Tag Archives: Wicked

Have I Told You about My Grandchildren?

23 May

KiKi, Granddad, KinseyCheckout the podcast here.

Last week we learned that lying is one of those character traits that you do not want to be known for. We can’t confuse our version of the truth with the absolute truth of Scripture. As believers, we must uphold the truth in our speech and in our actions. We have an obligation to help the needy, but our primary mission is to live our lives authentically for Christ which means sharing the truth of who Christ is. Never glory in the misfortune of others. We love when mercy and grace are extended to us and we must endeavor to exercise mercy and grace to others and balance that with accountability for our actions. Sometimes that can be a tough balancing act, but I assure you, if you follow the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the principles of Scripture, you won’t go wrong. This morning, Solomon talks about the joy of grand kids.

Pro. 17:6-8 says, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers. Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.”

Here’s another crown. Solomon spoke of the gray head being a crown and now he adds another one. “Grandchildren are the crown of old men.” What an awesome verse that doesn’t mean what you think it does. Solomon’s not talking about just having a boat load of grand-kids as if that in itself is some kind of achievement. He’s talking about something much more important, something significantly more rewarding, something that is eternal. The Apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 Jo. 4) By association, it stands to reason that if your children walk with God, then your grandchildren will too. We’re not talking guarantees here, but probabilities. That’s the angle Solomon is taking. Remember, he’s giving all these instructions to his son. The Hebrew patriarch Jacob thought he had lost his son Joseph. Genesis tells us that Joseph was sold into slavery and eventually found himself in Egypt where he rose to be the #2 guy in the land right below Pharaoh. After they were reunited, Israel (Jacob) said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.” (Gen. 48:11) It was a double blessing. Grandchildren can be like that. The normal grandparent loves their grandchildren. The beauty of grandchildren is that you can love them and care for them and then they can go home with their parents. God’s design for the family was not for grandparents to raise grandchildren. That’s the job of the mom and the dad that God designed to be married to one another for as long as they both shall live.

Of course grandparents will influence their grand-kids and that’s also by design. The Apostle Paul praised Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice for playing a significant part in the sincere faith that Timothy had. (2 Tim. 1:5) The crown Solomon is talking about is the joy to see grandchildren walking in truth serving God with authenticity and passion. In Phil. 4:1 Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” He told the Thessalonians, “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?” (1 Thes. 2:19) There is another side too. Not all grandchildren bring joy to their grandparents. Sometimes it’s heartache. Keep in mind, we’re talking in a biblical context. We don’t pretend that all is awesome in the world and there are never challenges we face. It’s great to hear wonderful things about our grandchildren and the logic that Solomon uses is because, “The glory of sons is their fathers.” Behind every good kid is a good parent. Again, there is no guarantee that the awesomeness of a parent will be transferred to a kid. And even if your father was not a player in your life or was a horrible dad, that doesn’t mean your life is over and you’ll never amount to anything. We’re still talking a biblical context here and don’t forget who the great cycle breaker is. Don’t underestimate the power of Jesus in a person’s life. As we have said so many times before, having Jesus in your life ought to make a difference.

Solomon now gives us an awesome comparison. “Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool, much less are lying lips to a prince.” Remember in Solomon’s mind, a fool is synonymous with wickedness. Fools lack wisdom and understanding. This is a tremendous word picture so let’s really look at. Excellent speech literally means a lip of abundance. That’s doesn’t mean fat lips, it’s a word picture. It’s a comparison and a contrast and it’s between a fool and a noble man. Noble can mean being born into a royal family or being part of the highest class of people in society.  Here it means having fine personal qualities or high moral principles. Have you ever been around someone that makes as if he knows what he’s talking about, but really doesn’t? As you talk with them, it’s obvious they’re making stuff up as they go along. Excellent speech doesn’t taste good in the mouth of the fool. Excellent speech is totally foreign to the fool. In fact, when I think of this, I picture the fool having the same reaction as those funny videos of a baby tasting a lemon, or how you respond after taking cough medicine of NyQuil. Having excellent speech and speaking wisdom is completely out of character for the fool. An area that is pretty prolific today is the nonsense people spout off on social media. We’ve got all sorts of people speaking authoritatively on topics they really have no clue about. We’ve got people saying the dumbest things and they’re recorded for posterity for all to read. All you have to do is Google dumb things people say.

