The Verbs #13 (Walk with the Wise)

20  Become wise by walking with the wise;
hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

 Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 13:20). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Remember this old saying, you are known by the company you keep. I have always been an old soul if you will. From as far back as I can remember, I loved being around people who were much older than I was. The church that I grew up in, had some of the finest elders you could ever hope to find. Most them were World War II veterans, quiet, reserved, respectful, and incredibly strong men. My parents would arrive early to church, for the prayer services that preceded our Sunday night services. I would slip out of the prayer room, and go hang out with the elders of the church. I learned so many things from these people, I couldn’t tell you a single sermon on faithfulness, not that they weren’t preached or taught, but faithfulness was something that was caught by watching the elders of my church. Every time the doors were open you would see those faithful men at the church. Not a single one of them are written in the annuals of a hall of fame, but to me they are heroes. When you say faithful, most people think of Hebrews 11 names. Names like Noah, Abraham, Moses, or Enoch. I think of Simon, Baskins, Edgin, Silvers, and Proctor, these were the men that taught me about faithful serving. I cannot tell you a single sermon that these men preached, because they weren’t preachers. However, their lives are simply one of the greatest sermons you could’ve ever watched. Every one of them, have went on to their reward. Everyone one of them finished the race and finished it so well. I can remember the days that I would stand in their aisles, or by their usher seats, and speak to them, but mainly I remember them speaking and me listening in on those conversations. There was a lot of wisdom flying around, I was then and am now trying to mop up what they dropped. I learned reverence, faithfulness, prayer, and serving from those men. I’d like to think that I am known for those same characteristics today. I strive to be a man that has reverence for the things of God, to be faithful, to be a man of prayer, and that I served my generation well. I want to be known by the company that I keep, so I do my best to keep company with God, and with people who will help me soar with eagles.
I would tell that just as you are known by the company that you keep, you are also known by the company that you don’t keep. Paul told the church in Corinth this…
I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when a friend who claims to be a Christian is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house.
 Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (1 Co 5:9–13). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
I believe that is exactly what this proverb is talking about hang out with good and wise people, and you’ll be challenged to live good and wise. Hang out with people who are crooked, who act the fool, and aren’t good, and you’ll find yourself facing some challenges. Sometimes the best thing that you can do, is to stop hanging around folks who bring you down, cause you to stumble, and consistently add stress and worry to your life. I have often said some of you need to ask the Lord to expose your enemies, but shouldn’t be surprised when you start to lose friends. Think you are alone in that you’re not. Zechariah prophesied about Jesus in Zechariah 13:6
And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’
 The New King James Version. (1982). (Zec 13:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Jesus called Judas His friend, He called those that crucified Him His friends. Sometimes are greatest resistance to a better life, is those that appear to be the closest to us. If you desire to walk and live differently I would start by getting a best friend that will never leave you nor forsake you, He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother. Who is this Friend? Jesus!
One thing about hanging out with those elders when I was kid, not one time did I ever get into trouble. By hanging around the wise, I avoided hanging with the fools. By hanging with good company, I avoided hanging with the bad company. Show me your friends and more often than not, I can show you your future. If you want to be the best, hang with the best. Get around them and learn, then apply what you’ve learned.

The Verbs #12 (Don’t Be an Eddie)

“Don’t Be an Eddie”            

One of my favorite movies, especially at Christmas time, is “Christmas Vacation”. We laugh about that movie, but there are some really serious points in the movie. Maybe you remember this scene, and even if you don’t, I think you’ll identify with it. It goes like this:

Clark: “How can they have nothing for their children?” 

Ellen: “Well, he’s been out of work for close to seven years.” 

Clark: “In seven years, he couldn’t find a job?” 

Ellen: “Catherine says he’s been holding out for a management position.”

You probably know someone that you can insert into that story line. The idea of trying to get ahead without ever starting, isn’t a new one. Proverbs 12:9 is pretty clear this isn’t a new concept.

Ann Landers stated that, “Opportunities are often disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”

Solomon wrote, “it is better to be ordinary and work for a living than to act important and starve in the process.” Another translation of that verse reads, “He that is despised and is a servant.” There is nothing wrong with giving an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. No matter where you find yourself in this life, if you are working, laboring and carving out a living, then you are truly following the word of God. Wherever you find yourself working, give it your best. Look at what Colossians 3:22-25 states.

“Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.”

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Col 3:22–25). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

I can tell you that God uses the person that knows how to work. So often, I hear “I want to work in full-time ministry or I want to get into ministry”. I am quick to say “ministry is hard work, look at the Cross.” The calling of a pastor is to equip the people for the WORK of the ministry. God uses people that know how to work.

It was when Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep that God appeared to Him in the burning bush (Exodus 3).

It was when Elisha was plowing that Elijah cast the mantle of ministry upon him (1 Kings 19:19).

It was when Peter and Andrew were casting their nets that Jesus called them to be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

It was when Saul was working for the high priest on his way to Damascus that Jesus appeared to him and turned his life around (Acts 9).

