Tag Archives: Speech

The Bigger They Are, The Harder They Fall

6 Feb

biggerYou can listen to the actual message here.

Last week, we covered a lot of ground. We saw where wickedness starts and that’s in the soul of humanity as we are born into sin through one man’s disobedience. Wicked people do wicked things because they don’t know any other way. Righteous people look at pleasing God rather than any short-term gain from wickedness. Don’t shut your ear to the cry of the poor, but make the Gospel an intentional aspect of any acts of mercy you engage in. We looked briefly at gift giving, exercising justice, and staying on the path of righteousness. Don’t love pleasure so much that you forsake God. We looked at the results of Achan’s sin and finished by looking at the vexing woman and hopefully we now have a better understanding of the depth of wickedness in man. This morning, we’ll look at laziness, righteousness, and happiness.

Take the time to read our passage for today found in Pro. 21:20-28.

We start off with some financial talk. “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” Believe it or not, this is a verse to support budgeting. Wise people are wise across the board while foolish people are foolish across the board. Remember the idle man from 19:15 suffers hunger and the sluggard from 20:4 doesn’t prepare his crops so he has nothing to harvest. Wisdom dictates you don’t spend what you don’t have. Foolishness dictates spend what you have and don’t worry about tomorrow. If you’ve got money in your pocket, spend it. That’s why there’s, “precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise.” Oil was an important commodity in Bible days. It could be used for a number of things. It was used for cooking, as fuel for lamps, it was part of grain offerings, was used for anointing, was used for sanctifying the priests in the temple, and was a symbol of wealth. The fool is foolish in all his activities. His desires are ungodly and unfruitful which leads right into the next verse. There is a misguided notion in America that everyone has the right to be happy. There is no such right afforded by the U.S. Constitution and no guarantee of happiness afforded by the Bible. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right granted by the Creator as recorded in the Declaration of Independence. I submit to you that when you pursue God, you will find what you are looking for.

Solomon tells us, “He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor.” I love the two verbs in this verse – pursue and find. Pursue means follow after or chase. When you chase righteousness – the character or quality of what is right in God’s eyes – you will find, “life, righteousness and honor.” It’s a trifecta of godly qualities. Life refers to the eternal life in God through Jesus Christ. In Matt. 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” If you want satisfaction, chase Christ. I think happiness is a quality that can be achieved when you have the mind of Christ and see things through the eyes of God. Happiness is dependent upon circumstances, but when you have in your mind that God is in control, it allows you to focus on what is important and that is living a life of total and complete obedience to the King of eternity.

There’s no easy transition to the next verse. Solomon says, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” As we have seen before, wisdom trumps strength every time. When WWII ended and the United States entered the cold war, military strategy had to change to keep pace with the extraordinarily strong USSR. President Eisenhower instituted the 41 for Freedom missile submarine. Then in 1980, Ronald Reagan used the phrase, “Peace through Strength” during the campaign that would see him elected president. Mighty people think their city will protect them. When Joshua led the battle of Jericho, the walls came tumbling down. Jericho thought their walls would protect them, but when God is on your side, it’s doesn’t matter how strong the walls are. Throughout history, we’ve seen the mighty defeated by the wise. Build walls around the city and wise people developed the catapult. Line up your troops for battle and the wise people used guerrilla warfare. If you can grasp this concept and submit to a wise and good man, the strongest of the strong will be defeated.

And now the power of restraint. This is a principle we’ve seen six times before in Proverbs. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” Guard means keep watch over. Think about keeping watch over your kids. You’ve got a protective eye on them to ensure no harm comes to them and to make sure no one takes them. Don’t let your mouth get you into trouble. Don’t let your words take you to places you don’t want to go. No, you don’t have to say anything and once the words leave your mouth, there is no turning back. Lots of damage can be caused by what you say. If your first instinct is to say something, hold off for a second let your mind catch up. When you think about this in a relational sense, more hurt and harm have been done by words than anything else. The next verse says, “Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride.” This goes hand in hand with the spoken word. Insolent means rude or disrespectful. It’s really hard to demonstrate these qualities without using words. These terms are not used in a favorable light. We could avoid all kinds of trouble if we’d just learn to keep our mouth shut.

Next, Solomon revisits the sluggard. “The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, for his hands refuse to work; all day long he is craving, while the righteous gives and does not hold back.” This is a really stark contrast. We have the poverty of the lazy versus the generosity of the righteous. Think back to 21:17, “He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich.” Righteous people work diligently and give without holding back. The sluggard doesn’t want to work and that leads to death. It’s a theme presented over and over again. Sometimes we have a tendency to think that people who work hard want to keep everything for themselves. Solomon says not true. Sometimes people work hard so they are in a position to give back. Sometimes even when people aren’t in a position to give back, they give back anyway. The sluggard craves all day what he is not willing to work for and his craving will be unfulfilled.

I am certain you have encountered this next principle time and time again. You can’t fool God. People approach God the way they want to instead of how God has prescribed. You’ve likely heard people say that as long as they’re sincere, God will accept them. You’ve heard that a relationship with God is a personal issue. Solomon puts that to rest when he says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination, how much more when he brings it with evil intent!” Let’s break this down. In Jewish culture, sacrifices were an important part of their lives. When they were offered by faith in repentance, God was greatly honored and pleased. When they were offered with impure motives, God detests that. Is. 1:11-17 says,

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies – I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

Did you catch the severity in there? God has had enough. He takes no pleasure in their sacrifices and calls them worthless and an abomination. The God of eternal patience cannot, “Endure iniquity.” When they pray, God will hide His eyes even though they repeat their prayers over and over. Stop doing evil, start doing good. Don’t tell me you have an understanding with God, don’t tell me you and Him are good, don’t tell me the work you have done for Him. You will be evaluated just like the Chaldean king Belshazzar in Dan. 5 when Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall and concluded, “you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.” No matter how holy you think your sacrifice is, God will not accept it and He really won’t accept it when brought with evil intent.

