Thoughts on life and Scripture...

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.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Proverbs and My Birthday

"The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their grey hair."
Proverbs 20:29
 This last week I celebrated my thirtieth birthday. So, it is quite providential that the proverb above was before me in the morning devotions. This proverb deals with the different stages in life and their unique benefits.
Youth is a time of strength and energy. The mind is clear and able to study and think well. The body is in good health. The young don't have the aches and pains that the aged do. Young people often feel invincible. Now as with many proverbs, this one contains generalizations. Not all young people have good health and are full of energy. But normally this stage of life has these things as it's glory. But young people often don't have the wisdom to guide this energy and passion. This belongs to the aged.
 The crowning characteristic of old people is their life experience. Grey hair represents the many years they have lived. Over the years they have learned many truths about life. They have learned from experience what works and what doesn't. They have seen the fads come and go. They have gained wisdom though-out the years. While his body is now weak, his mind is full of insight into life. He may not see well with his eyes, but he can see the truth much better. Again this is not always true. How sad it is to see an old person who has not learned much from his many years. I know of old people who are old and yet fools.  
It is implied in this proverb that the wisdom and insight of the aged is superior to the strength of the young man. This is seen in the word "but" that separates the two phrases. We do nothing to gain the strength of youth, but we do have to learn life's lesson if we wish to gain the wisdom of the aged.
We learn, from applying this proverb, that each period in our life has its benefits and we need each age group. The young men need the wisdom of the aged. They need to listen to them. They need to sit at their feet drinking in their wisdom. They should show respect to those who have weathered the storms of life. Also, the youth should use this time of energy and health to serve the Lord. Don't waste this time on the empty and vain things of this world. This is no time to have your fun or sow your wild oats. God has blessed you with strength, young person; don't waste it. Use this time to gain wisdom from God. Your strength will disappear and if you have no wisdom to help you through your years of old age, how difficult and sad will it be for you.
The old people need to learn from this proverb to use what they have learned to help others grow in wisdom and knowledge. You have spent years of toil and energy to gain insight and understanding. Now is not the time to live for self. There is no retirement in the Bible. Don't spend all your time in travel and drinking coffee in Tim Hortons. Invest into the Church what God has blessed you with. We need the wise old people to help us young people to use our strength in wisdom. Read Titus 2:1-8 for how older women and men can teach those who are younger. All the benefits that come with each age group are gifts from God and are to be used in His service and His glory.
I hope that my next thirty years are used to be spent in the service of the Lord. I hope in my next thirty years to seek and find much wisdom. I hope in my next thirty years to know the Lord Jesus Christ in greater and deeper ways.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Alcohol and the Church