If you want to be used by God, or if you desire to move up in this life, it will happen while you are working. You have to work at everything. Someone once told me that Jesus delivered them from all that works stuff. They took it both spiritually and literally, meaning they didn’t have to work for anything. However, on that day, the purpose of the conversation was because they needed assistance and they were asking for my help. They were willing to live off everyone else’s hard work. That is the epitome of this verse in Proverbs 12:9. They believed that God’s grace exempted them from ever having to put forth any effort in this life. They didn’t realize it, but their belief of “grace delivering them from working”, placed them in the role of a beggar. The Bible reminds us that “I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor His seed begging for bread”.I do not work for righteousness, nor do I work for grace. I work because of love!

So, don’t be an Eddie! Walk through the doors that are open to you, and then God can open more doors for you. Once you start, remind yourself of these words in Ecclesiastes…

Endings are better than beginnings.

Sticking to it is better than standing out.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ec 7:7–8). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

The Verbs #11 (Build Up Your City)

10 When it goes well for good people, the whole town cheers;

when it goes badly for bad people, the town celebrates.

11 When right-living people bless the city, it flourishes;

evil talk turns it into a ghost town in no time.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 11:10–11). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Years ago, a man told me, “as the church goes, so goes the city”.  I have taken that to heart in my life and more importantly, in my pastor ship. I want to be a church that is impacting the city. My dream is to be a church that is so impactful, that we cannot be ignored by the city. The Worship Center is made up of people that come from many cities. I have determined that I may not be able to reach every city in the same way, but I would make it an important part of my life and our church’s life to lift up our cities.

Upon arriving in Southern Illinois as Pastor of the Worship Center, I began a series of sermons. I called them “A Church on Purpose.” It has become a mantra of our church.  There were three sermons specifically in that series that have stuck with us. Today, you see them on sweatshirts, t-shirts and across our social media platforms. We are a Church on Purpose; across the aisle, across the street and around the world. It has become so engrained into our fiber as a church, that there have been campaigns to change the church’s name to Purpose Church, Church on Purpose, along with some other not so catchy names. I have stepped back in awe as I watch people live out that sermon, vision and purpose, and yet close to ninety-five percent of our church has never heard that sermon. The people who did hear it, practiced it, and preached it through their daily lives. It has become a sermon, a vision that isn’t taught; it’s caught.

Starting out, we didn’t have the resources to impact the cities like we do now. We began by doing small things. One of the most powerful things we did, was to pray for our cities. We took that responsibility seriously. I chose to build up, talk up, and pray up my city. I chose to lift my city up versus tearing it down. Words are so powerful that if you keep saying something often enough, people will begin to believe you, good or bad. For example, if you continue to talk down about where you live or talk down about the people that live around you, people will start to believe you. However, if you start talking up, lifting up and building up your city and the people around you, they’ll start believing you as well. I want to make my city the best that it can be. Remember these words, “speak to those things that are not, as though they already are”. It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to sit around and criticize and point out the negatives. The person at the table who can point out all the problems and issues, isn’t the person who holds the power. The person who holds the power is the one who can come to the table with a solution to the problem. Our cities know they have issues, and they have enough people telling them about them. What our cities need is people to become a part of the solution.

Southern Illinois is a great place to live. I have come from the outside, and I was told you’ll never fit in. You’re right, I haven’t, but the people have accepted me anyway. My children moved in from a different school district, we haven’t had any issues. The teachers here were so accommodating. We feel like we’ve been here forever.  The beautiful scenes of southern Illinois are too many to list. We just need to keep lifting up the city, building it up, and praying it up.

For too long the church has sat on the sidelines and allowed our communities to drift! I have witnessed in my time here, that as the church has shown interest in the community and uplifted the community, the church has grown and been strengthened. I am now witnessing the turnaround in many of our communities, including my own. As the church goes, so goes the city. I continue to believe that our best days are ahead of us. If we the church, begin to lift our cities, our leaders and our nation up in prayer, then the city flourishes.

I challenge you to get involved in your community. Here at the Worship Center we put sweat equity into our cities by participating in community clean up days and the rebuilding of parks, just to name a few. We will continue to do those initiatives here, but we must also ensure that we are praying for our cities. Rebuilding a community to greatness isn’t an easy task, but we are well on our way to rebuilding, reclaiming and putting Southern Illinois on the map.

Melissa and I take Jeep drives through the various communities that make up Southern Illinois. We take note of the many businesses, restaurants and stores that weren’t here when we first moved here eight years ago. As a city boy, I am thrilled for the many “new” establishments that have invested into our communities. As a Pastor, I am seeing the results of God honoring His word. Now on our Jeep drives, we try to stop at the unique places of Southern Illinois, including a lot of the Mom and Pop restaurants and stores. I make it a point to invest back into the businesses that invest in their local community.

So, let’s do our part to bless our city, bless our community and if we do those things, ultimately we bless Southern Illinois!

 

The Verbs #10 (Affirmation)

The number 10 represents law, government and restoration. Solomon has spent nine chapters trying to convince us to go after wisdom and run from, or shun, the other woman. Now here in Chapter 10, Solomon begins his series of proverbs, with each one being powerful and practical. If we go after wisdom, it will bring proper order into our lives.