One last one for today. A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever.” We’ve seen this before in 6:19, 19:5, and 19:9. Don’t lie.

We began this morning talking about budgeting – don’t spend what you don’t have. The foolish man doesn’t think about tomorrow and what might be needed, he spends all he has. Righteous people pursue God and find life. Wisdom is the conqueror over strength. Be careful what you say and sometimes not saying anything is the best. Don’t be foolish enough to think that it doesn’t matter how you approach a holy and perfect God. He will not accept the sacrifices offered with evil intent.

The Good Wife

22 Aug

MarriageListen to the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon reminded us that there’s always hope. Prayer is one key to seeing hearts changed, but the heart that is changed might not be the one that you’re praying for. Understand where we are in the scope of eternity. We’re in the last days where people are turning away from absolute truth. Everything that happens is part of God’s eternal plan, but we’re not briefed on the specifics of that plan. We saw some important qualities from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we must put into practice on a regular basis. The screams for tolerance today is not the same tolerance Paul talks about in Scripture. Sometimes people are unwilling to acknowledge their sin choosing instead to blame others and sometimes even blame God. Contentions between people can cause you to feel like your trapped in a prison. Love God, love others, do what you can to spread the hope that is found in Christ and you might just find that the immovable object that was in your path will move out of the way by the power of God. This morning, we look at some speech metaphors and we’ll close by seeing the value of a wife.

Pro. 18:20-22 says, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”

Solomon might just be the most prolific painter of the word picture. He begins by saying, “With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips.” It may not be obvious, but Solomon is talking about a man’s speech. Words have the power to encourage or discourage. They have the power to build up or tear down. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. As always, the caution remains to be careful about what you say. This really is quite a curious verse. At first glance, it seems like this is an edification type of statement. You eat fruit, it tastes good, and your tummy is happy, but that’s not the meaning here. The meaning here is that there are people that really enjoy hearing themselves speak. These are the people that have something to say about every topic. These are the people that will gladly provide their viewpoint on an issue whether they are asked or not. These are the people that have the answer to the question, but haven’t read the book. These are the people that hijack the Bible study, but didn’t do the homework. These are the people that have a lot to say, but there is no substance. These are the people that really just like to hear themselves talk.

The next verse is a continuation when Solomon says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” This is confirmation that Solomon is talking about the power of speech. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me came onto the scene way back in 1862. Back then it was probably true, but times have changed drastically since then. When you think about what can happen because of our speech, it should slow us down and encourage caution. If Peter had paid attention to what Jesus told him, maybe he would not have denied knowing Christ. If Ananias and Sapphira hadn’t lied about the money they made from selling their property, they wouldn’t have been struck dead.

Ps. 141:3: “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Matt. 15:11: “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”
Ja. 1:26: “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
Matt. 12:36: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” There are a boatload of other examples in Scripture about how to use the power of our speech for good and not evil.

There’s life and death in our words in the world we live in too. Think about telling lies about people. You can get people fired from their job because of what you say about them. You could get fired for something you say. Your testimony can get someone locked up or sent to prison. Don’t underestimate the power of your words. You can’t talk to everyone in the same way. Don’t talk to your boss the way you talk to your kids. Don’t talk to your parents like you talk to your friends. Take Paul’s guidance very seriously: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

Let’s shift gears. Solomon changes subjects and talks about marriage. He says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” After God created man, he said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) After Adam gave all the animals names, the Bible says, “But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.” What’s really interesting about this is the word suitable is that it means corresponding to. There was nothing in the garden that looked like Adam. Mankind was created to have fellowship with the Creator and with one another. 1 Cor. 11:9 says, “For indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.” Before you get all freaked out, it is true that we were not meant to be alone, but this is not a misogynistic, barbarian, caveman type of relationship. Solomon is going back to the type of woman that was created by God for Adam.

The wife was and is to be a helper for the man. I know this probably isn’t popular teaching today, but it’s the design God intended. That does not mean women are inferior to men. It doesn’t mean women are not valuable. It doesn’t mean women are not smart or capable. It doesn’t mean women are not important. Solomon is saying if you find a wife, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean you must be married, but, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband.” (Pro. 12:4) You’ll hear wives referred to as the better half. If you’re here and you’re not married, I don’t believe you’re out of the will of God, I don’t believe you’re sinning, I don’t believe you’re inferior or somehow don’t measure up to God’s desires or standards. The best plan for marriage is to allow God to bring someone into your life. You’ll likely hear people say they have the key to success in marriage and I actually do have it. Marriage is not easy. There will be disagreements, unfulfilled expectations, hurt, sorrow, misunderstandings, laundry, chores, cooking, and cleaning. But there is also great joy and happiness, companionship, fellowship, communication, and intimacy. Before I tell you the secret to a successful marriage, you might be thinking you’re already a failure and there’s no hope for you. Don’t believe that for one minute. Marriage is hard, but you successfully navigate through hard things all the time. Don’t tell me it’s hard, I know it is. If you’re married to someone that does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, it’s even harder. I will even acknowledge that marriage can be challenging between two people that are committed Christians.