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by them is not wise."
Proverbs 20:1
This verse begins a series of proverbs at the end of this book about the abuse of alcohol. I would like to briefly look at what Proverbs says about intoxicating drink, and what is the Biblical view of drinking alcohol. In the days of the writing of the Bible, everyone drank wine, but it was mixed with a good percentage of water. Proverbs is concerned with wine and other alcoholic beverages that were unmixed. In the verse quoted above, wine and other alcohol is compared to the results they produce. Being under the influence of alcohol leads one to fights, loud and foolish words, and indiscreet behavior. Drunkenness is for fools not the wise. Proverbs 23:20-21 warns not to even be a companion to drunkards. Their evil influence will corrupt good judgement. If we follow their ways, it will lead to poverty. Later on in Proverbs 23:29-35 we are given a very detailed picture of the ill effects of over drinking. We learn that drunkenness brings sorrow, relational strife, inner strife, physical problems, and general trouble. Alcoholic drinks are seductive. The end result of drunkenness is pain and suffering like the poison of a snake. Alcohol clouds our thinking, blurs our vision, and staggers our steps. Yet even though this is the case, those addicted to alcohol will not learn from these painful consequences and return to the bottle again.
In Proverbs 31:4-7, we are taught that kings and by implication all those in authority, should stay away from wine. Wine clouds our thinking and reactions. Wine is not good for those in authority for they might forget the laws and abuse those under them. This is good reminder for church elders. Wine may have its place for some people in some situations, it should be avoided by leader who need to be self controlled and sober. This is a very brief summary of what Proverbs teaches about alcoholic drink and their effects.
There are two unbiblical approaches to alcohol that I have observed among Christians. The first approach is to ban drinking altogether. Drinking any alcohol is considered a sin. I have even come across churches that won't allow people to be members of the church unless they promise never to drink alcohol. This approach to alcohol is understandable when we see the devastating destruction that is caused by the abuse of alcohol. The problem is that this goes beyond the rules of Scripture. God never says we can't drink alcohol. In Psalm 104:14-16 it says that God causes food to grow so man can have food and wine to gladden his heart and oil to make his face shine. Now if a person wants to abstain from alcohol, they have the freedom to do so. But they do not have the right to impose their rule on any one else.
The second unbiblical approach to alcohol that I have seen is a casual approach to drinking. Drinking alcohol is a normal part of their lives. Parties and social evenings are always accompanied by some form of alcohol. The warnings of scripture about alcohol are not taken seriously. In fact it is considered uncool not to drink along with them. Often these Christians don't get very drunk, but maybe just a little tipsy. It seems to me that this casual approach to drinking leads to a casual approach to drunkenness in others. They may solemnly shake their heads when they hear of someone who was drunk but it isn't a serious concern--in fact they may even find it humorous. They stand motionless while others drink themselves silly. I knew of some people who after professing their commitment to follow Jesus Christ, they then went out to celebrate by getting drunk. Or when a group of boys went out to celebrate the birth of the Saviour by drinking in excess. I have heard countless stories of drunken parties, where animals are abused, sexual immorality is rampant, and all manner of sin is embraced.  Yet no one seems to do a whole lot about this. These people seem to be on the other side of the scale of those who forbid all drinking. This kind of  behavior is a shame and a disgrace to the name of Christ.
So what is a Biblical approach to alcohol? First, we need to take to heart the many warnings in the Bible concerning the abuse of alcohol. Second, we need to take seriously the exhortations of scripture to live with self-control and a sober mind. Alcohol can hinder us in resisting sin. Third, it should be our desire to please the Lord which should make us want to avoid drunkenness. We should not be asking how close to the line of intoxication can we come before we have sinned. We should keep a good distance from that line, so that there is no chance of drunkenness.
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

Friday, July 3, 2015

Hope In The Darkness

"Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death."
Proverbs 19:18
The last few weeks have seen some difficult days in the parenting of our children. This last Tuesday was a dark day for parenting. All our efforts seemed useless. We would teach the truth of God's word. We would repeatedly use physical discipline. We would present the need of the gospel and the new birth. But it seemed this was to no effect. The same crimes would be committed over and over again. We felt hopeless. What more could we do? It was ironic that this was the day when our Man to Man Bible and Coffee group was meeting to discuss parenting. The next morning during my regular devotions, I came to this verse. It was like light in a dark place. I hope it will be so for you too.
What is discipline? John Kitchen in his Proverbs commentary gives this definition: "The word translated 'Discipline' refers to correction of some kind that is aimed at educating the individual toward a better course." We are all born to roll down the road of sin and death. Discipline is needed to change our path to the way of grace and life. Discipline involves teaching and instruction concerning the right way and the use of physical punishment in love to reinforce this truth. Both are important and needed. Discipline when done as God has instructed us is hard work. We might feel tempted to give up and let our child go his own way. Just ignore Johnny's mischief for now. It isn't worth the trouble today. The truth is when we ignore God's instruction on the discipline of our children we are letting our children walk unhindered in the way of death. A failure to discipline is a death sentence to our children. It may lead to their physical death as they live godless lives. It will certainly, but for God's grace, bring them to complete spiritual death.
Discipline brings hope. Discipline can be used by God to bring spiritual life to our children. We have no promises that say if we only follow God's instructions for raising children then they will all be good Christians. We could do everything right and still one of our children could walk away from the truth. But often it is the faithful discipline of God-fearing parents that is soaked in prayers which is used by God to bring spiritual life to our children. This proverb is to encourage us to keep on disciplining our children. Even when there is no immediate results, and we are tired and weary. We need to persevere in training our children. So long as we continue in this there is hope for them.