The Consequence of Evil

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Last week we learned that the best way to obtain peace is to get along with everyone. That may not be the easiest thing, but as much as it’s up to you, be at peace with people. Love keeps no record of wrong doing so if you are wronged or feel you’ve been wronged, it’s better to let love cover it than it is to go around blabbing about how you’ve been wronged by humanity. It’s a lot easier to deal with wise people than with fools. Somebody that has understanding will get what you’re saying, but no matter how much talking you do, a fool just won’t get it. Rebellious people seek evil, but rest assured, judgment is coming. This morning, we look at some very vivid word pictures.

BearIn Pro. 17:12-15 Solomon says, “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly. He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house. The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”

This is how bad it is. “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.” Picture this in your mind. You’ve seen or heard about how protective a momma bear can be. Think of how protective you can be over your kids. There is a God given maternal instinct when it comes to their children. Someone messes with your kids, they have to deal with mom. That strong, intense, protective instinct comes from God. You take a cub away from momma bear and you’re liable to get your arm ripped off at the shoulder. Solomon is saying it’s better to go up against an angry momma bear than it is to deal with a fool. It’s better to put your life on the line than to engage in any type of discussion with a fool. Specifically, a “fool in his folly.” Folly means silliness. This verse does go hand in hand with v. 10. Solomon’s talking about dealing with the stubbornness and the wrongness of the fool. It is tiresome, burdensome, and draining to be around fools. A person that can take criticism and learn from it is much more approachable and can function significantly better in society. People that cannot take criticism or correction can cause chaos in society. You’ve probably dealt with them. The rules don’t apply to them whether it’s a no smoking area and they’re smoking or they’re parked in a no parking zone and you let them know. It’s better to deal with an angry bear than to deal with fools and if you’ve ever had opportunity to experience what I’m talking about; you’re nodding your head in affirmation.

Let’s talk about forgiveness. In verse 9, Solomon mentioned concealing a transgression is a demonstration of love. When you have that supernatural love in you because of your relationship with God through Christ, forgiveness should come easier and easier. Forgiveness does not have to be asked for to be given. “He who returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” This goes hand in hand with v. 9. You have to ask yourself, what kind of person would take vengeance against a good deed? David showed Nabal kindness that Nabal repaid with evil. In fact, Nabal’s wife Abigail described him as a, “worthless man . . . Nabal is his name and folly is with him” (1 Sam. 25:25) It’s one thing to repay evil with evil and we’re not supposed to do that, but to repay good with evil is totally anti-Jesus. This is difficult for us to grasp because it seems so ludicrous that someone would get mad over a good deed. Are you familiar with the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished?” David said in Ps 35:12, “They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul.” Where forgiveness is supposed to abound, Solomon says there are those that actually take offense against those that are doing good. This person will not only have zero friends, but he will be most miserable. The phrase, “Evil will not depart from his house,” gives us the indication that the punishment or judgment or whatever penalty comes as a result of opposing good will continue from generation to generation.

Put this on a t-shirt. Solomon has given us many t-shirt or meme worthy quotes and this one is a doozy. “The beginning of strife is like letting water out, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” Great advice and here’s what it means. Have you ever been in a no win argument? No matter what you say, it won’t make a difference? Your words aren’t heard or are dismissed immediately? The person talking to you won’t let you get a work in edge wise? There’s a reason or excuse for everything you say? No responsibility is taken? If you’ve lived for any length of time, you likely have been on the receiving end of such a conversation; perhaps you were the giver. Figure out who these people are. One wrong word, a sentence taken out of context, or a look is all it will take to set this person off and then you’re in it. It’s like you’re on a round-a-bout and you can’t get off. The best thing to do is avoid it all together. In theory, these people should not exist in the church. Once again, I want to point out the greatest hurts and pains in my life have come from the hands of professing believers. I would like to hold out hope that as believers, we want to learn and grow and when people talk to us about whatever an issue might be, that we’re willing to listen and receive the correction that comes as a result of the Holy Spirit working. But that’s not really what Solomon is talking about here.

Those words are like the levies in New Orleans that began to let go as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Once the water started flowing, there was no containing it and the levies gave out. That’s what Solomon is talking about. So his guidance is to avoid those arguments before they start. How do I do that Pastor Ian? Great question. There are some great and not so great ways to make this happen. First, you need to recognize who these people are and what makes them tick. Believe it or not, you may have people in your life that really live to make life terribly miserable for you. There are really no good reasons for this except they most likely are really miserable themselves and cannot understand how you can maintain a good attitude in the midst of adversity. Second, maintain an attitude of prayer for people that you will come into contact with today. Use the opportunities God gives you to share the truth that has taken residence in your heart. Trust that God will give you whatever you need at the time you need it. Third, be patient! God can help you grow in this area. Fourth, don’t give up. Finally, if you think that staying home will help you avoid these kind of people, they’ll come knocking on your door or call you on the phone. This is part of our walk of faith. Now, if you have to deal with these people in a church context, that’s a different animal all together.