What’s particularly interesting to me is the number of people who claim no affiliation with God use the Bible to either condemn or endorse certain views. Ps. 50:16, “But to the wicked God says, “What right have you to tell of My statutes and to take My covenant in your mouth?” I think the top one people like to quote is don’t judge. It’s ludicrous for a fool to speak the incredible truths of God. It’s as equally foreign for someone of nobility to speak lies. It would certainly apply to a prince or king, but Solomon is talking about people with character. Is. 32:8, “But the noble man devises noble plans; and by noble plans he stands.” People of high moral character naturally speak like they have that great character trait because it’s who they are in Christ. They don’t have to think, “Okay, now what did I tell that person so I can keep my story straight.” You can’t be partially truthful, or truthful much of the time. You either choose to tell the truth or not.

This next verse isn’t very charming. “A bribe is a charm in the sight of its owner; wherever he turns, he prospers.” This verse seems to be a contradiction to good ethical principles so let’s take a closer look at it. A bribe is defined as the practice of offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in discharge of his or her public or legal duties. A bribe is therefore illegal and since it’s illegal, it is unbiblical. It used to be that if something were unbiblical it was generally illegal, but that has changed in recent years. The legality of some issues is irrespective of biblical principles. But bribes are illegal and unbiblical so what is Solomon saying? The charm Solomon refers to literally means stone of favor. Bribes can take numerous forms, but the item offered always has some value, at least to the one attempting to be enticed. Don’t confuse bribery with blackmail or extortion. The briber is attempting to get some favor from someone that is in a position to grant that favor. Solomon is saying that there are people of means that think they can get what they want by dangling a precious gem or something else of value in the face of someone that can grant them favor. This is playing off of the often misquoted 1 Tim 6:10 that tells us, “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.” Maybe you’ve heard it said that everyone has a price. Don’t sell out; don’t be enticed by quick riches. This verse would also apply to gifts used to appease anger. Has your spouse ever given you flowers after an argument? Have your kids ever willingly taken on a chore to appease your anger? It’s the same principle. You shouldn’t have to bribe anyone to earn their love or forgiveness. Solomon is not legitimizing or condemning a bribe, he’s simply stating fact. One theologian said, “A bribe works like magic.” When you put it like that, you can see how true this is. People who give gifts often receive special favors.

Grandchildren are awesome and are a crown to old men. Grandparents should influence their grandchildren, but God’s design is for parents to raise children not grandparents raise grandchildren. When I say this, please don’t think that I’m saying it’s sinful, wrong, or unethical for grandparents to raise their kid’s kids. We are in challenging times and we must adapt and overcome, and what a blessing it is to have grandchildren and grandparents in your lives. Excellent speech doesn’t taste good in the mouth of the fool just like speaking nonsense or lies is foreign to someone of high moral character – a quality all Christians should be growing in. Finally, Solomon told us that bribes work like magic, but you shouldn’t have to bribe someone to receive love or forgiveness.

Curious Creating

8 Feb

CuriousYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us that it’s easy to conclude that our plans are good and right, but asked did we consider God’s plan? It’s a 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. This morning, Solomon addresses a question many people ask.

Pro. 16:4-6 says, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil. Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.”

Here’s a question of the ages. Solomon begins by telling us, “The Lord made everything for its own purpose.” If you’ve ever watched Ask This Old House on PBS, they have a segment where they show an obscure tool or piece of equipment and the guys on the show try to figure out what it’s called and what its purpose is. I have a number of tools in my shop that are not obvious as to what they’re for, but they are invaluable for getting the job done quickly and correctly. That’s what Solomon is telling us. Everything God created has a purpose. We may not understand it all, but all things have a purpose. When you consider the far away planets, stars, and galaxies, it points to the incredible creative power of God. Those things in the sky are incredibly beautiful. They’ve provided astronomers with objects to spend years studying. We love spending time on the beach and we marvel at the incredible diversity of the fish living in the sea. The seas also provide opportunity to get from one place to another. Scientists continue to discover new species in the animal kingdom. We still find new ways to use items we’ve had around for years. There are 438 million hits when you Google new uses for old items.

