Monday, August 14, 2017

Don't Use Your Imagination



Our nation is driven by money. Many people believe that with a little more money, they can ‘get ahead.’ If they can just get ahead, things will be better.

“With more money will come security,” many think. They will not have to worry about juggling bills and skimping on necessities.

There is a perception that with more money a person will be accepted. After all, they will be able to purchase the clothing styles that are popular ‘now.’ They will be able to drive a late model vehicle. They will be able to have the latest technology, just like all their friends.

We see it all the time; people cater to the wealthy.

We put such importance on wealth that we train ourselves to believe that the wealthy are important, at least, more important than the rest of us. (And then we turn around and resent 'those' wealthy people for thinking they are better than the rest of us.)

Politicians listen to the wealthy because the wealthy contribute to their campaign. Nonprofit organizations listen to the wealthy because the contributions of the wealthy keep them in operation. Businessmen listen to the wealthy because it is good business. Some folks cater to the wealthy in hopes of receiving some sort of benefit; they want a 'piece of the pie.'

Solomon wrote:
   A rich man's wealth is his strong city, 
   And like a high wall in his own imagination.
   --Proverbs 18:11

The term ‘imagination’ is translated from a Hebrew word that meant ‘showpiece’ or ‘figure.’ It was sometimes used to describe carved images, the tangible result produced from a mental image.

Wealth, in the mind of a wealthy man, creates a mental image of strength and security, a 'high wall.'

Now, let’s back up one verse and see true reality:
   The name of the LORD is a strong tower; 
   The righteous runs into it and is safe.
   --Proverbs 18:10

Will you accept reality, or is wealth stronger than the Lord?
Will you accept reality, or is wealth better than righteousness?
Will you accept that wealth is an illusion, or have you already created your own illusion of its strength and security?

When it comes to money... Don’t use your imagination.
Be wise.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Transparent


A child is overheard heard calling to his father, “Dad! Watch this! Watch, dad, watch!” Children love for their parents to watch.

A child is often quiet when caught doing something wrong. He wishes his dad had not been watching at that moment.

   The eyes of the LORD are in every place, 

   Watching the evil and the good.
   --Proverbs 15:3

How does this proverb strike your mind?
Is God the father you wish to call out to so that He will watch you? Or do you feel ashamed when you think about God hoping that He does not look your way (because you know you do not measure up to His standard)?

In reality, He is the same God. He sees the good AND the evil. He IS watching. He sees everything.

Perhaps the question is not about how you feel about this reality, but whether you have a relationship with God. You see, if  you are a child of God, then even when He sees you doing evil, He will act for your good. 

God is the loving father who is joyful when we do good; and He is the loving father and disciplinarian when we do something wrong. The goal of His discipline is to provide correction and move us back to the right path. He loves his children and always acts for their good, whether blessing or discipline.

Be wise and take inventory of your relationship with God.

Monday, August 7, 2017

ANOTHER ILLU$ION


   Wealth adds many friends, 
   But a poor man is separated from his friend.
   --Proverbs 19:4

What does this proverb tell you about friends?

It would seem that some friends can be rather fickle. Lots of folks would love to be your friend as long as you have money. But when the money is gone, they are gone too. 

Friends like that are sometimes called ‘fair-weather friends.’ They are friends in good times (fair weather), but not in bad.
(Remember the 'friends' of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15?)

What does this proverb tell you about wealth and poverty?

At first glance, it would seem that wealth is better than poverty. After all, wealth assures a person of many friends. However, if we understand that wealth attracts fickle friends, we see the true nature of wealth. Wealth can only create the illusion of friends.

Think about marriage vows for a moment. Typical marriage vows include the lines:
   For better or for worse;
   For richer or for poorer.
In other words, the marriage vows assure the bride and groom that their relationship is based on something much deeper than money and 'fair weather' circumstances.

Wealth is overrated.
Wealth creates illusions of grandeur.
Wealth has no benefit after this life.
Have you ever watched a wealthy person die? It is not their wealth that gives them confidence. It is not wealth that calms their fears.

The lesson is not to hate wealth and love poverty. That does not make sense. Rather, we must view wealth as neither good nor evil. However, it IS an illusion.

Don’t be fooled by the illusion.
Wealth will not insure true friendship.
Those who accept you or reject you based on your wealth or poverty are not real friends. So, don't chase after wealth and its illusion.