I will offer one assumption and that is that we are talking about followers of Christ so here’s the secret: the most important thing in a marriage outside of Jesus is commitment to one another. This commitment comes out in the marriage vows. I ask the groom: Groom, in taking this woman to be your wife, do you promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, in good times and in bad, as long as you both shall live? Then I ask the bride that same thing. In all the ceremonies I’ve done over the years, not one time has anyone responded “I don’t” to that question. Do you see the commitment? No matter the circumstances, you’re committed to one another. There’s never talk of divorce. I don’t care how great a communicator you are or how much money you have or make, how awesome your house is or how great your job is, if you’re not committed to one another, your marriage will fail. Too many people today treat marriage as a dating relationship. If you’re committed to one another, you will do whatever it takes to work through issues to make your marriage stronger.

Finding a wife is a good thing and I want to encourage you to review the biblical standards for husbands and for wives. Every guy can quote Eph. 5:22: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” If there’s one verse that every guy has memorized it’s this one. They may not know that God loved the world, but they can spout off the submission verse in their sleep. Often though, the guy that quotes that verse in an attempt to force his wife into doing something, but has neglected the previous verse that tells us to, “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” A more important principle is one that you’ve heard me quote on numerous occasions and is found in Eph. 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” Nowhere is that love dependent on what your wife does or does not do. The comparative love is that of Christ. No matter what we do, He still loves us.

Let’s take a look at a very important passage directed at wives found in 1 Pet. 3:1-6. I encourage you to check it out yourself. Nowhere does Peter limit this mandate to men that are wonderful, loving, godly, caring, and wholesome men. Women, it’s a whole lot easier to love a man that is awesome and wonderfully supportive of everything you want to accomplish in life. Look at what God holds precious in v. 4. Hold on now men, Peter hasn’t forgotten about you. 1 Pet. 3:7 gives us this incredible command: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Are your prayers consistently not answered and you feel like God doesn’t even hear you? Maybe it’s because you’re not the man God wants you to be. Peter finishes this passage by saying, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” (1 Pet. 3:8-9) Finding a wife is a good thing.

We began today talking about speech. Our words are powerful tools that can cause great harm and great joy. Be very careful in your speech and don’t be the guy that talks all the time. You do not get extra jewels in your crown for being verbose. Don’t talk just to hear yourself talk. We spent a lot of time on marriage and we will spend more time later in Proverbs. Finding a wife is a good thing and finding a wife whose ultimate goal is to live an authentic, passionate, and zealous life for Christ is something of immeasurable value.

An Immovable Object

15 Aug

BarsCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, Solomon gave us a principle we can all live by: think before you speak. There is rarely any issue that must be dealt with that doesn’t afford you the opportunity to think before speaking. If you’re a child of the King and you get sick or diagnosed with some disease, allow the Spirit of God to minister to you through the illness. When your spirit is broken, no one can bear that. Don’t allow defeat to enter your mind. Be willing to learn, no matter what state of life you’re in; that’s what biblically wise people do. Bring gifts when appropriate, but not with the hope that they’ll get you anywhere. Before drawing conclusions about an issue, make sure you get all the facts from everyone involved. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in the folly of speaking without thought. This morning, we’re going to peek into God’s sovereignty as well as the difficulty of relationships.

Pro. 18:18-19 says, “The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.”

Don’t you just love games of chance at the fair? There really is no such thing as chance. The last time our little fair came to town, I had an opportunity to chat with some of the operators of those games. The games are next to impossible to win because they’re designed to give the operator the advantage. They hope you’ll keep playing so they can get more of your money. Solomon starts off by talking about chance: “The cast lot puts an end to strife and decides between the mighty ones.” Back in Pro. 16:33 Solomon told us, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” In Bible days, the lot was one of the methods used to determine God’s will and I provided several Scripture references where lots were cast to determine God’s will in that message. That’s not quite the same thing that Solomon is saying here. The strife here is a disagreement, “between the mighty ones.” Mighty ones are powerful people. We don’t know if Solomon is thinking about any one person in particular. When you are not a mighty one, this verse has no meaning for you. Your boss gives you an assignment that you don’t like and you have no recourse, but to accomplish it. That’s an application, but Solomon is talking about compromising when two people are trying to exert their will on each other. When no compromise is possible, the lot is cast to determine who wins. Think about it as playing rock, paper, scissors. Drawing straws, picking a number between one and ten. The outcome is left to chance. Sometimes settling by chance prevents an argument or disagreement from developing. When the lot is used, in essence, the outcome is considered to be a demonstration of God’s will. If the mighty had their way, everything would be settled by power.

In a spiritual sense, nothing is left to chance. Since God is sovereign, all things are controlled by Him. Let me give you a mind bending reality. here is a difference between God’s perfect will and His permissive will. There are people, even in Christian circles, that will try and tell you that since something happened, it is God’s will. God does allow things that are beyond our ability to understand and in the grand scheme of eternity, His will is accomplished. With our finite minds, we are unable to grasp that especially when we are on the receiving end of something that seems impossible to bare.