Everything God created has its own purpose. Of course, sin corrupted many of the intended purposes of God’s creation. That’s what happened to the wicked. They are part of the rebellion of Lucifer and his demons which were a driving force behind Adam and Eve’s poor decision making skills. The progression of evil started before the garden and culminated in Gen. 6. Gen. 6:6 says, “The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” In that pivotal chapter, you’ll remember that we’re introduced to a new character who was given very clear instructions. His name was Noah and to say he built a boat would be a tremendous understatement. Even though the wicked exist, God had an intended purpose and plan for them, but they had and continue to have other plans. Rev. 4:11, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Sin changed God’s design for humanity. “Even the wicked for the day of evil.” They were not created evil, but became that way because of sin. And they have a purpose too. Perhaps it’s to show God’s mercy or show His wrath. Maybe it’s to show judgment or maybe grace. Even the wicked will serve God’s purpose.

Here’s another restatement. Pride is on the list of things God hates and Solomon repeats it again. “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.” There again is the root of where it begins. Everything starts in the heart. We’re not talking parental pride which is really delight, we’re talking personal pride. We’re talking my way is better than anyone else’s. Pride is what sets sinners against God. Pride causes people to go their own way. Pride causes people to consider only themselves. Pride says it’s all about me. Pride says I don’t need anyone else. Solomon says “proud in heart” which gives us the idea that this is really who a person is. It’s not a prideful moment, this is who they are. Remember the word picture for abomination – rotting flesh. As a result of the rotting flesh that is your heart, Solomon reminds us that, “He will not be unpunished.” When we read verses like this, I think we too often think in terms of our timeline. Don’t confuse the here and now with eternity. Nobody gets away with it.  Remember in Pro. 11:21 Solomon said, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished.”  Do you ever wonder why I use so many cross references? A great principle in Bible study is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. The Bible does not and will not contradict itself. That’s why we study the whole counsel of God’s Word and don’t pick and choose topics that won’t challenge us. When you work through the Bible, you will come across every modern issue we face.

Next, Solomon points to the future. This is a pretty exciting verse and contrasts what he just said. The proud person won’t go unpunished, but “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for.”  God cannot allow sin to go unjudged. We have people these days that say God has changed and that the rules of the Old Testament are no longer valid. I think we lack a fundamental truth that is found in God’s Word. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” Paul is writing to those misguided people at Corinth. Even in all their fussing and fighting, Paul says they, “Have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 1:2) Jesus Christ affected the change. This is what Solomon is pointing to. Solomon is talking about the atonement found only in Christ. Ps. 85:10 says, “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Lovingkindness is also translated mercy. Tit. 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” It’s not anything that we have done because God did it all for us in the person that is Jesus Christ.

The word atonement is typically translated propitiation in the New Testament. The “atonement of iniquity” Solomon mentions is the same “propitiation for our sins” that John talks about in 1 Jo. 4:10. “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for.” Iniquity is a synonym for sin. There is no amount of doing that will erase your sin. There is no process that will earn your way to heaven or that will cause God to forget. It’s not what we do or did, but what God did in Christ. Why would He do this? Paul says it this way in Eph 2:4: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” That came to light in Jo. 3:16 that many people in and out of the church know, but have not fully understood: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” This is what Solomon is talking about. When you have a life atoned for by Christ, Solomon concludes, “By the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.” Once again the idea is not that you go through life looking over your shoulder because you’re afraid of God like you’re afraid of being mugged or attacked. Solomon is talking about a reverential respect for who God is. It’s a recognition of the incredibleness and awesomeness of God, but it’s also recognizing that perfect justice will come from God – at some point.

Remembering who God is helps us keep away from those things that are not pleasing to Him. Sometimes we focus on what we think we’re not allowed to do as if God is preventing us from having fun. Growing up, there were lots of things I was not allowed to do, but I was allowed to do way more things than I was not. My parents established rules for my well-being and safety and so I wouldn’t annoy anyone. I followed them . . . mostly. God has established principles and rules for our safety and well-being and for His glory. Having respect and reverence for God with some straight up ‘I don’t want to face His judgement’ thinking will keep us away from evil. I’m not a fan of catch phrases or slogans in church, but the old WWJD does have an application. Of course you need to apply it biblically, but if you have in the front of your mind, “Is this                   going to glorify God or edify His people?” principle going through your mind, I’m certain we would not do a lot of the things we do.