We finish today with a quick warning. “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” Is this a verse for today or what? We really are living in the day of the Judges: “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 17:6) “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20) “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.” (Ex. 23:7) It’s like Solomon wrote this today. Our world has been turned upside down in many ways. The righteous are deemed intolerant and judgmental and the biblically defined wicked are not only given free reign, they’re actually praised as being champions of humanity. Don’t get freaked out by this! Understand that this is all allowed by God to serve His greater purpose. We’re still on a mission to share the love of Christ especially in these last days. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:11-13)

I’m assuming that you don’t just throw your opinion out there. I’m assuming that when people attack you or say mean things to you it’s because the love of Christ oozes from every pore of your body. I’m assuming when you interject into a conversation that you are coming from the perspective that the person you’re talking to just might not know something is biblically wrong. You might just be talking to someone that has a secular worldview; someone that listens to the media bias of today: someone that follows the ever changing morals and values of society. You’ve got to remember your audience. Jesus is not telling us to go be a champion against every non-biblical thing going on, but he is telling us to share the truths of God when given the opportunity and if people attack because of that, don’t sweat it – they’re attacking Jesus. I think a lot of people don’t want to listen to us when we share biblical truth is because they don’t see us living a holy life; I think there are a lot of people in the church today that don’t look and act any different than the general public.   And I’ve got the reason for that. Church has become a social organization where it’s something you do. Transformation is not taught or emulated in the pulpits. Discipleship is nearly non-existent and there are little to no expectations for church members and that’s if the church has members. One local church has partners which provides an indication of equality. The pastor is the same as the teacher is the same as the nursery worker is the same as the person who occasionally participates. A church like that is not functioning as a church. There must be a chain of command, there must be structure, there must be procedures and policies or else we fall into the same mindset that was in the day of the Judges, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jud. 17:6)

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

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Wisdom, Truth, and Folly

TruthCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us not to believe everything we hear. Check things out, that’s what people of wisdom do. Foolishness can be inherited from your parents, but Jesus Christ can break that cycle by transforming you into His image. The poor will be with us always, but that doesn’t mean ignore them. Be intentional with the Gospel because that’s what can change eternity for a person. This morning, Solomon continues with themes already presented in Proverbs.

Pro. 14:22-25 says, Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good. In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. The crown of the wise is their riches, but the folly of fools is foolishness. A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.”

Will evil triumph? It’s a question we often ask ourselves as we see the things in this world spiraling out of control. Solomon says, “Will they not go astray who devise evil?” It’s a rhetorical question. If you devise evil, you are astray. If you are astray, it’s because evil is a part of your makeup. Again, Solomon is talking way of life, habit of life, this is who you are. The answer is yes, those that go astray devise evil. Just because they are in the evil business, does not mean that God is fooled, it doesn’t mean God turned His back, and it doesn’t mean God is not aware of what’s going on. These folks think they can outwit God, but His justice is perfect. We must maintain confidence, as hard as that may be at times, that God is in control and that He will prevail.

The other side of the coin is, “Kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.” People have their own definition of good and that goodness is often compared with people who are horrible.  It generally goes like this: “I may not be perfect, but I’m no murderer.” So whose definition of good are you going by? Let’s go by the definition Solomon uses. Good means that which gratifies the senses and derivatively that which gives aesthetic or moral satisfaction. Moral satisfaction. So in the ever changing tide of moral relativism, what is moral? You have to go to the unchanging standard of morality found in the Bible. Is it any wonder how confused people are as the standards continue to change? So they’re not really standards. Solomon says those that devise or plan good will be rewarded with kindness and truth. I think most people like to be treated that way. Is. 32:8 says “But the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble plans he stands.” Noble means having fine personal qualities or high moral principles

Solomon says talk is cheap. I love this next verse. “In all labor there is profit.” Everyone has been designed to work. The kind of work you do depends on the way God wired you. There are a nearly innumerable variety of things to do to earn a living. Our first example of working goes all the way back to Genesis. Gen. 2:2: “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested o the seventh day from all His work which He had done.” Then in Gen. 2:15 God gave Adam the responsibility to cultivate and keep the garden – to work in it. Work had been around since the beginning. In all labor, in all work there is a benefit, there is a profit. You don’t have to see a paycheck for it to be work. Every woman that has kept a home and every mom that has raised kids knows that even though there is no paycheck, it’s still work. Anyone that has tended a garden and produced food knows it’s work. Anyone that has worked in the church or helped a neighbor or family member knows that not all work pays, but there is profit or benefit. When you work you have a sense of accomplishment. I know sometimes moms can feel like they’re just spinning their wheels in the home. The laundry gets done and next week you have to do it again. The house gets picked up only to have to pick it up again tomorrow. You mop the floor and it rains; you clean your house and have to clean it again next week. A lot of the work we do is repetitive and ongoing. I’m reminded of the term labor used in the delivery of a baby. It’s funny to me that we use that term because the real work occurs over the almost two decades following the labor, longer in some cases

