Thursday, September 1, 2011

September 1st – Proverbs 1: Word to the YOUNG

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;” – Proverbs 1:1-3

Is there anything wisdom from the Proverbs cannot do? The list of the benefits of wisdom is staggering, while the list of the consequences of NOT having wisdom is just as long. This Proverb tells us of some particular benefits that are available for the young and inexperienced.

“for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young… Proverbs 1:4

The word for knowledge here comes from the Hebrew root word “da‛ath” and it comes from another Hebrew word “Yada” which is used many times to describe worship. At its root it means “to know”, but not in cerebral head knowledge, but in experiential understanding. It’s the same word that is used here to describe sexual intimacy with a woman!

“And Adam knew Eve his wife. And she conceived and bore Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from Jehovah.” Genesis 4:1

The wisdom contained in Proverbs will give the young man this kind of experiential knowledge. A young person does NOT need to bash his head against the wall, making the same mistakes that his father and his grandfather made before him! Wisdom enables us to avoid those costly errors in judgment and get straight to the good stuff! It’s asinine to suggest (as many do) that each young person has to make their way in the world and can only learn through mistakes. Only a great fool would ignore the clear warnings of wisdom and plunge headlong into the dark paths forged by his forefathers!

Unashamedly, when I met my wife I had NEVER had sex with, kissed or even held hands with another woman! Some might say I was sheltered and some might say I was inexperienced… and they would be right! But what I can tell you is that I was PURE and so was she! There are MANY things I have never done! I have never used drugs, smoked a cigarette, visited a prostitute or been in a strip club. To suggest that I need to “experience” these things before helping someone in bondage to drugs, sex or nicotine is ridiculous! The end result of that logic would say that Jesus couldn’t help us because He never sinned!

"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." – I Peter 2:22

Another great benefit of wisdom to the young is that it gives “discretion to the young”. This translation really doesn’t say what the word means. Discretion here is basically talking about a plan, a plot or a purpose. Wisdom gives the young a plan, a step by step guide to get where he is going. It gives us the plot, the point of our lives. It gives us the purpose for our existence and keeps us grounded in the eternal consequences of our actions, never letting us forget out ultimate purpose. We sometimes tell people without a lot of knowledge to “get a clue” and that’s precisely what wisdom will do. Wisdom gives you experiential knowledge you didn’t earn and a purpose you didn’t have to create yourself.

Wise people learn from others mistakes, fools make their own.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

August 31st – Proverbs 31: Speak Up!

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." – Proverbs 31:8,9

My default is set to ALWAYS stand with and defend the poor, destitute and needy. I believe that it is the nature of God to always look to the needs of the weakest FIRST. If a couple comes to me with a marriage problem, I start with the assumption that the problem is the husbands fault or responsibility. Why? Because the bible tells us that the woman is the weaker partner!

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” I Peter 3:7

This doesn’t mean that it’s always the husbands fault (although it’s hovering near 95% for me), but it does mean the lion’s share of responsibility in the marriage falls on the man:

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” – Ephesians 5:23

Men LOVE being in charge. They LOVE the authority that God grants them, sometimes reminding their wives to “submit” to them like the Bible tells them! But what they often fail to remember is that authority comes with a great price: responsibility. For example, we all know that the name of Jesus carries ULTIMATE power and ULTIMATE authority. The Bible tells us:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:9-11

But like I love to tell people, whenever you see a “therefore”, go back and see what it’s there for! This passage begins with a “therefore” and we would be well served to see the genesis of Jesus’ power and authority. Many people like to believe that Jesus was granted His great power and authority from birth, but that’s not true! Jesus’ power and authority were not granted to Him upon birth, but upon His obedience!

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:5-9

Jesus humbled Himself to the will of God and became obedient to death, even death on a cross! THIS is the basis of His power and authority! Jesus took the responsibility for the redemption upon man upon Himself, qualifying Him to receive the power and authority over all creation!

We must use our power and authority granted by God not to serve ourselves, but to defend the poor, the needy and the destitute.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30th – Proverbs 30: Exalt Not Thyself!

"If you have played the fool and exalted yourself, or if you have planned evil, clap your hand over your mouth!” – Proverbs 30:32

This Proverb tells us that it is foolish to exalt ourselves. The word for exalt means to: lift, to hold up. So if we find ourselves lifting and holding up our lives, exalting ourselves we are to quickly put a hand over our mouth and STOP! In an increasingly self-centered and self-aware society, self-exaltation is becoming the norm. Our insatiable need for affirmation has given us license to praise ourselves! Our culture has decided that this is an acceptable practice, but the Bible tells us a different story:

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.” – Proverbs 27:2

It’s simply not prudent and not humble to exalt or praise yourself, even if you are amazing! It’s the price of greatness. You can be great; you just have to let other people recognize this. We’re all happy that you did a good job at whatever it is you do, you don’t have to tell us how awesome you are. I’ve known people like this and you probably do to; they are a legend in their own mind! Few things are as off-putting as someone who is enamored with themselves.