There are questions we all want answers to. God did not create the wicked, but did allow His creation to choose the path of disobedience and rebellion to become the antithesis of His design. Evil and wickedness are present in the world and God will use even that to gain glory. If your life is characterized by pride, you’re like rotting flesh and you will not be unpunished. God loved us so much that He gave us His Son Jesus Christ who atones for our sin. Truth and mercy kiss each other in the person of Christ. Since we have such reverence and love for God, we keep away from evil. All this is part of God’s curious creation where He is the epicenter.

There’s No Comparison

16 Nov

Check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon said if you’re happy and you know it, then your life should surely show it. As Christians, we are cheerful not because of the ever changing circumstances of life, we’re cheerful because we know Jesus is there regardless of those circumstances. Smile because of Jesus. This morning, Solomon gives us some comparisons that really are no comparison.

Pro. 15:16-19 says, Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute. The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.”

Let’s get to our first comparison. We’ve talked about people being scared of things that are not real. Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago and it’s a time where people try and scare one another. People are scared of vampires, or werewolves, or cemeteries. That’s not the kind of fear Solomon is talking about. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” That fear of the Lord is the same reverential respect we’ve talked about before. He is talking about material possessions here. It’s better to have reverence for who God is and what He has done in the world and in your life and have little materially than it is to have a lot of stuff and no God. These things are not always mutually exclusive. Just because you have little does not mean you have little faith. Just because you have lots does not mean your favor is great with God. We must break free from the worldly mindset and importance of wealth. Of course we need money to purchase things and we need money to sow into the Kingdom of God. I assure you that God knows and understands how it works. Solomon is saying there really are more important things than money. Peter and John were walking along heading to the temple when a beggar, lame from birth, was in the way. The lame guy sees Peter and John and begins asking for money. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!” (Acts 3:6) We need money to buy things, but would you rather have money or be able to walk? The point is that with great wealth comes great responsibility.

“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it.” He’s comparing the two. Turmoil means a state of great confusion or uncertainty. Later in Proverbs Agur says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” (Pro. 30:8) He wants enough and the reasons are very good. If there’s too much Agur reasons that he might forget the Lord. If there’s too little, he might steal and profane the name of the Lord. It’s better to have a little and know who God is than to have great treasure with all the confusion and uncertainly that comes along with it.

Here’s another comparison. I admit this one didn’t sit too well with me until I read it carefully “Better is a dish of vegetables where love is, that a fattened ox served with hatred.” This is not a proof text to justify a vegetarian lifestyle. In the culture of the day, most meals were of a leafy nature. Meals that offered meat were mostly reserved for the very wealthy or for celebrations. As we approach Thanksgiving, I think this verse is more applicable. How many people are dreading making the trip to the in-laws or the parents or other family members because of the strife that exists there? The key words there are love and hatred. The idea behind this verse is that it’s much more pleasant to sit around eating veggies when love abounds than it is to eat wonderful, tasty, juicy meat that is served with hatred.  No matter how good the actual food is, when there is animosity, strife, anger, hatred, or any other negative emotions flying around, most people would prefer not to be around.

You’ve seen this one first hand. “A hot tempered man sirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” This goes hand in hand with 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” I want to remind you that if you are a genuine follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the gift of self control. Gal. 5:22-23 says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Let’s quit making excuses for why we cannot demonstrate that which was given to us by the same Spirit that was present when God created the heavens and the earth. “A hot tempered man stirs up strife.” If you are a natural hot head, then evaluate your walk with Christ. If you are unable to maintain control when things go a bit south, ask yourself why. Do you enjoy the feeling of conviction that comes when the Spirit rebukes you? Are you unwilling to listen to someone because you’re too busy yelling? When disagreements come, do you immediately ramp up? The remedy for that hot temper is someone that is, “slow to anger.” It’s not that this guy cannot get angry, but he understands that calmness is like water on a fire. Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9) I cannot understand how mature believers can have knock down drag out fights with other people. I don’t understand how people can be done with one another. One thing is certain, that’s not God’s desire.

Here’s a vivid word picture. The final principle we’ll look at today says, “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the righteous is a highway.” Picture this in your mind. Have you ever tried to fight your way through a thorn bush? A briar patch? Have you ever walked through a patch of beggar’s lice? Cockle burs? Have you ever walked to the beach barefooted and stepped on a sand spur? That’s the picture Solomon is painting. It’s painful, it’s hard, it’s slow going. That’s the path the lazy person is on. The contrast is the path of the righteous. It’s like a freshly paved highway. It’s smooth and flat. It’s clearly marked with rest stops along the way. That doesn’t mean there won’t be breakdowns, or exits you have to take, but they are approved by God. You can only get on and off at the opportunities God provides. In reality, the road of faith is not all smooth and there can be detours, but the idea Solomon is presenting is that the way of righteousness is always better because it’s God’s path.

