Thoughts on life and Scripture...

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Nostalgia and A New Year

"Say not, "Why were the former days better than these?" For it is not from wisdom that you ask this."
Ecclesiastes 7:10

Do you ever get nostalgic? Do you ever wish you lived in another era or year? Do you ever wish for the 'good old days'? I know I do once in awhile. I often think I would have liked to live in the England during the 1800's. The days of Charles Spurgeon and JC Ryle. The days of the horse drawn carriage, Sherlock Holmes, and the British Empire. But Solomon warns us that thinking it was better in times past is foolish. This is a good warning for us as we do this frequently, especially in hard times. This kind of thinking is the sin of discontent. Discontent comes easy to our sinful hearts. Let us look at a few reason why this nostalgia is unwise.

The 'good old days' had their problems too. Sometimes they were the same problems, because people don't change, or they were different problems that we can be thankful we don't have to deal with. Human nature is the same in all generations. We are sinful from birth and that hasn't changed. In times past people committed the same sins we commit. There was injustice, anger, lying, pride, sexual immorality, and envy back then too. Often when we look back on the past we tend to overlook the difficulties and focus on the good things we long for. Our memories are selective, which produces a distorted past. So longing to escape to the past is foolish because we will find that we will still be living in a sinful world.

Leaving for the past may be leaving some of the good thing we enjoy now. If we could escape to another time, we would find that we long for the comforts and benefits that we enjoy now. We enjoy many good gifts right now, that were not there in years gone by. Think about life without our favorite foods, email, cars, heated houses, health care, or cell phones. When we think about what good things we enjoy now that were not enjoyed in the past, then we can see that wishing to go back in time is not so attractive.

The best reason why nostalgia is foolish is that God is wise and sovereign. He has placed us in this time and this place for a reason. God is good and wise and so everything He does must be good and wise. He knows what is best for us. Whatever time or situation we find ourselves in, is for our good. Even in persecution and great trials, we can't wish for the days of yesterday. God has a good reason for us to be here. Not only will it be for our good, but for the good of others. Like Esther, we are placed where we are 'for such a time as this.' We need to trust the wisdom and goodness of God and use our lives to bring glory to God in this time.

As we head into a new year, we can be fearful of what may happen. The old days may seem more attractive. We may look back one year, 5 years, 50 years, or 100 years, and wish we were living in those days rather than heading into a new year. This new year may be worse than the last year. But we know that our God is the same. He won't change in this year. He will still be with us in this year. He is still in control of all things this year as well as last year. His plan and purpose will continue on this year as well despite the sin and anger of men. His promises to us are the same. Since our God is unchanging, we can go into the new year with confidence in our Lord.

In fact, We should be excited as we go into a new year. God is going to display His glory in this year. We are going to see God's works in the world and church. God's kingdom is going to advance. Sinners will be converted this year. Jesus may come back this year. We are getting closer to heaven. God will continue to mold us into the image of Jesus Christ. We are closer to seeing the new heaven and the new earth. Soon this old body with the sinful flesh will be gone and we will be glorified.

Wishing for the 'good old days' is foolish. Living here and now by faith in the eternal, unchanging God is wise. "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas and Missions

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the incarnation of our Saviour and to renew our commitment to foreign missions. I would like to show why in this post.

Christmas is all about the eternal Son of God coming down to earth to become a man so He could save sinners by suffering their punishment on the cross and rising again. God the Son left the glories and comforts of heaven to come to this sin infested world. In heaven He was praised and adored by all the angels. But on earth He would be cursed by men. He is the infinite, self sufficient, all knowing, and all powerful God. But in coming to this world as a baby, he became dependent on others. He had to learn and grow. He was weak. He got tired, hungry and thirsty. He felt pain and hardship. He was tempted and learned obedience. The Holy One who dwells in unapproachable light, now lived among sinful men, with sinful words and deeds all around Him. We could spend years meditating on this subject and not exhaust its depths.

Imagine for a moment if I owned a worm farm. One day I realized that my worms were going to die from some horrible red robin. The only way to save the worms was to become a worm and fight this great beast. So I become a worm and defeated the robin, but in the process became mortally wounded and died. Perhaps you would be impressed by my sacrifice, after all, who would actually stoop that low to save a bunch of worms? I doubt anyone would do such a thing. Yet this picture only slightly illustrates what Jesus did for us. He came to save sinners, who are less than worms. We are rebels against God. We hate Him by nature and would joyfully kill God if we could get our hands on Him. I am sure all heaven would have sighed in relief to see me and all other sinners sentenced to an eternity in Hell. "At last justice is done, no longer would these sinners curse and dishonour the only Blessed God," they would say. Yet Jesus came to save these sinners. Those who are worthless and vile, are the ones He came to redeem. God looked with love and compassion on the miserable plight of men and provided a Savior. This is Christmas. It is the story of God's love and sacrifice to an unworthy people.

Missions is all about sacrificing to show God's love in the proclamation of the gospel. The missionary who leaves his home country or culture to go to a foreign land to bring the light of the gospel is in a very small way doing what Jesus did in His first coming. The missionary leaves his home, his family, his friends and all that is familiar. He often leaves his comforts and safety to enter a new world. There in this new culture he must learn many things over again. He must speak a new language, learn new customs, eat new foods, and find new friends. Maybe he will become poor. New sicknesses are a danger. Plus he brings a message that is foolishness to this world. Men may hate him, scoff at him and even injure or kill him. There is mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual difficulties that are all around him and his family. Yet he and they suffer all this so that sinners can hear the only cure for their sin disease. This gospel message is powerful for the salvation of sinners. This he believes and so he continue on in his work, confident that God's word will be effective. To one degree or more, this is what all those who are involved in missions go through. Only the love of Jesus Christ would compel any to go through such hardships. And yet these hardships are only a flicker of light compared to the great suffering of Jesus Christ to save sinners. We can never suffer more for Christ than He did for us.

On this Christmas season, spend some time thinking of the glory of Christ and His humiliation. Consider the hardships that missionaries go though. Pray more for the missionaries that your church supports or for an organization that sends or supports missionaries. Give financially to those faithful missionaries. Also, consider if God is calling you to go and proclaim the good tidings of great joy to those who live in darkness.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Devaluing the Value of Wealth

"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money; nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is a vanity." Ecclesiastes 5:10

 In the mornings I have been studying the book of Ecclesiastes. The book describes the quest of Solomon to find purpose, satisfaction and meaning in life under the sun. He writes this book looking back on his quest for satisfaction. Throughout the book Solomon moves in his writing from his past quest to his current understanding. I found this understanding of Ecclesiastes very helpful as it clear up some confusion I had as I read this book.. I owe this view to the ESV study notes on Ecclesiastes.
   Solomon had seen vanity in all of life. Pleasure, work, laughter and power are all vain when pursued as an end in themselves. In Chapter 5:10-20, Solomon looks at wealth and money. The Bible talks a lot about money and wealth as it is an important subject. Wealth can do great damage to our souls. Wealth can also be used for great good. In a very wealthy culture, we especially need to have a Biblical understand of wealth. It is human nature to love money and wealth. It is a natural idol that we worship. For many people their goal in life is to be filthy rich. But here in this passage, Solomon warns us that wealth and money are not as valuable as we think. Riches are overrated. The idol of money is here exposed as being a sham and a cheat. Let us look at why Solomon found wealth to be unsatisfactory.

1) Loving money and wealth will not satisfy us. verse 10
Greed is a bottomless pit. The desire for money never ends. We never find real contentment in wealth. That satisfaction seems just around the next corner, but when you arrive there, it escapes to the next corner. Rich and poor alike are not satisfied with what they have. It doesn't matter if you have a thousand dollars or a hundred million dollars, you will not be content. A life lived to gain and be satisfied in money is a life that is empty and vain.

2) Gaining wealth adds more dependents. verse 11

The meaning of this verse could be the more wealth a person acquires, the more people will flock to him pretending to be friends to get a share of that wealth or that the wealthier we become the more we need to have people to take care of our wealth. For example the larger one's farm gets, the more employees we need for the running of the farm. Wealthy people have a lot of leeches that suck their wealth.

