Monday, October 16, 2017

Can You Hear the Voice of Wisdom?


     Does not wisdom call,
     And understanding lift up her voice?
     --Proverbs 8:1

Consider the stark contrast:
Wisdom calls in the day, in the heights, in places where people gather.
The wicked woman prowls around at night, in the dark streets, preying on the naïve fool who walks alone.

Proverbs 7 and 8 tell even more:
  • Wisdom speaks truth; the strange woman flattery.
  • Wisdom speak noble things; the foreign woman deceitful things.
  • Wisdom utters righteousness; the adulterous woman draws her prey into wickedness.

I have never heard anyone accuse 'Wisdom' of speaking deceitfully. I have never heard anyone say that 'Wisdom' has no value. I have never heard anyone claim that it is foolish to lead or govern with 'Wisdom.' Almost everyone would agree that 'Wisdom' is good.

Wisdom presents herself in the light of day; openly for all to hear; ready for critical inspection. She calls, not arrogantly to gain attention; she calls to offer counsel, hope, riches, justice, life.

Why? Why? WHY!?
Why do so many refuse Wisdom?
  • Is it that Wisdom has so little to offer?
  • Is it that Wisdom has no value?
  • Is it that Wisdom has not made herself known?
  • Is it that Wisdom waits in the shadows?
  • Is it that Wisdom is difficult?
  • Is it that Wisdom is just not popular?

In chapter seven, the foolish young man chose the adulteress.

Wisdom calls...
Wisdom calls aloud...
Wisdom calls aloud in the daytime...
And all choose!


We choose to listen to wisdom OR
   ...listen to our heart,
   ...listen to our mind/intellect/reasoning,
   ...listen to our self.

There are many sources of wisdom in our world, but only one that is divine.
Choose God's wisdom.
Choose life.

Monday, October 9, 2017

When I Thought Truth Was Simple


My co-worker and I were discussing truth. She boasted, “You have your truth and I have my truth.” I answered with a brief illustration in which two people witnessed a hit-and-run auto accident but reported different colors when describing the escaping car. I told my friend that the car could not be ‘both’ blue and green. She still maintained, “You have your truth and I have my truth.”

Unfortunately, she could not accept that she had inserted the word ‘truth’ for the more accurate word: ‘perception.’ After all, a blue car really isn’t green regardless of one’s perception. (Even changing lighting does not change the true color, but only one’s perception.)

The thinkers of our day have taught us to despair with Pilate, “What is truth?”

People have approached truth in a variety of ways. The Sadducees tested Jesus by asking probing questions. (They believed if they could trip Jesus up with a tough question, it would prove that he was not the Messiah.) Probing questions do not establish truth. In fact, the wise answers Jesus gave did not ‘establish’ truth. He was the Messiah with or with the question, and with or without an answer to the question. Unanswerable questions do not establish truth.

I read an exhausting multi-page ‘explanation’ of a Bible passage on the Holy Spirit by a man who could not accept a simple straightforward declaration in Scripture. He began, “What if…?”

Translation: He did not know what it meant, but wanted to offer a suggestion to promote his perception. “What-if” statements are often used to change perceptions. Truth already exists with or without the “what-if.”

Truth really DOES fall in the category of “black and white.” The problem is that many people are not in love with reality so they try to obfuscate* truth. In other words, they tend to ‘muddy the waters’ or ‘deal with gray areas’ or ‘blur the lines’ or ‘use fuzzy reasoning’ (not to be confused with ‘fuzzy logic,’ if you know what that is).

Many people are astoundingly proficient at keeping truth out of focus. Gray areas sell books. Fuzzy thinking is more easily accepted. Blurred lines are more easily followed. Muddy waters obscure the reality beneath, the reality many do not wish to face.

My dad inquired about a toy I was playing with on one occasion. Knowing that it was not mine, he asked me to show him where I had found it:
I stopped and pointed to a place in the grass, but dad asked, “Is this where you found it?”
“No”
Still in ‘our’ yard I stopped and pointed again, but dad asked, “Is this where you found it?”
“No.”
I stepped into the neighbor’s yard and stopped and pointed once more, and again dad asked…
“Yes” (Toy returned to neighbor with apology.)