Solomon’s favorite writing technique is to compare the righteous to the wicked. He uses numerous terms and a wide variety of scenarios, but he always gives us the conclusion that it’s better to walk with God than without God. It’s best to eat lean with love than it is to eat high on the hog with hatred. It’s best to be slow to anger so people can see God in us. Even when there are difficulties, it’s best to stay on the path that God has prepared. Clear comparisons. Which path will you take; the righteous or the wicked?

I Did It My Way

26 Oct

Frank

Check out the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can do it your way and spend eternity separated from Him or do it His way and spend eternity with Him. It seems like it’s an easy choice.

Righteousness as a Compass

29 Jun

CompassYou can check out the live version here.

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

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

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

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

While laziness might plague some folks, the next one is going to resonate with many.“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down.” Wow is there truth in that. One of the hardest things I do on a regular basis is care for people that don’t care. How can you minister to people that do not want to be ministered to? How can you shepherd people that don’t want a shepherd? How can you teach to people that do not want to be taught? How can you encourage people that want to remain discouraged? The short answer is you can’t. For me, the most difficult thing to determine is when to follow the words of Jesus, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt. 10:14) That doesn’t mean you pretend they’re dead, but you give them over to the Holy Spirit. Understand the ground with which you’re working. Notice Solomon is not declaring anxiety to be wrong, misguided or sinful. Anxiety is an emotion and as with other emotions, they are given by God. Solomon doesn’t leave you hanging, but gives you the cure. “A good word makes it glad.” You are often afforded the opportunity to employ this principle. Someone comes to you with something that is weighing that person down or you’re weighed down. Remember v. 18 says, “The tongue of the wise brings healing.” This healing is found in God and His Word. “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” (Ps. 94:19) The reminders of Scripture about who God is provide the hope for us to trust in Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Smooth Sailing . . . For Some

4 May

smooth-sailingYou can listen to the podcast here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

God’s Hatred for Sin

2 Feb

HateYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we learned about the scoundrel. We saw that wickedness and worthlessness are evident by a number of characteristics that should not be present in the life of an authentic believer. The scoundrel is always devising evil. This morning, we hit a passage of Scripture that might be familiar to you and is contrary to the message some “religious” people tout that God is only love.

Pro. 6:16-19 says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

God is a hater. Okay, let’s qualify that. Can a loving and all powerful God hate something? Before we get into specifics, people who make the claim that God is only love have not studied the Bible. God has a nearly infinite list of awesome characteristics that we should strive to emulate. He is patient, kind, compassionate, empathetic, creative, understanding, decisive, dependable, generous, gentle, humble, strong, loyal, meek, just, balanced, truthful, wise, and totally awesome. We could go on and on.

So we come to this passage of seven things that God hates. This list is not all inclusive as we have other Scriptures listing additional things that God hates. Before we get to the list, let’s see how Solomon sets it up. “There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him.” Hate means an intense dislike for or a strong aversion towards something or someone. Abomination is more difficult to define and the best I can come up with is it means detestable or loathsome. Just because there is a list, do not assume that some sins are okay or not as bad as others. You may have heard sin broken up into mortal and venial sin. Venial sin is a lesser sin that is forgivable while mortal sin ruptures a person’s link with God’s saving grace. Don’t confuse this list of seven with the seven deadly sins. The seven deadly sins may lead to mortal sin. 1 Jo. 5:16-17 tells us, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” One denomination uses this passage in their statement of faith to justify the concept that some sins are more severe than others. I quote, “The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”

So let’s clear this up. Sin is sin in God’s eyes. Rom. 6:23a tells us that, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin leads to death. “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8) God does not want us to sin, and He knows that we still have a sin nature and a natural desire to sin. That’s why He gives us the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to overcome that nature. No sin is too great for God to forgive. Yes, the wages of sin is death – both spiritual and physical, BUT, “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 6:23b)

So let’s check out the list. Remember biblical lists often are ordered in severity or importance. Sometimes the lists go from bad to worse and this is the case here. As we go through the list, look for the body parts mentioned that generally flow from the top of the head to the feet. Notice also that the first five refer to general moral characteristics such as pride, deceit, violence, etc. “Haughty eyes.” This phrase is also translated a proud look. Haughty means arrogantly superior or disdainful. It is a self importance and a putting oneself ahead of everyone and everything else. It is the exact opposite of the primary virtue we should have that Paul mentions in Eph. 4:2 when he says, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” Remember that, “God is opposed to the proud” according to Ja. 4:6. Solomon mentions pride numerous times throughout this book.