Solomon opens this chapter by talking about the affect a son has on his parents. A wise son makes a father glad. Look at the times when our heavenly Father gives His Son praise or affirmation. When Jesus was baptized, the heavens opened and a voice was heard saying, “this is my son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Then when Jesus was on the mountain speaking to Elijah and Moses, God said, “this is My Son hear Him.” (Luke 9:35).

Looking at these two moments, one cannot help but see that submitting to God through baptism, is a wise choice that brings gladness to the heart of our Heavenly Father. We can also clearly see that it is pleasing to God when we lay our own agendas down, and follow the will of God for our lives instead.

As much as a child can influence a parent, the parent has greater influence upon the child. The words that we use are so powerful. We are given a great example to follow. Jesus was a child who knew who He was. At a young age, He told His parents I must be about My Father’s business (Luke 2:49). He was upset that they had even been looking for Him. No doubt, some would look at that and ask why, or even if, Jesus needed affirmation, love or support. Clearly His mission and His destiny, what He was born to do, was an incredible task.

Jesus received affirmation and confirmation. How much more important is it, that we give our children affirmation and confirmation when they are doing well or doing the right thing? So often, I can look to the things that are not up to my standard as a parent, and begin to dwell on the negative so much, that my child never hears the good things  I say about them and what they do. If our children make us happy, we should tell them so. I know the scripture states that if we spare the rod we will spoil the child; however, if it is all rod and never a nod of approval, I believe we are robbing a child of one their greatest blessings, and that is the approval of their parents. Trust me, the approval of the Heavenly Father didn’t go to Jesus’ head, because immediately after that statement of approval from a pleased Father, Jesus went through one of the greatest trials of His life. I know in my life, the words my parents have spoken to me and poured into my life, are what has helped me through the greatest trials in my personal life. Could it be the same in your child’s life? That when everyone is bullying, tormenting and/or causing trouble for them, that playing out in their minds are not the words of those people, but instead it is your words of encouragement, affirmation and confirmation. Your words may just be the words that carry them through their darkest trial.

Let me ask you a question. Jesus said I only do what I saw my Father do and I only say what I have heard My Father say (John 5:19). What would your child be saying and doing, if they did the same with you?

As you read this Proverb, you will find so many applicable statements. If you act on them, they will improve your life. They will set you on a course that will give you a life full of freedom, a life that is enriched and a life that is expanded.

Before you read all of Proverbs 10, I want to call your attention to one more verse in this chapter, verse 22. The New King James Version renders the verse like this, “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.”

When God is the one that is in charge and He’s the one opening the doors, there is no sorrow at the end of it. Often, when we try to open doors and manipulate our way in, there is a sorrow at the end of the journey.

Verse 22 in The Message Bible reads like this, “God’s blessing makes life rich; nothing we do can improve on God.” There is absolutely nothing we can do to improve on God! Seek after Him so that His blessings can make your life rich!

Here is the chapter in its entirety:

1  Wise son, glad father;
stupid son, sad mother.
2  Ill-gotten gain gets you nowhere;
an honest life is immortal.
3  God won’t starve an honest soul,
but he frustrates the appetites of the wicked.
4  Sloth makes you poor;
diligence brings wealth.
5  Make hay while the sun shines—that’s smart;
go fishing during harvest—that’s stupid.
6  Blessings accrue on a good and honest life,
but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.
7  A good and honest life is a blessed memorial;
a wicked life leaves a rotten stench.
8  A wise heart takes orders;
an empty head will come unglued.
9  Honesty lives confident and carefree,
but Shifty is sure to be exposed.
10  An evasive eye is a sign of trouble ahead,
but an open, face-to-face meeting results in peace.
11  The mouth of a good person is a deep, life-giving well,
but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.
12  Hatred starts fights,
but love pulls a quilt over the bickering.
13  You’ll find wisdom on the lips of a person of insight,
but the shortsighted needs a slap in the face.
14  The wise accumulate knowledge—a true treasure;
know-it-alls talk too much—a sheer waste.
The Road to Life Is a Disciplined Life
15  The wealth of the rich is their bastion;
the poverty of the indigent is their ruin.
16  The wage of a good person is exuberant life;
an evil person ends up with nothing but sin.
17  The road to life is a disciplined life;
ignore correction and you’re lost for good.
18  Liars secretly hoard hatred;
fools openly spread slander.
19  The more talk, the less truth;
the wise measure their words.
20  The speech of a good person is worth waiting for;
the blabber of the wicked is worthless.
21  The talk of a good person is rich fare for many,
but chatterboxes die of an empty heart.
Fear-of-God Expands Your Life
22  God’s blessing makes life rich;
nothing we do can improve on God.
23  An empty-head thinks mischief is fun,
but a mindful person relishes wisdom.
24  The nightmares of the wicked come true;
what the good people desire, they get.
25  When the storm is over, there’s nothing left of the wicked;
good people, firm on their rock foundation, aren’t even fazed.
26  A lazy employee will give you nothing but trouble;
it’s vinegar in the mouth, smoke in the eyes.
27  The Fear-of-God expands your life;
a wicked life is a puny life.
28  The aspirations of good people end in celebration;
the ambitions of bad people crash.
29  God is solid backing to a well-lived life,
but he calls into question a shabby performance.
30  Good people last—they can’t be moved;
the wicked are here today, gone tomorrow.
31  A good person’s mouth is a clear fountain of wisdom;
a foul mouth is a stagnant swamp.
32  The speech of a good person clears the air;
the words of the wicked pollute it.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: The Bible in contemporary language (Pr 10). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPres

The Verbs #9 (Feelings)

Lady Wisdom has built and furnished her home;

it’s supported by seven hewn timbers.