Monday, July 31, 2017

“Enough is as Good as a Feast”


The title comes from the popular movie, “Mary Poppins.” The children were allowed to use Mary’s wonderful magic to straighten their cluttered bedroom. When everything was put away they wanted to do more magic. Mary Poppins declared in her matter-of-fact tone, “Enough is as good as a feast.”

It is a simple statement that encourages contentment. Though quite charming and clever, Mary Poppins did not originate this teaching. In rather graphic language Solomon made an equally memorable declaration:

   Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, 
   Lest you have it in excess and vomit it.
   --Proverbs 25:16

Making this teaching understandable to a young child, my dad would say, “Too much of anything is bad for you.”

For some people this instruction needs to be applied directly to eating. Eat enough, then stop. The solution to our nation’s new favorite health issue (obesity) is not government control, but self-control. People need to learn contentment; parents need to teach contentment and self-discipline.

The instruction can be applied much more broadly. How many pairs of shoes does a person really need. How many pairs of pants? How many shirts? How many dresses?

Have you ever looked into a closet literally full of clothing and said to yourself or your spouse, “I have nothing to wear.” The clothing you bought last year is distasteful to you now. Isn't that somewhat parallel to the one who has eaten honey in excess?

Have you looked around your house and seen all the ‘knickknacks’ and accessories and hangings and then felt aggravated by all the clutter in your spare bedroom / basement / garage? The clutter is made up of yesterday's ‘knickknacks’ and accessories and hangings. Excessive.

It is also the tools, sports/fishing equipment, entertainment equipment, and the assortment of supplies that accompany each.

This is not some kind of dart being thrown at changing times or owning possessions. I simply want us to think about contentment.

Signs of  discontentment may be sagging around your waist or cluttering your house. Be honest, are you content?

Contentment is found in a realistic view of a life that recognizes God’s purpose. Discontentment is often the result of selfish desires, weak faith, and/or an unrealistic view of life.

We would do well to stop listening to the marketing message of man: "Indulge." (In general, the marketer is not really interested in putting shoes on  your feet, but taking money from your pocket.) Place a high value and sharp focus on God’s instruction and his promises.

And by the way, it’s OK to throw out that broken appliance, worn out chair, outdated wall hanging, and beat up set of golf clubs. Stuff never really fills the void in your life, only the void in your house.

Be wise. Be content.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Kill the Beast

Life is full of inequities. Or, expressed in the words of a child, “It’s not fair.”

How do you deal with the inequities of life? The rich and powerful often seem to take advantage of others. Random events in life often seem to work against people keeping them from achieving their goals. So many people feel like they can never get ahead. Many feel like victims to life and the people in their life.

When we allow ourselves to become worked up over the current issues of the day, whether personal issues or those on a larger national or global scale, we lose sight of reality. We forget our Savior and the power of our God. We forget that we have not been promised a problem-free life; rather, life will be filled with inequities. We forget that God is patient, even with evil people, even when they hurt other people.

We sometimes become so disgusted with the inequities in life that we want to lash out. We want someone to be held responsible. We want to ‘kill the beast’ who is heartless, ‘kill the beast’ who is arrogant; ‘kill the beast’ who hides behind wealth and power. Yet, when we allow ourselves to lash out, we become united with the beast. Then we react without any rational thought of our own.


     When my heart was embittered,
          And I was pierced within,
     Then I was senseless and ignorant;
          I was like a beast before You.

     —Psalm 73:21-22


It is as if the Psalmist has looked into the human soul. He sees us as we are. In the first verse of Psalm 73 he writes, “Surely God is good to Israel.” It sounds like a simple declaration of truth. Then, he writes, “But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling.” He knows the truth, God is good!, yet he feels that his world is an exception: inequities loom. Life is not fair. (He might stumble.)

The Psalmist sees the rich, the arrogant, and the wicked and he knows their evil character. Yet, he finds himself envious. They simply do not have the same troubles as ordinary men.

The Psalmist sees them mock God and treat people unkindly. He sees how easy it would be for him to be like them, but that would be betrayal. That would be going against the very things he believed to be true; the things he had taught his children and others.

So, how did the Psalmist resolve his dilemma?

     When I pondered to understand this,
          It was troublesome in my sight
     Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
          Then I perceived their end.

He realized that he could only make sense of the inequities of life when he turned to God.