3) Wealth can bring loss of sleep. verse 12

A rich man can have a difficult time sleeping. One reason is that he may worry about his wealth. How will he manage it? What if all his riches are lost or stolen? Maybe he lies awake thinking about his business deals. Another reason is that a wealthy person doesn't have to work that hard. On the other hand, someone who works hard all day, will have no trouble falling asleep. It doesn't matter if he eats a lot or a little, sleep comes easy to a working man. Wealthy people tend to work more with their minds or at least do very little physical labor. As such it may be hard for them to fall asleep.

4) Wealth brings pain or hurt. verse 13

Wealth takes much pain and sacrifice to acquire and it requires pain and sacrifice to keep as well. Wealth needs to be maintained and it will cost us to hold on to our treasures. Wealth can hurt us spiritually by making us proud, gluttonous or self sufficient. Like the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-25, money can be the cause of our eternal ruin. Wealth can hurt us by making those around us envious. Wealth can bring with many temptations.

5) Wealth can disappear in a one hundred and one different ways. verse 14

Wealth is not certain. There are many ways it can vanish. Thieves can steal what we have. We can make one bad business decision that can bankrupt us. The economy can collapse. The banks could fail. The stock market may crash. A natural disaster could destroy all we have. War could come and ruin us financially. We could become sick and spend all our money trying to get healthy. And the list could continue. Money is an untrustworthy idol.

6) Wealth can not be taken with you when you die. verses 15-16

You can work your whole life to build a massive fortune, but when you die, it all stays here on earth. You really can't take it with you when you go. All your hard work and careful planning to get riches will be in vain. All of it will go to someone else who most likely didn't do anything to help you acquire your fortune and may squander all of it. Naked you were born and naked you will die. Why heap up treasure that won't last.

I will conclude with the words of Paul. Please read them closely.
      "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."
1 Timothy 6:17-19


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lessons From the Life of Opa Bredenhof

  Recently I finished reading the autobiography of my Opa Bredenhof. About 15 years ago my grandfather wrote the story of his life. I have read that book a number of times in the last few years. I enjoy it more every time.  He was born in Holland in 1922. He worked on various farms and joined the underground army in WW2. After the war he was in the police force for awhile, till he decided to move to Canada. He first lived in Alberta and then moved on to live the rest of his life in BC. It has been just over five years since he died, so I wanted to share what I learned from reading the story of God's dealing with my Opa.

 1- My Opa was a man of courage. As a soldier in the underground army in Holland, he had a very dangerous job. Death stared him in the face many a time. Yet he continue to work and fight to give liberty to his country. He showed great courage during his years as a police officer, dealing with many dangerous people and situations. His courage comes out in his decision to come to Canada. Throughout his life, I saw this quality in my Opa. He had the courage to do what was right even when many others objected. He knew the dangers, yet continued on trusting in God. I need this quality. We all need this virtue. We need brave men; men who can face dangers and uncertainties and bravely go forward.

 2- My Opa had a good work ethic. He worked long hours throughout most of his life. He studied for long hours to obtain the knowledge to be good at his trade. He started out in Canada working for farmers as little more than a slave. Yet at the end of his work years, He owned a large farm which continues on today. This was done by years of back breaking work. Long hours were put in year after year just to put food on the table. Through hard work, courage, wise planning, and God's blessing he became a wealthy man. His hard work has benefited his children and grand-children. We stand on his shoulders. We have so much. We work a lot less than he did. We have it quite easy compared to his days. We owe some of this to the hard work of our grandfather. We have a duty before God to use the wealth and time we have to promote the cause of Christ in the world. It would be very sad for us to waste our money and position that was so hard won by my Opa. I am thankful to God for what He has given me through my Opa. I am also motivated to use my time well like my Opa did and to not be reluctant to work hard.

 3- My Opa was a man of faith. In his book, he continually mentions that his trust was in God. The book's title is called "By Grace Alone" which says a lot about how he lived. Often he says that to God alone be the glory. It brought him great joy to see his children and grandchildren walking in the truth. His joy was the same as John who said that " I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." 3 John 4
Opa gave a lot of time as a  school board member to set up a Christian school. He often served as a deacon and elder in the church. He was on the mission board to help work in Korea and Brazil. He often encourage his grandchildren to consider the work of a pastor or missionary. Opa said that the greatest thing in life was a God fearing life. His life proves his words.

He had his faults, but reading the story of Opa's life motivates me to walk in truth and godliness; to leave an example that others can follow. I want to be able to say as Paul did, follow me as I follow Christ. Wealth and a good name last for a short time, but what is done for the glory of God lasts forever. We exist to bring worship to God. This is the end we should seek in all areas of our lives.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Self Control and Walls

"A man without self control is like a city broken into and left without walls."
Proverbs 25:28
 Walls were important for cities in the ancient world. Walls were built around the entire city, even the largest cities. Walls provided protection from the attacks of enemies. The pride of a city was its walls. A city that was without walls was in a very vulnerable position. Every enemy could walk in the city without much of a fight. They could plunder and kill as they liked. Without walls, there was no defence against an attacking force. Such a city was a disgrace--like Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah. Walls are important to a city as self control is to people.
We need self control. Without it we are defenceless against the assaults of the devil. Every temptation that comes our way will ruin us even more. How many people are ruined by a lack of self control! Drunkenness ruins lives and families. Not controlling the impulse to buy leads to debt and bankruptcy. Sexual desire unchecked destroys and plunders thousands. Much more could be said of a failure to control anger, appetite for food or sleep, our words, and so on. In our fallen condition man is not born with self control. As such sin has mastery over us. We are under the power of sin. We are defenceless against sin. We have no self control. We are a city in ruins and in disgrace. We need God to come down and fix us up.
One of the fruits of the Spirit is self control. Gal 5:23. The Spirit is given to us when we are born again. He gives us the power to exercise self control in all things. His infinite power helps us to defeat sin and temptation. His power working in us is like a wall that protects us from giving in to the desires of the flesh. When we live in dependence on God's power and follow the truth of His Word, we will be able to defend ourselves against the desires of the flesh. So if you lack self control, cry out to the One who can help you. He can give you the strength to control your passions, lusts, appetites, and thoughts. Then we can train ourselves for godliness. 1Tim 4:7.
To put the proverb another way, a man with self control is like a city surrounded by a strong wall with a defeated enemy lying outside the walls.

Who Are The Children of God? A Biblical Study

Some months ago I saw a birth announcement that caught my eye. I didn’t know the parents or the baby. I don’t even remember their names. But I won’t forget what it said on the card. It said ‘I am a Child of God.” The parents believed that their new baby was a child of God. This was
not the first time I had come across someone referring to their child as a “child of God.” Is this a proper biblical use of this title? This is what compelled me to study the biblical use of the expressions, ‘children of God,’ ‘adoption,’ and ‘sons of God.’  What I found shows that some people are very confused about who are the Children of God.

 The Bible teaches that there are two families. Every single person belongs to one of the two families. There are no other families that we can belong to. There is no such thing as the universal fatherhood of God. Humans are not all part of one big family. There is the family of God. To this family belong all the redeemed. Then, there is the family of Adam or the family of the Devil. 1 John 3:10 makes
this very clear. “By this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” Or consider the parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:36-43. There Jesus explains there are two types of people; sons of the kingdom and sons of the evil one. Each person will find
themselves in one of these two families.

The family of the devil is not hard to enter. We simply have to be born in this world by sinful parents.  We have received a sinful nature like our parents which causes us to act like the devil. This is clearly taught in Ephesians 2:1-3. There, Paul describes our natural condition. We are the “sons
of disobedience” and “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” The Jews who rejected Jesus as their Messiah thought that they were children of God. But Jesus told them because they rejected Him that they were of their father, the Devil. See John 8. We give evidence that we are sons of the devil by our sinful lives. We are selfish, proud, disobedient, haters of God,
self-righteous, idolaters and lovers of sinful pleasure. These are those who gratify the desires of the flesh as seen in Galatians 5:19-21.Every person has at one time in his life been in this family. It is not a wonderful family to belong to. In it are only sin, misery and condemnation. On our own we cannot
get out of this family. But thanks be to God who is full of love and mercy for He can rescue us.