This next verse is a real eye opener. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a citadel.” Brother here means a close friend and can also mean a sibling in Christ. I can’t tell you how many broken relationships I have seen in the church. It’s not that some people aren’t willing to reconcile, they won’t even talk to one another. It just goes to show you how damaging pride is when two people professing a relationship with Christ are unwilling to resolve an issue. Turn over to Eph. 4:1-6 and let’s look at one of Paul’s mandates to believers. I don’t know about you, but I for one am growing increasingly weary of people that say they are a believer in Christ, but are unwilling to walk in the Spirit. I want to point out a couple of key words in Paul’s passage. The first is walk which gives us the idea that our faith is who we are, it’s our way of life and we don’t turn it on and off. The second is humility which we have seen throughout Proverbs and gives us the idea that all of us need to be open to learning. The third is tolerance. We’ve gone way of the rails with this word. Tolerance is defined as the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Look at what Paul says in 4:14-24. What you were is not what you are because Christ imparted the power for transformation in your heart. Nowhere is tolerance defined as acceptance. The truth is the truth even when it doesn’t line up with your thoughts or behavior. The fourth word is all of v. 3: “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Diligent means careful and conscientious. Preserve means to maintain in the original state. Acts 4:32 says, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” It takes consistent, intentional effort to maintain what Paul, Luke, and Solomon are talking about. And there really is no acceptable alternative than to work hard at working out differences.

Broken relationships are quite damaging. Too often when a relationship is broken, one half of the relationship has no idea what happened. There’s generally some hurt, sorrow, wrongdoing, or deception that has occurred and that brother becomes in the words of the Very Reverend Henry Donald Maurice Spence, “A potent and irreconcilable enemy.” Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of it . . . I know I have. On my birthday in 2015, I got this message from someone that used to be here at C4: “Happy Birthday Brother, Pastor & Friend.” On June 19th, less than three months later I received this message from the same individual: “I can honestly say that everyone that you should strongly look at your choice of calling yourself a pastor because you really do **** when it comes to dealing with people.” This individual was unwilling to come and talk to me about whatever the issue was and instead chose to attack me in a message. I’ve messed up in my life. I’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time, I’ve done things I regret, I haven’t done things I should have, but I hope I don’t make excuses about what a failure I am. I take responsibility for my actions, I’m willing to apologize, I’m willing to do what it takes to resolve issues when I know about them. As I said before, many times you don’t know there’s an issue until you get blasted. Other times I get blasted when I provide sound wisdom, but that wisdom is not followed and I still get a nasty email that I call a drive by. It’s a drive by because the person lacks the courage to say what they said in an email, message, or text to your face. Broken relationships in the church can impact the entire body. Contributing to this is the lack of acknowledgement that problems exist. Wherever there are people there will be issues, but we must be willing to work to resolve those issues. I’m reminded of the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery that’s told in John 8. Jesus told her to, “Go. From now on sin no more.” (Jo. 8:11) Jesus wanted her to live a life that represented the transformative power of grace and truth that He represents and sin is not part of that picture. 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us,” so John recognized that we will sin, but God’s desire is that we live holy lives because He is holy. (1 Pet. 1:16) When sin is allowed to run unchecked and uncorrected, we fall into the apostasy that Jude warned us about in his short letter. Solomon is saying it’s easier to capture a strong city than it is to win a brother that is offended. I want you to really get that picture in your mind. Relationships between people of faith should be filled with love, grace, and mercy, but that doesn’t mean ignoring the unchanging standard of God’s Word. How easily are you offended? How thick is your skin? How readily are you willing to receive correction? It’s almost to the point where you don’t want to say anything to anyone because of what they might say back. It can be something as casual as missed you at church Sunday and the person gets all offended.

Solomon closes the comparison by saying, “And contentions are like bars of a citadel.” If you insert the pronoun “their” before contentions, you’ll get the idea. Contentions are the issue at hand. That’s the reason that person is offended, whatever it might be. Remember too, that the offense may only be perceived, not real. That’s the reality that we live in. We often operate based on what we think about something rather than what the actual issue is because we don’t want to confront anyone over anything because when we do we’re made out to be the one in the wrong. It’s quite a cycle. Those issues, “Are like bars on a citadel.” A citadel is a stronghold in a city. Really get this word picture. Contentions, issues, disagreements, strife are like bars in a prison. They keep you trapped, locked away like a prisoner with no hope of escape. When we allow those issues to control us, we fall into the schemes and traps of the devil. I will admit that I have a hard time letting go. I’m a guy that really desires to resolve issues, but what I am finding more and more is that people don’t want to resolve issues. They want to stay mad or they want to pretend something never happened, but the issue is there, lying dormant until something else happens and everything resurfaces.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but it seems really strange that the only place where we allow disagreements or contentions to actually separate or break relationships is in the church. You’ve got someone at work that rides your case and causes you trouble at every turn . . . you get up and go to work every morning. You’ve got that bully at school that uses every opportunity to harass you . . . you go to school every day. You’ve got that neighbor that is always complaining to you about your kids or pets, but you don’t move away. But in the church? One wrong move, one wrong word, one failure, one misstep and that’s it; they’re gone. What’s odd is that many people are oblivious to the issues because they’re unwilling to address it. I do believe these type of people are in the minority, but the wake of destruction they leave behind is widespread and if it’s not resolved, they’ll take that destruction with them wherever they might go.

Don’t think there’s no hope. Prayer is always a key to seeing hearts changed, but the heart that is changed is not necessarily the offended one. Understand where we are in the scope of eternity. We’re in the last days where people are turning away from absolute truth. Everything that happens is part of God’s eternal plan, but we’re not briefed on the specifics of that plan. We saw some important qualities from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that we must put into practice on a regular basis. The screams for tolerance today is not the same tolerance Paul talks about in Scripture. Sometimes people are unwilling to acknowledge their sin choosing instead to blame others and sometimes even blame God. Contentions between people can give you the feeling that you’re trapped in a prison. Love God, love others, do what you can to spread the hope that is found in Christ and you might just find that the immovable object that was in your path will move out of the way by the power of God.