When he turned to God’s divine counsel he was able to see beyond the inequities of this life. He was able to understand the ultimate end of the arrogant and the wicked. He was able to look beyond himself and beyond his problems and find refuge (peace and security) in God.

His confidence in God was restored. He better understood life. He realized why God was patient with the ungodly and he accepted that God will deal fairly with him and with the ungodly. In his mind he had solidified the truth of his opening statement. There was no longer any doubt based on his circumstances.

     Surely God is good to Israel,
     To those who are pure in heart!

Through faith, we must 'kill the beast' within ourselves.
Enjoy the security of living in peace with God through purity of heart.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Shady Deal


   Ill-gotten gains do not profit, 
   But righteousness delivers from death.
   --Proverbs 10:2

Some translations read, “Treasures gained by wickedness,” or something similar. So, what exactly is Solomon talking about?

The term ‘gains’ or ‘treasures’ is not referring to a hidden treasure or a gold mine. It is literally, ‘that which you store up.’ So, you might think about your savings account, your retirement account, your Swiss bank account. (You get the point.) Your ‘gains’ might also be material possessions that you have collected and stored up.

The Hebrew term for ‘ill-gotten’ is rooted in the idea of ‘wickedness.’ So, the idea is that of possessing money or things which you have accumulated through dishonest means. Perhaps it was a white lie, fudging some numbers on your income taxes, taking supplies from your workplace, withholding information on the sale of a house or car (a shady deal); perhaps something more serious.

On the surface it would appear that you beat the system. You may have even eased your conscience by rationalizing that you were not caught; or it was so small it really did not matter; or other people do it all the time, or ________ (fill in the blank with your favorite rationalization).

It would appear that you have benefited from your gain, but consider the contrast found in the proverb: Profit is set in contrast with . . . death.

The brutal reality is that while there ‘appears’ to be a profit (benefit), there is death.

In stark contrast: Righteousness (doing what is right in God’s eyes) delivers from death.

We know the opposites: life and death. We would never choose death over life. However, Solomon sets things in a more practical language:
There is life and there is wealth gained through dishonesty.

Be wise.
Choose life.
Do right.

Monday, July 10, 2017

A Fool in the Gate


As an opening in the defensive wall of an ancient city, the gate was a point of vulnerability. However, in peacetime the gate was a bevy of activity. Residents passed through the gate to and from their fields and livestock. Merchants approached the city gate to do business. In many cities the entrance was beautified and marketplaces were built at the gate.


The Ishtar Gate (Berlin Museum)
As a central area of activity, the city gate was a natural place to address the citizens. Kings, judges and city leaders would meet at the city gate to hear legal cases, settle disputes, and engage in discussions pertaining to the welfare of the city and her citizens.


‘The gate’ was not merely a door, it was an opening in the city walls, walls which could be 15 to 20 feet thick. At the gate opening might be watchtowers and other structures built into the walls. Some ‘gates’ housed chambers of two, four, or six rooms.


City Gate at Istanbul
Those who sat at the city gate were men of wisdom and discernment. It was no place for the childish ‘fool.’

   Wisdom is too high for a fool, 
   He does not open his mouth in the gate.
   --Proverbs 24:7



The leaders of God’s people today are 'elders.' The Apostle Paul taught that they are to be men who are dignified, godly, family men, and full of integrity. (More in 1 Timothy 3.)

God’s leaders, elders, are not unlike the men who sat at the ancient city gate. They are mature and serious-minded about God, God’s word, and God’s people.

In our entertainment crazed society there are fewer and fewer men who are true leaders. The Apostle Paul wrote:
   When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, 
   think as a child, reason as a child; 
   when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
   --1 Corinthians 13:11


I wonder if today we have too many churches filled with adults captivated with fun, entertainment, and leisure; too busy to serve; too busy with their games, activities, and hobbies that they cannot even understand God’s wisdom. I wonder if we are seeing a generation of men emerge who are not men at all, but simply grown children.

Who will be able to sit in the gate and open his mouth with God’s wisdom in the years to come?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Don’t Be Too Nice


There is a time to leave.
You do not have to make excuses.
You do not have to explain.
Perhaps you can explain, perhaps not.
However, when it is time to go . . . GO!

   Leave the presence of a fool, 
   Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
   --Proverbs 14:7

We really would not want to admit the times when we were in the presence of fools, especially when we realize that the ‘fools’ are sometimes our friends, and especially when we know that we went along with their pranks and their plans.