The opposite of labor is, “But mere talk leads only to poverty.” These are not people looking for a job and cannot get hired. These are people talking about working, but fail to do anything to get hired to work somewhere. It also applies to people that don’t do anything around the home. They don’t take care of the yard, the cars, the dishes, the laundry, or the kids. They talk about working without ever really getting around to working. Let’s take a look at this idea of work from the Apostle Paul. You really need to find 2 Thes. 3:7-13 and take the time to read it. There are jobs available for people willing to work. You might have to show up at a particular time and that might mean going to bed at a reasonable hour and setting something that is called an alarm clock. You might have to work for a certain period of time called a work day. You might have to relocate somewhere and it might be cold there. If you don’t make enough to support yourself or your family, you might have to work two jobs. God demonstrated work and designed us to work.

The next verse looks like a departure. “The crown of the wise is their riches.” It often seem like money makes the world go round.    It doesn’t, but sometimes it seems like it does. Having wealth can get you into places that others cannot go. I remember Kari and I were in the market for a newer vehicle a number of years ago and we had stopped at a car dealership on the way home from the beach. We were dressed in beach clothing and were a bit shocked that we couldn’t seem to draw the attention of a salesman because we looked like we couldn’t buy a car. Having wealth and more importantly the wisdom in how best to use it is what Solomon is talking about here. There is a huge opportunity to use your wealth for God’s glory to further His Kingdom. Not everyone can go at any time, but instead saying I can’t do that, we have to ask ourselves, what can I do? If you have any kind of wealth, and wealth is relative, you can use it wisely to further the Kingdom. “But the folly of fools is foolishness.” Solomon has made it really clear that fools act foolishly because they lack wisdom. If you cheat, you’ll be labeled as a cheater. If you lie, you’ll be called a liar. If you scream, you’ll be called a screamer. If you act like a fool, you’ll be called foolish. So there really is no departure. Wise people seek knowledge and that’s why they’re wise. Fools continue to seek folly and that’s why they’re fools.

There so many applications for the next verse. “A truthful witness saves lives, but he who utters lies is treacherous.” You really have to evaluate this on more than a surface level. The Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament says, “Save from evils.” KJV translates it, “A true witness delivereth souls.” This verse is really talking about the eternal truth of Jesus Christ. Lives are saved for eternity because of the truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Conversely, if you tell lies about Jesus Christ, you’re treacherous. Treacherous means that you’re guilty of betrayal or deception. So you have to ask yourself, why would anyone speak deceptively about Christ? Why would anyone say that all roads lead to heaven? Why would anyone say that Jesus is just one way to heaven? Why would anyone say you can be a Christian and live any way you want? Why would anyone say, “You surely will not die.” (Gen. 3:4) People tell lies about Jesus for many reasons. Lack of knowledge which is called ignorance. It sounds better or makes them feel better about where they are. They have a misguided notion about who God really is. They’re lazy – they don’t take the time to discover truth for themselves. I could go on, but ultimately, people tell lies about Jesus because there is one that does not want you to know the truth. There is one that wants you shifted off the true path. There is one that wants you to accept a partial truth, one that wants you to think of yourself before others, that wants you to think yourself more highly than you ought to, one that seeks your destruction, one that is a liar. One that wants you to follow your own desires. In Jo. 8:44 Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” When we speak the truth about Jesus, it will set people free. Satan is on the offensive and we’re sitting behind enemy lines in safety letting others take up the battle for us. Don’t be fooled: Satan will not stop in his effort to ruin you. 1 Pet. 5:8, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Do good for the cause of Christ. Talk is cheap. Tell the truth about Jesus and live it out every single day and snatch people out of an eternity in hell. That’s the mission of the church. That’s your mission should you choose to accept it.

You Can Run, but You Can’t Hide

HideYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that when we hang out with wise people, we get wise. When we hang out with smart people, we get smarter. We must and should follow people that follow God, but we must be careful because the opposite is also true. When we hang with people that are not walking with God, we also tend to not walk with God. That’s why discipleship is so vital in our walk with Christ. This morning, we’ll see that God is relentless.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 13:21-25 so you can follow along.

