Monday, January 28, 2019

Seeking Wisdom -- Pleasing God

A professional violinist ended a magnificent performance. The crowd jumped up from their seats and gave him a standing ovation. But with tears coming down his cheeks, he walked off the stage, dejected. A stagehand saw him and said, ‘Why are you so sad? Those people are going crazy out there and you’re crying. I don’t understand.’ ‘Do you see the one man sitting in the center section?” The stagehand said, ‘Yeah, one man sitting, so what? There are two thousand other people standing.’ ‘That man is my violin teacher. If he doesn’t stand, it doesn’t matter what two thousand other people do.’

There are some people who, no matter what you do, they aren’t pleased. You do a job 99% good, they point out the 1% bad. It’s as though they look only for what’s wrong not what’s right. They hear the one note that was out of tune. They see the single smudge on the painting. They find the one misplaced comma in the paper.

And when those people are authority figures in our lives, we often transfer their negative comments over to God. God must think about us like they do. God must not like us, either.

As we’re reading through the Proverbs, it’s easy to look more at the negative side of each verse than the positive, isn’t it. Why? We see ourselves as foolish more than righteous. In fact, we typically don’t think of ourselves as righteous. That’s a category for only a select few who live a more spiritual life than we do.

We hear Solomon direct something to the righteous but we aren’t sure he’s talking about us.
·       The hope of the righteous is gladness
·       The righteous will never be shaken.
·       The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom.
·       The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable.
·       The righteous is delivered from trouble.
·       The desire of the righteous is only good.
·       The righteous will flourish like the green leaf.
·       The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.
·       The thoughts of the righteous are just.
·       The house of the righteous will stand.

And we think, if that’s the life of the righteous, I must not be one.

Solomon writes: Prov 4:24-27 Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put devious speech far from you. Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil. 

And we say, “Yep, that’s what I want to do.” That’s the way we want to live, but it’s not what we end up doing.

Like Paul said: Rom 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 

And because that seems normal, we can stay there, accepting it as the way it is, or we can read on: Rom 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

If I miss that answer, I’m stuck stumbling through life, trying to achieve something that’s already done. I will spend my time thinking: if I keep trying I can earn that freedom. We imagine God has scales that weigh out our lives. Each good thing goes on one side and the bad on the other. In the end, the one who has more good than bad wins. It’s an empty pursuit!

First of all, what are we talking about? Righteousness. Righteous – being right with God and not wrong. Acceptance by God. Belonging to God. Being declared a Child of God.

Rom 5:19 For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 

Key word: made, not earned or achieved but turned into. The moment we become Christians, we are turned into God’s righteous Children.

Col 2:13-14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 

What is the debt? Debt is an obligation with a cost to gain a particular result. To what were we obligated? Trying to do the best we could to earn God’s acceptance. Why do we want His acceptance – so He’ll be pleased with us and love us and bless our lives.

By what Paul says, that’s already happened. Then, why do we keep trying to get God to accept us after He has already done so? Because we don’t trust that what Jesus did was enough.

You’ll remember there were 613 obligations the Pharisees imposed on the people, that in keeping all of them would produce righteous before God. It was a constant burden. Peter said neither we nor our fathers we able to keep these. So they lived under the fear of rejection by God.

I read this week of a supposed Christian organization that had found 1050 commands in the NT. On their website they stated: If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed, they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.

Do what? God will love you only if you achieve a perfect score on keeping rules? Baloney.

Any obligation like that was taken away by the cross. And because of the cross we were labeled righteous. We are accepted. God is pleased to call us His Children. We are righteous as the result of the what Jesus did, not by what we do or don’t do.

Two times in Jesus’ life God spoke His opinion of His Son: Matt 3:16-17 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." 

And at the Transfiguration: Matt 17:3-5 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" 

Both of those moments were before Jesus did what He came to do – die on the cross. So, the opinion of God toward His Son was based on who Jesus was not on what He did or didn’t do.