The term ‘fool’ in this verse is associated with ‘stupidity.’ The message is simple: If you hang around with fools, YOU will be ‘dumbed down’ to their level. You will lose your ability to discern God’s word.

Choose your friends wisely.
And if you ever come to the realization that you are among fools, get up and leave; no explanation needed.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A Deeper Sense of Honor


At this time of year we are encouraged to remember those who have played a part in securing our freedom as Americans. It is a fitting reminder for many of us who are more likely to focus on holiday fun.

We will probably enjoy fun, food, and friendship, but that is not what Independence Day is about. It is a day of celebration of our nation’s independence. It is good to reflect on our independence and the sacrifices made by our forefathers. It is good to remember battles fought and won that have insured continued freedom. It is honorable to salute our flag, the symbol of our nation and a symbol of the freedom we enjoy.

Our forefathers saw injustices in their land and determined to make a change for the better. For some it was political injustice; for others religious oppression. They decided to break free from enslavement of various kinds. To do this they also left their past behind.

It would seem that most did not come to America with a divided mind. In other words, they did not think they would simply return home if things did not go well. They came to the new land breaking ties with family, friends, and homeland. They boarded ships knowing that it was a one-way ticket. They sacrificed. They paid. We should honor. We should salute.

I believe there is somewhat of a parallel to our freedom in Christ, and yet, also a stark difference. The forefathers of our great nation yearned for freedom. They set out to break free and they accomplished their goal. Yet, in contrast to our American forefathers, there was no man to lead in a spiritual revolt against sin. There was no man to rally the courage of others to oppose Satan. No one set out to a new land, a land of freedom.

The scriptures remind us that we were dead in our sins. We were powerless to do anything about our pitiful condition, even powerless to realize our profound weakness. We did nothing.

Unlike our forefathers, it was God who was moved by our sad condition. It was God who decided to act.  It was God who sacrificed. It was God in the flesh who became the sacrifice. He paid.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
          —John 3:16 (NASB)

Yet for that tremendous sacrifice we do not stand straight, chest out and then with pride snap a crisp salute.

Rather, in humility we honor...with heads bowed...on bended knee...then falling face down before God’s throne...
We worship.
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshipped.
           —Revelation 5:12-14 (NASB)


Monday, June 26, 2017

What Things In Life Have True Value?


What is it in life that has true value? Of course, you will expect an answer in this blog to be of a spiritual nature. If the same question were to be presented elsewhere, not in a biblical/spiritual context, what would you say?

Will the financial blog have the answer?
Will the real estate blog have the answer?
Will the sports blog have the answer?
Will the entertainment blog have the answer?
What about the health blog? Political blog? Science blog? Nature blog? Art blog?

Value. True value: Where will you expect to find the answer?

Solomon wrote:
   Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
   But righteousness delivers from death.
   --Proverbs 11:4

The ‘day of wrath’ refers to the day in which God’s anger is displayed through His righteous judgment. Since God is pure and holy, He has every right to punish or destroy unholy mankind. He is not unfair; man is unholy and undeserving of God. So, God’s ‘day of wrath’ is truly just (fair).

Solomon says that riches do not profit in the day of wrath. Are riches limited to money? Of course not. We should consider all kinds of material wealth.

The simple point is that earthly wealth, regardless of its form or quality or quantity, has no benefit whatsoever when God displays his wrath against mankind because of sin.

However, in sharp contrast to ‘riches’ stands ‘righteousness.’ In simple terms, righteousness is doing what is right in God’s eyes. We should not think of righteousness as mere obedience to religious law code, but rather, following God’s instruction and example in scripture and striving to please him. (God’s instruction comes in many forms, not just commands).

When a person makes a proper response to God’s instruction in scripture through righteousness, he will be delivered from the ‘day of wrath.’

Wait!
Is that what the verse said?
Literally, it says that he will be delivered from ‘death.’ But death is set as a parallel concept to the ‘day of wrath.’

So, what in this life is of true value?
What should a person pursue?
How should we order our lives?

Chase after righteousness.
Righteousness is life, true life.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Prejudice


Prejudice is an old issue. We don’t have to worry about that any more. Right?

Perhaps the word ‘prejudice’ brings a specific issue to mind. However, the simple idea of prejudice is that of passing judgment on someone or a situation before having all the facts. It means to judge or decide beforehand: Pre-judge.