There was but one reality, the exact spot where I had found the toy. I did not have one reality, dad another, and the neighbor another.

Some questions are very difficult to answer. Yet, truth does not change just because of our clouded perceptions, inability to discern reality, or refusal to accept reality. Truth can be hidden, but in reality, truth is quite simple. So, why do so many people have difficulty with truth? Perhaps they wish to escape from reality!

The most profound truth ever told is that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, deity in the flesh. The Holy Spirit validated that truth when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. God verbally declared that truth at the same event. Jesus acknowledged that truth and did not deny it. All the questions and explanations and perceptions change nothing. Truth IS.

What do you say about the truth of Jesus?

*Obfuscate - To make more difficult to understand. (The word was used to make a point; the sound of the word is much like its meaning.)

Monday, October 2, 2017

What Can 'I' Do?

Not everyone can go overseas as a missionary. Not everyone can give up a successful career to preach. Not everyone is equipped to teach. Christians are not expected to serve in the same way. We really are not all created equal. In fact, not only do we differ in ability, our individual abilities change over time. So, what is expected? The Apostle Paul guides us...

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. —Ephesians 2:10


Before the first disciple began to follow Jesus God had already planned for his people to do good works. In fact, we are crafted by God for the purpose of good works. Good works should be the direct outcome of having been saved by the grace of God.

What a contrast! We formerly walked in “trespasses and sins” (v. 11), but in Christ are equipped to walk in good works! So, what specifically is required?

Have you ever tried to ‘justify’ yourself by asking, “And what good works should I do?” Just listen to Jesus:


"And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you he shall not lose his reward."     --Matthew 10:42

To give something in the name of a disciple is, by extension, giving in the name of the disciple’s teacher. Prior to this verse in Matthew, Jesus had explained that “He who receives you [His disciple], receives Me and he who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me [God].”

So, why would anyone give a cup of cold water? Perhaps it is as simple as this: Someone needs a drink. And that simple kindness is a good work!

That's good, but there's more to say...

In recent years I have watched my parents grow old along with their friends and other Christians of their generation. Their bones are more fragile than before; their bodies are more susceptible to disease and heal slower. They are weaker than they once were, and slower too. They are not as mentally sharp as they once were, and slower too.

Eventually, our ‘seniors’ have to step down as elders, as teachers, as song leaders, as volunteers in various activities, etc. Those who once were the backbone of the congregation now need assistance; more and more as time goes on. There are fewer of their good works as time passes. So, what’s all this ‘senior’ business about?
Prayer!

If you don’t know what else to do (senior or not), pray?
It is not prayer that is so powerful, but our God who listens!

Do you remember how the Apostles handled the request by the Greek widows for assistance (Acts 6)? Seven men were selected to take care of the widows...so that the Apostles could devote their efforts to the Word and to prayer. They understood that prayer was vital.

God has equipped you for good works, whether the simple gift of giving a cool drink of water or the vital work of prayer or anything in between.
What will YOU do?

Monday, September 25, 2017

End Time Prophecy -- 09/23/2017 ???

Last Saturday, September 23, 2017, was, according to many prognosticators, supposed to be a very significant day for Christianity. I personally found no one predicting the ‘end of the world,’ but rather, a grand event that supposedly marked the ‘beginning’ of the end times. (If you missed all the hub-bub just look it up on the Internet.) How do people come up with specific dates like this?

One preacher claimed that the biblical statement that ‘no one knows the day and hour’ applied only people before Jesus ascended to heaven. He went on to say that anyone who disagreed was a scoffer.

There are many claims being made these days concerning the 'end times.' Let’s consider two claims being made:
  • Christians can figure out specific dates that prophesied events will be fulfilled (i.e. end times).
  • September 23, 2017 marked the appearance of a sign that is found in Revelation 14.
It is true; Jesus did warn the people in his day saying:
But of that day and hour no one know, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. (Matthew 24:36)

If you compare the text of Matthew 24 to the text of Luke 21 that records the exact same teaching, the meaning becomes clear. Luke wrote to a Gentile audience. So, he ‘decoded’ the Jewish terminology that Matthew used. Matthew recorded Jesus saying, “When you see the abomination of desolation…”; Luke decoded, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies….” The event Jesus warned his listeners about was the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in their lifetime, in 70 A.D. That’s why Jesus also said
This generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matthew 24:34)

So, Jesus’ statement about no one knowing the day and hour applied specifically to the destruction of Jerusalem.