My Way

1 Feb

My WayCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us to acknowledge the Creator and grow fat on the good news that is available because of Jesus Christ. All of us need to listen up and learn. Listen to those wonderful, godly, authentic people God had put in you path. Acknowledge who God is and what He has done in your life and watch what He will do in you and through you. That’s how we become a positive light in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities. This morning, we’ll see how making plans work when you don’t consult God.

Pro. 16:1-3 says, “The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives. Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”

This is an odd way to start. “The plans of the heart belong to man.” As we have often said, the heart is the seat of emotion, it is at the epicenter of who we are. There were no chapter divisions in the original manuscripts of Scripture so this is connected with chapter 15. The idea is that when you formulate plans on your own without giving consideration to what God would have you to do, they are your own. When your heart is knit with God’s, the plans you intend to formulate are evaluated in light of Scripture, are bathed in prayer, and they’re formed from a biblical worldview. What’s really neat about this is that Solomon is talking about two different perspectives of the same thing. Men make plans and it’s assumed that they are biblical, godly, holy, etc. Man does that, but it is God that gives man the ability to formulate those words into persuasive and challenging speech. Matt. 10:19 says, “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.” Many of us are hesitant to offer words to anyone because we’re afraid we won’t know what to say or even that we’ll say something dumb or something that will drive a person farther away from God. To all of that I say nonsense. Not only do we have Scripture that tells us so, but I have experienced the truth of Scripture on more occasions than I could possibly remember. If you always go into a situation knowing exactly how to handle it, know exactly what to say and how to say it, well why do we need to rely on God? One of the most defining Christ like characteristics we can demonstrate is our speech. Whether it’s electronic through Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media or if it’s in one on one conversation. We must not and cannot compartmentalize our faith. Either our faith is going to guide us and transform us or it is dead. It simply comes down to a matter of trust.

Will you choose to trust that God will give you what you need when you need it? If you will take that one step of faith, I guarantee that God will come through for you. One caveat here . . . we’re talking spiritual matters. If you don’t study for a test, I’m not saying that God will magically give you the answer to pass. There is an understanding that we’ve done the work we need to do. We’ve studied the Scriptures, we’re engaged in an actual relationship with Christ, we are being sanctified each and every day, our faith is active and alive. The Apostle Paul compared our faith to a race so if you think about training for a sporting event, how successful do you think you’d be in competing in a marathon if you didn’t have a rigorous training schedule? Somehow in our walk of faith, we think it’ll be different. Lots of people think they can have an effective relationship with Christ if they read their Bible once in a while or pray once in a while or attend church once in a while. Nonsense. Even naturally talented people have to do their part.

This is a tough one. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight.” This sure is a verse for today. In the time of the judges, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. (Jud. 21:25) I think we’ve even moved a bit farther away from this. Not only are people doing what is right in their own eyes, but they want to impart their ideals on others. It seems people are no longer content to have their own opinions; there are people that want you to change your opinion and if you don’t, you’re deemed the intolerant one. When people evaluate themselves against no standard or a shifting standard, then all is okay. When you consider your ways, you’ll likely conclude that all is well, that whatever you’re doing is okay. “But the Lord weighs the motives.” It can look good on the outside, but it’s what’s in the heart that matters. Remember the heart is the seat of emotion. You might be able to convince yourself or others of the reasons why you do what you do, but the Lord knows the real deal. Heb. 4:12 says, “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.” That’s just one reason why we need to be in the Word each and every day. Do you want to know why you do the things you do? Get in the Word and let it reveal truth to you. We should be like David when he cried out, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24)

Here’s one of the best things to do when you don’t know what to do. Solomon says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.” This verse literally means, roll onto Yahweh your works. That’s a bit strange for us to consider in modern English. It’s connected with the preceding verses. When you consider all the activities you’re engaged in; the overarching goal should be worshiping God. Under the umbrella of worship is prayer; reading, meditating, studying, and memorizing God’s Word; giving, evangelizing, singing praises to God, discipling, teaching, and all the other spiritual activities we engage in all fall under the umbrella of worship which I can summarize as obedience to God. Submit everything you do to God first. It’s okay to have goals and ambitions, but consult God first. Don’t have your life all planned out and then inform God of how it’s going to be. Just because something is a good opportunity does not mean God wants you to take it. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean God wants you to quit. Here’s the progression. You submit yourself to God, you tell Him what you plan on doing and let Him evaluate it. A really cool thing happens when you’re in synch with God. The plans you come up with are really His. God has supernaturally infused His will within you.

It’s interesting to me that people actually think there is a non-spiritual or non-Christian aspect to their lives. How can you possibly separate yourself from Christ? Why would you want to? That great invitation hymn says, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all. All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” The second verse says, “All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow, worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.” There is no conditional surrender: either you’re surrendered or you’re not. Think about who you’re surrendering your life to. Sometimes it seems people are more willing to surrender themselves to the government or the world’s systems. You’re surrendering yourself to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You’re placing yourself under the authority of the strong Son of the living God. You’re placing yourself under the authority of the One that created the heavens and the earth and all that it contains. You’re placing yourself under the authority of the One that gave His only Son so that you might have life. Commit yourself to God and watch how He transforms your plans and goals and ambitions.