The banquet meal is ready to be served: lamb roasted,

wine poured out, table set with silver and flowers.

Having dismissed her serving maids,

Lady Wisdom goes to town, stands in a prominent place,

and invites everyone within sound of her voice:

“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?

Come with me, oh come, have dinner with me!

I’ve prepared a wonderful spread—fresh-baked bread,

roast lamb, carefully selected wines.

Leave your impoverished confusion and live!

Walk up the street to a life with meaning.”

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 9). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Here, wisdom built a university, furnished it, opened all the classrooms and then headed in to town to recruit. Wisdom is recruiting prospects into the classroom of wisdom. This is an invitation to every single person and it’s a beautiful thing. Money, education level, neighborhood, last name, color, creed, economic status or your political affiliation, is not a determining factor to receiving an invitation to this university. It is open to every single person. The only prerequisite needed is your desire to learn! There is no tuition, loans or room and board to pay. It’s a free university if you are willing to leave the impoverished, confused life, and just walk up the street to a life that has meaning.

That is a pretty incredible deal. It’s offered every day, every moment until Jesus comes. All you need to do is decide to leave the life that leads to nowhere and come to this life that is abundant life.

Now, just to give you a warning that you should understand clearly, this course that is taught in the university of wisdom, you may not be able to handle. You might even want to drop out of this class. The course is called conviction and constructive criticism. It’s the corrective measure of God. He places a feeling (we call it conviction) into us that gives us a pause, warning or command to either stop doing something or to start doing something. How you handle that course determines whether you stay in this university.

Solomon tells us the difference in people who take this class in verse Proverbs 9:7:

If you reason with an arrogant cynic, you’ll get slapped in the face;

confront bad behavior and get a kick in the shins.

So don’t waste your time on a scoffer;

all you’ll get for your pains is abuse.

But if you correct those who care about life,

that’s different—they’ll love you for it!

Save your breath for the wise—they’ll be wiser for it;

tell good people what you know—they’ll profit from it.

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 9:7–9). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

I have heard that first line explained in so many different ways. “Never smack a man who chews tobacco” was the way that one preacher said it. In other words, you have to decide if the stain is worth the point you are trying to make.  Or it’s like the story of the bulldog and the skunk. The skunk kept coming into the bulldog’s yard. Everybody was waiting on the bulldog to go whip the skunk. He could do it, everyone knew that he could, but he never did make a move towards the skunk. Finally, someone asked the bulldog why he didn’t go run that skunk out of his yard? He said, “well I knew I could beat him, I just didn’t think it was worth the stink.” You have to decide if the fight is worth the stink, and most often it is not!

So many people have a lot of knowledge. Knowledge is simply knowing the facts. We are in the school of wisdom, and wisdom is knowing how to apply those facts. Here we are told to save our breath. Why even bother dealing with some people? Instead, focus on the ones that want this kind of life, the life that Jesus has given to us.

Sadly, one area that many people get upset about is when their lifestyle is contrary to the word of God. The scripture says that when you do make that confrontation, it will cause you pain. Why? They have been fooled by another voice.

13–18  Then there’s this other woman, Madame Whore—

brazen, empty-headed, frivolous.

She sits on the front porch

of her house on Main Street,

And as people walk by minding

their own business, calls out,

“Are you confused about life, don’t know what’s going on?

Steal off with me, I’ll show you a good time!

No one will ever know—I’ll give you the time of your life.”

But they don’t know about all the skeletons in her closet,

that all her guests end up in hell.

People are fooled by the good time they are having; however, they don’t see that there is a sudden stop coming to that good time. One cannot deny that sin is pleasant for a season (Hebrews 11:25). However, there is also no denying that it always ends in destruction (Proverbs 14:12). Just because something feels good doesn’t indicate that it is right. Emotions, or shall I say feelings, often can lead us down a path that isn’t godly.

Feelings are the main way that the enemy fools people. May I remind you that the devil came at Eve, using one of God gifts to humankind: feelings.We need to understand some things about feelings, starting with the fact that God created them. He gave us the capacity to have them, just as He Himself has feelings. Look at the scriptures, and you’ll see how God feels. He expresses pleasure, joy, anger and sadness just to name a few. He gave us the ability to feel all those things. While feelings are gifts from God, they do have limitations. Operating on a feeling isn’t the same as operating with truth, or even rational thinking. Feelings can go up and down, but what we know as truth, always stays the same. Feelings tend to react, but thinking tends to keep itself grounded in what we know. Again, truth remains the same. The bottom line is that feelings can react to something we know not to be true.That’s why, when it comes to responding to what God tells us, we must put what we know ahead of what we feel. We must make our knowledge of His truth the engine, and our feelings the caboose.We need to make sure that our feelings are guided by what we know, not the other way around.Satan convinced Eve to turn that around and her feelings were driving instead of following. He wanted her to use the emotions that he stirred within her to be the choice maker on whether she ate the forbidden fruit or she obeyed God.

