of the Scriptures. Have you ever sat in a classroom and the teacher says, today we’re going to look at nuclear fission. What do you think about that? What does that mean to you? Of course not, that’s not how it works. Too many people think things that are contrary to Scripture because they didn’t take the time to consult what it says. That’s what the fool does. He says what he thinks without any careful consideration. We established last week that you can’t trust your heart of stone. What’s really sad is that the fool doesn’t know he’s being a fool and won’t listen to the wisdom of others. In Eccl. 10:3 Solomon said, “Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.” Everyone else knows it.

A principle that is lacking is found next when Solomon says, “The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slack hand will be put to forced labor.” The idea is that we should be diligent in all aspects of our lives. That diligence applies to our relationships, our studies if we’re in school, our jobs, and our walk of faith and everything that entails. What reputation do you have when it comes to your life? Have you ever heard the saying your reputation precedes you? You will become known by who you actually are rather than what you want to become. If you’re not willing to put forth the effort required in whatever you choose to do, you will end up answering to those that are diligent. This is another indictment on lazy people. We’re not talking a lazy day, but a lifestyle of laziness.

While laziness might plague some folks, the next one is going to resonate with many.“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.” Wow is there truth in that. One of the hardest things I do on a regular basis is care for people that don’t care. How can you minister to people that do not want to be ministered to? How can you shepherd people that don’t want a shepherd? How can you teach to people that do not want to be taught? How can you encourage people that want to remain discouraged? The short answer is you can’t. For me, the most difficult thing to determine is when to follow the words of Jesus, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:14) That doesn’t mean you pretend they’re dead, but you give them over to the Holy Spirit. Understand the ground with which you’re working. Notice Solomon is not declaring anxiety to be wrong, misguided or sinful. Anxiety is an emotion and as with other emotions, they are given by God. Solomon doesn’t leave you hanging, but gives you the cure. “A good word makes it glad.” You are often afforded the opportunity to employ this principle. Someone comes to you with something that is weighing that person down or you’re weighed down. Remember v. 18 says, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” This healing is found in God and His Word. “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.

In Matt. 11:28-30, Jesus gave us this very powerful metaphor: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” This yoke gives us the picture of being physically connected to Christ. The metaphor stems from the practice of training young oxen to work the fields. A training yoke was placed on them and they worked alongside the older more experienced oxen. They were physically connected. Where the more experienced older ox went, so did the ox in training. Too often we try to plow the fields of life alone, but we were never ordained to be alone. We are never called upon to go it by ourselves. We are never faced with aloneness or isolation because Jesus is physically connected to us. The idea Jesus is presenting is that we learn from Him because we are tied to Him. We are connected to Him. He shares in our triumphs, our joys, and our celebrations, and He also shares in our pain, suffering, and trials. We sometimes forget that. In your darkest hour, He is the Light. In your moment of greatest need, He is there.

Good fences may make good neighbors, but in v. 26 Solomon gives us a better principle. “The righteous is a guide to his neighbor.” This is consistent with other verses. There is no stopping the righteous man because he is following Christ. The righteous are righteous because of Christ and that always comes out. It should be evident in our day to day lives and other people will recognize it in you. It’s awesome to be righteous because of the righteousness of Christ. It’s even more awesome when we use that righteousness as a tool to show other people Jesus. In direct opposition to the righteousness of Christ, “But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” The wicked continue doing wicked things. They are of no help to someone seeking truth, seeking righteousness, seeking the things in life Christ wants us to experience. “Lead them astray” literally means cause to wander. This is intentional. I’m not talking about someone who had pure motives, but ends up giving wrong or bad guidance. I’m certain I have done that. The wicked are intentional about their wickedness. They are on the path of destruction and will take anyone foolish enough to go with them. We combat this with the righteousness of Christ.

Another character trait Solomon seems to hammer is that of laziness. “A lazy man does not roast his prey.” The exact meaning of roast is difficult to determine, but the principle seems clear. This guy is so lazy that if he does hunt, he doesn’t want to take the time to cook what he caught. “But the precious possession of a man is diligence.” I find it interesting that people place so much value on things that really don’t matter. To Solomon, this character trait matters. Of diligence, he says it’s precious – it is something of great value. Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. It’s used numerous times in Scripture and we’ve seen it several times in Proverbs. Isaiah cried out, “At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently.” (Is. 26:9) Paul said, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) This is a work ethic. It is a way of life. I’ve often heard people say very positively about others, “He’s a hard worker.” It’s a complement. Who wants to be characterized as lazy? Laziness is still generally considered an unacceptable character trait.