It’s easy to conclude that our plans are good and right, but do we consider God’s plan? It’s a really good idea to step back and see eternity’s plan from God’s perspective. A great way to evaluate your plans is to use Scripture. God evaluates plans based on motive and His sight is perfect. Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean God wants you to be engaged in it. Just because you’re presented with a good opportunity doesn’t mean that God wants you to take advantage of it. When you’re in a vibrant, daily, engaged relationship with God through His Son, His plans become your plans.

Trouble, Trouble, Trouble

18 Jan

TroubleCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us to be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play. This morning, Solomon issues some solemn warnings as well as some encouragement.

Pro. 15:27-29 says, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live. The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

You’ve heard this saying before: crime doesn’t pay. Crime actually does pay, but getting caught doesn’t. There is an illusion that if you don’t get caught, then you got away with it. In the eternal scheme of things, there is no such things as getting away with it. God’s justice is always perfect. Solomon says, “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” See, even Solomon knows there can be short term gains in illicit practices. The illicit practices cover a wide range of illegal or unethical means used to get money. Charging too much, taking advantage of certain classes of people like the elderly, not doing all that you’ve been paid to do, stealing time from your employer, cheating on your taxes, stealing: you get the idea. This would also include scams of all sorts. Though Solomon is talking about profiting from those things, you can safely conclude that even if you don’t get a profit, it’s bad to engage in those type of activities. When you ignore this teaching, you bring, “troubles to your own house.” What kind of trouble you might ask? How about financial loss? How about ruining your reputation? How about being charged and subsequently convicted of a crime? How about incarceration? How about God’s wrath on you? These consequences don’t just affect the guilty, they can also affect your family. Poor decisions made by parents affect the kids. Ungodly decisions made by adults affect those around them.

One of the reasons behind what Solomon is saying is that the drive for money and material possessions can cause us to do things that are contrary to biblical principle. “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim. 6:10) God knows we need cash to live. It’s what goes beyond basic need that gets us in trouble. There are people that are driven by money. One of the top local stories in our area from 2015 was about the man that plead guilty to embezzling $1.2 million from his employer over a seven-year period. Kari and I used to go to church with him. A couple years after he changed churches, he sought me ought to serve as their pastor. Here is a guy that is serving as a leader in a church. That should be an easy thing to avoid. “He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” A bribe is persuading someone to act in one’s favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement. Bribery is illegal on state and federal levels. It’s also biblically wrong. Ex. 23:8 says, “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.”

Here’s some more guidance on speech. Solomon says, “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” Here is another example of where things start. Remember Mary pondered why the angel would greet her as, “Favored one.” (Lu. 1:29) Ponder means to think carefully especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. If we could just control our mouths, we’d avoid many problems. Ja. 3:2, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” I believe that verse applies to emails, texts, or messaging of any kind. How many of you see or actually post something on social media and then close by saying, “Rant over”? Solomon is saying think before you speak. Take a moment before speaking, that’s what righteous people do, that’s what people do who are controlled by the Holy Spirit.

The contrast to the one who ponders is, “The mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” I can understand getting upset over certain things, or getting mad, but there is no excuse for losing it. James sums it up nicely. Look at Ja. 3:8-12. See, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t praise Jesus on Sunday and profane His name on Monday. It has nothing to do with those that are around you. Just because others use profanity doesn’t mean you have to. People are essentially leading double lives and no one is calling them out. If and when you do, you get the whole intolerant, judgmental, I’m not perfect nonsense. If you’re a follower of Christ, greater is He that’s in you, then he that is in the world. If the only thing people had to go on was how you talked, what conclusions would they make? That is something to think about.

One final concluding principle. “The Lord is far from the wicked.” If you are still unsure of where God stands with wicked people, here’s one for you. This is really interesting given the omni-presence of God. Obviously Solomon is not talking about geographic distance, but spiritual distance. Wicked in this verse conveys the idea of a wicked mind, a perverse mind, an unregenerate mind. It’s a mind controlled by sin, it’s the natural state of the mind and it’s the natural state of man. Take the time to read an incredible passage found in Job 21:1-16. God has no fellowship with the wicked: no relationship. Jo. 9:31 says, “We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.” There is a line of separation called sin, but the blood of Jesus erases that line. No matter how often you pray or read God’s word, if you haven’t received the gift of God that is Jesus, He is not obligated to listen to you. Can He hear those prayers? Can He answer the prayers of the wicked? Of course, but He doesn’t have to. “But He hears the prayer of the righteous.” By contrast, God is always available to the righteous who are righteous through Jesus. For certain, God has plans for everyone and He does all He can to get people to understand the salvation that is found in Christ, but He knows not everyone will receive that gift. But for those that are followers of Christ, Ps. 145:18 reminds us, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

There is no instance where a life of crime is an option for authentic followers. If you profit illicitly, your household is in danger, and I would encourage you to seek the Lord. Think carefully and cautiously before engaging in any form of communication. Ponder answers before you give them. Remember that bitter and sweet water cannot come out of the same well. If you have a real relationship with Christ, you can be sure that He hears your prayers and will answer them. Live your life as a reflection of God’s renewing power of transformation.

Timing is Everything

11 Jan

TimingListen to the podcast here.

When we were last in Proverbs before Thanksgiving, Solomon told us to seek guidance from others. Seek answers from God and get good counsel to confirm it. If something is weighing heavily on you and you think it’s from God, speak with someone that will provide you with solid, biblical, godly, and timely guidance from Scripture. There is rarely anything God gives us that must begin immediately. It took God six days to create the heavens and the earth and all that is within it. Paul spent years walking around Asia and Europe to get the message of Jesus out to the Gentiles and it took more than a century for Noah to build a boat. This morning, Solomon gives us several principles that stand alone.