Thousands of years after this scene in the garden, the apostle John wrote this of the sinful pleasures this world has to offer:

“for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the father, but is from the world” 1 John 2:16 (NASB)

When you compare this verse with Genesis 3:6, you notice some striking parallels. John tells us that the world offers:

Lust of the flesh = The fruit looked so good to Eve, good enough to eat

Lust of the eye = The fruit was pleasing to Eve’s eyes

Boastful pride of life = The fruit was desirable to make Eve wise

Satan knew then, and knows now, that he can appeal to these kinds of feelings, which are in the heart of every human being. Each of us wants to satisfy the lust of our flesh and eyes, and each of us wants to think more highly of ourselves then God says we should. Sin feels good, but for a season. Many people enjoy the “feel good” part, but that part will come to an end.

Part of the devil’s strategy in getting us to sin is to give us the illusion that we can control it, and for a while, it even seems that way. We do what feels good thinking we are in control, but it’s only a matter of time before sin controls us. If you were to talk to anyone whose marriage, ministry or life has been ruined by the effects of drugs, alcohol or any other addiction, I think that that person would tell you, “I never thought it would come to this. I was just dabbling in it, and then I got sucked into it.”

What Satan didn’t want Eve to know and what he doesn’t want us to know today, is that when we decide to disobey God, when we remove ourselves from the protection of God, then the devil is running the show. When the devil is running the show, he’ll take you farther then you want to go and keep you longer than you ever planned to stay.

That’s why you need to stay in the Course at Wisdom University.

The Verbs #8 (How to Live Well)

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How to Live Well

One man said “that many people would be full of wisdom had they not had the idea that they already knew everything.”

One of the very best ways to live a life full of wisdom is to remain teachable. Jesus said of those who never lost their hunger nor ever lost their thirst, that they would be filled. (Matthew 5:6) In order for you to be hungry or thirsty, you must deplete yourself of what is already in you. Then there is a pain, hunger pain, or a sign of thirst. Many people will never hunger and thirst after Jesus, because they are still full of themselves. Until you are depleted of you, you’ll never fully hunger and thirst after Jesus.

Let me give you another example. Say, you invited me over for dinner, I’m not sure of the menu, nor I am sure of the exact time that we are going to eat. I’ve worked all day, and I am hungry, so on my way over to your house, I swing into the local burger joint, and get me a couple of items from the value menu. Even though, I’m on my way to dinner, I’m going to satisfy my hunger, on my own. I am now filled with what I have purchased and consumed. I arrive at your place, and there, before me is the most exquisite meal ever served, but I am not hungry, now! You see I have consumed to satisfy myself, regardless of how delicious your meal smells, or how inviting it looks, there just isn’t room, nor is there a hunger to eat what you have prepared.

Could that be the way that we are with God and His word? We are so filled with the value menu of the world, or our own ideas, that we aren’t truly getting the real meal. Sure, you’re making it through, just as that meal satisfied me, but I could have had the best. Instead I settled for less.

In Proverbs 8 Solomon lays it out very simply, that we would live well, if we would listen to wisdom. How do you know if you are getting the value menu or the best dinner? I use this next to funnel so much of what I hear through.

Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the other’s’ throats.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Jas 3:13–16). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Jas 3:17–18). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Solomon stated many of these same things in Proverbs 8.

Here is some of what Solomon told us about hearing wisdom:

Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well,
I’m telling you how to live at your best.
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money,
and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her…
“I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity;
Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street.
The Fear-of-God means hating Evil,
whose ways I hate with a passion—
pride and arrogance and crooked talk.
Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics;
I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out.
With my help, leaders rule,
and lawmakers legislate fairly;
With my help, governors govern,
along with all in legitimate authority.
I love those who love me;
those who look for me find me.
Wealth and Glory accompany me—
also substantial Honor and a Good Name.
My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary;
the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.
You can find me on Righteous Road—that’s where I walk—
at the intersection of Justice Avenue,
Handing out life to those who love me,
filling their arms with life—armloads of life!

Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Pr 8:5–6)  (Pr 8:9–21). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

The best way to live is to be emptied of yourself, and go after God with a hunger and thirst to be filled by Him.

The Verbs #7 (Dressed for Success)

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Proverbs 7 is quite a chapter. Up to this point, most of the Proverbs have related to two main topics: wisdom and women. Solomon is speaking and giving instruction to run towards wisdom, but to flee from the evil woman. He is writing these proverbs to his son imploring him to flee from the woman who is out to destroy him; however, the point is applicable to us all.

Solomon is talking about running from temptation. Specifically, here in Chapter 7, he speaks about a woman who was dressed to seduce. She was dressed and properly positioned for success in capturing the young man in her snare.