 The family of God is not entered on our own or by the help of someone else. We do not enter this family by being good enough. We are not God’s children because we are so kind and wonderful. God doesn’t look down and see some people trying really hard to be good and then thinks, "Oh what wonderful people, I would love for such good humans to be in my family.” No, we are never good enough for God to adopt us as His children. Being born a certain color, nationality, or ethnic
group will not make us children of God. Being white is not our ticket into God’s family. Being a Jew or Dutch or Russian will not give the right to be in God’s family. Being born to Christian parents does not make you a child of God. Parents cannot give to their children a place in this family. Going to a certain church, being baptized, eating the Lord’s Supper, and being in ministry will never make you a child of God. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13. The last part of this text reveals to us how we cannot get into the family of God. But it also reveals how we can become children of God. This is what we want to
look more closely at now.

Adoption begins with God. Parents are the ones who begin the process of adopting a child. They choose the child and pay the adoption fee. So it is the same with adoption into God’s family. As it says in Ephesians 1:5, ‘In love He predestined us for adoption as sons though Jesus
Christ.”  So God the Father begins the adoption process by choosing us before the foundation of the world.  God the Son was “born of women, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Gal 4:4,5. Jesus came to earth to accomplish salvation so we could be reconciled to the Father and receive adoption. God then regenerates us
by causing us to be born again. We are born again by the will of God. So, God does everything needed to adopt us. Even when we are called to respond to the gospel message in faith and repentance, God supplies the faith we need. Salvation and adoption are all “to the praise to His glory.” Ephesians 1:14

    When we are regenerated, we respond to the gospel message in faith and repentance. Faith in Christ is the means by which adoption happens. “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12. To receive and to believe is the same thing. It is to trust and yield allegiance to Jesus Christ. “For in Christ, you are all sons of God,
though faith.” Gal 3:26. Without faith there is no adoption. This text is very clear. You cannot call anyone who has no faith in Christ a child of God. Thomas Watson says this in his “Body of Divinity”, “Before faith is wrought, we are spiritually illegitimate; we have no relation to God as a father. An unbeliever may call God judge, but not father. Faith is the affiliating grace; it confers
upon us the title of sonship, and gives us right to inherit.” P 163

 ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’ is the proverbial expression used to say that someone’s children act just like their parents. This is true with regard to relationship to our heavenly Father. We cannot see the heavenly adoption papers, but we can see the evidence that we are children of God. Since we are God’s children, we will want to act just as our heavenly Father acts. Ephesians 5:1
says “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Children of God will desire to please their Heavenly Father by living godly lives. Children of God will produce the fruit of the Spirit because the Holy Spirit indwells them, in fact He is called in Romans 8:17 “the Spirit of Adoption.” The Holy Spirit sanctifies His Children though the truth of God’s word and gives them the power to walk in
obedience. This is what it says in Romans 8:14,” For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.” Walking in obedience to the Scriptures through the power of the Spirit is the real evidence of our adoption.  So if a person is without the indwelling of the Spirit and a godly life, then that person cannot claim to be a child of God

 It is also true that anyone who is not a child of God cannot claim to be an heir to the inheritance. Before we are born again, we are a slave to sin. Since we are a slave we have no right to the inheritance. We will be shut out of the kingdom of God. But since we are sons, then we are heirs of God. This is stated in Galatians 4:7, “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an
heir through God.” And in Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs- heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”  Our inheritance is not a possibility or a potential, but a for sure guarantee. It
is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:4. This inheritance is far more glorious than we can understand. We will dwell in a Kingdom ruled by a Perfect King without pain, sin, tears, sadness and suffering. We will dwell in perfect fellowship with God Himself. We will enjoy the company of all the family of God. We will have
perfect joy. This is what the children of God will inherit though the grace of God.

 There is presented in Scripture another adoption. This adoption is different from the one we have been looking at. In Romans 9:4, Paul said his kinsmen according to the flesh, Israel, has an adoption. We can see this in the Old Testament. There are a number of times where Israel is called God’s son or firstborn son. “You are the sons of the Lord your God.” Deut 14:1. The Lord is called Israel’s father a few times as well. David in 1 Chron 29:10 says “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever.” Isaiah says “For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; you O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” Isa 63:16. But, these concepts in the Old Testament refer to a national adoption not an
individual adoption of salvation. This is clearly shown in John 8: 37-47. There the Jews insist that God is their Father. But Jesus says “If God were your father you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.” verse 42 and then in verse 44 He says, “ you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” These Jews had the adoption Paul talks about in Rom 9:4, but they were still children of the devil. There are then clearly two different types of adoptions presented in the Bible. James M. Boice says in his commentary of Romans, “When it (adoption) is used of believers it refers to their new status before God as His spiritual sons and daughters resulting from
redemption and the new birth. When it is used of Israel, as here, (in Rom9:4) it refers to God’s selection of the Jews as an elect nation through which He would bring salvation to the world.”Vol.3 p.1026. It is vitally important to understand this distinction found in God’s word. Failing to do so will only bring confusion and error. There is a progression found as the Lord unfolds His redemptive plan. One example is the doctrine of individual adoption unto salvation. Nowhere in the Old Testament does any individual Jew refer to God as his father. There is no Psalm where the psalmist addresses God as Father. When Old Testament Saints address God as Father, it is in a corporate sense. It
isn’t until Jesus came to earth that we see God addressed as Father by an individual. This is how Jesus addresses God in His prayers. This is the example He gave us to follow. The doctrine of adoption as children of God isn’t really addressed in the Old Covenant. It is something hidden till Christ should appear and the Spirit poured out. Then, the full benefits and the full understanding of
adoption is revealed to us in the New Covenant. But Israel’s adoption was a national adoption of the Jews, which did not give to individual Jews the right to be God’s children.

So why is it important that we understand who the  children of God are? First, if we are confused on this, we will confuse the gospel. To be a child of God is to have salvation. Calling someone a child of
God when they are not suggests there is another way to be saved. Faith in Jesus is not the only way then. Second, it will give false assurance. If we call our unsaved children ‘children of God’ and as they grow up they read in the Bible about all the benefits that a child of God has, they may begin to think that since they have been called a child of God that they possess all these benefits without placing their faith in Christ. False assurance is no small matter for it leads to the pit of hell. We must understand from scripture who are the children of God. Failing to do so will begin to undercut the gospel and may lead to sinners who think they are saints. Let me leave you with a quote from
JC Ryle, “Remember what I have said, and never let it go. No inheritance of glory without sonship to God. No sonship to God without an interest in Christ. No interest in Christ without your own personal faith. This is God’s truth. Never forsake it.”

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Credits

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you would know that most of the posts are expositions of verses from Proverbs. Most of my blog posts come out of my morning devotions as I work verse by verse though the Bible. Well, on November 4 I finished Proverbs. I started on February 18th of this year. Studying through Proverbs was a great blessing to me and yet I feel there is so much more I could have learned from the book. I hope you have enjoyed the proverbs I have written about and that you also have been blessed by this book. I also hope that these posts have interested you in studying Proverbs some more on your own. I want to share with you a few resources that have helped me to  better understand  the book of Proverbs.

The first book is by Dan Phillips called God's Wisdom in Proverbs. This is an amazing book. He goes through different themes found in Proverbs such as parenting and marriage. He explains how to understand the book and the importance of the fear of the Lord in Proverbs. He even explains how to teach or preach the book of Proverbs. This is man is a skilled expositor. This book would help your study immensely.

The second book is by John Kitchen. It is a commentary on Proverbs in the Mentor series commentaries. This book is a gem. He goes verse by verse through the entire book, which is rare among Proverb's commentaries. There is a good blend of scholarly explanation plus devotional application. He explains the Hebrew to help understand the text but also takes the truth which is taught and applies it to our every day life. This is not a high and dry theological work. This book was my go-to-book on Proverbs. It was a great help to me.

Lastly I used Matthew Henry's commentary once in a while. On a rare occasion I turned to Matthew Poole's commentary. These were at times helpful. John Macarthur's study notes were also useful at times.

I will be working through the next wisdom book which is Ecclesiastes. So this book will be the focus of the blog for the next while. May God bless His word to our souls. To God, who alone is wise, be the glory.


Monday, November 2, 2015

How To Find a Wife (or a Husband)

"An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels."
Proverbs 31:10

The counsel I am going to give now is the counsel I wish I had when I went out looking for a wife. In spite of my errors and stumbling, God gave me a great wife. All I can do is praise His grace. This passage of scripture describes the excellent wife. My wife wrote more about the characteristics of this woman in this post. But in this post I want to give some advice on how to find this kind of wife. What I say about finding this excellent wife could also be said about finding the excellent husband. So ladies, don't tune out, just apply the principles to finding a godly man.