Col 1:15-20 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 

The Father’s good pleasure means it pleased God to accomplish His work through Jesus. It then delighted Him for what would happen as a result. He could now fully accept us as His Children.
2Cor 5:21 The Father made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

We are righteous because we are Children of God. When did that happen? John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 

The moment we were invited to receive the privilege of God’s acceptance we called out to Him to apply what Jesus did to what separated us from God, we got the title of righteous. It’s who we are. We are righteous. So, Solomon isn’t talking about some other, more spiritually superior group. He’s talking about us. We are the righteous ones.

You might find this interesting: there are no references to Children of God in the OT. There are sons of God, but these refer to angels not humans. Jews are referred to the People of God or the Children of Israel. So, our only example of how God speaks about His children is by how He spoke to His Son. This My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.

Does that make the jump to you? Can you hear God saying to you, “You are my beloved Child in whom I am well-pleased?” That’s His opinion, based on who Jesus was not on what He did or didn’t do. His opinion of us is the same. He is pleased simply because we are His children. Settle that in your heart.

Now, let’s talk about behavior as a Child of God.

Remember, being a Christian is a privilege. Living the Christian life is a responsibility. That’s where we choose to follow God’s way, taking the path He points out. It is an intentional choice to reject contrary forces and stay on track. When we do, we bring Him pleasure.

Phil 2:12-13 work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure

God is pleased because we are His children. We bring Him additional pleasure as we live as His children.

Ps 69:30-31 I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the LORD better than an ox or a young bull. 

It pleased God that we worshipped Him this morning.

Ps 104:34 Let my meditation be pleasing to Him

It pleases God we are here to think about Him while we study His Word.

Mal 3:3-4 He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then their offering will be pleasing to the LORD. 

It pleased God when we gave our offering today.

Solomon says:
  • The blameless in their walk are His delight.
  • Those who deal faithfully are His delight.
  • The prayer of the upright is His delight.

Paul said: Col 1:10 walk [intentionally] in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 

God is pleased when we walk as His Children – not so much when we walk as people motivated by fleshly desires. Paul wrote: Rom 8:8 those who are walking in the flesh cannot please God. Or we could say, walking in the flesh displeases God.

Why? Because they are walking like something they aren’t. They are not people of the flesh but people of the Spirit. They are not children of the world but children of God. What’s the difference? They have been given faith. They have exercised faith. They are living by faith.

Fulfilling: Rom 1:17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 

Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. 

Seekers are those who want what God wants for their lives. They are open to trust Him and not lean on their own understanding. That brings Him joy. We please God when we live to bring Him joy.

So, is God pleased with you? Don’t look at your behavior, look at your heart. Do you belong to Him? Then the answer is Yes, God is pleased you are His child.

Is your lifestyle pleasing Him? I don’t know. You’ll have to measure your behavior with how God wants you to live.

How do we do that? We ask Him for wisdom as we hold our lives up to be examined by His Word. That’s why we’re studying the Proverbs: to see the lifestyle that pleases God.

Give me your heart this morning. If you leave here and don’t know God loves you and is pleased with you simply because you are His child, then you missed the message today. 

If you think that: because God is pleased with you as His child, you can live contrary to how He wants you to live and He will be delighted by your life, then you’ve missed the message today.

If you are not a child of God yet and you wonder if it is possible for God to love you? Listen: God already loves you, but He will not be pleased with you until you become one of His children.

In the 1980s movie, Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddle, an athlete in the 1924 Olympics, was trying to convince his sister that God was pleased with him choosing to compete. He said, “God made me for a purpose – the mission field in China – but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I hope you experience the joy of feeling His pleasure today.

  1. God is pleased to label us His righteous Children when we receive the gift of life provided through Jesus’ death.
  2. God will be delighted in us as we live like Children of God by seeking Him and following His way.
  3. Nothing we can do or not do will make Him love us more or love us less, but we will feel His pleasure when we intentionally live to bring Him joy.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Seeking Wisdom - Desire

William Barr is under consideration as our next Attorney General of the United States. Asked if he would allow pressure from outside sources to affect how he carried out his job, he said, "I’m in a position in life to provide the leadership necessary to protect the independence of this department, I won’t do anything that I think is wrong; I won’t be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong." He said his judgment would be based on the rule of law.