Prejudice is a word that describes an attitude of arrogance. Prejudice says, “I know, or I can figure it out without assistance. My ideas are better than anyone else's. I do not need to ask anyone.”

Prejudice presumes.
Prejudice assumes.
Prejudice ‘knows’ without really knowing.
Prejudice causes hard feelings; threatens relationships; strains friendships.
Prejudice causes separation, causes strife.
Prejudice destroys.

   Through presumption comes nothing but strife, 
   But with those who receive counsel is wisdom.
   --Proverbs 13:10

Monday, June 19, 2017

A False Truth???

Man and Truth

1. No amount of rationalization, human reasoning or logic makes truth. Truth exists independent of human thought.

2. Accusations do not establish truth; especially false accusations.

3. Truth is not subject to human courts of law or any other tribunal or gathering of thinking heads (reasonable or not).

-----------------------

The scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees attempted to discredit Jesus. Their attempts failed because of the superior wisdom of Jesus. Even then, it was not the wisdom of Jesus that made truth true. Truth already existed independent of all the thinking and reasoning and testing and trapping; and even Jesus’ wisdom. It was with depth of wisdom that Jesus appealed to truth and confounded the ones testing him.

When the Sadducees tested Jesus (Matthew 22), they were actually mocking Jesus and those who believed in the resurrection. They had constructed a hypothetical situation based on the Law of Moses that would stump the ‘resurrectionists.’ How mockingly brilliant they thought they were. After all, they didn’t even believe in the resurrection.

Jesus used scripture to show the reality of the resurrection and it shamed the Sadducees for such a silly question. Such is human reasoning when pitted against the truth...Silly.

When Jesus was ultimately accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death, the charge against him was not true. In fact, the reason the accusers of Jesus believed he was guilty of blaspheming God was because they had already rejected the truth about Jesus, that He truly was the Son of God. So, they believed the very thing they 'assumed' to be true.

So, about the only thing the Sadducees accomplished was to show that a false assumption is sure to yield a false truth. (Think about that one.)

------------------

The flaw with science when it dabbles in questions about the origin of the universe or the origin of man is that it starts with things that already exist in the natural world. Read any introductory science book that explains the scientific method: Science investigates things that are visible, audible, touchable; things that can be tasted or smelled; things that are measurable. Science is completely dependent upon human senses and human instrumentation for detecting and measuring and evaluating.

Science tests and measures. Past accomplishments have given man the ability to peer farther and farther into space; deeper and deeper into the ocean, and even into the earth’s core. Science has detected and measured infinitesimally minute particles as well as distant giants in the vastness of space. Yet, in all of this, science merely probes, tests, measures and observes existing matter.

It is no fault of science that it cannot probe beyond things that exist as matter. Science is ill equipped to explain truths involving intangibles: God, love, hope, conscience, morality, eternal life. It is the wrong tool.

It is the fault of man to try and use science for something it is not equipped to do. So, anyone who ‘assumes’ that science can reveal truth in the area of intangibles and reality beyond measurement is more like the Sadducees and Pharisees. Begin with a faulty assumption, and who knows what you’ll be able to come up with???

Thursday, June 15, 2017

No Free Lunch


It is likely that you know someone who has invested in some sort of moneymaking scheme that did not turn out as expected.

S
ome folks 'invest' in the lottery. Others jump at that opportunity that was ‘too good to be true.’ Still others are looking for that ‘once in a lifetime’ deal.

There are many kinds of ‘get rich quick’ schemes. However, few people actually get rich, fewer still get rich ‘quick.’

Financial advisers talk about steady growth over time...often decades. They advise folks to start saving early in life. They do not advise you to put you money in the high risk, quick turnover kinds of ‘investments.’

Hard work and diligence pay off in the long run. We are really lucky to have such knowledgeable advisers in our day. Their research and observations are valuable.

How did people ever get along without them?

Solomon said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Well, sort of . . . . Actually, Solomon said:

   He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, 
   But he who pursues vain things lacks sense.
   --Proverbs 12:11

Hard work and patience pay off.

Isn’t is refreshing to see that God’s wisdom predates our modern research and observations and knowledge. He has practical advice for our day...
Always has...
Always will...

Be wise. Listen.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Flatter . . . Splatter!


Flattery gets you everywhere!