The first truth we learn is that finding an excellent wife is hard. It is not easy to find a wise wife. She is a rare women. Now here in these verse this wise woman is a perfect wife. No one will find her since no woman is perfect. But we are not looking for perfection but progression. Is this woman born again and is she growing in godliness? If you look for perfection, you will be a single man all your life. Yet a godly, but still sinful, woman is hard to find. Most women are foolish. Some are only average. Just because a woman goes to church or is baptized does not make her a wise lady. A real godly young woman is a rare treasure. If such a woman is hard to find, this means it will take effort and time to find her. Physical beauty is seen almost right away. Inner beauty takes time to come to the surface. You will need to take time to get to know her. You need to talk about faith, repentance, conversion, and salvation with her. Find out how her spiritual health is. Study the scriptures together. It is a good idea to ask her pastor or elders how they view this woman. Hopefully they would have had more time to study her and could give you an unbiased opinion.

Proverbs 19:14 says "House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord." Your search for a wise and prudent wife is bound to fail unless God blesses your desires. God can sovereignly lead you a wise woman. So pray! Ask God to guide your search. Pray that you may have wisdom and discernment to recognize a wise woman. "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." Proverbs 18:22

The second truth we learn from our text is that it is worth all the time and effort to find a wise woman. An excellent, wise wife is more valuable than jewels or any bank account. She will be a crown to her husband, but a foolish wife brings rottenness to his bones. See Proverbs 12:4. A wise man will want a wise wife. She will be an encouragement to his spiritual life. She will help raise their children in the fear of the Lord. They will be able to serve the Lord together. Their house will be filled with grace and love. A foolish wife will destroy her husband. "It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman." Proverbs 21:19. You don't want to choose a wife based only on outward appearance. You will live to regret it when her ugly heart comes out. Money can't buy you a godly wife. It takes a work of grace in her heart to make such a wife and it takes the sovereignty of God to lead her to you. When you find a wise wife, realize how valuable she is. Protect her. Love her. Care for her. Praise God for her.


Saturday, October 31, 2015

Little Creatures, Big Truths

"Four things on the earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badger are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hand, yet it is in king's palaces.
Proverbs 30:24-28

 The creation around us is full of wonderful illustrations of Divine truth. The One who made the world is the same who wrote His word for us in the Bible. So it is natural that God should use His creatures to reinforce the truth of His word. Guided by the Scriptures, we can observe the creatures around us to learn wisdom. This is what Agur did. He is the author of this chapter. In the verses we are looking at, Agur points to four small, weak animals that teach us some wise lessons. These animals are ants, rock badgers, locusts, and lizards.


Ants are very small insects. We can easily crush them. Yet they survive many troubles and dangers. Ants teach us to work hard. They are used as examples of diligence and hard work in Proverbs 6 6-8. But they also work smart by planning for the future. In summer when there is lots of food, they gather food to store it for the winter when food is scarce. God has put in these little creatures the wisdom to prepare for the future. Ants are a rebuke to the sluggard. Ants are a rebuke to those who live only in the moment without any thought for the future. Ants don't have brains like us, yet they are wiser than some people. We should do our work heartily as unto the Lord. Like ants, we need to consider future needs and problems and prepare for them.

Rock badgers

Rock badgers are a small gopher-like creature. Here is a link to some info and pictures of rock badgers. They don't have much of a defense against predators. But they are wise enough to recognize their weakness and seek their safety in something else. They live in the rocks and cliffs. There among the cracks and heights, they are safe from many of their enemies. We are weak too. We are no match for our foes. Our only safety is in the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. He is our rock, our fortress, our strong tower. "For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from Him alone comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken." Psalm 62:1-2. We need to turn to God for our salvation and daily look to Him to protect and strengthen us.


One little locust is not a problem. But when they gather together in great masses, these insects are a great terror. They can ruin a country in a short time as they eat all the green vegetation. Together they are more destructive than an army of soldiers. Yet this army of locusts has no leaders. They march together side by side as they cause desolation in their wake. How can they work together for a single purpose without a leader? God has put this ability inside their little heads. The church does have a leader, Jesus Christ. He has also provided elders to lead his people. Shouldn't we be able, with leaders, to work together with one purpose to accomplish the healing work that God has given us? Locusts can work together without a leader. Surely we can cooperate together to bring the gospel to sinners with leaders. Too often Christians let petty differences divide them. Christians are too often divided, distracted, and given to infighting and so the work of Christ suffers. Learn from the locust to work together to accomplish the Great Commission.


Some lizards can fit in the palm of your hand. They are powerless to escape from your grasp. Yet these humble little animals can find a way to get into the palaces of kings. There they live in the presence of great and powerful men and women. How do they do this? They use their ability to walk on walls and slip though tight spots to enter areas that the average person cannot enter. I have seen these kinds of lizards in Cuba. They are swift and agile. They use this to their advantage. Perhaps this example from the lizard illustrates another proverb: Proverbs 22:28 says "Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men." I think the truth is no matter how weak and small you are, use your gifts and abilities to do the very best work possible. Often when we aim for high quality work, we will rise above others and be recognized by great men. Surely it is always true that when we are faithful to use our gifts to the glory of God, He will be pleased and tell us, "Well done, good and faithful servant.You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master." Matthew 25:23.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

An Excellent Wife

'An excellent wife who can find?
She is far more precious than jewels.'
-Proverbs 31:10

As women, we often compare ourselves to the Proverbs 31 woman and can become discouraged because we know we fall short. What woman on this earth is an excellent wife? What wife does her husband good and not harm all the days of her life? What wife is so hard working as is portrayed in Proverbs 31? What wife opens her mouth with wisdom at all times and is kind at all times? What wife is not at times anxious or worried about the future? We all are. We all fall short of the Proverbs 31 woman. We are all sinful human beings, and the woman described in Proverbs 31 is perfect.
This should not discourage us, however. Instead, we can look at this text as an example of what we can strive for--what we can ask Christ to work in us so that we can better glorify Him in our roles as wives, mothers, and women in general.
We have to remember that an excellent wife is a gift from the Lord. We are not excellent wives on our own. 'House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.' Proverbs 19:14.

So, let's take a look at what some of the virtues of an excellent wife are.
An excellent wife has her husband's best interests at heart. He does not need to worry when he is away from home that she will dishonor him or waste his estate. She does not abuse the confidence that he has in her, but seeks to make herself more worthy of it. She is not like the wife described in Proverbs 21:9, 'It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife', or see also Proverbs 25:24.

Instead, she builds up her household and does not tear it down (Proverbs 14:1). In other words, she does good to her household--her husband and children (Titus 2:4). Some ways in which she does good to her household include being hardworking. She works with willing hands (Proverbs 31:13), rises while it is yet night (v. 15) to prepare her household for the day ahead. She uses her physical strength (v. 17) and her lamp does not go out at night (v. 18). That doesn't mean she doesn't sleep, but she will work into the night if needed to get the things done that need to get done. She does not eat the bread of idleness (v. 27).

Another way that she does good to her household is that she is kind (v. 26.) Kindness is on her tongue. Though she may need to discipline or rebuke, she does so with kindness. Her words are wise (Ephesians 4:29) and she is careful with her words, not using them to slander others (Titus 2:3).
An excellent wife is also prepared--prepared for the snow, by having her family well-dressed (v. 21). In fact, she laughs at the time to come (v. 25). There is no worry about the future because she is prepared and also because she trusts in the Lord.

An excellent wife also uses the gifts and talents that she has been given for the good of her household. (v. 18 ,19, 22) In fact, she even uses them to better her household financially (v. 24). 

Not only to her own household but also to others does she do good. She reaches out to the needy and opens her hand to the poor (v. 20). We can assume that if she is helping others that she has already attended to the needs of her household. It is also an outpouring of her heart--it shows that she has a heart of compassion, mercy, and kindness.

All these things are a result of a woman who fears the Lord. An excellent wife is wise and wisdom is from fearing the Lord. Proverbs 9:10, 'The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.' (Also see: Proverbs 1:7, 15:33, Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10)
For more on the fear of the Lord, you can always refer back to this post written by Brad.

Having seen what an excellent wife is, we can strive to become more and more like that. We can ask the Spirit to work in our hearts to give us greater wisdom, kindness, and love--to help us to fight against the sins that we struggle with in our roles, so that we may not revile the Word of God (Titus 2:5).