Having a rule upon which we can base decisions takes the strain out of deciding what’s right and what’s wrong – what’s best and what’s not best. The forces that try to influence our decisions can easily be trumped by how they line up to that rule.

Kid came into his dad: “Dad, I’m 6’ tall.” “Oh, really?” “Yeah. You know how a ruler is a foot? Well, I made my own ruler with my foot.” “But your foot is only 6”. “I know, but look how tall I am now.”

Paul wrote to Timothy: 2Tim 1:13  Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 

Retain – to hold as a possession. He is to hold sound words like he would a possession given to Him by Jesus, which gives that possession more value than any other. Possessions have special importance to us. We treasure them.

Prov 7:1-3 My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you. Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. 

What is the apple of our eye? The Hebrew literally says, "dark part of the eye." The term apple of my eye came from an English expression in use when the King James Version was translated in 1611. It refers to something or someone that we cherish above all others – the dark part of the eye being the vital part.

We treasure God’s Word. It is valuable to our lives because it instructs us as to what direction our lives should go for us to experience the fulfilled life Jesus promised.

2Tim 3:16-17 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 

This wasn’t just an ideal or over-stated importance, it was a reality. Paul had seen what the Word of God could do and how lives could change according to that Word.

He saw in Thessalonica: 1Thess 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

The Word of God isn’t comprised of stagnant statements in an ancient book. It is Heb 4:12 living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

The words God has expressed go into our hearts and heal, restore, change, comfort, cleanse, direct. They lead us to the good.

Prov 16:20 He who gives attention to the word will find good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD. 

For Solomon, the word is the words of wisdom. The source of those words is God Himself. By giving attention to the word, granting it value over all other words, he says we will trust God and not lean on our own understanding. Why? Because we are convinced God’s Word is the standard for our lives.

How does Solomon know this? Perhaps it’s from something his dad wrote: Ps 119:9        How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. 

We can maintain our lives in a pure way – unpolluted, untainted, uncontaminated – by comparing what we want with what God says, contrasting the way we want to go with the way God wants us to go.

Prov 16:2-3 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established. 

What I want must be buffered by God’s Word. Otherwise my wants may get in the way of God’s best. When we live as though we’re the final authority on what’s best for us – or lean on our own understanding – we will find ourselves clashing with God’s Word.

Should God change His Word to fit our desires or should we change our desires to fit His Word?

Last week we talked about the heart as the control center where we make our choices. At times it can be like a battlefield of conflicting forces with opposing plans for our lives. Our selfish desires vs. God’s best. If we set up the standard of God’s word in our hearts, we will be able to determine which force is suggesting which way to go. We will have a standard by which we can measure our desires. What fits? What doesn’t?

So, let’s focus on desire. Desire is a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. That can be either good or bad. I can have evil desires, selfish desires, sensual desires, as well as honorable desires, godly desires, healthful desires.

Desire is simply the want behind having something I don’t have at present.

When desire is translated lust, that desire describes us wanting something God forbids. Lust is the precursor to adultery, obesity or addiction.

It’s the same with the word covet. Coveting is sin because it is associated with wanting something someone else has – the desire is to take it away from them and possess it for ourselves.

Ex 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Coveting is the prelude to stealing.

These two words – lust and covet – are misdirected desires that compel us to want what we shouldn’t have.

Desire is simply the motivation to have. It is a conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment, satisfaction or completion. We place value on it. When that value is high enough, we want it in our lives.

Prov 3:13-15 How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. 

So, how do we aim that desire toward the priceless value of God’s wisdom? By training our hearts to want what’s best. Paul calls it the clash between our flesh and the Spirit.

Oreo and Scooter have natural desire to scratch and sharpen their claws. I understand that, but where they scratch isn’t always acceptable. We’ve had to train those desires toward the scratching post not the furniture.