So, is it possible that later Christians can figure out the ‘day and time’ of the end of the world?

Short answer: NO!

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10)

Peter wrote about the end of time to a Christian audience well after the ascension of Jesus into heaven. Whether God revealed the end of time date to Jesus, as some claim, is immaterial. Peter said the time is unknown to us. So, the conclusion that Christians today can calculate the date of 'end time activities' or the 'end of time' is based on human reasoning and conflicts with scripture.

What about Revelation and the great sign of 09/23/2017?

This can be answered by considering what the Bible says about the entire Book of Revelation. Consider...

John was instructed to write what he was told by an angel. At times he recorded the actual words of the resurrected/ascended Jesus. The following things were revealed to John:
  • The things revealed in the book “must shortly take place.” (1:1)
  • Blessed are the ones who read and heed the writing, “for the time is near.” (1:3) [So, the 1st Century reader was expected to respond to the things written.]
  • An angel was sent to show John “the things which must shortly take place.” (22:6)
  • Jesus explicitly said to John, “And behold, I am coming quickly.” (22:7)
  • John was told NOT to seal up (hide) the book, “for the time is near.” (22:10)

You could say that the statements that indicate that John's writing was for his time are bookends to the whole revelation. Whatever people think about the prophetic imagery in the book of Revelation, John and his readers believed that the message was for them in their time. So, from our perspective today, that is history.

Christians should anticipate the return of Jesus with readiness; not by spending time calculating the end of time. When predictions fail, it teaches unbelievers to stop listening! The gospel on the lips of a true disciple is a much better message to unbelievers than subjective predictions.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When Do You Put Your Bible Down?

When do you ever put your Bible down?
I suppose your answer depends on how you interpret the question.

A friend of mine once asked why some Christians were always studying their Bible. “How many more Bible studies do we need?” His point was that at some point a person needs to put the Bible down and actively do what it teaches. That might not be the way I would say it, but I could not argue. In fact, Scripture teaches this principle:
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. —James 1:23–25 (NASB95)

Isn’t is clear? The one who actually does what he has found in God’s word “will be blessed in what he does.”

Jesus made the same point using the ‘wise man and foolish man’ illustration at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. (You can read it in Matthew 7:24-27)

These teachings seem to imply that a person can actually over do it on the ‘Bible study’ and forget to follow the teaching.

So, while my friend made a good observation that IS taught in scripture, one must also be careful not to go to the opposite extreme; that is, the extreme of forgetting to open the Bible.

There are two essential teachings in scripture:
  • Love God with everything you’ve got; and
  • Love others as you love yourself.
Jesus said as much on one occasion when a man asked Him what to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him what he had read in Scripture and the man answered with the ’two great commands.’ Then Jesus responded: "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." —Luke 10:27

Here’s the tricky part: What does ‘love God’ and ‘love others’ actually look like in practice? What does love look like when life serves me pain and sadness and calamity? How do I love others when times are good? How do I love other when times are bad? How do I love those who are mostly unlovable, or those who hurt me or my family?

How do I keep loving God when the religion I grew up with becomes stale? How does love work when I am unloved and all alone???

To answer these ‘life’ questions...to really answer these questions…(you already know where this is going)...pick up your Bible.

The Bible is filled with real-life examples of people who got it right and who also blew it. We can learn what ‘to do’ and what ‘not to do.’ It also contains practical teachings for day-to-day living. It instructs us in purity and holiness, and in love of God and fellow man.

So, I need to put my Bible down at least once a day...as long as I recognize that I can only put it down if I have already picked it up!
YES! Put your Bible down...at least once a day.
Just never forget to pick it up...at least once a day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Something You Should Know about Your Appetite


Have you ever been to a restaurant, then, after eating, exited and smelled the delicious offerings of a neighboring restaurant? As good as it smells, you had absolutely no desire to go there to eat. There was no temptation, even if it was your favorite. You had already eaten; you were full.