But there is another very real consequence to exalting yourself:

“Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman.” – Proverbs 25:6,7

It’s just the nature of things, when you exalt yourself; the only direction left to go is down. Likewise, when you humble yourself, the only direction you can go is up!  We’re promised in the Word of God that if we humble ourselves we WILL be exalted, but if we exalt ourselves we WILL be humbled!

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

I love that the Bible tells us the antidote when we find ourselves praising ourselves. “Clap your hand over your mouth!” When our tongue rages out of control we should take matters into our own hands and SHUT IT UP! This is because the tongue is a CRAZY thing and we need Divine help to keep it under control:

“All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” – James 3:7,8

If you REALLY are awesome, others will recognize it; you don’t have to advertise yourself.

Monday, August 29, 2011

August 29th – Proverbs 29: A Mutual Agreement

The righteous detest the dishonest; the wicked detest the upright.” – Proverbs 29:27

Let’s be honest. We are to love ALL God’s children, good and bad. Why? Because Jesus loves them, that’s why! We can’t hate anyone! To hate your brother PROVES that you aren’t walking in the light (I John 2:9). Jesus loved us and died for us while we were still sinners and we must do the same:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

But yet, there is this little gem in the book of Proverbs that tells us a secret; the righteous detest the wicked and the wicked detest the righteous. It’s an agreement of sorts. We who live righteously can’t stand the lack of basic decency and morality the wicked display as a lifestyle and the wicked can’t stand the display of decency and morality that the righteous display.  We don’t need to fool ourselves. If we are truly righteous we have NOTHING in common with the wicked.

Several years ago I went out preaching in a tough neighborhood with a newcomer to our church. This guy was LILY WHITE. I’m talking pressed khakis, a tucked in IZOD shirt with a shiny leather belt topped off with perfectly white Adidas and KNEE HIGH tube socks! Wow! He looked white, spoke white and talked white perfectly enunciating every syllable. Now, I have nothing wrong with that, this is who this guy was. But when we got into the neighborhood, we encountered a couple of really rough guys. It turns out that they were drugs dealers and one of the dudes made no attempt to hide a very obvious bulge of a gun in his waistline.

So my VERY white "friend" walks up to these guys starts throwing some slang, “Hey man, how’s it hanging, BRO?” I looked at him in total horror. We were going to get stabbed, I just knew it. He went on, “So yeah man, we’re just hanging here in Da Hood and we wanted to shout at ya, WORD!” The guys recoiled with a look of disgust; they were getting angry. I elbowed my idiot friend to shut up and began talking to them, LIKE A NORMAL PERSON. I didn’t try to relate to them in the natural, what do I have in common with a thug from the hood? So I began to appeal to them on the only common ground we do have; we have ALL been sinners and fallen short of the glory of God at one time.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Romans 3:23

They heard me out because I was talking to them honestly from the heart. But real life, they DETEST the fact that I live right and probably see me as a goody two shoes. I in turn LOATHE their mistreatment of women, lack of responsibility to their kids and the immoral way they earn a buck. But I made a mark that day. Perhaps one day they can come into the light and we can have some real fellowship, but if not, we’ll just continue our little dance of detesting one another’s lifestyle. At least the battle lines in my life are drawn clear, there is NO GRAY AREA.

Stop trying to be relevant to the devil; just stay relevant to the Gospel.

Friday, August 26, 2011

August 26th – Proverbs 26: Fighting Fuel!

“Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” – Proverbs 26:20

All fires require fuel to burn. When you want a fire to burn hot and tall you must add wood. If you want a fire to go out, all that you have to do is stop providing fuel and in a little while, it will go out. In the same way, every quarrel, every argument requires fuel to keep going. When a quarrel is REALLY blazing, when two sides violently oppose each other, there is a BUNCH of gossip going on. He said/She said from questionable sources is how arguments and fights persist. If you want to end the fight, normally all you have to do is STOP the chatter from others and sit down, face to face and work it out man to man. Rarely ever will you find a quarrel that can’t be settled like this.

So why don’t we resolve more conflict?

Well, the sad fact is that most people are chickens. It’s just easier to believe the lies and rumors and get mad than it is to go directly to the source of the rumors and resolve the conflict. That takes something that is all too rare these days, especially in the church, COURAGE. So many conflicts could be almost instantaneously resolved if we would just GO to the person that we have been offended by and actually DO what the Bible says:

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” – Matthew 18:15

We mask our rebellion to the commands of Jesus with this veneer of “maturity”. We’ll say stuff like “I’m not offended, BUT…” What you forget is ANYTIME a “but” comes out; you can throw away whatever is said directly before that. If you came to me for a loan, let’s say you needed $20. If I said to you, “I can give you $20, BUT…” When you hear that “but” you KNOW you aren’t getting any money! In the same way, whenever someone says, “I’m not offended, BUT…” you KNOW they are offended. We need to stop playing games and start being real. You’re not so mature that you can’t be offended, sorry. When we are hurt and offended, instead of telling all your friends, dropping names and sowing your bitterness and anger wherever you go, you need to MAN UP and go directly to that person ALONE. Deal with the offense and it will likely go away, keep feeding it and it may consume YOU.