You Need the Vision

"Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law."
Proverbs 29:18

"You need a vision for the future." That was what we were told some years ago at a conference. The speaker told us how we need to have a plan for the future. We need to make goals and work towards accomplishing them. Don't wander aimlessly in life. Now that is all fine and dandy, but he used the proverb we are looking at today to back this up. The problem is this proverb has nothing to do with making plans and goals for the future. This might be clear from the translation I used here, but the King James Version which the speaker used says the proverb like this, "Where there is no vision the people perish." This speaker's problem in interpretating this proverb was a failure to understand the Biblical meaning of vision and to study closely the second line of the proverb as it sheds light on the meaning of the text. This proverb really speaks about the result of a lack of God's word and the result of hearing and obeying God's word.

The word vision refers to the means by which God often revealed His word to His prophets in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 3:1 says "And the Word of The LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision." The book of Nahum is called "The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh." Nahum1:1. There are other places where prophets are given visions by God.  To have God's word is a great blessing. For God to remove His word is a great curse. In fact the absence of prophets and God's word was part of God's judgement of Israel. In Amos 8:11-12, God said He would send a famine of the word of the LORD. In Micah 3:6-7 God promised that there would be no visions and no answer from God as a judgement on the false prophets of that day. See also Ezekiel 7:26 and Psalm 74:9 for some other example of a lack of God's word in judgement.

The result of an absence of the word of God is that people are unrestrained. Without God's word to govern what they believe and how they are to live, truth and morality is left to each individual. This is what we see in the times of the Judges, which was a time when the word of God was rare. "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." Judges 21:25. Moral chaos reigned. Israel had turned to idols from worshipping God and God in judgement took away His word which led to a greater plunge into darkness. It was only God's grace that saved them when God sent His word through Samuel to lead the people back to Him. We can see this principle at work in our days. People in our country have rejected the Bible. They want to remove anything to do with Christianity. Other countries have banned the word of God and the results are disastrous. Without God's word as the objective standard on truth and morality, people believe whatever they want to believe and people live however they want to live. And who can object? Or consider how this plays out in churches. When people do not conform the practise of the church to the scriptures, the church becomes whatever people want it to be. Then the church ceases to be the church of Christ.

How blessed are the people who have God's law and put it into practise. The law here refers to all of God's word not specially to the Mosaic law. It is not the having of God's word that brings blessing, but the obedience to its commands. Neglecting God's word is the same as rejecting it.  The Bible is a great treasure. It reveals to us what is true and false. It teaches us what is right and wrong. God, though His word, directs us to Christ as the only way of salvation for lost sinners.  We need faithful preaching which seeks to explain what God's word means and how it applies. We need Christians to do the hard work of searching and studying the scriptures on their own. We need to examine every part of our lives and beliefs to see if they conform to the word of God. "Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:20. We need to stop allowing the culture and traditions to define our practice and doctrine. The Bible must be central in all things. When it is, how happy and blessed we shall be.
     Reader, do you prize the word of God more than your bank account? Do you delight in its truth more than your favorite food or hobby?
Sola Scriptura forever! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The War Against Abortion

      I would like to break with my normal blog posts about Proverbs and focus on a matter that I feel is very important. I would like to show the root cause for abortion and what is the best way to deal with abortion. I am not going to show how terrible abortion is. This is assumed. It is murder. I think this is very self evident. When people want their baby, it is a baby and we do all we can to protect the baby, even the government encourages us to do this. When we don't want the baby, then we are permitted by the government to kill the baby. Such is the strange hypocrisy in our land.

 The reason people allow, perform, and ask for abortions is not a lack of information. We know more about what happens in the womb than all the generations before us. We have ultrasound machines. We have research and pictures. These may reinforce what we already know deep down inside that this baby is really alive. But abortions are legal not because of a lack of information. Abortions are legal because of the sin of mankind's heart.

Abortion is a spiritual problem. When we fight against abortion, we are engaged in a spiritual war. People allow, perform, and ask for abortions because they are selfish and proud. Abortion is a form of child sacrifice to our idols. The Israelites were warned never to sacrifice their children to the god Molech. "You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD." Lev 18:21. If they did, they were to be killed. And if other Israelites ignore what happens, God would kill them as well. See Leviticus 20:1-5. While our country does not worship Molech, it does worship other gods that may require the sacrifice of infants. The god Work may demand a child sacrifice when that child gets in the way of a career. The god Pleasure may demand a child sacrifice to get rid of the consequences of sexual promiscuity. We could go on, but really the god above these gods that asks for child sacrifice is the god Self. Self desires children to be sacrificed when ever the child prevents Self from pursuing what it wants. We abort babies because by nature we want to be God just like Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit. People are lovers of themselves. They have rejected God and His Word. They want to be God, so they can live as they please. Since they have rejected God, God has given them over to a debased mind. They call what is good evil and what is evil good. They don't want to listen to why abortion is wrong. The root cause of abortion is the wicked heart of man. Jesus said, "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder...." Mark 7:21. Abortion is murder and it comes from the wicked heart of man.

 Since abortion is a spiritual problem, it must be addressed by using a spiritual solution. If it is spiritual warfare, then we are fight against it with spiritual weapons. All other methods of ending abortion will ultimately fail, since they don't address the root of this sin; that is the heart. "For though we walk in the flesh, we are waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
What weapons has God given us? We have two weapons to fight this spiritual war. The first weapon is the Word of God. " the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17b.  The truth is used to combat lies. God's word is powerful. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is he power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16. When it is preached, taught, explained, or read, the Spirit uses the Word of God to destroy the lies of Satan. The word of God is used by the Spirit to convert sinners and make them born again. "Since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God."1 Peter 1:23.
 The second weapon we have in this spiritual war is prayer, "praying at all times in the Spirit," Ephesians 6:18a.  "The prayer of a righteous man has great power as it is working." James 5:16. Prayer is asking for the help of a Sovereign God with infinite power. He can change hearts, governments, laws and nations. With these two weapons we are fully equipped for any spiritual battle.

The most effective way to end abortion is then to use these two spiritual weapons. We need the word of God faithfully preached in churches so Christians are equipped to go out into the world and bring the gospel to those they come in contact with. Healthy churches that zealously evangelize will have the greatest impact on the culture. Praying churches and Christians are a powerful weapon against the sins of our time. These are more powerful to end abortion than all other methods and weapons of the flesh.

Christ commissioned His Church to "make disciples of all nations" and to teach "them to observe all that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19,20 We are not called to change our culture. But when we do what we have been called to do then we have the greatest possibility to change our culture. We can be sure that when we do God's work in God's way that He will bless it. Our task is to be faithful to what God has called us and to leave the results in His hands. We may not change our culture. We may not end abortion. Those are not the goals of the Church. Faithfulness to the commission of our Lord is.

My concern is many churches have become side tracked in their task. Instead of being faithful to reach others with the gospel and teach others the gospel, we have focused more on ending abortion, influencing politics, and other social issues like euthanasia or childhood hunger. Some people seem more concerned about ending abortion than evangelizing to the lost souls around us. Our focus and passion for pro-life endeavors are overshadowing what Christ has commissioned us to do. Let me show by way of an illustration how important it is that we stay on task. A general has come up with a very detailed battle plan. Each regiment has a task to do that is key to the success of the battle. The officers are given their orders for the battle. But suppose one officer during the battle decides that the general was wrong about his objective. This officer thinks it is more important to attack another enemy stronghold. So he directs his troops to attack his objective. This foolish disobedience would greatly hinder the success of the battle. The same is true for the Christian soldier fighting the Lord's battles. Follow His plans!

 Another concern I have is the way they fight against abortion using the weapons of this world. The weapons of this world, such as protesting or political activism, can't be effective to stop abortion. Such weapons are of limited value as they cannot break the hard hearts of those who support abortion. Our country is becoming more and more depraved. Sin has a hardening effect. There is a moral downward spiral that we cannot get out of no matter what laws are made or what government we have. Our country has rejected God and the truth. Those in power, the government and the media, are the most corrupt or they refuse to do anything. Our country is a living example of Romans 1: 18-32. We may slow the slide with fleshly weapons, but we can't stop it. Only God could stop it with a revival and a reformation of the church. Use God's weapons!