The hunt is on! “Adversity pursues sinners.” You’re never going to avoid labels. We’re often identified by labels. Applications are filled with them: race, ethnicity, sex, age, religious preferences, etc. We’re good with labels that are part of our personal characteristics or heritage, but introduce a label that has to do with choice, and people start screaming. Sinner can be an offensive label in our times because of the changing morality of people. No matter how fast or how far you run, God is there. God is a relentless pursuer of sinners. If you remember the message from a couple of weeks back, I said that you must have a standard on which to formulate your beliefs or they will shift or change with the circumstances. So we need to evaluate sin from an unchanging standard so we don’t get caught up with the ever changing attitude of people and society. I think one of the root causes for this ever changing standard of ethics and morality has been the general departure from the Bible and the standards found therein. We’ve shifted priorities from God and eternity to self and the here and now. We’ve filled the time we used to spend in the Bible with other pursuits that while not bad or sinful, prevent us from doing what God would have us to do. We’ve convinced ourselves that we can have it all and do it all just like everyone else. That’s why I continuously talk about getting back in the Bible. That’s where we get our standards and the interesting thing is the Bible even predicted a deviation from Scripture would develop. Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about this. Two passages that really highlight this are found in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 and 2 Tim. 4:1-4. Take the time to read these insightful thoughts.

So don’t lose heart. “Adversity pursues sinners.”  We must look at the Bible to determine what a sinner is. In its simplest form a sinner is one who commits sin. The person who says, “We’re all sinners,” as a justification for his sin is likely the same one that has no standard to begin with and will certainly not like being told there is absolute truth.  If we really believe that God is unchanging and thus His Word is unchanging, then the standard for life is the same today as it was before humanity was created. If murder has always been wrong, then it will always be wrong. You can plug in anything you want, but understand the entire teachings of God. Please don’t bring up eating shellfish or pork, the washing of hands, etc. as justification for how outdated the Bible is. The ceremonial aspects of the law were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and the moral aspects of the Law have been repeated in the New Testament. Jesus Christ was the answer before humanity and He remains the answer today. Being a sinner is what Christians were, but are no longer. The adversity Solomon mentions is always on the heels of the wicked one. There may be short term prosperity or happiness, but again, we must think eternally. And that’s exactly what Solomon says, “But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”

Solomon’s next point is deeper than what you might think. Verse 22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” Some would use this as a proof text that you need to work hard to make sure your kids and grandkids are well supported after your death. It’s much deeper than that. The idea is when wisdom is at the forefront of who you are and what you do, the wealth accumulated will be passed down from generation to generation because it’s handled with wisdom. For the sinner, which Solomon uses synonymously with wickedness and unrighteous, there is no inheritance to be passed down because there is no wisdom and therefore anything gained is lost. An even more important principle is passing down the faith of the righteous from generation to generation. “Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, but it is swept away by injustice.” This is a challenging verse. The best I can offer is this refers once again to the diligent work ethic Solomon has told us about. The poor man that is righteous diligently works his land, no matter how small it is, to the best of his ability. As a result, he will have an abundant harvest. The second part of the verse gets tricky. “Swept away by injustice” is also translated, “For want of judgment.” Given the contrast formula used so often by Solomon, it seems likely this refers to the mismanagement of resources by the wicked. To put it in a modern context, management overextends the company, too many employees are hired, too much money is borrowed, too much equipment is purchased and all is quickly swept away. A story published in the New York Times on July 31st highlights this principle perfectly. Let me talk about verse 25 briefly because it goes hand in hand with this verse. The key word is enough. God will provide what is needed. Often He provides more than we need, but we will always have enough. We’ll see later in Proverbs that Agur prayed that he would have enough: neither too much nor too little, but enough.

And now for a total deviation from what you might expect next. Like many verses we’ve seen to this point, the next verse seems out of place. “He who withholds the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” Your wonderful newborn baby has something lurking within them that is difficult to see when they are so young and innocent. As they grow older, that natural tendency begins to come out. In some it is stronger than in others. That natural tendency is known as sin and it takes many forms. Rebellion, pride, disobedience, stubbornness, deafness, the ability to ignore, laziness, lack of focus, short term memory loss, etc. that parents are all too familiar with. These characteristics come naturally to human beings because we are all sons of Adam. That means we were born with this ability to be ungodly, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) The way to overcome that natural tendency is to use the rod. Rod in this verse means correction. It does not refer to a physical rod, or a broom handle, or a switch, or a wooden spoon, or a hair brush. There are other places in Proverbs where that is true, but not here. Here, Solomon is talking about correcting behavior that is not godly, that’s not consistent with the standard. We’re in a church setting here and that’s the direction I’m coming from. We’re to instruct our kids to adhere to the standard. This is going to be painful for some folks to hear including me. Since we’re all at different places in our walk with Christ, it only makes sense that our kids will follow suit where we walk. If you are prone to gossip, it’s going to be difficult to get your child to understand why gossiping is wrong. If you’re prone to lying, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why he gets punished for lying. If you are prone to neglect your study of God’s Word or your reading of God’s Word, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand the value of God’s Word. If you’re lazy in your walk of faith, it’s going to be difficult to get your kids to understand why their faith is so important. If you sporadically attend church, it’s going to be difficult for your child to understand why it’s important. That’s why we must go to the standard of our faith. Some people, even in the church, do not see the value of good, solid, Bible teaching in the home. They want their kids to find their own way. They somehow have missed the importance of training their kids. Somewhere along the way, we’ve come to believe that having reasonable expectations for our kids will somehow harm them. We’ve come to believe that we will irreparably damage their psyche if we discipline our kids. Not every child will respond to a spanking. Not every child responds to a time out. Not every child is the same. One thing is the same. Every child will benefit from being held to a reasonable, age appropriate standard. This is how they learn and grow. When you don’t correct your children, chaos will result.