Throughout this chapter, the woman appeals to the young man in seven different ways.

This woman was positioned on the corner. It wasn’t that her house was on the corner; that is where she positioned herself to seduce the man. Maybe you’ve heard the old saying, “trouble came looking for you”. That’s what we have in this Proverb. It is what happens to us if we are not vigilant in keeping ourselves pure before God, and staying in tune with what the enemy of our soul is attempting to do to us. We will succumb to this attack.

You can describe the devil as cunning, shrewd and even brilliant in his attacks on you. He properly positions himself to lay a trap for you. The Bible tells us that he is extremely crafty. The Bible also uses a snake as an imagery of Satan. Snakes do not blink because they do not have eyelids. Their eyes are always open, so they are always watching, on the prowl and ready for the attack! Your enemy is on the lookout, or shall I say he’s standing on the corner, looking out for you.  He never stops, he never rests and he’s extremely patient. Peter warned us about Satan’s prowling ways that we are to be sober-minded, watchful because our adversary prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

We all have this mental picture of the enemy of our soul. We have the comic book or the Hollywood version played out in our minds time and time again. He is this ghoulish looking enemy, but he was the shining light. II Corinthians 11:14 tells us that he “disguises himself as an angel of light”. He appears as something that can look good and trustworthy.  The story we find in Genesis 3 tells us that the devil understands how to dress for success. He disguised himself in a manner that Eve would not question or have any reason to mistrust. At this point in history, there was no fear of animals or nature, so for her to approach a snake wasn’t out of the ordinary. The devil used something, that at first glance, wouldn’t cause alarm.

In sports, teams use their practice time studying and preparing how to attack the weaknesses of their opponent. The enemy of your soul does the exact same thing. He studies, he listens and prepares an attack that can exploit you and that catches you off guard! He’s just waiting on you to walk by the corner where he has laid his trap.

So many will say, “I am strong enough to ward off the attacks of the enemy.” Let me shed some light on that argument. The Bible describes four men who were extremely powerful and gifted leaders, some had great anointing on their lives. One, from his mother’s womb was to be a Nazarite. These great and powerful men fell by way of the woman. Samson, David, Solomon and Herod all fell through the snare of a woman. Samson was one of the strongest men who ever lived, yet succumbed to the temptation of a woman. David was one of the greatest songwriters and kings who ever lived, but was tripped up by noticing Bathsheba. Solomon, the wisest of all until Jesus, couldn’t pass the test. Herod, doing all that he could to stay in power, let a dance of a little girl and the request of her mother, bring him to a decision to kill John the Baptist. Still think you are strong enough to continually pass by the corner and remain unmoved? Only by the help of the Holy Spirit can you withstand the attacks of the enemy upon your life.

The Holy Spirit is the mechanism by which we can know where, how and when the attack will come. Paul stated to the church at Corinth that we are not to be ignorant of his devices. Meaning we are to be aware of how the devil works so that we can always have the advantage on him.

A few years ago, I preached a message about the times in which the enemy would launch an attack or lay a trap for you. He rarely will come at you with a full-frontal assault. It is usually a glancing blow that gets you out of balance, and then he goes for the haymaker. Here are five opportune times the enemy will launch an attack: (You can request the notes from the full sermon.)

1. Right after a spiritual victory (Victories often lead to defeat!)
2. When you’re alone (There is a big difference in being lonely and isolated, versus solitude!)
3. When you are physically drained (I could add when you are emotionally and spiritually drained!)
4. When you’re at church (C’mon, you’ve been there and done this one too!)
5. When you begin something new for God (Like a fast!)

Look at the wording here of this scripture:

13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
The New King James Version. (1982). (Lk 4:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

He tempted but didn’t fulfill his desire of making Jesus fail, so he departed until a more opportune time. Jesus wasn’t fooled by the disguises or temptations, nor was He ignorant of the basis of the attack. Why? He knew the Word! Just as the devil can dress for success, so can you, by putting on the whole armor of God.

Further study:

Ephesians 6Matthew 4Luke 3
Judges 16:4-21Luke 4:1Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
II Samuel 11 and 12Genesis 2:18Mark 14:38
I Kings 11 Luke 4:14-15Nehemiah 13:26

The Verbs #6 (Hate)

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The Verbs #6 – Hate

Proverbs chapter six identifies six things that God hates, but it lists seven things. The last one God considers to be an abomination.

Here is the list of seven things that would be advisable to avoid to stay off God’s list:

1. Eyes that are arrogant
2. A tongue that lies
3. Hands that murder the innocent
4. A heart that hatches evil plots
5. Feet that race down a wicked track
6. A mouth that lies under oath
7. A troublemaker in the family

Alright, I’ve already repented seven times while writing this. God forgive me for having these in my life.

God is a lover of unity, honesty and integrity. Each one of the listed items on the hate list of God, disrupts unity. Unity is always destroyed through the attributes that God hates. Liars, pot stirrers, pride, evil thoughts and troublemakers always work to divide, instead of unite.

As much as God loves unity, the devil hates it. God hates things that cause disunity. The devil hates the things which cause, create or fosters unity among us. Why is there such a strong work to destroy unity?