“A lying tongue.” All lies are sin. I would say this includes exaggeration, but not hyperbole. Saying you caught a 30 pound bass is when you caught nothing is a lie. Saying you’re so tired you could sleep for a year is hyperbole – an exaggeration used for effect and is not to be taken literally. Don’t lie – ever. Solomon is talking about a person that has no regard for truth, they consistently lie; they are habitual liars.

“And hands that shed innocent blood.” Innocent does not mean perfect in this passage, it means not guilty of a crime or offense. Solomon is describing a person who is prone to violence. Someone that would commit murder if the circumstances presented themselves. This describes someone that has little or no value for human life. They would engage in violence over a presumed wrong, someone always looking for a fight.

“A heart that devises wicked plans.”Always scheming or devising ways in which to gain an advantage over another person. Following the rules or laws is done when it’s convenient or serves a specific purpose. If the rules don’t meet those criteria, they’re ignored.

“Feet that run rapidly to evil.” This is an excitement or eagerness to sin. This is someone that evaluates the opportunity to sin. It’s someone that receives extra change and considers is good luck that he got away with something. The benefit is secondary. It’s like the speeder that gets a warning and not a citation. It’s not that no fine has to be paid although that’s good. The real joy comes from getting away with breaking the law. If you do some casual research into these characteristics, you’ll find they are consistent with sociopathic behavior. That’s not consistent with the godliness that is expected of authentic believers. All of us likely have committed one or more of these things that God hates, but before you get all antsy about this, Solomon is talking about consistent, habitual behavior.

Here’s the break out in the last two on the list. While each of the seven in the list are moral character flaws, the last two represent something a bit different. “A false witness who utters lies.”  Solomon already said in v. 17 that God hates, “a lying tongue.” This one is different. Literally, this is someone that lies under oath or in direct examination. Think about a courtroom. Lying under oath is called perjury which is punishable as a felony under the criminal code. Lying when you promise to tell the truth undermines the fabric of society. Finally, “And one who spreads strife among brothers.” Strife means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. This can happen in the workplace, in the school, in your neighborhood, and in the church. This is an attempt to drive people apart. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re making other people unhappy. Some folks don’t know they’re unhappy until they’re told. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion in the church and even here at C4. The common thread is there is no desire for resolution or reconciliation. Someone gets upset and tries to get others upset too. If and when I hear of it, my practice is to make contact and see what I can do to resolve whatever perceived or real issue there is. I’m often told everything is fine, yet they separate themselves from the body. It’s rarely an individual thing. It affects the spouse, the kids, the person’s friends, others that know him; it affects relationships.

What is particularly troubling is that disagreement or conflict may occur in other facets of life like school, work, with coaches or players on a team, with neighbors, but rarely does that result in any change. A child can be bullied at school and the child continues to go. You can work for the worst boss in the world, but you continue to go to work. You can have a neighbor that complains about everything you do: they don’t like your kids, your pets, the way you park your car or your Christmas decorations, but you don’t move. Someone doesn’t speak to you at church and you quit. Someone doesn’t like your new profile picture and you quit. Yes, it does get that trivial in the church. We’ve become unwilling to be a people that work things out; that acknowledge people’s differences with understanding – we have unattainable expectations for everyone else and none for ourselves. This is a character flaw that God does not approve of.

God is indeed a God of love, but that doesn’t mean he loves everything. This list of Solomon’s is not all inclusive. God hates all sin, yet loves the one committing sin. We must learn to overcome the faults of others and love people regardless of what they do or do not do. We must love unconditionally and love people to lead them to an authentic and passionate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

The Scoundrel

26 Jan

SCoundrelYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon talked about the value of hard work. He talked about being surety for a neighbor and how unwise that may be. While debt is not necessarily a sin, taking on debt that you cannot repay most assuredly is a sin. If you’re in debt, work hard to pay off that debt to get out from under the lender. Solomon told us to consider the hard working ant that labors even though no one is in charge; they do what needs to get done. Solomon also said don’t be lazy. This morning, Solomon continues his warnings against laziness and uses some really harsh words.