Gal 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 

Why can’t I just go with the flow? Prov 21:2  Every man's way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. 

Just because I can justify the way my life is going, it doesn’t mean I’m going the right direction. We have this expression: I’m turned around. Meaning, in my mind I think going right is the correct direction, but actually left is the correct way. I can argue all day thinking I’m correct but that doesn’t change which way is the right way to go.

What my flesh wants will often be opposite to what the Spirit wants. And if I’m used to giving in to my flesh, I will argue all day what it wants is good and right. But it can very well be wrong, so I can’t just go with my desires. My desires may not be God’s desires for me.

Prov 4:14-16 Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. 

Solomon characterizes the wicked as those who have committed to a certain path in life where they give in to any and all desires with no discretion. That path is their lifestyle.

Their lifestyle is defined as wicked because they make evil choices – choices contrary to God’s best.
Solomon says: Prov 15:9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but He loves one who pursues righteousness. So he warns: Prov 3:21-24 My son, let them not vanish from your sight; keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck. Then you will walk in your way securely and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 

You are familiar with Prov 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. 

Actually, this isn’t a promise but a warning. The word – even carries a unique quality in Hebrew grammar. In its form, it says what follows is more important than what precedes it – as the answer is more important than the question. The second part explains the first part which means the second part is the why for investing time in training them. Train up a child in the way he should go, because when he is old he will not depart from it. 

A child without godly influence will instinctively follow his own way.

Solomon says since the way he will go will be a fixed way, he will follow that way throughout his life, unless something changes it. That’s where the training comes in. Training can shape a child’s heart so that the way he goes will be on a different path than the one he would have naturally followed.

Sign in Alaska: Pick your rut carefully. You’ll be in it for quite a while.

Reasons young adults give for dropping out of church:
·       Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.
·       I didn’t feel connected to any people in the church.
·       I disagreed on the church stance on political and social issues.
·       Other things I wanted to do were more important.

To them, it’s the church and the people, not the Lord as the reason they attend or not attend.

If we want our kids to remain faithful to the Lord as they grow older, we need to help shape their hearts to want to follow God’s way which includes but is bigger than just going to church. They must be convinced God’s way is best. When that happens, they will keep coming back to that way.
How do we do that? We show them how important God is in our lives. Ps 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

When a person knows there is nothing or no one who can provide what God provides, he will limit his choices to the ones going God’s way.


1.      Unless I intentionally choose God’s way, I will default to my own way.
2.     Since we are told to trust in the Lord and not lean to our own understanding, we should realize that not leaning will be an on-going challenge.
3.     If I want to bend my life toward God’s way, I must resist the urges against doing so.
4.     The moment I realize there is nothing or no one who can provide what God provides, I will commit my ways to the Lord.
5.     The best way to help shape my children’s or grandchildren’s desire toward God is to show them why He is important to me.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Seeking Wisdom - The Heart

In earlier years a woodsman with a double-edged axe across his shoulder went to a logging camp and asked for a job. He was a big and powerful man and his axe was sharp and clean. The foreman immediately hired him and sent him into the forest to cut down trees. The first day he cut more trees than all the other men combined. Everyone was impressed. The second day he cut fewer trees but still more than any other man on the job. The third day he cut less than the man who cut the least. On the fourth day he barely cut any trees at all. On the fifth day, the foreman called him in. “What’s happening? Your production has gone down each day.” The man said, “I don’t know. I’m working harder each day but can’t seem to cut as many trees.” “Let me see your axe,” the foreman said. “This is dull. When was the last time you sharpened it?” “Oh, I haven’t had time to sharpen my axe. I’m too busy using it.”

Solomon writes: Ecc 10:10 If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. 

Solomon says, wisdom is like swinging a sharpened axe.

If you’ve ever cleared land you know the difference in swinging a sharp axe and a dull axe. That difference is in the amount of effort you have to exert to cut down the trees. The sharpened axe provides a success we cannot achieve on our own.

Well, surely Solomon isn’t talking about clearing land. So why the axe analogy?