Take the time to read Pro. 15:23-26.

There is a time and a place to speak. We’ve said before that not everything needs to be said and what does need to be said doesn’t necessarily need to be said right now. Solomon starts by saying, “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word.” This is definitely a feel good verse. It’s a verse suitable to put on a bumper sticker, Facebook meme, or e-card. But good things said can be off putting when they’re spoken at the wrong time. The wise person knows when to say that good word and when to remain silent. Notice that the perspective is from the giver of the good and timely words. We saw in the last Proverbs message that we should seek wise counsel and it’s from the perspective of receiving that counsel and the joy of getting good guidance. Here Solomon is talking about the blessing of giving that good guidance. It’s not a prideful thing in order for us to confirm how awesome we are. People sometimes come to me for advice and counsel. I know I give good advice because I just tell folks what the Bible says. I try to be persuasive, convincing, and confident in the words I say and it gives me joy and a good feeling that people are listening to the Bible. I get great joy in knowing that the Word is alive and able to help people that need its comfort, guidance, wise counsel, and all the other tangible things that come from within its living pages. You have that same opportunity to give the life changing bread of life!

Here’s another meme worthy quote. “The path of life leads upward for the wise that he may keep away from Sheol below.” The path of life is the same as the way is the same as the gate is the same as the road is the same as the highway. They’re all different ways of saying stay on the path that leads to righteousness. Stay on the path that leads to the Promised Land. Stay on the road that leads to eternity with God. The wise individual knows the dangers that lurk just off the path. When you stay on the path, you will keep away from Sheol, the place of the dead which lies below. Paul said, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) He also said, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) Too often we think of earth as our eternal home and all our efforts are used to secure heaven on earth which just can’t happen.

Don’t be filled with pride. Solomon says, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud.” There is a difference in parental pride and personal pride. Speaking to Jesus in Lu. 3:22 God said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” That’s the idea of parental pride – it’s a delight or satisfaction in your children. Of course that can spill over fairly easily into personal pride when we think our kids are better than everyone else’s kids. It’s typically manifested in statements like, “My child would never do that.” Solomon is talking about an elevated sense of self-worth. It’s a theme repeated often in Scripture. Pride is the principle that it’s all about me. Ps. 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” God is at the pinnacle of humanity; He is at the top of everything and does not take a back seat to anything that we consider important. When you magnify yourself over the Lord, you set yourself up in opposition to the first commandment that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) That’s what pride is, right? It’s the idea of self-centeredness. It’s the idea that the world revolves around you. Over and over God says, “It’s all about Me.” That’s what the first commandment is about.       That’s why we have a commandment against idolatry. The house of the proud will come crashing down. Maybe not physically, but that also might be true. God will do what He must to get people to acknowledge that He is what the universe revolves around. There is coming a day where everyone will recognize Jesus for who He is. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

The house of the proud will be destroyed, “But He will establish the boundary of the widow.” Being a widow in Scripture is not always glamorous. There are special provisions given to widows because their primary source of support is gone. The church is supposed to, “Honor widows who are widows indeed.” (1 Tim. 5:3) For all the effort and work that goes into accumulating things here, all will be lost, but the boundary of the widow? God will expand her territory and take care of those that are oppressed and afflicted.

I want to hit one more principle. “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord.” Remember abomination conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Those plans don’t have to come to fruition for God to be displeased. We’ve seen this before. Back in Pro. 6:18, having, “A heart that devises wicked plans,” is in the list of things God hates. Remember the heart is the seat of emotion. What comes out of the mouth reveals what’s inside the heart. When wickedness resides in the heart, evil thoughts and darkness result. When Jesus is in the heart, righteousness and goodness reside there. Because what’s in the heart flows out, the result is Jesus. “Pleasant words are pure.” By definition, goodness and righteousness are there because of Jesus and His working in your life. Jesus being Lord of your life leads to pleasant thoughts, which leads to pleasant words, which leads to pleasing Jesus and many of the people that cross your path. David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps.19:14)

It’s good to be back in Proverbs. Be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play.

Thoughts Lead to Deeds

15 Jun

ThoughtsYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded us that we should be on a lifelong journey in our pursuit to know Christ. Our learning never ends and he said we should be loving instruction. We don’t dismiss instructions from people that are godlier than we are, that are more experienced than we are, that are more like Christ than we are. This morning, we’ll discover additional characteristics of the righteous and the wicked and look at the speech of each.

I encourage you to take the time and read Pro. 12:5-14 so you understand where Solomon is coming from.

Verses 5-7 contain the familiar patter we’ve seen Solomon use before. He speaks of the righteous, wicked, wicked, righteous, wicked, and righteous. “The thoughts of the righteous are just.” You know this because he said it in 11:23. In Ps. 119:15 David said, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.” That’s a good principle to live by. If you’ve ever wondered how to clear your mind, this is one way to do it. For many of us, if we could get a handle on our thoughts, we’d be free from many of the issues that seem to plague us. An issue marinates in our mind and it grows because we continue to think about it. Oftentimes, there is a small issue, but is allowed to grow big and strong and it festers. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8) The thoughts of the righteous, those that belong to Christ, are just and fair. The righteous give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t you just hate it when someone thinks the worst of you? That’s something that the wicked do. “But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood.” Notice in the previous verse, Solomon talked about thoughts and now those thoughts give way to words. I cannot emphasize strongly enough just how important our words are. The wicked are deceitful; there are often hidden agendas or motives. What you see or hear may not be what you get. The words of the wicked are full of lies, slander, false accusations, and half-truths which put people’s lives in danger. In a practical application, I think of the false teaching out there about who God is. God is love and patience and all the things that go along with the idea that God approves of all people and it doesn’t matter how one thinks or acts because God is love. People that have no idea who God really is are defining who God is and other people are being led astray. People are acting wickedly and may not even know it. I think Solomon is talking more along the lines of people that do know what they’re doing and are intentional about it.

