If You Have Ever Met at Least One Other Person, Read This...

Starting April 21, we will be going through a sermon series from the book of Proverbs: The Joy of Committed Relationships!

Let’s be honest: relationships can be a headache. I mean, who among us hasn’t considered becoming a monk or retreating to the woods to live off the land like a modern day Pioneer? But God has given us all relationships to glorify Him… and to give us joy! How about a word from Him on how that happens? On what that looks like? On how I can not just tolerate, but JOYFULLY LOVE the most important people He has put into my life? Sign me up. We all need it.

Joy is our theme this year, but we are not going after joy; we are going after Jesus, and He gives us HIS joy (John 15:11)!

What does Proverbs and that books teachings on relationships have to do with Jesus? And how does the wisdom Proverbs calls us to in our relationships tie in to Jesus?

The goal of Proverbs isn’t to give cookie-cutter nuggets of good thinking to help us along - it is to help us draw closer to the God who is wisdom! And just as our joy is tied up in Jesus, so is our wisdom.

How so?

Jesus lived wisdom.

During His time on earth, Jesus lived perfect wisdom (Luke 2:40 and Luke 2:52). He grew in it, He lived it, He taught with it. Jesus applied perfect wisdom every moment of every day He walked on earth. Wow.

Jesus is wisdom.

Colossians 2:3 says in Jesus is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He didn’t just live it… He IS it!

Jesus is the way of wisdom.

Proverbs constantly contrasts foolishness and wisdom, calling us to choose wisdom. Jesus taught the same, but emphasized that He isn’t just telling us the way - He IS the way! (Matthew 7:24-27, John 14:6)

Jesus supplies wisdom.

It would be easy to go through Proverbs and just say, “OK, got it. I’ll just be wise.” No can do. Wisdom doesn’t come from us. Jesus has to give it to us. (Luke 21:15, James 1:5).

What’s my point? We just finished a series about Jesus called: I AM - The Incomparable Claims of Jesus Christ. And this series on Proverbs and relationships and joy is NOT “OK, let’s talk about something else for a while.” It’s still all about the Person and Work of Jesus, trusting Him for the grace and faith to apply His Word.

I hope you kept the receipt for that tent you bought. We are not retreating from people. We are going to love people. Whether you are married or someday hope to be married, or a parent or someday hope to be a parent, or a friend or someday hope to have friends… God is going to work in you through this series.

Do not miss it. 

p.s. - is not a monk, but has been told by others he should take a vow of silence

Chocolate Bunnies (Too early?)

Proverbs 4:23 - Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. 

Did you ever get one of those Chocolate Easter Bunnies? You know the one I am talking about.It's about 18 inches tall, but it was bought at the dollar store. (Big red flag!) It looks so good, but you take that first bite (on the ear, of course) to discover it is hollow! 

Sadly, this is the case for many people. Looking good on the outside, no sign of a problem, almost, dare I say, normal. But on the inside: hollow and empty.

Following Christ is a matter of being strong from the inside out - a matter of the condition of the heart. And once we forget that, we are vulnerable to a list of spiritual dangers. For example: 

  • Why do students fall spiritually and morally their first year away from home?
  • Why would a church deacon entertain himself with immoral television or internet material?
  • Why would a pastor have an affair with a woman he is counseling?
  • Why would someone seemingly get tired of following Christ? Why would righteousness become boring?

This all happens when either a Christian completely loses heart, or a non-believer comes to realization that maybe like that bunny, they have looked good on the outside, but have been hollow on the inside. Instead of growing deeper and richer at the center, we grow more shallow and hollow. 

We must not be content to evaluate our walk on externals. God Himself does not do that. He is after the relationship, growing us and changing us from the inside out. 

Can we each pause today and ask ourselves where our heart is with God right this moment? If we are finding ourselves empty, why would we delay in running to the source of filling, to the very One who wants to fill us? 

p.s. - hates those bunnies, but even more, hates being like one

Gotta Haveta Want It!

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. 
Proverbs 2:1-5

One of the most common things I hear from people when I share the Gospel with them is this: “I tried to read the Bible, but I don’t understand it.”

There are a lot of reasons for this:

I am not sure where to start, so I start anywhere.

If you pick up the Bible for the first time and just pick a random starting place (ie jump right into the middle of Leviticus), I can see why you are having problems. (Why do people do this with the Bible? They wouldn‘t with any other book!)

A difficult Bible translation.

I have no problem with the KJV, but it is a very difficult translation to read for “first timers”. And because KJV is the most widely distributed translation, this is the one people use to start reading (sometimes by jumping in the middle of Leviticus).

These things must be spiritually discerned.

We can’t accept these things naturally. (1 Corinthians 2:14) Spiritual truths are spiritually discerned.

But here is another thing: You gotta haveta want it.

When it comes to pursuing the wisdom of the Lord, this can be no half-hearted interest.

Look at the way the Proverbs writer describes going after it: receive, treasure up, ear attentive, heart inclined, calling out, raising voice. Not a casual approach to God’s Word! Going after it like my son goes after Starburst candy! (Editor‘s note: Jeff‘s son likes Starburst candy.)

You gotta haveta want it. Want. It. Like how? Like, to what extent? Notice he says to go after God’s Word as you would go after hidden treasure.

If I gave you a treasure map that leads to 5 billion dollars in hidden treasure, would you simply fold it up, stick the map in a drawer, and say, “Maybe someday…” NO! You would drop everything and go after it!

What if this map were written in Spanish? Would you just discard it. “Bummer. I don’t speak Spanish. Oh, well.” NO! How quickly would you learn Spanish? For 5 billion? You would do whatever it took to learn the language to use the map to get the treasure.

Go after God’s infinite, eternal wisdom with the same gusto

… then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (v5).

Would you go after the wisdom of the Almighty with the energy and effort you would use to go after money?

p.s. - would totally become a spokesman for Rosetta Stone.

Bringing back an old-school word...

Proverbs 1:1-4: The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth--

God’s Word is so amazing. It gives us wisdom and discipline. It helps us to understand the ways of God. It gives us instruction on dealing properly with people.

To sum it up, Proverbs 1:4 uses a word we don't use much anymore: Prudence.

What is Prudence?

Prudence is doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, for the right purpose.

First, it’s doing the right thing. We all have choices every day. Prudence says I am going to, by the grace of God, choose to do the right thing. I am not going to entertain sinful, or even unprofitable, ideas. I am not going to hope I make a good decision. I am making it now. I am making a choice ahead of time. I am going to do the right thing.

But it is also doing the right thing in the right way. You know you can do the right thing but in the wrong way, right? Showing your boss that you are concerned for her is a right thing. Showing it by taking her on a date, wrong way. It’s using discretion: I know what I need to do, what is the wisest way to go about it?

Prudence is even more thorough. It is doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. It has taken me a while to learn this (almost 37 years): but timing is everything. When I have to have a hard conversation, I try to do it ASAP. Not always a good plan. I am not discounting urgency, but I have learned that sometimes it is wiser to wait until a better time to say something hard.

And finally, prudence means doing the right thing in the right way at the right time for the right purpose. What is my purpose? Proverbs 20:5 reminds us a motivation check is always in order. Why am I doing this? To exalt myself? To prove am I right? To put this person in his place? To appear more spiritual than I am? Is this really for the Lord?

In other words, in every choice you have to make, examine:

WHAT is the right thing?

HOW should I go about doing the right thing?

WHEN should I get on this?

WHY am I doing this?

p.s. - this is the proverbial truth. literally