On the other extreme, have you ever had a long day of physical labor, or perhaps missed a meal or two. You were 'caving in' with hunger; starving. You were ready to eat the first edible thing you could find and it was SOOOO tasty.

These two thoughts set the stage for a wonderful nugget of wisdom:

   A sated man loathes honey, 
   But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.
   --Proverbs 27:7

The word ‘sated’ means full or satisfied.
The word ‘loathed’ is translated from a Hebrew words that literally means, to tread down or trample.

Do you see the picture being presented in this proverb?
A person tramples over sweet honey with no interest. Why? He is full. Even though honey is delightful to the taste and nourishing to the body it is perceived as ordinary and undesirable. In great contrast, the starving man eats something bitter and perceives it to be sweet.

What is the value of this proverb?
Mere observation?

Consider...
The satisfied man tramples the honey as undesirable, yet, what is the reality?
The famished man will eat bitter things as if sweet, yet what is the reality?

Circumstances do not change the reality of the sweet honey or the reality of the bitter thing. So, we could at least conclude that taste buds are not accurate in determining the true value of something.

Now, let’s extend this example. What about other areas of life that are subject to taste?

We have ‘likes and dislikes’ in many areas: clothing, cars, houses, decorations, personality types, physical beauty, recreation, entertainment, and so on. We must understand that our ‘tastes’ are not accurate in determining the real value of things. 'Modern' does not make it a good house. 'Cute' does not make him a good boyfriend. 'Red' does not make it a good car. 'Stunning' does not make it appropriate clothing. 'Funny' does not make it a good sitcom or a good joke to repeat.

God’s divine instruction gives us insight into that which is truly good and valuable in life.
  • If we are saturated with the things of this life, we just might regard the truth of God's instruction as ordinary and pass it off as unimportant.
  • If we are so famished with regard to spiritual things, we are likely to accept the next teaching that comes along, whether it is from the mind of man or the mind of God. It will seem sweet and acceptable.
We need a steady diet of God's word so that we will be able to discern what is good and what is useless.

Be wise.
Be filled with God’s instruction.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Who Stands Against Injustice?


   Do not move the ancient boundary, 
   Or go into the fields of the fatherless.
   --Proverbs 23:10

At first glance you might think, “What does this have to do with anything?" Or, "What does this have to do with me?” For most of us boundaries and fields are not a major concern.

The next verse provides illumination:
   For their Redeemer is strong;
   He will plead their case against you.
   --Proverbs 23:11

The simple teaching is that God, “their Redeemer,” is watching. He is concerned about the weak and those who are victims of misfortune.

God expects his people to act with kindness and generosity toward others. He expects fairness, that is, justice. He expects his people to stand up for the weak and to help the poor. God expects his people to be like him.

'Moving an ancient boundary' meant that  a person moved the property line on someone else's land. 'Going into the field' means that a person used or harvested a field for their benefit. In this case, it was a field that did not belong to them. In both cases the proverb describes actions in which a person was taking advantage of someone who was weak in some way.

On the playground we call that person a ‘bully.’ Of course, the bully is not only found on the playground. He preys on the weak, the elderly, the sick, the uneducated, and the underprivileged. He steal money and personal possessions and property by deceit, manipulation, and/or brute strength. He might disguise himself as a good businessman or politician. He might take advantage of people by cleverly manipulating company policy or civil/social law. He behaves unjustly because he can get away with it.

God assures us that he is watching and that he will take up the case of injustice against the weak. He will speak when there is no one to speak. He will act when there is no one to act. He will demand justice, and do not think his justice will be kind.

How Great is our God!
Great in mercy.
Great in forgiveness.
Great in awesome power.

Great in JUSTICE!

If we are to be like God,
   ...we will be concerned (mind and heart) about the weak and the poor;
   ...we will be watching (eyes and ears) to make sure people are treated fairly;
   ...we will stand up (feet and hands) for the weak and poor where there are abuses.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dads, What Is the Best Gift You Can Give Your Kids?


My dad had an old mantel clock that he received from his father. It belonged to his father’s father. I’ve always thought it was a beautiful piece. It holds sentimental value because it belonged to my great-grandfather, and because my dad literally took it apart, piece by piece, cleaned all the pieces and put it back together -- correctly.