Solomon brings it home by saying, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” We look forward to many things in this life: births, marriages, graduations, anniversaries, retirement, Christmas. As Christians, we look forward to eternity. There is no real death because the end of our physical life allows us to pass through the gates of eternity to enjoy face time with God and His only Son. That’s the path of righteousness. That’s the way of righteousness. It is the way of Jesus.

When we act like Christ and talk like Christ, there are people that will be drawn to us and people that will be opposed to us. As a passionate follower of Christ, some people will throw you in the same category as every so-called Christian that they think act hypocritically, unkindly, unloving, ungodly or whatever else to use as justification to hate us that could cause anxiousness within us. We face the same pressures of life others face and that could bring anxiousness. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7) Give due diligence to your walk of faith. Before I go out and try and fix everyone else, I need to make sure I am walking with Christ every moment of everyday. When we passionately live for Christ, people may not like us or approve of us, but we can rest easy knowing that we are in the center of God’s will.

A Fool’s Life

FoolYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon gave us some great patterns contrasting the wicked to the righteous. The wicked have hidden agendas and motives. The behavior exhibited by the righteous and the wicked provides evidence of what’s in the heart. Righteous men want what is good and the wicked want what is evil. This morning, Solomon hits the fool squarely in the face

I hope you’ll take the time to look up and read Pro. 12:15-22. It’ll help set the context for what you’ll read.

Solomon begins with the understatement of understatements. When you think about this first verse, you immediate think of someone in your past or someone that currently gives you fits. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” This is so true. You know it because you’ve dealt with people like this. What keeps this guy from becoming wise? He think he’s right about everything. He doesn’t ask anyone for advice, doesn’t research anything, thinks he knows more than Google, fails exams and concludes the teacher doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t think he’s right or have a hunch he’s right – he’s confident he’s right and it doesn’t matter what anyone says because he’s not asking. He determines the path that is right and it can have very broad applications. So how are the fool and the wise different? “But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” The wise person knows and understands he doesn’t know everything. He knows he can learn from someone else. He’s not afraid to ask for help or guidance or advice and he’s selective about who he asks. It can be incredibly frustrating when these two types of people get together in a meeting or collaborate on a project. The fool typically just begins something. The wise person wants to chat about it, wants to brainstorm, wants input from others, wants to evaluate past successes and failures, wants to consider people’s strengths and weaknesses. The fool says, “That’s a waste of time, I’m doing _______.” The fool determines he’s right, the wise seeks the guidance of others to ensure the best decision is made. Obviously, the application for this is very broad. As I have said, we can be foolish from time to time or we can make a foolish decision. But those are, or should be, single points in time and are not how our life is characterized

Be sure the truth will find you out. It’s tough to keep who you really are under wraps. It takes a lot of effort to pretend or play a role. The wise man has the ability to control himself and does, but the fool lacks this character trait. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent man conceals dishonor.” When the fool gets angry, regardless of the reason, everyone else knows it. The fool’s anger controls him – he is the ranter, he is the one that flies off the handle, he is the one that others will be embarrassed for him. Does anger have a place in the life of a Christian? The wisest answer is, it depends. People will quickly be reminded of Jesus in the temple driving out people with whips and overturning tables and use that as justification to be angry. Eph. 4:26 says, “Be angry, and yet do not sin.” There are some circumstances in which anger is an acceptable emotion, but we should be slow to anger as James says in 1:19 of his book because, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Anger is an emotion and emotion comes from God

There are things in this world that will, and should anger us, but the difference is that anger does not control the wise man. Think about the times we get angry. Our kids don’t listen or don’t perform as we think they should. We get slow service in the restaurant or the fast food place gets our order wrong. A friend doesn’t text or message back. We don’t get that promotion. Our car breaks down or our house needs to be repaired. We drop our cell phone or tablet and the screen shatters. Our internet runs slow or the cable goes out. Someone in church doesn’t speak to us. The pastor says something in a message and we think he’s talking about us

In the famous temple scene where Jesus used a whip and overturned tables, He wasn’t angry for the reason we think. When you study the passage in context, Jesus says, It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robber’s den.” “It is written” refers back to Is. 56:7. Isaiah is sharing the vision of foreigners and outcasts joining themselves to the Lord and ministering to Him, and serving Him at His house. As Jesus approached the temple, He saw the court of the Gentiles overrun with merchants that had set up tables to buy and sell. Yes, there was price gouging and improper business practices, but that was only part of the issue. There was literally no room for the foreigners and outcasts to get to God in the temple. “The mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised about the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.” (Is. 2:2) The ultimate place of worship at the time – a place where God’s people could meet with God – had been turned into an outdoor shopping mall and the religious leaders of the day let it happen. Jesus was angry because what He saw was not the worship that Isaiah saw and He had enough.