We have been taught to believe it, and it is basically true. Flattery offers loads of benefits. However, in back of flattery, you will often find lies.

Solomon warned his son about the immoral woman. She was a flatterer and she was bold.

   So she seizes him and kisses him, 
      And with a brazen face she says to him:
   “I was due to offer peace offerings; 
      Today I have paid my vows.
   Therefore I have come out to meet you, 
      To seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you.”
   --Proverbs 7:13-15

The ‘brazen face’ is a serious face, seemingly truthful. It is with this brazen face that she sells her empty flattery.

The peace offering was an animal sacrifice that was divided between God, the priest, and the worshipper. The portion received by the worshipper was to be eaten on the day that the offering was made. So, the woman declared that ‘on that day’ she had paid (fulfilled) her vow of an offering that had to eaten that same day.

I have come out to meet you.
(YOU are the object of my desire.)

To seek your presence earnestly.
(I have made a strong effort to find you.)

I have found you.
(My quest is over, my dream fulfilled...in you.)

The young man was seduced by her flattery. Yet, the only reason her flattery worked was because of his inflated ego, inexperience in life, and his own desires. Through flattery she offered him what he wanted.
But could she deliver on her promises?

It was true, she had sacrificed that day, but it was a setup. Her sacrifice provided her the opportunity to satisfy her selfish desire. She wasn’t looking specifically for ‘him.’ She was looking for any two-legged ‘him.’ She was looking for the first ‘him’ that she could draw into her clutches. She would be satisfied with the first na├»ve fool who passed by.

Her flattery painted a picture of lies, making it seem as if ‘he’ was the very one she desired.

She flattered . . . and he fell greatly, splattering himself spiritually into ‘the chambers of death.’ (v. 27)

Still today, men (especially young men and men in mid-life crisis) are drawn in by the illusion created by flattery. Yet, through humility and knowledge of God's word, a young man can avoid the sexually immoral woman, and therefore avoid spiritual death. Verse 26 reveals the outcome...

   For many are the victims she has cast down,
   And numerous are all her slain.

Men, beware; be wise; be pure.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Kingdom of God Is...


How should we go about resolving doctrinal differences (ugh!)???
(Wait! Don't shy away from biblical doctrine; it is nothing more that biblical 'teaching.')

In the last two hundred years, I think Christianity has failed miserably. Just look at the number of denominations and splinter groups within those denominations. Yet, many religious folks are talking about unity these days. Unfortunately, many wish to achieve unity by simply ignoring doctrinal differences or by throwing doctrine out the window altogether. The Apostle Paul offered the answer, but not everyone can hear it!

When Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome he spoke of the kingdom, but not by saying, “the kingdom of God is like” (as in many of Jesus' parables). Rather, he wrote, “the kingdom of God is.” He was saying something about the nature of the kingdom of God.

The Christians in Rome were divided. There were doctrinal issues concerning the eating of meat and also the observance of special days. As Paul dealt with the divisive attitudes of the Christians he reminded them:

The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking,
but righteousness and peace and
joy in the Holy Spirit.

—Romans 14:17


That statement followed his clear assertion that there was no restriction in the eating of meat! However, instead of demanding that everyone adopt his apostolic explanation of liberty, he warned those who already understood their liberty (of eating all meat) not to harm their fellow Christian who, for conscience sake, could not enjoy the same liberty. Then came his explanation: “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking.”

Bear in mind that some Christians in Rome believed it to be a sin to eat certain meat. So they abstained in order to avoid sinning. It truly was a doctrinal issue, not a mere subjective opinion as many writers and teachers suggest.

Have you ever known of a church issue in which one group believed  that a certain practice was sinful, yet another group believed they had the liberty to engage in that same practice? In an open discussion of scripture each group considered the scriptures with a good conscience. Yet both, using the scriptures, came to conflicting conclusions. Their conclusions were based on their reasonings.*
Stalemate! What next?

What issues of our day are similar in nature to those in the church in Rome?
Has God actually left some doctrinal questions without clear answers in scripture?
Yes and No.

There ARE, in fact, some questions/issues for which there is no direct instruction or guiding example. Yet, an all encompassing answer IS given for all churches for all time:
The kingdom of God is...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

I think God wants to see whether people are more interested in brotherly love or personal liberty. Are you seeking “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” or are you zealous for your liberty!? Do peace and joy accompany your definition of righteousness? What is the kingdom of God really about?