A few years ago mom and dad visited and brought the clock. I am the oldest son, actually, their only son. The intended to keep the clock in the Stinnett family and wanted to give me the clock while they were still alive. It was a wonderful and moving gesture, but honestly, I never really cared much about the clock.

Don’t get me wrong (and don’t tell mom), the clock is a beautiful piece. It still holds sentimental value. However, it IS just a clock.

Dad is gone now; the clock remains. Thankfully, the clock is NOT all that Dad left behind. He was a Christian man, a man of integrity, a true servant. By his life he taught many lessons that are of much greater value than the clock. His words of wisdom are still with me. His devotion to Christ and dedication to God’s word stand as an example to follow.

The clock was a special gift, but his life...a far greater gift.

   A righteous man who walks in his integrity-- 
   How blessed are his sons after him.
   --Proverbs 20:7

Dads, when it comes to our children we have a responsibility. Each day we have a choice. We choose what we will leave behind for our children.

It's fine to leave behind clocks and other things, but wouldn't you like to leave behind the really good stuff? Let's leave our children something far superior to the 'stuff' we possess. Let's leave our children a life of righteousness and integrity that reflects the way of Christ!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Refined


   The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, 
   But the LORD tests hearts.
   --Proverbs 17:3

The refining pot is not used to figure out whether the silver is really silver. Rather, it is used with fire to purify the stuff that is already there (i.e. silver).

The furnace is not used to figure out whether the gold is really gold. Rather, it is used with fire to purify the stuff that is already there (i.e. gold).

The Lord knows your heart, and he purifies by fire what is already there. That means that he challenges our faith and is even willing to bring difficulties into our lives to purify the stuff that is already there.

Life’s difficulties test our hearts, refining what is already there. Life's trials are uncomfortable and can make us feel weak. Yet, when we endure the trials, we can know that God has been cleaning out the stuff that drags us down and makes us weak. He is purifying the good stuff that is already there.

Now, here's an encouraging thought...

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.     --James 1:2-5

God is so wise. He refines his people.
Do you know why a person can find joy in the trials of life?
God is purifying you to be something in the future that is more beautiful and more precious than what you are today. He is transforming you into His likeness!

Monday, August 21, 2017

What Would You Like To Hear?

It seems a little sarcastic to ask the question, but...
“What would you like to hear?”

Politics:

The president is doing a lousy job. The election must have been rigged. Congress needs to get rid of the president. Impeach!
   OR
What a challenge it is to be the leader of such a great country! The president needs our support. Mistakes will be made, but we should rally around our nation’s leader or at least keep quiet and promote national pride.

Economics:

The rich and powerful must be controlled. They do not understand the little guy. They often take unfair advantage of the system. Where’s Robin Hood when you need him!?
   OR
There are so many people with problems. They need help. The government needs to establish more programs.
   OR
God helps those who help themselves. If a man won’t work he ought not eat!
   OR
Trust in God and he will make your dreams come true. Just BELIEVE!

Morality:
God is holy. He will not tolerate sin. If you don’t do right, speak right, think right, and believe right, then you’re doomed! Repent!
   OR
Jesus did not come to judge, but to save. Love demands that we tolerate the shortcomings of people. We must be patient and give folks a chance. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. (Hugs.)

Church:

There is only one church...and by the way, this is it! I can prove it to you with scripture. Everyone else has got it all wrong. And if you are not a part of THIS church...Repent!
OR
Many churches are off track, but they still love Jesus and have concern for people. God is patient and makes allowances for opinions. Tolerance. Peace. Unity. COEXIST. (More hugs.)

Truth...

Is anyone interested in truth?
Are people today in such despair, like Pilate, that they sigh, “What is truth?” Truth is really quite simple: Truth is reality, the way things really are. It can be difficult to find truth with all the distractions and lies in the world, and with our own self-deceptions and perceptions. Yet...

God has declared truth.
God wants you to know truth.


Many people have already decided how they want to think, what they want to believe. Fabricated ‘truth’ is fine for them. Myth is meaningful. They only listen to people who applaud their thinking and promote their beliefs.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

           —2 Timothy 4:3-4 (NLT)

We laugh at the ancients for believing in their mythologies. Are we also laughing at ourselves???

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?