A word about gossips: the word here for “gossip” is; talebearer, whisperer. Isn’t it funny that gossip is ALWAYS told in secret, whispered from one party to another? Yet we cloak our “concerns” for the other party in this weird self-righteous attitude, like it’s our secret mission from Jesus to expose our buddy that hurt our wee little feelings under the veil of “concern” or better yet “prayer”. Talebearers or gossips always try to appear above the fray, but in reality they are the SOURCE of all conflict. If you can get them to SHUT UP, that fight will be resolved ASAP. 

So how do you spot a talebearer? Their mouth will be moving.

“A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.” – Proverbs 20:19

Man up, resolve your conflict like Jesus told you to.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August 25th – Proverbs 25: Peace > Pride

“Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.” – Proverbs 25:24

Coming from a man with all the wealth in the world, massive palaces that spanned acres and who also had 700 wives and 300 concubines, I think we can take this wisdom to the bank. Solomon KNEW what he was talking about! He says it would be better to camp out on the corner of a roof than to share a palatial estate with a contentious or brawling woman. I have seen grown men reduced to tears because they don’t know how to lead their wives. These are good guys, strong physically, strong in business and respected in the community that crumble when their spouse starts fussing.

Marriage can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be like this. Part of the reason it can be so tough is because some people like winning arguments more than they like peace. Those are the kind of people that are always fighting. They don’t like to fight, but they don’t like to humble themselves either. As men, we have GOT to learn how to lead our way through conflict. Early in my marriage I realized this. If I were to “win” every argument and “assert my dominance” we would fight all of the time! We started our marriage with a commitment to DO this verse:

“Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down upon your wrath, neither give place to the Devil.”- Ephesians 4:26,27

What that meant was that if we were having an argument or fight, we wouldn’t go to bed until that argument was resolved. Sometimes that meant LATE nights and early mornings. Many times in the first couple years of our marriage we would be up until 2 and 3am, having to get up around 6am the next morning. It made for a HORRIBLE day after, but at least we weren’t fighting!

One of these times we had STARTED an argument around midnight and I had the feeling this would be an all-nighter. I had a legitimate beef, but it was covered up in my bad behavior. She would NEVER hear what SHE was doing wrong while I kept being a jerk about it. While she was fussing at me I thought to myself: “Wow, here we go again. Man I SO don’t want to be up all night again… but I can’t let her win!” Then the Holy Spirit interrupted my thought process and said, “What’s more valuable to you? Being right? Or having peace in your home?” 

I knew right then and there that having a home with peace and joy and without contention was WAY more important than me being “right”. I wasn’t prepared to capitulate and compromise, telling her she was right for what I knew she was wrong in, but what I could do was take responsibility for MY bad behavior. So I interrupted her fussing with, “I’m sorry, you’re right, I was being a jerk. Please forgive me.” Her mouth fell open and she stopped talking. She was totally shocked. She kept at it for another minute or two, just to make sure I was “really” sorry and I ate humble pie, not telling her she was right, but owning MY failure. 

The fight was over in less than 5 minutes and a few minutes later we drifted off into a peaceful sleep, well rested for the day to come. 

That day, I learned that my PEACE was more valuable than my PRIDE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August 24th – Proverbs 24: Don’t Mess with the Righteous!

“Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man's house, do not raid his dwelling place;” – Proverbs 24:15

I am a righteous man. Not because I’m a good boy and sin less than the average guy (although I do), but because of what Jesus did for me on the Cross. His work transformed me and He has enabled me by His grace to walk free from sin, sickness and disease. I AM RIGHTEOUS! Saying that, one of the dumbest things you could do is like this Proverb says, “lie in wait like an outlaw against a righteous man’s house”. The word for “lie in wait” is; to lurk, to lie in ambush. It means to be in a state of watching and waiting for the home and household of the righteous to fall. Now who would do this?

I’ve actually had a couple people very close to me do this very thing. One of them, when I confronted him about being involved in an extramarital affair, began to tell me through a snarl how he wished that I would fall into adultery and have an affair, ruining my marriage, wrecking my family and destroying my ministry! I couldn’t believe the evil I was witnessing from this guy, a professing Christian, breathing out demonically inspired curses upon me and my household. I told him, “I have done NOTHING to deserve these curses you are spewing at me. These curses you are speaking won’t land on me, but they WILL come back and visit you! I would SHUT UP if I was you.”

“Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest.” – Proverbs 26:2

He’s already ruined two marriages and last I heard not doing very well.

As a Pastor, I get to come in contact with a lot of people. Some love what we do at our church, others hate it. Either way, I’m ok; life in Christ is not a popularity contest to me. The way I see it, you just do what God has called you to do and those that are called to be a part will come along, the others will fall away. Occasionally people get REALLY upset because you don’t do things their way and make it the ambition of their life to “lie in wait like an outlaw” or even “raid his dwelling place”. They think they are God’s anointed to slander you to everyone they come in contact with. They prophesy people out of the church and pray that you close down! Hmmm, sounds a bit like the devil to me!