Also, teach your kids to listen to other adults. It can be very disrespectful to have an eight year old tell me, “My mom says I don’t have to listen to you.” One final thought on this as we’ll get to a score of other parenting principles later in Proverbs, as adults, understand that each parent trains their child to not do things that annoy them. Every person has different annoyances. Also understand that every parent is at a different place in their walk of faith. When you lovingly correct your child, you’re demonstrating how much you love and care for them. There must be the same diligence in this area as in our other endeavors. Don’t neglect this crucial area of the family.

Trouble always pursues the sinner. They may think they won’t be caught, but God will catch them and He can do it anytime He wants. Don’t misunderstand short term worldly “success” as God’s approval. Demonstrate love for your children by teaching them and holding them accountable. Know this, God will relentlessly pursue you as He seeks to transform you into the image of His one and only Son.

Follow the Leader

LeaderCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that we have hope that is found in Jesus Christ. We must be diligent to be good messengers and listen to those around us who have walked where we walk. We have reverence and trust in God and therefore follow His words even when we don’t understand. This morning, we’ll look at one incredibly important concept.

In Pro. 13:20 Solomon says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

Solomon starts off with a proven principle. “He who walks with wise men will be wise.” This seems so obvious, but so neglected. Smart people hang out with smart people. Wise people hang out with wise people. Godly people hang out with godly people. I recently had a revelation. Too many of us have a cry wolf attitude in the wrong things of life. One of our children comes down with a fever or other symptom and we frantically search WebMD to diagnose the mystery ailment. We post on Facebook for all our self taught doctor friends to weigh in with their diagnosis and recommended course of action and then we go to the doctor and tell him how to treat the child. Our car makes a funny noise and we immediately take it to the mechanic. Our child expresses an interest in a sport and we buy them the best equipment and get them into a program. Someone posts about an issue they’re having and we comment about what they should do. We’ve got the answer for everyone else. Something happens in our personal life or we go through some kind of trial and we isolate ourselves from those that can provide us what we need. My experience is that church participation is a barometer for our spiritual temperature.

If you want to be encouraged, walk with people that are encouraging. If you want to know more about Jesus Christ, walk with people that know Him. I know I’ve said it before, but we seem to be much more willing to stick out difficult situations in every other aspect of our lives except our walk with Christ. The littlest thing sets us off. Love that is supposed be unconditional has limits. Grace that is expected on a personal level is withheld from others. For some reason we are very hesitant to try and restore relationships with one another in a church setting, but have little difficulty doing this in other settings. If and when we’re approached in a loving manner, we immediately go on the defensive and don’t even consider the love a person has for us or the courage it takes to confront an issue head on. Then we blame God and quit.

1 Jo. 3:18, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” That is what Solomon is saying. It’s not enough to speak truth or believe truth. That’s good, but it cannot stop there. The truth must be a critical element of who we are inside. The truth provides demostrative evidence that we belong to Jesus. Col. 1:10 says, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” We often listen to the nonsense from society that issues the edict that no one is to judge. Paul says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”  (Gal. 6:1) The idea that we are prohibited to tell people the truth so we don’t come across judgmental is nonsensical and the people that make such claims, well, they just don’t know the Bible. I encourage you to take a look at Eph. 5:11-15. Paul gives us something very important for us to do. This comes also with other cautions because stopping at saying something is wrong does not meet the intent of what Paul is telling us to do. Jesus asked the question in Matt. 7:3: “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Jesus is pointing out that sometimes we can be very critical of others and miss something that is in our own lives. He’s not saying you’re forbidden from pointing out the speck, but first you need to evaluate your own life. That does not mean perfection. That’s what people often say though. When some issue is pointed out, the first thing out of their mouth is a laundry list of things that are wrong with us. We need to be receptive to the correction that comes from other seasoned, experienced, and mature believers. We must be more flexible in the church, more willing to allow Christ to change us, but there it is again. I’m thinking that some folks that profess to be believers don’t want anyone in their business because they don’t want to grow, they don’t want to learn, they don’t want to be more like Christ because they are not followers of Christ. You cannot be a follower of Christ without a relationship with Him. Just because someone comes to church doesn’t make them a believer. We must make discipleship an intentional aspect of our lives. We must be willing to be discipled and to make disciples. We must be a fellowship where love and acceptance is infused into us by the Spirit of God.