Those who pursue ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ will show self-restraint regarding their perceived Christian liberties. They will consider their fellow Christians first.

In contrast to those who show restraint are those who insist on pursuing their Christian liberties. In reality they are merely set on indulging in their personal desires.

On one occasion Paul wrote…

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.
All things are lawful, but not all things edify.
Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.
--1 Corinthians 10:23-24


Voluntarily giving up my Christian liberty for the sake of my Christian brother...that is the meaning of ‘love your neighbor.’ Isn’t that what the kingdom of God is about???


* ‘Reasonings’ is the literal meaning in Romans 14:1 where some translations have opinions (NASB, ESV, RSV), disputable matters (NIV), doubtful things/issues (NKJV, CSB). 


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Who Can Understand?


   They are all straightforward to him who understands, 
   And right to those who find knowledge.
   --Proverbs 8:9

Solomon writes about wisdom as if wisdom were a woman calling loudly to people to listen.

“They” refers to the words that she (wisdom personified) speaks.

Her words of wisdom are ‘straightforward.’ They are not 'crooked or perverted' (v. 8). In other words, they are not twisted or tricky. They can be easily understood.

So, who could possibly ‘misunderstand’ the proverbs?

Remember the scoffer?
The scoffer* does not listen.
He is not open-minded.
He already ‘knows.’

When the scoffer hears something unfamiliar, he immediately rejects it, even if it is God’s word. His mind is already made up. So, God’s wisdom seems tricky, contradictory, or difficult to understand (though he would never admit it). It does not fit into his frame of reference of understanding. So, it must be rejected.

Unless you are a scoffer, God’s wisdom can be understood. If you are only 12 years old or still kicking at 112 years old, you can benefit from the wisdom that God offers. The only question is: Are you able to accept God’s wisdom as true, even when your experience ‘seems’ different? Are you willing to trust his teaching above your own understanding?

You can understand. God wants you to understand.

Wisdom calls out . . . "LISTEN!"

[*The following posts tell more about the scofferMusar, Someone's MissingA Pair to Remember, I Was Only Trying to Help..., and Broken Beyond Remedy.]

Monday, May 29, 2017

I Was Only Trying to Help...


There are those kinds of people that really are difficult to deal with. You cannot suggest anything, they already ‘know’ what to do. You cannot discuss things with them, their minds are made up. And if you should ever try to help by offering correction, “Watch Out!” They will lash back at you as if you are the one who needs correction.

If you are not expecting that type of reaction, it can really take you by surprise. If you have the presence of mind not to strike back, you might feel a hurt and feel uncertain as to what to do next.

One of the greatest values of the Proverbs is that of teaching us about the brutal realities of life. Solomon often makes simple observations that will help us to face life with greater understanding so that we are not surprised, and so that others do not take unfair advantage of us. His teachings help us to move forward in life with our heads held high. He helps us to face life's challenges by 'toughening us up' mentally and emotionally.

   He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, 
   And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
   --Proverbs 9:7

This is the kind of proverb that presents a true observation about life. It is a, “Brace yourself,” kind of advisory. It is reality!

The word ‘correct’ is literally an emphatic ‘sternly correct.’ In the Hebrew Old Testament it often describes discipline. The term ‘reprove’ is similar, but refers more to verbal correction.

As far as the scoffer and the wicked are concerned, they already ‘know.’ So they reject instruction and correction. You do not tell them, they will tell you. They have made choices in life and are set in their ways. You could say that they have set their path ‘in stone.’

So, when the scoffer dishonors you, or the wicked person insults you, don't fall apart. Don't cry about it. Understand that God already knows about the scoffer. God has warned us of the brutal reality of the scoffer through Solomon's writings. Recognize the scoffer and the wicked man for who they are. You are not judging them, but rather making a simple identification based the way they choose to express their character. So, take this wise insight and stand up straight. Do what is right, and move forward without fighting, without crying,  and without feeling badly.

And read the next two verses...
Really...God reveals something more...
So, get your Bible...right now...and...
Read two more verses...

Monday, May 22, 2017

What Is God's Will For Me?


“I don’t know if I should marry <name>; what if he’s not the right one?”
“We don’t know whether we should buy a house or rent.”
“We don’t know which house we should choose.”
“We don’t know if it is the right time to have a child.”
“I don’t know if I should choose job #1, job #2, or just stay where I am.”
“I just don’t know...”