What they should watch out for is part two of this scripture:

“for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” – Proverbs 24:16

Yeah, we might go through difficulty, in fact we might go through a LOT of difficulty (seven times), but we’ll get back up. You and your devil proclamations though? Calamity is gonna wipe you out. BOOM!

Many who cannot live righteously slander and curse those who can. “Those who cannot DO, curse those who do!”

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23rd – Proverbs 23: Show Some Restraint!

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” – Proverbs 23:4

This Proverb could really save people months and years of their lives, marriages, families and relationships. How many folks have YOU known that have “risked it all” trying to make a bunch of money? I’ve known a BUNCH. I don’t know what it is about the promise of wealth, but it makes people do CRAZY things! I’ve known people in the pursuit of great wealth lose their marriage, mortgage houses, and cash in retirement accounts, completely ruining themselves financially. I’ve known some folks so desperate to climb the corporate ladder that 100+ hour weeks seem reasonable to them. It doesn’t seem to matter that their health, marriage and personal lives go in the gutter in their pursuit of wealth.

The word for labor here means: to faint, be exhausted, to toil, to tire. We should never willingly wear ourselves out to get rich. Ruining our physical bodies to make a buck is just stupid. So you get your millions, but then you die of a heart attack! The Bible tells us to NOT go about the pursuit of wealth this way, encouraging us to have wisdom that shows restraint. In our day and age if someone tries to demonstrate wisdom and show restraint they are castigated for “having no faith” or “playing it safe”. Well, say what you want, but I’ll just sit here in my nice, comfy trailer in Acworth in perfect peace, easily paying my bills and living well below my means.

But another translation of this verse reveals more:

“Do not labor to be rich; cease from your own understanding. – Proverbs 23:4

Having the “wisdom to show restraint” is translated “cease from your own understanding”. Here again we are told to forsake worldly, carnal wisdom and embrace the wisdom of God! Many times, OUR wisdom tells us to make more we must work more; as if somehow our production is directly tied to our toil. Yet God’s wisdom often tells us to work smarter, not harder. Studies have proven that laborers production falls sharply after about 50 hours of work a week. So grinding away hour after hour, week after week may NOT produce the great gains you are working for after all. 

But God has wisdom; He has a way to bless us that has nothing to do with tiredness, toil or PAIN.

“The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” – Proverbs 10:22

Could it be that the secret to wealth is the blessing of the Lord? Why toil and struggle when you can simply receive a blessing from God?

I’ve done toil, it’s exhausting. I’m doing blessing now, it’s invigorating.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 22nd – Proverbs 22: Ancient Stones

“Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.” – Proverbs 22:28

In biblical times they would set up large boulders and stones on the borders of properties and land. These stones were large hard to move and therefore would serve well as a boundary stone to designate whose land ended where. When I was in Israel earlier this year we actually saw some of these stones. They were huge and hard to ignore. It would have taken many men or oxen to remove/move them.  We are cautioned not to move them. But I think this proverb is about more than property lines.

I believe that an “ancient boundary” set by our “forefathers” speaks of a longstanding, righteous tradition that has been practiced, honored and respected for generations. Like marriage, for example. God instituted marriage in the book of Genesis, but the ceremony and institution has been a valuable part of our culture for thousands of years. It brings stability to relationships, families and communities. Yet in our culture today, the institution of marriage is under assault. 

More than half of couples that enter into the covenant of marriage fail to keep their commitment. Once divorced, many then marry and remarry, tossing the marriage vows out like an old glove! These days, heterosexual couples are living together, having sex, having kids and setting up households without the faintest desire to get married. If you ask them why they don’t get married (And I do!) many till tell you, “Who needs it?” The onslaught doesn’t stop there as now homosexual couples are asking the same rights and privileges of hetero couples as they DEMAND that their state recognize marriage between a man/man or a woman/woman. This is MOVING an ancient boundary stone and the end result will NOT be good, guaranteed!

“Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you.” Proverbs 23:10,11

God is the defender of the ancient boundary stone of marriage and He WILL take up His case against us.

Another ancient boundary is the concept of frugality and wisdom in finances. This has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years! Yes, there have always been those indebted in any culture, but they have ALWAYS been looked down upon and pitied as someone not having self-control. Yet in the last 50+ years in the USA it has become fashionable to go into debt… over anything! Yes houses, yes cars, but appliances and mattresses? This violates the ancient boundary of frugality which tells us to only spend what you make! And we wonder why our nation is in debt to the tune of 15 TRILLION dollars and on the brink of collapse!

Our country is in debt because the CITIZENS of our country are in debt. We elect REPRESENTATIVES that represent our values (or lack thereof). It’s pretty hypocritical for the person that’s thousands of dollars in consumer debt, has two car payments and is upside down on their mortgage to get all judgmental, railing against Congress and the President when it comes to our national debt now isn’t it?

Moving ancient boundaries seems all trendy and cosmopolitan UNTIL their Defender PWNS you!