Pro. 6:12-15 says, “A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a perverse mouth, who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers; who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil, who spreads strife. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.”

Here are some character traits to avoid. Solomon kicks this passage off with a description of a worthless and wicked man. Worthless is also translated scoundrel, naughty, and a man of Belial. Contextually accurate definitions are important when studying Scripture. Belial is a general term in the Old Testament meaning wicked. In the New Testament, the term is synonymous with Satan. Solomon says this is what a person is, no debate or discussion. Worthless means having no real value and wicked means ungodly or evil. That seems extraordinarily harsh. Please understand this is not the intrinsic value of a person. Everyone has value, but Solomon is saying there comes a point that a person is characterized by what he does. Jesus died for any and everyone and He can change the path of any person. He can take the hardest of people and transform them, but it has to be completed in accordance with God’s character. God will not subvert the free will of men. I believe He does all He can to draw people into a relationship with Him through His one and only Son. The people Solomon refers to are not worthless and wicked by happenstance. It is because of what they do. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

How can we spot this type of person? Thankfully, Solomon gives us some clues as to how to identify a worthless or wicked person. There are six indicators for this type of person so they should be pretty easy to spot. First, this person, “Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth.” That’s a curious description. How does one walk with his mouth? It means the manner or habit of life that I so often talk about. Having a perverse mouth is who the person is; it is his character, it is how he is defined. Perverse means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave unacceptably. Obstinate means stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or chosen course of action despite attempts to persuade one to do so. God, through the writing of this book, tells us that this is the type of behavior they want to engage in. Ungodly behavior is a choice.

The second clue is this person, “winks with the eye.” In this context, it isn’t a friendly gesture. It is a subtle, crafty expression. It is meant to convey a message to an accomplice, a cohort in crime. Third and fourth he “signals with his feet” and “points with his fingers.” Signal here literally means scrape with the feet. The jury is still out on this one, but this phrase seems to give an indication of singling out a victim. Fifth, “with perversity in his heart continually devises evil.” Remember that perversity means a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave badly. The heart is the seat of the soul. This guy is always planning the destruction, plotting evil for the sake of evil. Always looking to see who he can take advantage of. Finally this person, “spreads strife.”   Strife is a word we hear on occasion. It means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. Conflict is not always bad, but here it gives an indication that strife is the goal. We see these kinds of people at work, at school, at family reunions, and yes . . . even at church. When you see them, you might think of going the opposite direction. These people are always ticked off about something or someone and they can’t wait to get you onboard with them. We’ll see next week that God really hates it when this goes on in any context and that would include with people who profess to be believers. These are the outward indicators of wickedness.

Solomon’s conclusion regarding these people is set off by the word therefore. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.” Calamity is an event that causes great and sudden damage or distress. Remember this is a worthless or wicked person. The pain and suffering he causes will be meted out to him. His destruction is certain. It comes without warning; the chances for transformation are no more. All the opportunities to turn to the One that can provide deliverance is gone. “He will be broken.” This is a result of what the person has done. Don’t forget the intentional nature of his behavior. The word broken means to break into pieces like a ship that is wrecked. There’s no hope for repair. The pieces cannot be put back together. There is complete ruin. “There will be no healing.” No healing because of what he has done because that is who he is. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that outward actions are a direct indication of who controls you. People like this do exist, but they shouldn’t exist in the church. Now I’m not talking that they wouldn’t be welcomed in the church and loved on or ministered to. If Jesus lives in your heart, this type of behavior is not just reprehensible; it is a complete mischaracterization of the power of Christ. I’ve often said it and I will say it again. If you’re breathing, there is hope. The only hope is for a complete transformation is giving Christ the freedom to do so. The character traits Solomon has written about are in direct opposition to the fruit of the Spirit which is, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23) That’s why it’s so painful to see Christians behave in a manner that is contrary to what they claim.

The wicked person who is characterized by his deceit, his malice, his perversity, and his desire to do evil will be broken instantly with no hope for repair. There are people like this around and you may even know someone like this. Perhaps God will give you an opportunity to share the life changing power of Christ with them.