I would say in conclusion, the war against abortion is best fought by staying true to the commission of our King and using His weapons. I do believe that we need to remind our governments in a respectful way of their duty to protect the lives of the unborn. We are blessed to have this freedom as we live in a democracy, unlike so many countries. While this is of some importance, it is always secondary to our commission to spread the gospel and live the gospel. Without that, all other efforts to end abortion are vain.



Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Tale of Two Ways

In the kingdom of Cardia, there was two cities that were separated by a mountainous wilderness. Between the two cities there was in ancient times a road built. This road was difficult, but the safest and surest way to get to the other city. But a certain deceitful fellow come one day to the beginning of the road. There he set up a booth where he sold for very cheap maps and compasses. These were to be sold so people could find their own way though the wilderness to reach the other city. Those who passed by the booth were promised that by using the maps and compasses they would reach the city faster. They would have more adventure and ease on their way. They would have none of the difficulty that would be found on the other way. The problem was that all the compasses were defective in some way. The maps were filled with many errors so that they could be of no value in reaching the destination. This deceitful fellow's ploy worked very well. Soon the old path was almost forgotten and grown over with plants and shrubs. Those who took what this fellow sold, soon found that it did not deliver what was promised. Everyone who used the maps and compasses became hopelessly lost. Many were dashed to pieces from falling over cliffs. Some were eaten by wild beasts. Some had the unfortunate demise of being eaten by a large dragon. None of those who used these defective instruments ever reached the intended destination. The king of this kingdom on hearing of this deception, sent his son to drive out this deceiver. He then sent out his servants to seek those who were lost and tell them the way back to the path and to give them a reliable map. Some listened to these servants and by and by came back to the path and reached the far off city. As long as they followed the map and stayed on the path, their journey went well. Others refused to listen and continued on their doomed quest.

This story while failing to illustrate all of the truth, does explain the truth contained in this proverb. "Whoever trusts in his own mind(or heart)is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered." Proverbs 28:26. How many songs on the radio can you think of that tell you to trust your heart? This is the wisdom of the world. Trusting your heart is foolish. Like a defective map or compass, it will always lead astray. Your heart is evil and crooked. It will lead you into danger and doom. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9 Nothing is more deceitful than your heart, why would you let it guide you?

 God's Word teaches us the right way, the way of wisdom. If we trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding then He will make our paths straight. Keep to the old paths found in God's Word. It is the best way. It will bring us to the heavenly city. It is the safest way and the way filled with true joy. This path is opened up to us by the righteousness and death of Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life.


Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Graduation Text.

"Know well the condition of your flocks, give attention to your herds."
Proverbs 27:23

Many long ages ago I graduated from high school. I went to a Christian school, so when I graduated I was asked to choose a text for the graduation ceremony. Well, this proverb was the text I chose. I chose it because it fit well with my chosen profession; dairy farming.  It may have not been the best text to graduate with, but it does teach us much about how God desires us to work in our professions.

While the text is directed to those who work with animals, the principle can be applied to every job and activity. Colossians 3:23 says, "What ever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men." This proverbs helps us understand how we can work heartily as we serve Jesus Christ so that He is pleased. Let us examine the text as it relates to caring for animals.

I have a book which takes the principle in this proverb and applies it to dairy farming. The book would explain this text very well. It is important when we care for animals to observe what is going on in the herd. We are to look at the group as well as the individual. Our sight, smell, and hearing are all to be constantly used to monitor what is going on among the animals. Our observation should then lead to asking why? Why is this happening or occurring? When we know why, then we can find a solution to the problem. For example: We need to examine the cow's coat, how she walks, and how she stands. Her eyes will tell you about her health. Is she chewing her cud?  How is her breathing? We should be aware of when she calved or when she was bred. Is the cow fat or thin? When we understand how the animals are doing, we can take care of them better. This takes time, effort, and care. But it is important, "for riches do not last forever." (Verse 24a). If we neglect to take care of our animals, they will be in poor condition. Shoddy management ruins the herd or flock. The performance of the herd will decrease and eventually the farm will not profit us. Wealth in the days of ancient Israel was in livestock. So this wealth needed wise and careful management, otherwise a farmer would become poorer and poorer without even enough food to feed his family.

Most people don't work with animals. But the truth in this proverb still applies. Paying close attention to the details will help you do your work well. If you are a parent, it is important to understand your children. Know their differences. Watch carefully their behavior so you can instruct, rebuke, or correct. If you are a carpenter, make sure your work is quality work. Measure twice and cut once. Think about how this proverb can apply to the responsibilities that God has given you.

 I wish all elders/pastors would consider this proverb. When  I chose this verse for grad, I was told that this was a verse for pastors. That is true although, not in the primary understanding but in its application. If we had more elders who cared about God's flock like some farmers care about their cows, our churches would be much healthier and more effective. The effects would be felt in our country and around the world. We need elders who care about the sheep. Elders needs to take time to know the members. They need to know their struggles, their hurts, their spiritual maturity, their gifts, and anything else that may help them to shepherd their souls. Ignorance about the members of the church will hinder the elder take care of God's people. You can't help or heal what you don't know. We need elders that know how to correctly handle God's word. The teaching and preaching of the Bible especially requires an attention and care to details. No sloppy work in this area please. We need to have elders who live out this proverb in their ministry. God, please give us these kind of shepherds.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Love Warns

"Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy."
Proverbs 27:5-6

This is a brief rabbit trail before I write about the proverb quoted above.

It is important when we read Proverbs that we don't think that the book just teaches us good morals. Proverbs gives us an expansion on the law of God. We see in Proverbs how we are to love our neighbor and love the Lord. As we read Proverbs, we will more often than not, see ourselves as the fool rather than the wise man. What is said of a fool and his folly could be said of us. Yet if we fear the Lord, we will turn to Him in repentance rather than run from Him. Also consider as we read Proverbs that Jesus Christ is the great wise man. Amazingly He acted in wisdom in every action, every word, every thought, every look, and in every situation. The righteousness He won for us who are not righteous in any way was not easily won. Living a life of wisdom is impossible for us sinners. Studying Proverbs should make that clear to us. Yet we can ever be filled with worship and thanksgiving, when we consider that Jesus Christ was wise in all things for our sakes.

My wife was walking one day on a trail in the mountains. I was behind her as I am so much older and slower than her. Suddenly I look up and see a mountain lion about to pounce on her from a large rock above her. I also see a bear coming though the trees to attack her. What is the loving thing to do? I would warn her loudly that she should get out of the way. Then the lion would pounce on the bear instead of my wife. This sounds like one of my wife's nightmares. But this nightmarish fictional story does help to illustrate the proverbs I want to write about.

Love compels us to warn people. We love people so we warn them about dangers. We warn our kids about crossing the roads or the boiling pot of soup. We warn about bad stores and bad merchandise. We warn others about con artists. We warn about diseases. We warn people because we don't want them to suffer harm. We don't want them to be hurt. We want them to avoid dangers. Warnings about the dangers of the world we can see are generally acceptable and appreciated. When we are warned we know that the person warning us cares about our well-being. But what about the dangers of sin?

Sin is dangerous too. Sin can have very terrible short term and long term consequences. Sin can have eternal consequences. Sin is far more dangerous than any wild animal or deadly poison. If we believe this, than wouldn't we want people to be warned about sin? Why are we often so quiet about the sins of others? If we really loved them, wouldn't we tell them the danger their sin is leading them into? The reason we don't is that our faith is weak and our love is weak. We don't really clearly see by faith the deadly effects of sin. Our love is weak towards others. We need to pray for greater faith and greater love.

True love will warn another about sin in their lives even if it hurts them. Rebukes wound us. They hurt our pride. We love our sin and are reluctant to give it up. But a true friend will rebuke anyway, even if it may result in losing a friend. The loving thing to do is to warn them about their sin because we know the danger of sin. We desire their spiritual health. A kind rebuke is indeed evidence of a good friend.