Friday, August 19, 2011

August 19th – Proverbs 19: Don’t Be Hasty!

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” – Proverbs 19:2

The first part of this Proverb basically tells us that desire without knowledge isn’t a good thing. Think about it, how many endeavors have failed because of a simple lack of knowledge? Many businesses fail and it’s not because the owner didn’t have the drive or willingness to work, they did. The business failed because this very willing motivated person didn’t have the knowledge to complete the task. The other extreme is having someone with all the knowledge necessary, but lacking the motivation. This is where many in the church are today. Knowledge is essential, but knowledge coupled with zeal and a willingness to work will get the job done.

We are then told that it’s not good to be “hasty” and “miss the way”. So what does being hasty have to do with missing the mark? Another word for “miss the way” is sin. When we are hasty, or when we rush we start to sin. Why is this?

“…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” – Romans 14:23

We are not to be led by circumstances, pressure or anxiety, but by the spirit of God. Faith is proactive, it’s not reactive; it’s responsive to the Lord, not circumstances. When we start to get too hurried, we stop listening to His voice. It’s very difficult to hear the still small voice of God in a tempest.

I remember several years ago when I was new to the things of God and hearing His voice. I had (and still have) a heart to reach the nations with the Gospel. I received a phone call from a minister friend of mine that breathlessly told me of this GREAT opportunity to go and minister in Russia. Everything about the trip sounded great! It would be my first overseas trip, I would be able to work alongside other more mature ministers and it seemed like all the details were just right. Then, this person threw me a curve-ball. “I need to know whether or not you are coming NOW!” All of a sudden the pressure mounted. Where would I get the money? Would I be able to get my passport in time? How could I get out of work or prior obligations so quickly?? I asked for as much time as they could give me and this person told me to call back within an hour. 

Ok, I thought, I can take this hour and seek God about the trip and He’ll tell me simply whether or not I can go. So I went into my office, got on my knees and said, “Lord, speak to me!” So I waited… and waited. The clock was ticking down and my hour was expiring. I began to think through all the details, what I would need to do to be able to go, how to raise funds, etc. The minutes went by and I was only about 15 minutes from my deadline and God hadn’t said anything! In a panic I called my Dad and repeated the details of the trip. I must have been talking fast because he asked me if I was ok, I sounded stressed. I then told him that I had only a few minutes left to decide. He didn’t even think about it and said, “Call them back, your answer is NO!”

I couldn’t believe it, how could he be so sure, couldn’t I be missing a great opportunity?? He then told me very flatly, “All pressure is of the devil, God doesn’t lead us through anxiety and He is certainly not in a hurry. Any ‘opportunity’ that has to be decided NOW is a NO!”

God’s not in a hurry, so why are you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 18th – Proverbs 18: Vain Imaginations

“The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall.” – Proverbs 18:11

In this Proverb we have two contrasting statements. The first is a declaration that the name of the Lord is a strong tower and the person that runs into it is safe:

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” – Proverbs 18:10

In this statement, there is no ambiguity, it’s simply the truth. The name of the Lord is the only REAL protection available in our world today. Many are looking all over for something or someone that they can put their trust in. 

Some people trust in politicians. Just a few years ago, Barack Obama was hailed as the great Hope of America. Millions of Americans pinned their hopes for their personal and national prosperity and security on the ideas of a freshman senator from Illinois. In just a few short years, many of those millions have realized what the Bible has told us for thousands of years: the ONLY real hope and security available today is found in the name of the Lord!

Some people trust in riches. This is the reason for this Proverb. The writer declares to us: 

“The wealth of the rich is their fortified city…” – Proverbs 18:11

Wow! So are we really to believe that wealth is a sure place of safety? If we were to stop there in the Proverb, that is what we might be led to believe. But when we keep reading, the reality sets in. 

“they IMAGINE it an unscalable wall.” – Proverbs 18:11

In the IMAGINATION of the rich, wealth is an unscalable wall. In their minds, the rich believe that in their great wealth is salvation; that in their great wealth there is peace. An illusion forms and the urgency of seeking God personally starts to wane. If they get sick, they can afford the best doctor, why seek God for healing? If they have difficulty in their marriage, they can afford the best counseling, why go to Jesus? But this is a smokescreen, an illusion. In reality, wealth is like every other false hope or false promise. 

Am I against great wealth? Absolutely not! You can do great good with great wealth. Somebody needs to make the money and it might as well be the righteous! But it’s when we try to make money or wealth something that it is not; a place of safety and security. Markets rise and fall, currencies crash and economies hit the skids. Believing that any piece of paper (or gold for that matter) can provide protection and security against the wiles of the enemy and this fallen world is a false hope. 

HOPE in a man? I think not. SECURITY in paper or a rock? Ridiculous! The ONLY true source of safety and security for a believer is the name of the Lord. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17th – Proverbs 17: Son of FAIL

“A wise servant will rule over a disgraceful son, and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.” – Proverbs 17:2

Man, in the church we LOVE our titles, don’t we? People LOVE reveling in the fact that they are a “SON” of the Most High! We are all “FRIENDS” of God; we’re “KING’S KIDS!” We claim and flaunt the benefits of our salvation, secured through the blood and torture of the Lord Jesus yet we regularly forget that there are RESPONSIBILITIES that come with the title! This Proverb reminds us that titles are NOT everything; we must live up to the title bestowed on us through the life and death of the Lord Jesus.