If you want to be wise, walk with wise people, but Solomon says the opposite is also true. “But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Are you wondering why I don’t skip over this stuff? How many different ways is Solomon going to say it? That’s a valid question so we have to ask ourselves, why? Why does Solomon take up so much space saying the same thing over and over? Let’s change up the question. If you’re a spouse, how many times do you tell your other half the same thing? If you’re a parent, how many times do you tell your child the same thing? If you’re a manager or supervisor, how many times do you tell your people the same thing over and over again? If you’re a teacher, how many times do you tell your students the same thing over and over? If you’re a coach, how many times do you tell the team the same thing over and over again? You tell them until they get it. That’s what God is doing through Solomon. He’s reminding us of things we should know, but fail to put into practice on a consistent basis. If you hang with people that do not share your beliefs, values, and ethics, there is a far better chance that you will alter your standards because of them rather than vice versa. Paul emphatically states, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Cor. 15:33) When your best pal is a biblical fool, you will likely become foolish. Remember Solomon defines a fool as someone that has the right answer yet does not follow it. Harm will come. Solomon is talking guarantees. Be careful who you spend time with. Of course God wants you to share the truth with people that are far from Him. There’s a difference between having a meal with someone and being their best friend. One of the most challenging things experienced after salvation is making a break from those people that do not hold the same values.

We need to hang with people that will challenge us to soar higher, to walk closer to God, to be more like Christ. If you want to be more like Christ which is God’s desire for us, you need to walk along side of people that have the same goals. You need to be actively engaged in the walk of faith.

Character Matters

character-mattersYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that it’s tough to avoid issues when there’s a lot of talking. The tongue of the righteous is worth a lot, it’s like silver. If you use restraint in your speech, you’re classified as wise. Our speech really is an incredible indicator of what’s in our hearts. He also told us what’s it’s like to deal with lazy people. It’s nauseating, it’s irritating, and aggravating. This morning, Solomon hits on a topic he’s mentioned before, but gives us some additional insight into what qualities make up a person. Over the next couple of weeks as we look at these series of verses, we’ll see Solomon use the familiar pattern of contrasts that he love so much.

Proverbs 11:1-4 says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight. When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom. The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

What is character and why does it matter? Character can be defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Character is who a person is and it’s normally shaped by a person’s upbringing. Honesty and integrity are part of that make up. A lack of honesty and integrity also form that make up. Have you ever asked your kids to lie for you? You probably didn’t call it that when you told them if my boss calls, tell him I’m sick. If so and so calls, tell them I’m not here. Have you ever kept the extra change the clerk gave you? Are you habitually late? Are you generally unreliable? We might conclude these are minor things, but it reveals who we really are and that matters.

So Solomon brings out a business practice, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord.” Back in the day, balances were used for nearly all commercial transactions. An item was placed on a balance and a stone or stones would be placed on the opposite side and balanced out to give a weight to whatever item was being sold. There was often corruption with merchants that used a false balance. In other words, the balance would not give an accurate weight of the item. This verse can be applied to any fraudulent or unscrupulous business practices. We see this evident today as well. From the guy selling meat and seafood off the back of his truck to the guy selling homemade DVDs of first run movies. From Jay Bans and Foakley sunglasses to the “authentic” Coach purses and Rolex watches found in the straw market in the Bahamas. Locals will remember the Cisco Travel Center at I-95 exit 1 in our little town that gave you 19 gallons of gas for the price of 20. God takes a dim view on crooked businessmen and calls these deceitful tactics an abomination.

Not only do businesses need to practice honesty in their dealings, but so does the customer. It has become quite commonplace for customers to try and swindle businesses. From the fake slip and fall in a store to the stealing of an item with an attempt to then return it, or the girl that buys the prom dress then returns it after prom. God expects honesty in all business dealings regardless of which side you’re on. As is his custom, Solomon offers the contrast that, “A just weight is His delight.” Does it seem strange that time is taken to mention this? It does because honesty is an integral part of godliness. You cannot be dishonest and be godly at the same time, it’s that simple. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying the customer is always right. That’s utter nonsense. Sometimes the customer is right and business owners need to acknowledge that. One thing is for sure, God takes pleasure in seeing people engage in honest business.