That’s hardly the same as us blasting the clerk because the gas pump won’t start. At some point, the pretending will stop and the real you will come out. I have done and said things in my Christian walk that I am ashamed of, embarrassed at, and horrified by. I can honestly say those times are getting fewer and farther between. Things that used to bother me don’t bother me any longer and there are things that I never thought of that are at the forefront of my mind. I am growing, and learning, and being transformed by Christ – present tense – into what He wants me to be. I wanted to spend time here because I am increasingly concerned with Christians that dismiss their behavior or the behavior of other Christians because they use an overall justification model called “I have an anger problem.” I made that model up. I don’t find anger problems in Scripture. We don’t accept when someone lies to us and says I have a truth problem. We don’t accept when someone steals from us and says I have a theft problem. We don’t accept when someone spreads rumors about us and says I have a gossiping problem. We need to accept responsibility for our ungodly behavior and take the steps necessary to restore fellowship with God and one another. I am also growing weary of Christians that have a falling out and do nothing to reconcile with one another.

What Solomon says about behavior moves to the spoken word. Let me read the remainder of our verses today because the theme is the same. (Read 17-22). Let me hit the highlights of what Solomon writes. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness is deceit.” This not a shocker and we need to make sure we use love when speaking the truth (Eph. 4:15). The truth can hurt, but when it is bathed in love, the resulting sting is eased. Remember when you’re told what is right, best, better, wise, or smart and you refuse to listen, Solomon says you’re stupid. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the people that are so easily offended these days are often the most offensive and hard headed people around. Thinking back to Pro. 6:19, a false witness that speaks lies is on the list of seven things the Lord hates. “A false witness, deceit.” Plain and simple and in direct contrast to the truth speaker. “Rashly” in verse 18 means acting or behaving without careful consideration. When you don’t consider your words, they become weapons that pierce to the core. Think about it this way, in the hands of the wrong person, a scalpel can become an instrument of destruction or death, but in the hands of a skilled surgeon, that same scalpel can facilitate the removal of disease, repair broken bones, ease pain and suffering and leave little evidence behind. The words of the wise edify, lift up, and encourage. When in the right hands, they can also bring healing. “Truthful lips will be established forever.” Truth is truth. It is not relative, it is not changing, it is not dependent upon the source. If truth is spoken, it remains the truth regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the people involved, regardless of any variables encountered. Even though we are in the world with all its changing values and standards, we are not of the world. Jesus set the standard in Jo. 17:17 for truth as He was praying to His father, “Your Word is truth.” Since God is unchanging, it makes sense that His Word is also unchanging.

“But a lying tongue is only for a moment.” Those liars out there or those that tell lies, it’s only fleeting because the truth always comes out. Typically, all you have to do to find out if someone is lying is continue talking to them. The seat of deceit is the heart. You hear people today saying things like trust your heart or follow your heart to find the course of action or direction you should take. Jeremiah the prophet reminds us that, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Your heart will lie to you because that’s where deceit finds its home. So we need a new heart. Ez. 36:26 says, Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” You can be new in your heart, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus can make a whole new you if you’ll only let Him. One final thought. You’re probably going to have trouble with v. 21 when Solomon says, “No harm befalls the righteous.” Righteous people are harmed all the time: car accidents, they fall victim to crime, they get sick, their kids rebel, they have challenging relationships, and they suffer persecution. Is that what Solomon is talking about? Your first thought might be people that suffer from these kinds of harm aren’t righteous. We know from Rom. 5 that God allows trials to build our perseverance which leads to proven character which leads to hope. Solomon is saying that even when harm comes, whether it be in the form of suffering, persecution, sickness or whatever, that those troubles allowed by God will not cause us to lose hope. Our focus is on God. We are God centered. We understand that God works in us and through us to bring glory to Him.