Look at these instances in the Bible when God’s people were unified. Though their aspirations were misguided, the people at the Tower of Babel were unified. Through their unity, they accomplished one of the great feats of their day. On the Day of Pentecost, the church was birthed! A mighty movement was unleashed, and a message that is still being delivered, lived, and experienced, came on a day when they were all in one mind and one accord. In other words, there was unity among them. Can you imagine what we could accomplish if we all were unified? Look at what we, as a local church have done by unifying around a simple vision to love kids in Cairo! That’s why the devil works so hard to destroy unity!

Just look at our nation here. After a moment of tragedy, such as 9/11, there was a national movement to unity. People stood in the streets, supported one another and comforted one another. Even though it was one of the most tragic days in many of our lives, it was also one of our nation’s strongest days. We were unified! Then look at the spiritual onslaught that has been unleashed to destroy that unity among us. Here we are, a nation that is racked with the list of things that God hates. We murder, kill, lie and sow discord among ourselves to gain power and influence. We kill innocence, arrogance is rife among us and it has caused such disunity. I have never witnessed such disunity in my lifetime. Families are broken, race relations are being attacked and our brotherhoods are estranged. The enemy is having a field day. Where should we, as the church stand? What should our voice be declaring?

Think on this verse…

10         You who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the souls of His saints;
He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.

The New King James Version. (1982). (Ps 97:10). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

We are to hate evil, certainly not participate in it. Hating evil does not mean I cannot love. A disagreement over an action doesn’t mean that I hate a person. We are not wrestling people; rather, we are wrestling against spiritual wickedness, principalities and powers. We are to bring those spirits, which would cause disunity, into captivity. That’s how we become a people who builds unity. We take disunity and remove it.  

We are to be a people who builds unity. If you desire to be a person that lives in the blessings of the Lord, then be a bridge builder, a relationship mender and a peacemaker. If we do that, and stand in unity with each other, that’s where the blessing of the Lord is! Love unity and hate the things that cause disunity. It is a good thing to be in unity!

How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Ps 133:1–134:title). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

The Verbs #5 (Mark Well)

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The Verbs #5 – Mark Well
“Mark well that GOD doesn’t miss a move you make; he’s aware of every step you take. The shadow of your sin will overtake you; you’ll find yourself stumbling all over yourself in the dark. Death is the reward of an undisciplined life; your foolish decisions trap you in a dead end.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭5:21-23‬ ‭MSG‬‬
 
When I was a kid, my grandmother had a favorite line she would quote to us when she knew that we weren’t telling the truth or that we were trying to hide something from her. She’d say, “be sure your sins will find you out”. Ultimately we’d wind up telling the true story to her. I had no idea when I was five or six years old that she was quoting the Bible (Numbers 32:23), and really relaying a common theme throughout the Bible, that God is really watching everything that we do. 
 
Over and over again biblical stories prove that God is watching what is happening. King David and Nathan the prophet were speaking one day on the front porch of King David’s house, God was listening…
 
“Before long, the king made himself at home and GOD gave him peace from all his enemies. Then one day King David said to Nathan the prophet, “Look at this: Here I am, comfortable in a luxurious house of cedar, and the Chest of God sits in a plain tent.”
 
But that night, the word of GOD came to Nathan saying, “Go and tell my servant David: This is GOD ’s word on the matter: You’re going to build a ‘house’ for me to live in? Why, I haven’t lived in a ‘house’ from the time I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt till now. All that time I’ve moved about with nothing but a tent. And in all my travels with Israel, did I ever say to any of the leaders I commanded to shepherd Israel, ‘Why haven’t you built me a house of cedar?’”
‭‭2 Samuel‬ ‭7:1-2, 4-7‬ ‭MSG‬‬
 
It was a simple conversation about the Ark of the Covenant, God was listening. You would think that would have been enough for David to know that God was in tune with everything that he did.Yet, it didn’t keep David from the event of Bathsheba. He assumed that everyone was off to battle, no one is looking, it’ll be our little secret. That little secret led to more secrets, and all of them God knew. Guess who was sent to remind David of that point? That’s right! Nathan was sent to remind him God was watching the whole thing unfold. 
 
I have to believe that is why Solomon could write this Proverb. He’d heard the story, after all He was the son of David and Bathsheba. Here he’s giving a warning to all who’ll listen. Mark well God doesn’t miss a move you make, He’s aware of every step you take. 
 
We jokingly state a times, that we should live so that the preacher doesn’t have to lie at your funeral. In fact, it really doesn’t matter what is said at your funeral, the way that a tree falls, is how it lays. No changing it after it has fallen. You must take care of those things with God, He already knows, so go ahead and ask Him to forget those things. We call that repentance, it is us owning up to the moves we’ve made, and God doing what only God can do, forgiving us of our sins. 
 
God is watching and will always be watching the moves we make, both good and bad. 
 
He watched Cain, don’t think because God asked the question about where is your brother that He didnt already know. Matter of fact,He told Cain, your brothers blood is speaking to me from the ground in Genesis 4.
 