Here is it again. Solomon talks about pride once again. This time it’s not in a list of things God hates, but instead refers to who a person is. “When pride comes, then comes dishonor.” The end result of pride, whatever form it may take, always leads to dishonor. Dishonor is a state of shame or disgrace. 1 Cor. 10:12 reminds us, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” Those that are filled with pride will fall at some point. This verse is consistent with a familiar verse found in Pro. 16:18 tells us that pride goes before the fall. When you’re proud, you take your eyes off of what’s important. The focus turns inward, it’s a self serving characteristic. When you read the biblical account of Lucifer’s fall in Isaiah 14, you will see that Lucifer was driven by pride. That passage has several occurrences of the phrase I will. That’s a good tip off to what the root is. This was the same appeal the serpent made to Adam and Eve in the garden. “You will be like God” the serpent told Eve. She wanted to be something she was not and could not be. Pride is a sin. Hold on a minute, you say; I’m proud of my kids, am I wrong? There is a difference in the pride you feel in your children and that which is self centered. No one would criticize a parent for saying I take great delight in my child. When Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John, God spoke from heaven and said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” (Lu. 3:22) It’s the same thing as saying, this is my son, I’m proud of him. Of course, that can lead to a sinful pride where your child does no wrong and is way better than that other kid. The contrast to the proud is the humility of the wise. That’s how we know the pride Solomon is talking about is sinful. The idea is proud people are not generally wise or else they wouldn’t be prideful. Wise people know they haven’t arrived, they know they don’t have everything together, and they don’t pretend to either.

When no one is watching, authentic believers maintain their character. “The integrity of the upright will guide them.” Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. I lean strongly to the idea that integrity cannot be learned: you either have it or you don’t. I do believe it can be supernaturally given. I do believe that God can do an incredible work in someone’s heart that transforms the DNA of an individual into something supernatural. When that transformation takes place, that integrity will guide them. The opposite is true, “But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” In this context crookedness means exactly what you’re thinking it means. It’s their dishonesty, their underhanded tactics, they’re deceit, their overall opposite way of life. Wickedness and treacherous are used synonymously. It is this way of life that will destroy them. It’s a repeat of Pro. 5:22, “His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his sin.” It’s because it’s who he is. No matter how rich or wealthy you think you are, in the end it just doesn’t matter. “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath.” At death, everyone becomes equal. Royalty is removed, status is removed, position is removed and everyone is the same. On that day, presidents are the same as paupers. Kings are the same as commoners. Death is the great equalizer. Ez. 7:19 says, “They will fling their silver into the streets and their gold will become an abhorrent thing; their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their appetite nor can they fill their stomachs, for their iniquity has become an occasion of stumbling.” The understanding is the day of wrath refers to what will happen to the wicked because there is no relationship with Christ. If there was, there wouldn’t be wickedness or treachery.

“But righteousness delivers from death.” Yes, righteous people die all the time. That’s not what Solomon’s talking about. The death we experience is a separation of body and soul. The physical body dies, but the soul lives on. Some theologians believe Solomon is referring to the second death mentioned four times in Revelation. That’s the death commonly associated with the lake of fire. A person dies first physically and temporarily, but this second death is eternal. Righteousness can only be gained through a relationship with Jesus Christ and that is what Solomon says will deliver us. We will likely still experience a physical death, but not a spiritual death. Our souls will live on in eternity with God the Father, His one and only Son, and the Holy Spirit of God.

In this short passage, Solomon links arrogance and pride to fraudulent or corrupt business practices and links humility to wisdom. Money gained by corrupt business practices will do no good on the Day of Judgment. That corruption is part of the DNA of the wicked, but humility and integrity are character traits that are the best to display in our day to day lives and reflect the power of God in our lives.

Parental Love . . . Again

Dad's LoveYesterday I did something that I rarely do. I preached the same message I preached a couple of week ago. As I’ve studied through the great book of Proverbs, I’m reminded over and over again the importance of teaching and the importance of learning God’s Word. That’s how we connect with God. That’s how we get to know God. That’s how we learn to follow Jesus Christ. That’s how we discover truth. In an age where common sense is no longer common, it seems downright elusive. Biblical sense comes from knowing God through His Son Jesus Christ. Do you want to know God? Get to know Jesus Christ. Do you think there’s another way? According to John 14:6, think again.

The ancient book of Proverbs is exactly what we need today. In it you’ll find guidance on finances, time management, prioritizing our lives, sexual purity, and parenting as well as a host of other topics. Biblical wisdom begins with the realization that Jesus Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to God. That path must go through the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. It is the only way.