The fool’s life is not a life we should envy. If people look at you and conclude you are a fool, step back and ask yourself why. Do you think you’re always right and don’t want to listen to guidance. Are you prone to anger? Do you words bear witness that you are a child of the King?

Community Disorganizers

You can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon laid out some principles that will help us sail smoothly through life. Righteous people are delivered from death where the wicked take their place. A very important principle Solomon introduced is the value and wisdom of godly counsel. Smooth sailing does not mean there won’t be issues or trouble in this life, but the righteousness of the godly provide the tools necessary to glorify God and remain steadfast in His will. This morning, Solomon provides us some principles that apply as we engage in activities typically associated with the community.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 11:15-21.

The first principle we’ll look at today  has been said before and the question remains, who would do this? Back in 6:1 Solomon used the conditional clause, “If you have become surety for your neighbor.” That verse was generally directed at debt and it was conditional. The principle comes full circle when Solomon says, “He who is a guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it.” The answer does not have to do with sin, but with wisdom. There is no prohibition against cosigning a loan for someone. Insert the word someone for stranger and you get the application for us. Since we’re talking about wisdom and not sin, you need to evaluate the circumstances. Solomon is saying when you act as surety for someone, as a guarantor for someone, you “will surely suffer for it.” Not everyone that has served in that capacity has suffered for it. He’s speaking in general terms. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? The word used here for suffering means to be affected by something. Even if that person you act as a guarantor for pays back the loan, you still had that responsibility hanging over your head. You take on the responsibility for the loan because you know the person, you know his circumstances, you know their habits, and their values. You believe it’s safe. When you get involved in the financial affairs of others, it’s generally painful. That’s what Solomon is saying. “But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” If you don’t cosign this loan, I won’t be able to buy that car, house, boat, etc. There is no scriptural mandate to take on the responsibility of someone else’s debt. When you have a general aversion to this, Solomon says you are secure. There’s nothing in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it, nothing hanging over your head. You free up brain cells because it’s one less thing to think about.

Our second principle tells us, “A gracious woman attains honor.” I love that word gracious. I think of the ladies of Downton Abby with their proper manners, their decorum, their sophistication, their elegance. Of course, it’s easy to do all that when you have someone else that gets you dressed and feeds you and takes care of all the chores. Gracious here means courteous, kind, and pleasant. You do not have to be wealthy to be gracious. He’s talking about the beautiful character of a gracious woman. Families and communities honor such women. I think of women like Barbara and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Of course those are all famous women. I also think of my wife whom I absolutely adore. It’s not just because she’s gorgeous, she is a true woman of God. In the context of Proverbs, I think graciousness and godliness go hand in hand. We’re not talking about perfection, but a passionate pursuit of Christ.

What’s very curious is the contrast Solomon uses next. “A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches.” It’s good to be ruthless in business, right? We have shows like the Shark Tank and the Apprentice that demonstrate the ruthlessness needed to get ahead in business. Being ruthless is how you get rich in business. It means showing no compassion. Cut throat, eliminate the competition, work harder and smarter than the other guy. We even have corporate espionage. This is the only place in Proverbs where Solomon makes a comparison of this type between a man and a woman. He compares a kindhearted or gracious woman and a ruthless man. That ruthless man wants to get ahead and he’ll get ahead by any means necessary. They seek respect and honor by what they do, but the gracious woman gains honor by being nice. It seems that grace is better than strength and honor is better than wealth. If you let that verse stand alone, it can easily be misunderstood. When you take v. 16 with v. 17, the whole picture becomes clearer. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Look at the pattern of the people in these two verses: kind woman; ruthless man; merciful man; cruel man. It seems mercy has a medicinal quality to it – someone that practices mercy makes himself good. When you are cruel, you end up hurting yourself so don’t be cruel.