“But the mouth of the upright will deliver them. The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.” Our speech should define who we belong to. As I have often said, it is a primary indicator of who has our heart. Our words should reflect the love of Christ in all circumstances. Our speech often denies who we belong to and is a primary indicator of our relationship with Christ. We should take the advice of James and be quick to hear and slow to speak, and slow to anger. (Ja. 1:19) Even though the wicked may prosper in the short run, or at least seem to prosper, they will be overthrown and will be no more. The house of the righteous will stand because it’s built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s righteous.

Solomon now addresses the area of respect. I would venture that most people would like to be respected. We want to be treated and spoken to respectfully. What’s funny is that even when we don’t treat people respectfully, we still want the respect we believe we deserve. “A man will be praised according to his insight.” Praised means approval or admiration. Insight means understanding. Insight can also be translated – you guessed it – wisdom. This is a guy that lives by wisdom; that provides practical evidence of a life that is guided by wisdom. This is a smart guy, well mannered, stately, honorable, and all the other adjectives you can come up with for a man held in high regard because of who has his heart rather than any office or position of authority he might hold. Listen to how David is described: “So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.” (1 Sam. 18:5) This is a man that is recognized and appreciated because of the wisdom that exudes from his being. David wasn’t just pleasing to his friends; he was pleasing to all the people – the common folk and to the servants. It says a lot about a man when the servants have high regard for you. To put it in a modern context, think of the supervisor employee relationships. David was a man of honor and integrity. Instead of being respected, “But one of perverse mind will be despised.”  Perverse here means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. We are living in a day according to Is. 5:20 where evil is being called good and good is being called evil, but there still remains behavior that is generally viewed as acceptable or generally viewed as wrong.

Solomon now provides us with a series of one liners. “Better is he who is lightly esteemed and has a servant than he who honors himself and lacks bread.” This is an interesting collection of words so let me rephrase it. It’s better to work hard, be considered average and have someone to help you around the house than it is to pretend you’re something you are not and have nothing to eat. Another way to say it is it’s better to be unknown and be able to afford a servant than it is to pretend to be rich, but can’t even eat. “A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.” This is for all the animal lovers out there. Animals were an important part of life back in Solomon’s day. They provided the power to work the land, to make flour from grain, to mill corn, provide milk, provide transportation as well as a number of other uses. The righteous man recognizes their importance and takes care of the animals to make sure they have what they need not just to survive, but to prosper. On the other hand, the compassion of the wicked is cruel. Even when they are trying to emulate some good qualities, they fall short.

“He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who pursues worthless things lacks sense.” If you work your land, you’ll always have food to eat. This applies even if you’re not a farmer. If you’re willing to work hard, you’ll have food to eat. Pursue worthless things is also translated chase fantasies. All kinds of things are coming to mind. I’m sure people back in the day made fun of people like Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright brothers. There is a difference between having a vision and being visionary. Chasing a fantasy is telling the judges that you can sing when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. “The wicked man desires the booty of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields fruit.” Wicked people want what other wicked people have. Pirates steal from other pirates. Drug dealers steal from other drug dealers. The righteous are planted in good soil rooted in Jesus Christ. When you’re a healthy plant rooted in good soil, you can’t help but produce fruit.

The next ten verses or so deal specifically with the speech of the wicked and the speech of the righteous. “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.” Proverbs has a lot to say about getting trapped. We saw this first back in 6:2 and in context Solomon was talking about debt – making promises to repay what could not be repaid. Now he’s talking about talking too much. It could be slanderous speech, gossip, speaking out of turn, or having an opinion about anything and everything and then making sure everyone knows that opinion. We see that on Facebook all the time. Matthew Henry refers to this as cutting one’s own throat with his tongue. Ps. 34:19 says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” The righteous are delivered by the wisdom of their speech and that wisdom comes from God. “A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his words, and the deeds of a man’s hands will return to him.” Sticks and stones the saying goes, but I think that’s way off the mark. We cannot overestimate the power of words. With our words we have the power to edify or tear down. The power to lift up or lash out. The power to encourage or the power to deflate. The tongue is just like the rudder that controls the direction of a ship: even though it’s very small, it can change the course of that big vessel pretty quickly. Think of a time you used words that picked someone up, that encouraged them, that gave them the hope they needed to go on, or the words you used to help them resolve some conflict. The righteous man uses his words for good and is deeply satisfied. When you work for the Lord, the Lord will reward you, but that’s not why we serve Him. All the good you do for the Kingdom is doing something. Keep working and allow God to work things out. The good you do for the Kingdom does not go unnoticed.

Thoughts often lead to deeds. When you can control your thoughts, life is easier. There are always challenges, but God gives you what you need to be an over comer when you need it. Don’t waste your time chasing fantasies. The righteous continue to do what is righteous and the wicked continue to do what is wicked. Use your words to encourage and edify rather than tear down.

The Shotgun Approach

13 Apr

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.

A Fool’s Mouth

30 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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