Let us warn others of their sin with humility and kindness and let us accept with graciousness the rebukes of others.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Learning from Barf Eating Dogs

"Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly."
Proverbs 26:11
   Some proverbs use comparisons to teach a truth. This proverb paints a very disgusting picture that teaches us some very important lessons. Who knew barf eating dogs could teach us some weighty theology; a theology that is not understood by many people--even some Christians? So, please read on.
 Dogs were dirty, dangerous, and disgusting animals in ancient Israel. They were not the cute, friendly, and loyal dogs we know today. Israelite dogs were not man's best friend. This understanding makes the proverb a little more repulsive. Dogs often get sick in the stomach. This is understandable considering the disgusting things that dogs can eat. So in order to relieve his sore stomach, he vomits out the food. Fido now feels better. So what does he do? Find some thing better to eat? No! He eats up his vomit even though it was the cause of his sore stomach. How bizarre and gross! Yet this is similar to when a fool goes back to his sin.
The sinner eats sin like bread. The sin causes his conscience to be troubled. Or he suffers the painful consequences of his sin. As a results he leaves off his sin for a while. He resolves to be a better person. He may attend church, start reading the Bible or take up prayer. Yet after the bad effects of his sin wear off, he desires again to be satisfied with that sin. So he returns to a sinful life again. This is as strange and disgusting as the picture painted above with the dog returning to his vomit.
Why do sinners return to their sin and the dog return to its vomit? It is what they do by nature. Dogs eat their vomit by instinct. It is part of their nature as a dog. Change the dog into a man and he will not eat his barf, we can be sure of that. So it is with the sinner. He sins because he has a sin nature. He loves sin. Sin in reality is even more vile than vomit. Sin is a horrible and hideous act. It is a deepest darkness. Sin is a disease that destroys us. Yet sinners love to sin even though it wounds their conscience and wrecks their lives. Think of the alcoholic who continues in his drunkenness or the gambler in the casino.  While many try to reform themselves in various ways, yet they cannot change their nature. Peter in 2 Peter 2:22 quotes this proverb as an illustration of false teachers who turn away from the truth and from godliness. These people were apostates. They knew the truth. They had been influenced by the truth. But they were not converted by the truth and so, since their nature did not change, they rejected the truth and returned to their vomit of sin. They were still sinners who wanted to sin. We see this apostasy described in John 15:6 and Hebrews 6 and 10.
 We need God to change us. We need God to give us a new heart that has a different attitude toward sin. We need God to cause us to be born again. When He does this, we will begin to hate our sin. We will begin to see sin as God sees it. We will consider it like vomit. Now this doesn't mean a Christian will not sin or return to commit some awful sin. We still have our flesh that desires to do evil. But the Christian won't continue in sin. He will repent and turn from his sin. He may jump in the mud and mire like a pig for a time, but since he isn't a pig, he won't stay in the pigsty. Thanks be to God who doesn't leave us in the mud of sin, but brings us out of it. Thanks be to God whose grace and love in Christ Jesus is so great towards us who often find ourselves back in the mire of our sin.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, and the Glory of the Lord

I was recently reading a little about the Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas. These were civilisations in South and Central America. They flourished for a time until ultimately they were conquered by the Spanish. But what struck me as I read, was their bloody religion. Each of these empires sacrificed humans. This was not just once and awhile, but often. In fact, many of their wars were launched for the sole purpose of getting captives to be sacrificed to their gods. Often the best victims were taken up a pyramid on top of which was a temple. There the victim was held down and his heart cut out by the priest. The heart was then placed on the altar to please the gods and the body was thrown down the steps. Men, old women, and children were all sacrificed to please the gods. Even the worshippers of these gods would cut themselves and present their own blood to the gods. Their gods were angry gods. They needed to be appeased by the death of people. What horrible religions!

When we look at the religions that the heart of man has come up with, we see in most cases that his gods are horrible beings. The gods of the Greeks and Romans were sinful and wicked. Allah is cold and distant. The god of the Jehovah Witnesses and the god of the Mormons demand good works for salvation with no assurance of salvation. These are gods made in the image of man. In many religions the spirits are out to get people and must be appeased. People live in great fear that the spirit will harm or kill them. The gods of the nations are cruel to their worshippers. The worshippers find no peace of conscience by rituals.

Here in our modern culture, we have cruel gods too. We worship the god of Self. This god also demands us to sacrifice others. Sometimes it is a literal sacrifice, where babies are sacrificed by abortion to meet the selfish demands of the god, Self. Sometimes the sacrifices are not so literal but still very real. We sacrifice the feelings, plans, interests, and hopes of others to make the god Self happy. All our modern gods are not much different than the gods of the ancients. Yet in every case man-made religions and idols are oppressive to people. Strange as it is, it is true. But what a difference there is in the true God and His worship.

The true and living God is so glorious and good. His love is infinite. His laws are good laws intended for our joy.  He is good to His enemies. He should make a quick and painful end to all rebels. But He does something more glorious; He becomes a sacrifice for them. He came to earth, took on a human nature, and lived among His creatures. Then He suffered in their place for their sins. He died for them and then rose to give them eternal life. How different is our God than the gods of men. All that is needed for salvation, He accomplishes for us. We don't have to appease Him. We simply give to Him in love and gratitude our lives in holy service. The life, salvation, and peace that God gives are real and powerful.

Reading about the gods of the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas made me worship our great God who is so different. I hope you will join in worship to the Lord as well.
Psalm 96:2-6
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Tell of His salvation from day to day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvelous works among the nations!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He is to be fear above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idol,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Short Manual on How and Why We Must Love Our Enemies

"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away His anger from him."
Proverbs 24:17-18
Have you an enemy? Have you someone in your life who is out to get you? Or maybe there is someone who ignores, mistreats, or slanders you? How do we act towards such a person? The Bible gives us clear guidelines for dealing with those who mistreat us. Romans 12:17-21 teaches us to not repay evil for evil, to promote peace, to not avenge ourselves but to trust God to deal with the person as is fitting, and to do good to them. We are to overcome evil with good. Matthew 5:43-48 calls us to love our enemies, to pray for them, and to do good for them. God is not only concerned with our outward actions to our enemies, but with our heart attitude toward them. These verses from Proverbs drive that truth home. We are not to even be happy about the fall of our enemy. There should be no secret thrill when we see our enemy stumble. We should never take pleasure in the misfortune and difficulty that comes to others. It displeases the LORD very much to see us gloating over the calamity that falls upon one we dislike.
This proverb also gives us a warning about such secret pleasure in the trouble of our enemy. By such a mean spirit, we bring on ourselves God's displeasure and discipline. God will now direct His anger toward us. The Lord sees not only our actions but also all that passes in our hearts. He requires us to love our enemies and to feel compassion for them even when they stumble. What a high standard that God has called us to! Who can ever live up to this? We all can confess that we have not loved our enemies very well. We can all remember times when we secretly rejoiced to see someone we didn't like in some trouble or difficulty. How we all need God's forgiveness! In fact it is only those who are children of God that can begin to love their enemies. It is only those with a new heart and the Spirit dwelling inside them that can show this love. This kind of love comes from God because this is how God loves.
God's love and compassion are so very great. We see His love shining in a blazing brilliance when we understand His love to His enemies. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the LORD God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" Ezekiel 18:23. It is not His delight to bring judgement. He does good to His enemies. He gives them many good things to enjoy. "He makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust." Matthew 5:45. God gives evil people good food to enjoy, friendships, talents, comforts, laughter, and many other gifts. He does this even though they never thank Him or praise Him. The truth is, they often mock His laws and people. They insult and hate His person. They would kill Him if they could. But God continues to give good gifts. He even warns them of their sin through His word and their conscience. He is patient with them, giving them time to repent even when they reject His gospel. His love is so great that He died for those who were His enemies. "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life." Romans 5:10. All of us who are Christians were once enemies of God. But in His infinite grace and love, He paid our debts, changed our hearts, and adopted us into the family of God. Such magnificent love should motivate us to love our enemies.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

How God Used a Lost Calf to Teach Me About Evangelism

Last week, one of my calves escaped its pen. This calf was a very large red and white calf. Calves like that are very valuable these days. After his morning feeding he had pushed his door open and vanished into thin air. When I came back to the barn, he was no where to be seen. Normally calves stay around the barn when they escape. But not this time. All day as I did my work, I looked for the calf. I looked in all the tall grass. I looked through out the cow barn. I searched on foot and on the gator. Nothing! I was beginning to think someone stole the calf. I fretted over the disappearance of this calf. I had looked everywhere and now there was no more places to look.The work day was ending soon. I went out to feed the calves. As I looked about again for the calf, I saw a red and white calf off in the distance. As I ran closer I realized it was our lost calf. It must have walked out to the heifers out on pasture and then hid in the grass somewhere out in the field. As feeding time come around, it decided to try find that funny creature that gives it milk. The calf happily followed me back to its bottle and to its pen. Finding the calf was a huge relief. It brought me great joy to find this calf. I ran to tell my wife so she could rejoice with me.