Many Christians want nothing to do with being called a servant of God, they love it when Jesus said:

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15

Woohoo! We’re not servants anymore, we’re friends… right?

“You are my friends IF you do what I command.” – John 15:14

Yikes. You mean we actually have to do something to be called the friends of God?? Ok then, forget the whole friend thing…let’s move on to Sonship!

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

Yes, you may be a son, but have you ever thought for two seconds what KIND of son you are? Remember the parable about the father with two sons? One lived as a Prodigal and the other stayed in his father’s house. One brought his father joy, the other grief. Which are you?

“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him.” – Proverbs 17:25

Have you ever stopped to consider the reality that God HIMSELF has anointed and appointed you as His son? This “title” He has bestowed on us comes with a responsibility to BE worthy of such a name.

“He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.” – Proverbs 10:5

When we don’t work when it’s time to work and harvest when it’s time to harvest, we bring disgrace. Our laziness in the things of God comes with a heavy price. God won’t disown you as a son, but you MAY be known as a son that brings disgrace. This word for disgrace means; ashamed, disappointed or delayed. God looks at our lives and wonders, “When will they ever become what I have called them?” Half of the Christian life is a process of becoming what God has called us! We have to participate in the process! Step up and BECOME what God has called you!

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.” – Philippians 3:16

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 16th – Proverbs 16: Recipe for Restoration

“Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” – Proverbs 16:6

There is a lot of talk in the church today about restoration of those who have fallen, probably because there are a LOT of ministers falling! We’ve got heterosexual immorality, homosexual immorality and gross financial impropriety all going on in the church right now like never before. These days, before you even get a tearful repentance from the offender, there is a LOUD call for their restoration to ministry. It’s weird, we’re not even sure that this person WANTS to be restored, yet the restoration police come rushing in to MAKE SURE that the fallen pastor is in the pulpit WITHIN THE WEEK!

Why this rush to restore? Why the absolute NEED for fallen leaders to be put back in the place where they fell from? Why can’t they go sell cars or do something else for a living? Why should a pastor that has abused the trust given him be given more trust? I believe that this comes from a basic misunderstanding of repentance as detailed here in Proverbs.

First of all we should look at the end of this verse: “Through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.” It’s when we cultivate a relationship with the Lord and actually FEAR Him that we become sin proof. When we are looking into the eyes of the potential adulteress, we remember that we serve God and GOD is watching our every move. This recognition of the Lord in our life would KEEP us from evil! That means when Minister A “falls” (pssst! This stuff doesn’t happen overnight) into gross homosexual sin you can rest assured; he doesn’t fear the Lord! A leader that doesn’t fear the Lord isn’t a very good leader; their sin reveals this fact. When your leader is caught in a gross sin, you SHOULD take a step back and ask, “Do I really want to follow this guy?” If he’s walking into sin and he’s a leader, what is he leading you into? Righteousness???

I rest my case.

Secondly, it’s important to see that path of restoration or atonement in the scripture: “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for.” Your sin CAN be forgiven and you can receive restoration WHEN you apply this verse. It’s the first part that we are comfy with, the LOVE that atones for sin. God so LOVED us that we have been forgiven, absolutely. People can be restored to God INSTANTLY through the forgiveness available by the blood of Jesus, NO QUESTION. But if you want a working relationship with the people you have hurt in the past, if you want to rebuild the destruction that your sin has caused, you MUST keep going to FAITHFULNESS. 

One of the faults of many who have violated confidence and broken trust in their sin is that they enjoy the love of Jesus for their forgiveness, but forget the faithfulness necessary to RESTORE their trust. This word faithfulness is translated “truth”. It’s defined as: stability, truth, trustworthy, established, right, sure and true. Without these things being PROVEN in the life of the offender, their “restoration” is shallow and unproven. Yes, you receive forgiveness instantly, but you BUILD trust through faithfulness over TIME. The wife whose husband has cheated on her NEEDS to forgive him instantly, but has NO BUSINESS trusting him unless he PROVES himself faithful over TIME. The church member whose leader is revealed as an immoral adulterer NEEDS to forgive him instantly, but has NO BUSINESS trusting this clown to lead them into the pat of righteousness unless he proves himself over TIME. Even then, he's now unqualified to lead anyone out of anything.

Paul tells us:

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” – I Corinthians 4:2

Yes, we’re forgiven by His blood, but our faithfulness is just as necessary to RESTORE.