So are you wondering, how different can the same message be? Perhaps you’ll be as surprised as I was.

I encourage you to listen to the message here.

Trust Me

TrustYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that repetition is a key to understanding Scripture and Solomon told his son once again to remember. When he remembers, time will be added to the boy’s life because truth and kindness do not depart from him. As a result, that boy finds favor with God and with man. This morning, Solomon tells us to do something that will likely be very familiar to you and may be the hardest thing ever done.

Proverbs 3:5-8 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”

Is it really that hard? Sorry may be the hardest word to say, but trusting in the Lord may be the hardest thing to do. We are to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” It is not a suggestion or a recommendation, it is a command. Trust God entirely, with all your being, all that you are. This is a total commitment to Him and that’s what He expects. Why do we find it so hard to trust Him? Trust means to have a firm belief in someone or something. We don’t find it hard to trust in general. In fact, I think we are quick to trust. We exercise trust in a wide variety of ways. We trust our schools, teachers, and doctors. We trust planes, trains, and automobiles. We trust our baby sitters. We trust our financial advisors, banks, and doctors. We tend to trust until that trust is broken. When your child lies to you, you have a hard time believing what they say. When your friend breaks your confidence, you have a hard time confiding in them. When trust is broken, it’s difficult to regain. So why is it so hard to trust in God when He has never broken your trust or violated your confidence?   I think this really stems from a lack of understanding about His character. Do we really believe that He loves us with an everlasting love? Do we really believe that His plans are best for us and that when things don’t go as we plan, His plan is better? Do we really believe when He answers a prayer contrary to what we want, that He knows what’s best for us? God has never broken a promise, has never lied, has never betrayed you or anyone else, has never had ulterior motives, has always loved you, and has always been there for you.

Don’t rely, “On your own understanding.” Just like you ask your kids to trust you when they don’t understand, God expects that we trust Him when we don’t understand. Our understanding of God is limited to the capacity of our brain. This goes back to the premise of Proverbs from 1:7. This understanding is all encompassing. It refers not only to our intellect, but also to our moral compass. We don’t look to our own view of morality or ethics; we look to the Lord’s. Isaiah reminds us that, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”  (Is. 53:6) It is not good to exclude God from the decision making process. We tend to compartmentalize decisions. When asked to do something in or for the church, we have to have a period of fasting and praying sometimes for months. When it comes to relationships, or career choices, or major purchases, we make a decision and don’t even ask. When faced with something we want to do, we jump in without consulting God. When faced with something God wants us to do, we have to pray about it and really know for sure. And what God wants is for our good. Jer. 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.”

So what’s next after trust? This is another tough one. “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” What’s curious in this verse is that the word, “all” actually means all. It means every, entire, any, and all things. It doesn’t just apply to spiritual things. This goes back to what I just said about compartmentalizing our life. Too many people have their spiritual life and their secular life. The spiritual life they lead occurs on Sunday during church where they are wonderful followers of Christ. Then there is the secular life they lead the remainder of the week. Can you really be a part time follower of Christ? Not according to this verse and the plethora of other biblical principles found throughout scripture. When we acknowledge Him first then, “He will make your paths straight.” This is no guarantee for a problem free life. This is not a promise that everything will be great and wonderful and awesome and that your bank account and fridge will always be full and that everyone will always like you all of the time and your car will never break down. The path of righteousness is a straight path, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps, potholes, and otherwise rough patches. But you certainly won’t be alone on that road.

Solomon now tells us another thing that many of us have a hard time doing. “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” This is diametrically opposed to 1:7. We’re having trouble in our society with this. It seems we’re all experts in our own minds. On the reality series Pawn Stars, people go into the pawn shop hoping to sell an item they believe is of great value. Rick, the owner is not as confident so he often calls in an expert to verify the authenticity of the item or the proposed value. The potential seller of the item often disagrees with the expert because somehow he knows more than the expert does. Situational ethics are the norm and people do whatever they want and declare that it is the right thing to do. We think we know what’s best or what is right without consulting Scripture, and without including God. We need to develop that biblical worldview that can only come from knowing God.

“Fear the Lord and turn away from evil,” Solomon tells his son. These two concepts are tied together. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the biblical response is to run from evil. No one is ever better off going against what God says. We don’t act right and do right because we’re afraid of what God might do to us although we should consider the consequences of our actions. We act right and do right because we are followers of Christ: because we firmly believe that God’s ways are the absolute best. What happens? “It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” Just like a cold glass of water on a hot, humid day. God reinvigorates us and renews us to walk in the paths of righteousness.

We all have a decision to make. Are we going to choose to trust in the One and only true God whose ways are always right and best or are we going to doubt? Are you looking for a third option? Trust Him with all that you are. He will never fail you.