“I wish I knew what God’s will was for me.”

---------------

We sometimes ask questions that cannot be answered with certainty. Let me explain.

Suppose your preacher introduced his Sunday morning sermon topic as ‘The Will of God.’ Do you think he will be discussing your marriage? Your house? The timing of having children? Your job? (I think not.)

Sometimes we twist the meaning of the ‘will of God’ into ‘what God wants for me.’ The latter idea is closely akin to ‘what I hope God wants for me, because I know what I want.’

If you have learned from the Proverbs (the focus of many previous blogs), you already have your answer to the myriad of questions concerning life’s decisions: 
  • Be wise. 
  • Seek wise counsel and listen, even when it is different from what you want to hear.
  • Pursue righteousness in all things.
  • Pursue justice and fairness for others.
  • Honor God; revere God.
We sometimes set ourselves up for doubt. We believe that we want God’s assistance when we already have our hearts set on our desires. Then when difficulties arise after having made a decision, we doubt God’s help.

Reality check: There will be difficulties regardless of the decisions you make, even if God were to send you a message by way of an angel telling you what to decide. If you think that God’s assistance is the assurance of easy living, you haven’t been reading your Bible.

Now...STOP thinking about yourself!

   Commit your works to the LORD, 
   And your plans will be established.
   --Proverbs 16:3

This proverb does not mean, that you should make ‘your’ plan and then dedicate it to God. That is still ‘your’ plan.

The Hebrew word translated ‘commit’ literally means to ‘roll.’ When used in this context it gives the image of ‘rolling’ something (your works) into the presence of the Lord. It conveys the idea of surrendering your works to him. So, ultimately by surrendering your works to God, you are adopting as 'your will' that which you already know to be God's will. In other words, God's will becomes your will, instead of the other way around.

God’s will, his desire for mankind (and you specifically), is revealed in scripture. Simply stated, God desires the salvation of your soul. He wants you to be fully devoted to him so that you can obtain eternal life and fellowship with Him.

Set in that context you should see with clarity whether you should marry <name>.
Set in that context, you should see with clarity the real importance of houses and jobs and the timing of having children.

Make His will the center of your desire. 
Then your plans will revolve around the will of God. 
Then they will be set (established), as if etched in stone.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Playing with Fire


I remember childhood friends who could put out a lit match by pinching the flame with their thumb and forefinger. It looked rather daring to those of us who had never tried it and did not know the ‘trick.’

Everything was fun and games until one of my buddies accidentally pinched the head off a lit match and burned a blister on his thumb.

If you 'play with fire, sooner or later you are bound to get burned.'

'Playing with fire' is an expression that describes taking an unwarranted risk in a dangerous or questionable situation. A person who ‘plays with fire’ intentionally places himself in danger, usually with a sense of confidence. Due to inexperience in life, young people often ‘play with fire.’

Solomon wrote:
   Keep your way far from her,
   And do not go near the door of her house.
   --Proverbs 5:8

He was warning his son to stay far away from the house of the adulteress. It should be applied today as a general warning against sexual immorality.

We might have expected, “keep your feet” or “keep your eyes” or “keep your heart” far from her. Yet, Solomon said, “keep your way” far from her. The simple point is that YOU are the one who ultimately chooses your way. So, you should make your choice so that your path in life does not come near the house of the adulteress.

Applied to our day: Make your choice so that your path in life does not come near pornography, improper physical contact of your girlfriend, talking and joking about improper sexual behavior.

The closer a person gets to sexual impurity and the more they allow themselves to be teased by the imagined possibilities, then the more dangerous the circumstances. They invite temptation, paving the way to 'the door of her house.' How then will they keep from falling to the temptation.

Consider the next few verses from the same chapter to better understand the very real consequences of ‘playinng with the fire’ of sexual impurity.


   Lest you give your vigor to others, 
      And your years to the cruel one;
   Lest strangers be filled with your strength, 
      And your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien;
   And you groan at your latter end, 
      When your flesh and your body are consumed;
   And you say, "How I have hated instruction! 
      And my heart spurned reproof!
   And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, 
      Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!
   --Proverbs 5:9-13


Sexual impurity robs you of your strength, your wealth, and the best years of your life by giving yourself to someone who does not care about you...all in exchange for a mere moment of pleasure.

Young men...choose now to keep you way pure.