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 15th – Proverbs 15: A Love/Hate Relationship

“The way of the wicked is hateful to Jehovah, but He loves him who pursues righteousness.” – Proverbs 15:9

This scripture reveals several things about the Lord. First of all, it says that the Lord HATES the WAY of the wicked. It doesn’t say that he hates the wicked person, only their WAY. We’ve talked about it many times before on here, but our WAY determines our WALK. Wicked people have a WAY of walking that is detestable and hated in the sight of God. It’s a well-worn path, a road or course of wicked behavior that has become familiar to the wicked man. THIS is what God hates! And when we are talking about wickedness, it simply means WRONG. Morally for sure, spiritually maybe, but the bottom line is that they are wrong and walking the wrong WAY.

Just as righteous people have righteous habits, traits and characteristics and so do wicked people. The righteous worship God and serve their fellow man. The wicked worship their own thoughts and desires and serve themselves. The default of the righteous is to extend themselves for the benefit of their brothers and sisters; the default of the wicked is to extend themselves on behalf of themselves. All that the wicked contemplate is serving self and making their self happy. It’s irrelevant to the wicked who they hurt to attain their goal of self-satisfaction. Whether it’s making money, experiencing physical pleasure or achieving their goals, the wicked could care less who they hurt or how much they hurt on the way to THEIR goals.

Righteous people PURSUE righteousness. They run after, they follow and like the Hebrew word says, “Hunt” righteousness. Their PRIMARY concern is doing justly and they have made a habit of pursuing this way of life. The person who has righteousness is LOVED by God. Not just their WAY, but they personally are loved by Jehovah. That is an awesome promise! If we will run after and pursue righteousness, God will love us. It doesn’t say anything about attaining righteousness, it just says that the person pursuing this way of life will be loved by God. It’s interesting that the pursuit of righteousness has such a wonderful benefit. In the New Testament, we are told that simply pursuing righteousness will bring about a much different outcome.

“Yea, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” II Timothy 3:12

It’s amazing that this scripture doesn’t tell us that the achievement of righteousness will bring persecution, only the pursuit of righteousness. So yes, you will be persecuted as you attempt to lay hold of righteousness, but you will also be loved by God! I’d say that the benefits FAR outweigh the drawbacks.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – II Corinthians 4:17

God LOVES the righteous, but the righteous will be persecuted for pursuing righteousness. Sounds fair to me! Everything costs something.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August 12th – Proverbs 12: Lose Some Weight!

“Anxiety in a man's heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.” – Proverbs 12:25

I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. Around 2003, I had gotten in debt up to my eyeballs. I tried to start and maintain a business on credit. DUMB. Things would look up, I would sell a big job and the tension, pressure and anxiety would relent, but only for a minute.  Then something would come up, a vendor would wreck the job and I would have to pay to make it right, destroying my profit and taking us back to square one. Day after day the pressure and anxiety of financial pressure would mount. The bills were getting bigger, the credit lines were almost maxed out and I felt like I was drowning. That sick feeling in my gut was anxiety about finances, bills, my income, etc. How was I going to provide for my wife and kids? How in the WORLD was I going to get out of this mess? I was desperate for answers and mainly just desperate relief from the crushing weight of anxiety.

And then on the floor at a conference in Toronto, Canada God spoke to me. I had been whining and complaining to Him about our financial situation. I was asking for help, insight, whatever! My main complaint to God was “How am I going to provide for MY wife and MY kids? I feel like a bad Dad, I’ve gotten us all into this mess, how are we going to get out?!” After several hours of whining and crying, I had said what I needed to say. As I sat there waiting on the Lord, God answered.  He told me simply, “Before YOUR wife is YOUR wife, she is MY Daughter! Before YOUR son is YOUR son, he is MY Son!” 

What He said INSTANTLY relieved the weight of anxiety. The burden was gone! My wife was HIS daughter and my son was HIS son! My perspective shifted and I was free! I got up off the floor about 1,000 pounds lighter and almost floated home. It would take several years of disciplined action to get where we needed to be financially, but now it was possible because I was no longer carrying that burden of anxiety.

Anxiety is like a weight. You can literally “feel” anxiety in your heart. It’s a terrible burden that we as Christians don’t have the grace to carry… EVER! So let me ask you; what extra weight of anxiety are you carrying? Maybe like me, you have financial pressure that weighs you down. Maybe you have health related pressure or a marriage impossibility. Whatever it is, I can tell you that you can be free TODAY. 

Just DO this verse:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6, 7

Give your anxiety to God, He can handle it. You can’t.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 11th – Proverbs 11: Hide & Seek

“He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.” – Proverbs 11:27

Those in the world call this principle the “Law of Attraction”. Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

The Law of Attraction is a metaphysical New Thought belief that "like attracts like", that positive and negative thinking bring about positive and negative physical results, respectively. According to the Law of Attraction, the phrase "I need more money" allows the subject to continue to "need more money". If the subject wants to change this they would focus their thoughts on the goal (having more money) rather than the problem (needing more money). This might take the form of phrases such as "I have as much money as I need" or "I have a job that pays very well".

I believe that this principle is way less mystical than they might tell us. The simple reality is that you find what you are looking for. How many of us have been looking at buying a certain type of car, and then miraculously, all of a sudden, everywhere we go, we see the car we are thinking of buying! Did the roadways suddenly become populated with the make and model of car we are looking for, or did we just start “seeing” what we are looking for?