Here’s a familiar principle. Vs. 19-20 says, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” We see a pattern here as in the previous two verses. Solomon talks about wickedness, righteousness, righteousness, and wickedness. Those exact words may not be used, but they convey the same idea. Solomon is driving home the point of the results of wicked behavior. “The wicked earn deceptive wages.” Those wages are deceptive because they are fleeting. Those riches are left behind and all are made equal at death. The wealth of a person is not taken into consideration at judgment. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If you’re thinking that’s not the same thing, Solomon goes on to say, “But he who sows righteousness will attain to life.” That life will be long, healthy, and prosperous. The opposite is true, when you pursue evil, you will die. You can’t blame God when your evil ways, your evil behavior, and your evil manner of life leads to your death. Paul’s next thought was, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Goodness and evil are incompatible. Those qualities may have been part of your character, but God changes you through Christ. That’s where true freedom lies. The wicked earn deceptive wages, but the righteous are paid in wages that are eternal. That’s what verse 19 is saying. When you are consistent and persistent in righteousness, you attain life. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. If you are truly a child of the King, this quality is supernaturally infused into your DNA. That’s why I get so weary with people profess to be Christians and the only evidence to support that is occasional church attendance and some don’t even do that. Pursuers of evil bring about their own death. To close out this section, Solomon gives us another contrast and it has to do with judgment.

Verse 20 says, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord.” Perverse means an obstinate desire to behave unacceptably and in context, it’s from God’s perspective. Perverse is translated “froward” in other versions which means hypocrisy and double dealings. Justice is pretended, but wrongdoing is what’s in store. Notice that it’s the heart – the seat of the soul. What’s in the heart comes out. You can pretend with other people, you might even fool yourself, but you can’t hide it from God. “. . . .but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” I’m sure you know why this is. It’s a no brainer really. Walk refers to manner of life. It refers to who a person is . . . . really. I think people spend a lot of effort pretending to be something they are not. People pretend they have a relationship with God, but without a corresponding lifestyle of godliness. Its often veiled in false spirituality where the words lead, led, feel, moving, etc. are used to put people into an incontestable position to do what they want to do. I always find it amusing that this leading rarely is to a place of deeper commitment, devotion, or duty, but rather to places of limited accountability and lower expectations. God takes great pleasure in His children that are willing to follow Him in directions they were not expecting.

Just to be sure you know exactly where Solomon is coming from, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendents of the righteous will be delivered.” I think we all know that evil will be dealt with, but the second part is not so clear. Do not read that to say if you are a child of God, your children have a place reserved for them because of who you are. Don’t equate deliverance with eternity. Deliverance does not mean salvation.  The idea is that your behavior affects not just you, but your children and your grandchildren too. Sometimes God sees fit to deliver because of their godly ancestors. The Old Testament is filled with examples of this.

In these verses, Solomon speaks of the affect of our lifestyle on our community. That lifestyle, whether godly or wicked impacts people. As the behavior and thinking of the people move away from godliness, the morality of the society declines. I think we would agree that we can see this happening all around us. The answer is not for us to shrink away from godliness, but to boldly live our lives as an example of Christ’s transforming power in our lives.

The Shotgun Approach

ShotgunYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we enjoyed a wonderful Easter service as we celebrated the risen Savior. When we were last in Proverbs, we learned that wicked people are generally defined as those without a relationship with Christ. The memory of the blessed will be remembered fondly, but the names of the wicked will rot. Wise people want to be wiser and welcome instruction. Solomon said to stay on the path of righteousness and do not go astray. This morning, Solomon quickly gives us 14 principles to adapt to our lives and they are going to come fairly fast so let’s hang on.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read our passage found in Pro. 10:18-32.

Here we go. V. 18 really goes with the previous section, but it seemed more appropriate to include it here with v. 19-21. Solomon is not saying put your hatred out in the open. When you inwardly hate someone, but try not to show it, you’re a liar. It’s not okay to hate people and you can’t excuse it by convincing yourself that at least your honest about your hatred. Notice the second phrase is connected with the word “and” so it’s not a contrast. The word slander is better translated stupid. Our speech may be the quickest identifier of what’s in our hearts and when you’re together with someone you don’t like, it’s pretty obvious to everyone else. He’s saying when you hate someone, you’re forced to lie about it because you have to pretend you like the person. So the right thing is not to hate to begin with. Solomon continues with a principle you’ll hear time and time again in Proverbs as well as other parts of Scripture. When you talk all the time, Solomon is saying it’s next to impossible to avoid issues. This is the kind of person that has an opinion on everything, and is likely a self proclaimed expert on those topics. Always talking, but not really saying anything. They love to hear the sound of their own voice. They’ve been there. They were the first, the best, or the only. They ignore the two minute rule. Mark Twain is generally attributed to saying, “Better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” I think he likely got this principle from Proverbs.