Heb 12:1 let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus

A runner comes up to the line wearing his sweats. The first thing he does is take off those encumbrances so he can run effectively. The application is removing things in our lives that hinder us living a successful life—the measure of that success is whether we do what Jesus has told us to do or not. He is the focal point of why we do this in the first place.

Here is the connection with Solomon’s axe. The word lay aside means to put them down, or like trees blocking our way, felling them. What is preventing us from wise living? It must be removed. Wait, those hinderances, you want me to chop them down? I thought I was to trust God and He’d do that for me.

One of the misnomers of faith is that trusting God is a passive exercise in inactivity. Read the Bible again. Faith is an action word, not a state of being. God said: Be still and know that I am God. But be still actually means let go. If you’ve tried to do that, you know letting go of the things that burden you takes effort. Like playing whack-a-mole.

Living in wisdom is an action not a condition or state of mind. Wisdom isn’t a resource but a lifestyle. We intentionally draw upon God’s wisdom.

1Thess 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please Godthat you excel still more. 
Walk encompasses how we live, act, think, respond.

For each of these writers our relationship with God is our lifestyle not a system of beliefs. What we believe, we do. All else is religious talk, Peter Lord said. How we walk demonstrates our faith and exposes whether we are being foolishness or wise. If you’ve ever watched a baby learning to walk, it takes much concentration and effort.

Saw an incredible sunrise this morning. Think about that. I’m sure you’ve seen some beautiful sunrises as well. Pizza. Chocolate Pie. Roller Coaster. Rainy day. Grandkids. What happened to the image of the sunrise you were thinking about? These other images got in the way. They distracted your focus on a sunrise.

Exercising wisdom takes spiritual effort.
  •  God wants us to trust Him. We don’t always want to do that. Trusting takes effort.
  • He wants us to follow Him. We don’t always want to do that. Following takes effort.
  • He wants us to adjust our life to reflect that we are Children of God. We don’t always want to do that. Adjusting our lives takes effort.
  • He wants us to remove hindrances that interfere with how we run the race.

Don’t get confused into thinking my effort is my own ability.

When I was a kid, I was sent out to mow the lawn. Don’t know if you remember Monkey Grass, but it was an ornamental grass. Well, my Mom had lined our walkway with Monkey Grass. It got cut down. Why? I didn’t know what was regular grass and what was fancy grass. I had no wisdom to know the difference.

2Cor 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 

Couple that adequacy with Eph 5:15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise. The adequacy for the godly life is expressed as godly wisdom. Which takes us back to Solomon’s axe.

Solomon said the axe is sharpened by wisdom and Wisdom has the advantage of giving success. 
Or in the words of Hebrews, the success of running the race requires removing any hindrance to keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.

1Co 1:24 to those who are the called out ones, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God

Connect the dots: God provides the wisdom through His indwelling presence but expects us to use that wisdom in removing the hindrances that interfere with us going the direction He wants us to go.

Phil 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 

The Christian life is a worked-out life. We are to work out what God has worked in.

2Pe 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 

What does He expect in giving those provisions? To use them to live a godly life.

Rom 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 

The heart is the place from where the decisions are made as to not only how I will live, but whether I will as a Child of God.  The heart is where that the battle of obedience rages.

Jer 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 
Jer 17:5  Thus says the LORD, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 

It is the place from where we either seek God or turn away from God.

Prov 4:20-24 My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. 

Solomon says: we must guard our hearts. Protect them from invasive thoughts and desires that suggest pulling away from God’s best, thoughts that recommend foolishness over wisdom.

Pro 27:19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man

The belief is, what fills the heart shows up in the life. That’s why Paul said, we are doing the will of God from the heart. Eph 6:6 

If I carry a bucket filled with water and bump into you, water’s going to spill out? What if I fill it with milk? Whatever fills the bucket is what’s going to slosh out of the bucket.

If I am angry, what’s coming out? If I am anxious, what’s coming out? If I am dishonest, what’s coming out? If I am controlled by the presence of God, what’s coming out?