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

We see this principle play out time and time again in all sorts of different situations. Folks come to our church many times after a bad experience at their last church. Maybe they had a falling out with the pastor or someone in authority at the last church. When they arrive here, they are “looking” to get hurt by people in authority; and they aren’t disappointed! All that it takes for someone like this to get hurt is a sideways glance or someone no saying hello when they come to church. It doesn’t matter how nice or how understanding we can be, when people are looking to get hurt, they get hurt!

Many believers want good things to come upon them. They want a life full of passion, power and prosperity. But they are looking in the wrong place! Instead of seeking after such things, they turn on the TV and watch a bunch of worldly crap or they read trendy gossip rags. They call their friends for the latest gossip and spread slander about their pastor or maybe complain about their marriage, their husband and their finances. They are looking for bad stuff and they aren’t disappointed! The negativity just COMES to them.

If they simply changed their behavior and went looking for the right stuff, they would find it! You want passion? SPEND TIME WITH JESUS! You want to see the power of God? Then CONSISTENTLY put yourself in positions of impossibility where you need to see God move! PRAY FOR THE SICK! You want prosperity? Then turn off the TV, get off the phone with your stupid friends, put down the gossip rag and DO YOUR WORK WITH DILIGENCE! Oh yeah, you also need to give your time, energy and yes, MONEY generously.

Want Good? Seek Good will.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 10th – Proverbs 10: Fear is CREATIVE!

“What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted.” – Proverbs 10:24

Dread or fear, should never be a part of the Christian life. Jesus came and delivered us from ALL fear. His love revealed through His death on the cross destroyed the yoke and bondage of fear that had been on us for generations. His sacrifice on the cross set us free from fear. Instead, He gave us His spirit, by which we cry, Abba!

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." – Romans 8:15

If fear or dread comes upon us, the Bible is clear, it’s NOT from the Lord!

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – II Timothy 1:7

The ONLY fear we should have as a believer is the fear of the Lord, which is pure and leads to life.

“The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” – Psalm 19:9

When people fear, it’s about punishment. They believe that they are being punished or should be punished for their sins. This creates a sense of dread, or foreboding. Spiritually, they are waiting for “the other shoe to drop”. But God has delivered us from this sense of fear and dread through His great love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” – I John 4:18

The Bible says that what the wicked dread will come upon them. That’s because fear is just faith for all the wrong things. In the same way that faith “creates” or “manifests” the will of God, fear “Creates” or “manifests” the will of the devil! How many people have you encountered that have a deep, abiding fear of cancer that get cancer! We need to be careful what we fear, even the wicked can “create” their reality by faith in all the wrong things… FEAR!

The righteous only need to desire a thing and their DESIRE is granted. This is a real secret to the Christian life. I know MANY Christians that spend hours each day telling God what they want. But I believe that I only need a desire in my heart for God to grant it!

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

The Wicked’s fears create for him a reality; the righteous’ desires do the same. BE RIGHTEOUS!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August 9th – Proverbs 9: Forsake the Foolish

“Leave your simple (foolish) ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding.” – Proverbs 9:6

This scripture is the essence of why I write this blog (other than to get some writing discipline working for me). In order to live out the Christian life and fulfill the purposes of God for our lives we MUST forsake every foolish way and walk in understanding. In order to forsake every foolish way, we must understand what foolish ways are and what they look like. We can’t look around at our culture and get this information; only in the Word of God can we really understand what foolish ways are and how to forsake them. Many foolish ways detailed here in the book of Proverbs are actually praised and encouraged in our culture. If the culture becomes our standard, we will fall well below the standard that God has set up for us in His word. We’ll “miss the mark” (sin) and fail to achieve the life that God has for us. Things that make sense to carnal people actually rail against biblical wisdom.

For example, there is not ONE scripture that supports debt OF ANY KIND. Yet, in our culture, borrowing money many times is called “wisdom”. Whether it’s for a home mortgage or that new car that we need/want, we are told that it’s ok, go for it. Yet both in the Old and New Testament, ALL debt is considered bondage. Many of the greatest encouragers of debt were folks telling people to borrow “as much as you can” to get “as much house as you can”. I guess that is advice IF the housing market is doing well. But look at the mess people are in today who followed that advice several years ago! Millions are losing their homes because the value of that home has greatly diminished while the value of the debt remained the same.

This kind of “wisdom” works SOME of the time. God’s wisdom works ALL of the time.

Debt is a simple (foolish) way. We (I) need to forsake it and walk in understanding. I now understand that anything I can’t pay for in cash today is something I don’t NEED today. Yes, I may desperately WANT it, but need it? Nope. So you tell me, who is right? Now I’m not pointing fingers, I myself have a mortgage. I am doing everything I can to pay it off as soon as possible, but yes, it’s there. My goal in life is what the Bible calls us to:

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves another has fulfilled the Law.” – Romans 13:8

You can’t forsake a foolish way that you still think is wise.