This is particularly evident during times of national crisis. People express their opinion, but their opinion is not based on fact, research, or personal discovery. People think something just because they think it. Sometimes, it’s okay to say nothing, but when that principle is ignored, “transgression is unavoidable.” That means there will be trouble. The word translated transgression can also mean sin, rebellion, or breach of trust. Have you ever had a conversation that stated with, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but . . .” Lying lips sink ships is an old Navy adage. Don’t be a gossip! Here’s the opposite, “But he who restrains his lips is wise.” There is wisdom in listening. You know how frustrating it is to be in a setting where something is said and five minutes later, someone says the same thing because they weren’t listening? I just have to say this. No you don’t! Don’t think something needs to be said. Some more painting with a broad brush. “The heart of the wicked is worth little.” He didn’t say worth nothing. The contrast is, “The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver.” The word choice means tested by fire or purified and the phrase worth little means dross or the impurities that are removed during the purification process. This leads beautifully into v. 21, “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.” So when we put vs. 20-21 together we get a really vivid word picture. Words spoken with wisdom are worth their weight in silver. They are valuable, they are timeless, they are reliable, and they are useful. “The lips of the righteous feed many” because they speak the unchanging truths of the Word of God which is the bread of life which is Jesus Christ. The Word of God provides the spiritual food that is so necessary in satisfying the hunger of authentic believers. What comes from the abundance of the heart of a fool is worth little. Little substance, little value, little principle, little thought. If your heart is filled with biblical wisdom, that’s what flows out. If your heart is filled with nonsense, that also will come out. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools starve to death and that’s the way they want it.

Let’s talk about cash. Money is a theme repeated often in Scripture and Solomon has lots to say about it. Here he says, “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” Perhaps you’ve heard the saying that money makes the world go round. Many people have their sights set on the world’s riches. We’re consumed with the idea of money and wealth. And it’s not necessarily that you’re rich as much as having people think you’re rich by what you have. By the car you drive, or the neighborhood you live in, or the school you went to. Even Christians have bought into these cultural definitions that are not exemplified in Scripture. Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re rich and just because you don’t have money doesn’t mean you’re poor. In God’s economy, money has nothing to do with being rich or poor. It is the blessings of God that make one rich. Shift your thinking to eternity. A couple of scriptural examples jump out at me. One is the rich man and Lazarus of Lu.16:19-31. The other is the widow that gave all she had in Luke 21:1-4.

Here’s another topic shift. Even though these seem random, it all flows together. In v. 23, Solomon conveys the total deprivation of the foolish. “Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool.” They do it for pleasure, for fun, for enjoyment, for amusement. They sin for the fun of it without regard to right or wrong, without regard for consequence. “Wickedness is like sport to a fool and so is wisdom to a man of understanding.”  This is a huge contrast. The fool enjoys sin and the man of understanding enjoys wisdom. The man of understanding is in active pursuit of wisdom. He looks for it, he longs for it, he wants it. The fool finds joy in wickedness, but the man of understanding finds joy in wisdom. 

There are such contrasts in this series of verses. As believers, we should be a vivid contrast to the worlds and its system of thinking.  I encourage you to think before speaking. Oh the problems that could be avoided by simply keeping our mouths closed! Pursue wisdom while she can be found.

Leadership Wisdom

LeadershipYou can check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Regrets

No RegretYou can check out the podcast here.

If we think about our lives even for just a moment, we’ll think of things we could have done differently; things we shouldn’t have done, decisions we’d like a do over on. I call it what if land and it’s not a good place to be. The Apostle Paul provides us some excellent insight in his letter to the Philippians. This letter differs in some respects from any of Paul’s other letters. It contains less logic and more of the heart. His letter to the Romans has incredible logic. His letters to the Corinthians rebuked certain prevalent sins. Galatians rebukes a dangerous heresy that threatened the welfare of the Galatian churches. Ephesians unfolds the mystery of God in reference to the Gentiles. This letter is the outpouring of the love towards one of the most affectionate and faithful of all congregations which he had planted. The church at Philippi was founded in A.D. 50 or 51 (Acts 16). On his second missionary journey, Paul, led by a vision at Troas, crossed into Europe, landed at Neapolis and went directly to Philippi. Why Philippi?  It was “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.” (Acts 16:12) It is interesting to note that this was the first church planted in Europe.

Take a careful look at the incredible words of Phil. 3:1-14.