Paul said many times: Eph 3:19  be filled up to all the fullness of God. Eph 5:18 be filled with the Spirit, Col 1:9-11 be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience

A mirror reflects what it sees or, if you will, what’s in it. So, the heart reflects what fills it.  How we live is the reflection of what or Who controls our heart.

Prov 3:1  My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments

Wisdom is the sharpened axe removing the hindrances from an encumbered, self-absorbed life so we can run the race successfully.

Prov 6:20-23 My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.

If you’ll permit me, what goes into our head is knowledge, information. But what goes into the heart is motivation, desire, response. Head knowledge doesn’t always affect me. I can read facts all day and not be moved. But what goes into my heart changes my life.

In early Biblical training I was told to ask: What does the Bible say? What is the information? Who, what, when and where. Later I discovered the greater truth is in What does the Bible mean? How does what it says affect me personally? What does God expect from me? What must I do to obey what God has said?

Solomon knew wisdom worked from the inside out. Prov 23:6 As a man thinks within himself, so is he. So, since the battle is on the inside, he said: Prov 23:26 Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways. 

When we give God our heart, we are giving Him control of our lives. In the matter of sovereignty that sounds awkward to give God something He already possesses. But in practical terms, we realize there is an ongoing battle inside for that control.

The forces that drove the woman caught in adultery into adultery controlled her life. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” Why didn’t He say, “Because you are now forgiven, these forces are gone and you will never sin again?” Because the work He had done in her had to be worked out of her. “I have set you free. You are now able to live free. Now, go live free.”

“God has assumed full responsibility for the life wholly yielded to Him.” Andrew Murray.

What does He expect from us? To yield our lives to Him. How many times have I yielded my life to Him! How many times have I removed the same hindrances that so easily encumber me! See, they come back and have to be removed again. My yielding is an ongoing process. But yielding to God isn’t a mental exercise. It’s a spiritual workout swinging the axe of sharpened by wisdom.

  1. Obeying God can be one of the hardest things we ever try to do.
  2. God doesn’t make us obey – that would defeat the definition of obedience as willful submission – but He commands it.
  3. For every spiritual encouragement to actively obey Him by removing hindrances to that obedience, there is a contrary, selfish desire telling us to rely on our own abilities.
  4. Our abilities are like swinging a dull axe with unrealistic expectations for success.
  5. Wisdom is taking the sharpened axe and removing all resistance to God’s will.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Seeking Wisdom: Introduction

A speaker began his presentation by showing an exciting clip from the climax of an action movie. At the end, the audience roared and cheered. He showed it again. They roared less. He showed it again and less still. After six times, nobody said a word. Once the excitement wore off and the scene had become common, there was nothing left to cheer about. His point? Familiarity can make even the exciting common.

Can that happen to Scripture? How many times have we heard: Pro 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. 

There was once a day when we would read that promise and be filled with hope that whatever we were facing, by lifting it to the Lord, He would show us what to do or where to go.

Then, on another occasion, we’re struggling with a life issue and someone reminds us of that verse and we brush it off. Instead of believing as we once did, we actually deny what it says is true:
  • That won’t work in this situation; this is too difficult. 
  • I can figure out what I need to do; I just need a little time and luck.
  • I smart enough to find a way out of this.
  • I don’t really know how to trust God like that.
  • That’s for religious problems. This is real life.

Depending on how fresh God’s word is in our hearts, we either do what the Scripture says, or dismiss it. We decide if it fits or not. We choose to use it or push it aside. Or, we add it to the list of other options we have, where it becomes nothing more than a suggestion. 

How do we refresh God’s word? By reading it faith first.

Chuck Swindoll did a study years ago called: You and Your Problems. He asked some simple questions:
  1. Is it correct to think that once we become a Christian, all our problems are solved? Is there a solution?
  2. Is it correct to say that all our problems are discussed in the Bible?
  3. Is it correct to say that having problems is a sign of spiritual deficiency or because you did something bad?
  4. Is it correct to assume that merely listening to Biblical truth will solve your problems?