God watched the builder’s of Babel. He came down to see the city and tower that they had built, He knew the motives for which they were building it. Genesis 11
 
God knew what was happening in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God said that He’d heard the outcry about what was happening and He would see for Himself, if the cry of the victims was true. Genesis 18
 
God watched as Uzzah, placed his hand upon His ark. 2 Samuel 6:6-7 & 1 Chronicles 13:10
 
Come to the New Testament and read Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and you’ll see that He knew all that was happening in the seven churches. 
 
 
Jesus stated in Matthew 12:37 that even our words are watched…
 
““You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:34-37‬ ‭MSG‬‬
 
In Matthew 10:42 Jesus said…
 
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.””
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:41-42‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
 
The littlest things are watched, the moves you make are watched, every move you make.
 
So when you are tempted to make a move, remember Jesus is with you. Remember, He said He’d never leave you, nor forsake you, but He’d be with you, until the ends of the world. So when that temptation comes, remember you’re not alone!
You are anything but alone, God is with you, Angels are observing you, and there is a great cloud of witnesses, cheering you on, to make move towards the way of escape from the temptation. There is way of escape from every temptation: turn to God, and you’ll be making a move that you can be proud of. That’s a move that God will remember. It likewise will be marked well!

Verbs #4 (Guard)

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The Verbs #4

Guard

“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth; avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you. Look neither right nor left; leave evil in the dust.”

Proverbs 4:23-27 MSG

Have you ever put something together and not liked the end result? I recently purchased a new grill.  I love to cook outside all year around, it is one of the great joys of my life. I researched out nearly every grill on the market. I compared them, read their reviews and received opinions from other people on the right charcoal grill for me! Finally, after saving back for months I went on my expedition to purchase my new grill. I bought the grill, a cover for it and a few other accessories to make it top notch. The next Friday I began to put it all together. If you know me at all, you know that patience is not something I am good at. I tried to have patience but I got tired of waiting on it. Nonetheless, I emptied the box of all the contents, took a look at the picture and and began to assemble my grill.

Earlier in Proverbs 4 there is a distinction made between knowledge and wisdom. You see, by looking at the picture I had gained some knowledge, but lacked wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to properly apply the knowledge. I lacked wisdom because I hadn’t read the instruction manual. I didn’t know the proper steps or the proper order of how to put the pieces together that I had emptied out of the box.

Now after about twenty minutes, I had it put together! It looked just like the picture on the box. The problem was the box only showed the outside of the grill. Where I ran into an issue was when the grill looked right on the outside, but it wasn’t put together right on the inside. The instruction manual that I finally read, after trying it my way multiple times, stated to start with components that were on the inside. See all of the outside stuff I had put together had to attach to the parts that were on the inside. When I attempted to finalize the assembly of the inside of my grill, there was nothing there. All because I didn’t start in the right place. I started, I just didn’t use wisdom. I was mad, angry, frustrated about the step or the position that I was in at that point. However, I should’ve been upset with how I started. My start was dictating my finish! I realize now that so much of that project would have been easier had I just started it right in the beginning. I forced, stripped and bent parts to make it work. If I had started it right, it would’ve went together exactly like the maker of the product designed it to go together.

No doubt, you have faced similar circumstances in your life. We face the temptation to do it our way. We want to skip a few steps, look at the picture of someone else’s life and try to make our life fit into that picture. You’re seeing the outside. You really have no idea what it took to make that marriage, friendship, success or moment for that person. Remember, you are comparing your reality, and the daily play-by-play of your life, to someone else’s highlight reel.

Comparison is a dangerous thing. You look at the picture of someone or something and begin to compare yourself. Condemnation sets in. You are comparing the place that you are in life, with the place that you perceive them to be. Perception is so much greater than reality. You have perceived something about their life, and then compared it to the reality of your own life and you’ve come up short in your own mind. No doubt, there is a real gap between where you desire to be and where you are at. That, in and of itself, can cause emotions to rise. To compare your gap of where you thought you’d be, versus where someone else appears to be, is a losing battle.

I believe that’s why we must guard our own heart. Stick to the instruction manual for your life. Don’t get distracted, impatient or jealous. If you start with any of those emotions, you’ll not like the finished project at all. If you want to improve your life, guard against starting it out wrong. Many people are wanting to change the circumstances of their life, but are often so unwilling to improve themselves. The key to success isn’t blowing someone else’s candle out so that yours shines brighter! No, its becoming the finished product that God wants YOU to be.

We must be on guard. I Peter 5:8-9 tells us:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Read that last part again, knowing that the same sufferings you experience are also being experienced by your brotherhood. He says to be on guard because your adversary is trying to devour you. One of the ways is to make you believe that you’re the only one that is going through a trial. We resist the adversary by understanding that all of us go through some rough times. In other words, behind the sweet picture that you have become so jealous of, there is pain and life behind it. The enemy desires to devour you from the inside out, and he starts on the unguarded heart.

So just like my grill that I worked on to make it look like the picture on the box, but I completely missed that the outside was actually dependent upon the inside being put together first; Jesus taught in Matthew 5 about inward attitudes, and then later He focused on the outside. Our outward activities are built on the inward attitudes that we possess.

So guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life.