Paul begins with what is not the Way. He starts by this third chapter by telling the church what the way is not. Religious ceremonies are not the way. Paul was, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”  (Phil 3:5-6) If anybody had a heritage to brag about it was Paul. He met all the religious requirements of a good Jew. “Circumcised the eighth day.” In strict compliance with the Law. “Of the nation of Israel.” He could trace his lineage as far back as any Jew. “From the tribe of Benjamin.” Remember that the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah were the only two tribes not to revolt under the leadership of Jeroboam and maintained their allegiance to God. The tribe of Benjamin was physically located next to the temple. “A Hebrew of Hebrews.” He belonged to a tribe that was as honorable as any other, and that had its location near the very center of religious influence; both of his parents were Jewish with no mixture of Gentile blood. Not one of his ancestors had been a proselyte, or of Gentile extraction. Paul says he was entitled to all the advantages which could be derived from it. “A Pharisee.” The Pharisees strictly adhered to every letter of the law. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” (Acts 26:4) If religion could save anyone, it certainly would have saved Paul. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law.” He was zealous in his persecution of the church who he thought was in great error in doctrine. As a Jew and a Pharisee, he believed righteousness was found in the Law.

Notice how Paul introduces his religion to the Philippians: “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:2-3) Look at the warnings. Dogs – the greatest insult you could give someone. The Jews called the heathen dogs, and Islam calls Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to identify a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious. Evil workers. Probably the same people Paul considered dogs – Jews who taught that religion saved you. False circumcision – from the Greek word meaning to mutilate. These dogs and false teachers were not truly circumcised. True circumcision comes after salvation as a sign of obedience; it does not cause salvation. But Paul says, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:3) We are the circumcision. We worship God the only way one can worship God – in Spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus and place no confidence in the flesh.

What is the way to God? You’ve got to look at verses 7-11 to find out. All things were loss except the knowledge of Christ Knowledge in this verse is the Greek word gnosis. This is head knowledge. Anything he had mentally. His seven religious credentials. In v. 8 Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” “Suffered the loss” comes from a Greek word that means to willingly give up. Paul gave up “all things.” Anything thing that someone might depend on for salvation: works, religion, heritage, earthly favor, position. Paul considered it rubbish. Rubbish comes from the word that means excrement. Just as you rid your body of waste, Paul wanted to rid himself all of the earthly advantages and Jewish privileges as a means of obtaining salvation. Why?  Look at what Paul says: “That I may gain Christ.”

In verses 9 and 10, Paul speaks of his own righteousness which comes from the Law. Paul wants the righteousness of Christ which can only come through faith. What is faith? Faith comes from the Greek word pistis meaning a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. “That I may know him.” This is a different know. This is from the Greek word meaning to know and understand. Paul wants to know Christ so he could share in His sufferings and be conformed to His death. This knowledge or understanding of Christ’s sufferings is obtained by experiencing the daily challenges and needs of ministry that will draw us closer to Christ. Sharing in the Lord’s sufferings will bring you into a more meaningful and intimate relationship with Christ. Comfortable or conformed unto death has a double meaning here. Just as Jesus died because of the sin of the world, Paul is dying more and more to sin in his daily life. Remember that Paul is in prison as he writes and is prepared to die for Christ if that is what’s necessary.

In v. 11 Paul desires to attain the resurrection of the dead. In v. 12 he denies that he has attained it. The word “attained” means to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it. Paul knows Christ, but not to the fullest extent possible. He has experienced God’s power, but not to the degree he desires. He has been made like Jesus in His death, but Paul can still die to sin and self. Paul walks in newness of life, but there is still room for improvement. Paul didn’t think he arrived after 25 years of serving the Lord, so we shouldn’t either. In verse 13 Paul says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Notice that Paul forgets those things that are in the past. The wrongs you have done. The sins you have committed. The things you should have done, but never did. The things Satan tells you cannot be forgiven. Put all of them behind you and forget them. In his pursuit to know Christ, Paul refuses to let guilt drag him down and doesn’t rest on past accomplishments. We don’t sail on yesterday’s wind. He’s pressing toward the mark. What is the mark? The mark is contained in vs. 10 and 11. Be like minded with Paul because his thinking comes from the Lord.  If you don’t think like Paul, the Lord will reveal it to you.

Are you living in the past or allowing Christ to renew and refresh you? Are you repeating mistakes or sins of the past? Rom. 8:1 reminds us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”