While I was searching for the calf and later when I had found it, the parable of the lost sheep kept running though my mind. I understood that parable in a new way that day and it taught me a lesson. The parable is found in Luke 15:1-7. Jesus wanted to teach the Pharisees that God  joyfully seeks and saves sinners. The story Jesus tells is like this: A shepherd has lost one sheep from his flock of one hundred. So he goes out to look for the one sheep. When he finds the lost sheep, he takes it home rejoicing. Then he has a party with friends and neighbors to celebrate the finding of the sheep. So it is in heaven when one sinner repents. The angels rejoice. God rejoices. The question is: Do we rejoice when sinners repent? Do we share the same joy that God has in the salvation of sinners? Since people will not seek God, God seeks sinners. It brings Him great joy to bring one home. Do we seek sinners? Do we reach out to them with the good news of salvation? Do we struggle and sacrifice to tell others of the riches of God's grace.
Evangelism is one of the main reasons God has left His people on this earth. He uses His people to bring the light of the gospel to the dark world. Do we as individuals and churches realize how important this is. Often the church gets distracted by other issues. These may be good and right, but they end up taking people away from the simple task of reaching the lost with the gospel and teaching the gospel to those who believe. People spend more time, energy, money, and effort on these side issues rather than on evangelism. These things could be saving children from poverty, political activism, ending abortion, and feeding the hungry and homeless. These are good pursuits, but when they eclipse our passion for reaching the lost with the gospel, then they need to be put into their proper place. Let us share in God's joy by seeking the lost with the gospel. Let us pray sinners will repent and believe. Then we who are on earth can celebrate with those in heaven over the salvation of a sinner.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Blessing of Trials

'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.'
-James 1:2-3

Most of us do not like trials.
We'd much rather avoid trials.
But each one of us endures trials.
And, it is often through our trials that we grow.
We grow in faith. We grow in patience. We grow in humility. We grow in love.
When a loved one dies, when we suffer from illness or pain, when we suffer emotionally, when we are persecuted.
Even in the smaller trials of every day life.
The battles that we need to fight with our children.
The battles that we fight against our own sinful selves.
The battles we fight when dealing with conflict.
They all teach us.
They may teach us to throw ourselves more fully on Christ.
They may teach us to be long-suffering or patient.
They may teach us to be content in all situations.
They may teach us forgiveness.
They may teach us that we have lingering sin that needs to be addressed.
So when we are faced with trials, we may rejoice in our suffering.
We may count ourselves blessed.
And, we may give glory to God as we look to Him for patient endurance.
We can say with Job, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21)


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Scoffers and Church Discipline

"Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease."
Proverbs 22:10
What is the scoffer like and why is this drastic solution given to the problem of the scoffer? To help us answer these questions, we'll briefly look at how a scoffer is described in Proverbs. Scoffers are those who delight in sin. They like scoffing or mocking the truth. Proverbs 1:22. To rebuke or correct a scoffer is useless and in fact, he might turn on you and do you harm. Proverbs 9:7-8. A scoffer may seek wisdom, but his search is in vain for his heart is not in the right condition. Proverbs 14:6. Scoffers don't like to be rebuked and reject correction. Proverbs 13:1, 15:12. Scoffer don't learn from beatings or any form of physical punishment. The only benefit to beating a scoffer is that others may learn from their punishment. Proverbs 21:11, 20:25, 29.  Scoffers are proud and arrogant which is to say, there is no fear of God in their hearts and lives. Proverbs 21:24. Scoffers can destroy a city with their arrogant and stubborn behavior. Proverbs 29:8. This is how Proverbs presents the scoffer.
The only way to deal with this type of person when he is in the company of the godly is to drive him out. Don't let him continue to be in your presence. As long as he is there, there is only misery and trouble. No other solution will do. Talking, instructing, rebuking, or correcting him are useless. Punishment is useless. He needs to leave, now!
If you listen well to God's wisdom here, you will find that a lot of trouble will leave with the scoffer. The scoffer produces strife, division, discord, quarreling, abuse, disgrace, and shame. If he goes so will all these problems. So many problems could be avoided if we would listen to what God says
While this proverb doesn't speak of church discipline, it certainly relates to it and anticipates it. Titus 3:10-11 says, "As for a person who stirs up divisions, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned." The person described in Titus is the person who is called the scoffer in Proverbs. Church disciple is needed for the individual in sin and for the church. Warning someone in sin with love is needed so that they will leave their sin and return to God in repentance. These people are in serious danger and need to be warned. If they refuse to listen to the warning of the church, then they must leave. Their presence will infect the whole church with trouble. "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened." 1 Corinthians 5:6-7. So many church problems can be avoided if we correctly, quickly, and lovingly remove such people from our congregations. One bad apple can ruin a whole church and bring great shame to christians and to Jesus Christ. Removing such a person from our midst will also warn others in the church. Some may wake up from their simple and foolish lives. They will see that sin is serious in the eyes of the church and of God. They may turn from their sin. Church discipline is painful, but it will have a very sanctifying influence in the church.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Don't be a Hedonistic Epicure.

"Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich."
Proverbs 21:17
Are you an epicure? Do you live a hedonistic lifestyle? Do you even know what these words mean? An epicure is one who is devoted to pleasure, particularly the pleasure of eating food. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure as the chief purpose in life. This belief and practice is warned against in this proverb. Devoting your life to pleasure in a luxurious and self indulgent lifestyle will have grave consequences.
It is not pleasure that is the problem. It is when pleasure becomes our idol. We live to seek and find pleasure. It is our chief goal. We love pleasure more than God. We seek pleasure in food, alcohol, leisure, shopping, sex, and entertainment simply to obtain pleasure rather than to use these things to honour God. A hedonistic lifestyle makes our selfish desire the god. Seeking pleasure is done to satisfy the god Self. In the unregenerate heart and world this is normal.  But even Christians can slip into this practice. From time to time, we seek pleasure before God's will and kingdom. It may become a pattern of life which becomes normal. Jesus warns us about the pleasures of this world in the parable of the sower. In that parable the thorns that choked out the seed are "the care and riches and pleasures of life." Luke 8:14  This warning from Proverbs is especially important for us who live in a wealthy culture that is devoted to whatever makes us happy.
Wine and oil are used to represent a hedonistic lifestyle. Wine or oil are not bad in and of themselves. This we can see from verse 20 of chapter 21. There we learn that a wise man has in his house precious treasure and oil. Through self control and the wise management of his wealth he has prospered. So having wine and oil can be a sign of wisdom and blessing. It is the over indulgence and lack of self control in the use of these two items that is the problem. Using wine and oil to find joy and pleasure is wrong. I think we understand why wine is mentioned here, but what about oil. Oil had various purpose. It was used as a food. Oil was used as a cosmetic to keep the skin and hair looking good. Perfumes and incense were made of oil as well. These uses give us an idea why oil is included here. Wine and oil would be often be used in abundance at parties and feasts.
The warning in this proverb is that those who pursue this idol of pleasure will became poor. This lifestyle will result in poverty. And poverty will result in the end of their hedonistic lifestyle, since they have no money to buy what gives them pleasure. Isn't this what we see in our culture. So many people are in debt or are bankrupt because they bought all they wanted without restraint. The pleasure of sin is fleeting. They are as a mist that disappears quickly. When the mist of pleasure is gone, we are left with the consequences that are often tragic. And we have not even talked about the judgment to come after death for the sins of the love of pleasure. Take heed to this warning from God. Don't be a lover of pleasure but a lover of God. 2 Tim 3:4. Learn from Solomon: the pursuit of pleasure is vanity. Eccles 2:1-2
Seeking pleasure for the goal of pleasure will not bring us true pleasure. True pleasure is found in seeking and loving God, righteousness and wisdom. David says this in Psalm 16:11, "You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." The way of holiness is a way of true joy. God wants us to have true joy and pleasure. It is found in Him alone. Though Jesus Christ we can enjoy the fellowship with God that will result in true joy and pleasure. Don't live like a Hedonistic Epicure.