Matt 7:24-27 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

Hearing alone is like reading the instructions. Instructions tell us how to accomplish what’s possible. Acting on those instructions is what gets what’s possible put together and brings the benefit that it’s designed to produce.

God provided the Proverbs as instructions for practical living. Solomon, King David’s son by Bathsheba, felt the wisdom God had given him should be shared. So, He wrote a series of sayings, usually with positive and negative applications.

If you are wise, this is true. If you are foolish, that will be true. He basically said pick the outcome you want, and this action is how you get there. Or look where you are. This choice explains why you’re there.

Remember, when Solomon was in that transition mode from son of the king to becoming the king, God asked him in a dream what he wanted to help make him successful. Instead of wealth, power and fame, he said he needed wisdom.

Solomon was a brilliant man and demonstrated that brilliance by admitting there were things beyond his grasp. He needed insight to understand how to be who he was. So, God gave wisdom. Do you ever find things beyond your grasp and lack insight into how to live as a child of God in whatever’s going on?

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

Like Solomon, when we see the gap between what we know and how to apply that knowledge to our lives, we need wisdom to fill in that gap. Wanting it is simply acknowledging a need. Asking for it and accepting it by faith makes wisdom work.
  • Wisdom is the GPS that gives us direction for how to maneuver through confusing times.
  • It is the grasp of difficult choices and the ability to know what’s best.
  • It is the knife that cuts through the congestion of circumstances to find the clear way.
  • It is the hand that reaches for the light switch to dispel the darkness.

·       Wisdom is God directing our paths.

Prov 1:1-7 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction. 

Wisdom is choosing life from God’s perspective so we might discover how to live out the truth of God’s Word.

Solomon realized that some of us will naturally take the best side of the proverb and adjust our lives accordingly. He also knew that others of us would need to see what happens if we take the other side. We are more deterrent-based truth appliers.

Prov 1:20-23 Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. 

Prov 1:24-31 Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. 

Why so harsh? Solomon was rather black and white. Good and evil. Wise and foolish. He had very little gray. To Solomon if you weren’t seeking God’s ways you were going the wrong way. He knew the wise, when made aware of that, would correct their direction.

The Apollo missions to the moon were off course 97% of the time. How did they make it? Mid-course corrections. The Proverbs are intended as mid-course corrections to get us back to the right road.

Solomon draws a clear line between the wise who seek God and the foolish who serve their own selfish desires. Why can’t we do both? They are incompatible. Why?

Paul said: Gal 5:17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

The things that I want to do that please me are not necessarily the things that please God. So, I need help seeing the difference.

In training FBI agents to detect fake money, they make them study real money until they can spot the counterfeit because it doesn’t look like the real thing. Knowing the real makes recognizing the counterfeit easier.

Solomon’s doing the same thing. He holds up the wise choice which makes the foolish choice obvious. His plan is simple:
1.      Wise people want to hear the truth. He writes: A wise man will listen.
2.     Wise people want to know the truth. He writes: He will increase in learning.
3.     Wise people will seek counsel to find out the truth. He writes: Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.

An arrogant young man who came to Socrates and said, "O great Socrates, I come to you for wisdom." Socrates led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, "What do you want?" "Wisdom, O wise Socrates," said the young man with a smile. Socrates put his hands on the man's shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. "What do you want?" “Wisdom," the young man sputtered, "O great and wise Socrates." Socrates immersed again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. "What do you want, young man?" Sputtering for breath, he said, "Wisdom, O wise and wonderful..." Socrates jammed him under again. Forty seconds passed. Fifty. "What do you want?" "Air!" the young man cried. "I need air!" "When you want wisdom as you have just wanted air, then you will have wisdom."

1.      The beginning point for life as God designed it is wisdom.
2.     Wisdom takes what we know and shows us what to do with it.
3.     Whenever we elevate our own understanding above God’s, we identify ourselves as among the foolish.
4.     A fool says there is no God. The foolish says I don’t need God.
5.   Even Christians who know God become foolish when they don’t acknowledge Him as God.