July 20, 2017

July 20, 2017

PROVERBS 22-23

Focus Verse: When you sit down to dine with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you,
And put a knife to your throat
If you are a man of great appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For it is deceptive food.
Proverbs 23:1-3

 

This is something we don’t like to talk about a whole lot in the church today. The NIV translation says, “and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” The Hebrew word used is nepes, which is a pretty diverse noun in the Hebrew language. It is translated as a soul, a person, life, desire, passion, appetite and emotion in different places in the Bible.

 

But I think that gives us a pretty cool insight into the sin of gluttony. Now when we think of gluttony, (which let’s be honest, who really thinks of gluttony ever) we normally think of the first definition we find in the dictionary, “excessive eating or drinking”. But gluttony can also be applied to overindulgence in anything. We’ve all heard the phrase, “He’s a glutton for punishment”, meaning that someone keeps making the same mistakes over and over, to the point where it would seem that they enjoy overindulging in the repercussions of those mistakes.

 

I would like to apply this ‘gluttony’ to more than just food, but I would like to do it outside of the English language and turn to the original Hebrew. So here’s the question: when you sit down to eat, how important is that food in front of you? Does it calm your emotions? Is it a passion of yours? Do you have a strong desire for it? Does it fill your appetite? I think at some level, all of us could answer yes to those questions. We’ve all binged out on ice cream when the day hasn’t gone our way (and men, let’s not pretend this is just a woman thing).

 

But how deep does that go? Do you need it to alter your emotions? Does that passion consume you? Is it one of, if not the, strongest desires that you have? Has food made its way down so deep that it is embedded into your life? It’s part of who you are as a person? It’s vying for part of your soul?

 

See how quickly that turned real dark? But that’s how gluttony works. That’s how “nepes” works. And we see it all the time. Minor things become major things. Now we will talk all day and night about addictions to drugs and alcohol. Overindulgence in those things is awful. We’ll preach sermons on it on Sunday mornings. But when’s the last time you’ve heard a sermon on the addiction of food in our society? We have holidays in our culture that ENCOURAGE this behavior!

 

Now I’m not saying cancel Thanksgiving. I’m just saying that we need to have our eyes opened to the things that we are turning to in our times of trouble when we should be turning to God. If you’ve had a bad day, go ahead and have some ice cream, but if you are turning to that to alter your mood instead of God, you’re better off putting it back in the freezer. If you run to drown you sorrows, or workout, or read, or even spend time with your family…whatever it is that you do, if you are doing that instead of turning to God, you’ve made yourself an idol. If you take more pleasure in those things than you do in God, you’ve made yourself an idol.

 

So how do you change that? Believe it or not, it’s not loving those things less. Don’t love ice cream less, don’t stop enjoying the blessings in life God has given you, but love Him more. Saint Augustine calls this “disordered love” in his Confessions and encourages us that everything will be put right the moment we love God above all else. Then there is no fear in overindulging and becoming gluttons in any arena, because we will be overindulging in the presence of the Almighty Father, and you will never get enough of that!

July 19, 2017

July 19, 2017

PROVERBS 19-21

Focus Verse: The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked
and brings the wicked to ruin.
Psalm 21:12

 

Conviction city for me this morning. Praise God that He is so loving and gentle with His rebukes.

 

Now I used the NIV translation this morning (normally I use NASB) because I like how it capitalizes Righteous One. You know who the Righteous One is, right? Jesus. You know who the Righteous One isn’t (and this on doesn’t matter whether you capitalize it or not)? Jeremy Alan Metzger. Sometimes I need to do a better job of remembering that.

 

My problem is, I like to be the one taking notes of the house of the wicked and determine how they should be brought to ruin. I like to hold people accountable to standards God has called me to live by, and often forget that He hasn’t called everyone to those same standards.

 

I’ll give you an example: very early in my ministry, God told me that He didn’t want me to promote myself; that He would take care of all of that if I just trusted in Him. Now the problem comes when I find myself getting frustrated with other people promoting their ministries. God told ME to live to that particular standard – NOT them. Does this mean that these people always have pure motives in promoting themselves and their ministries? Not necessarily, but guess who gets to take note of that? THE RIGHTEOUS ONE.

 

And what is the job of the servant of the Righteous One? To be obedient to Him. To follow His commands. To love Him and to love everyone else. To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with Him. It’s not our job to take note of the house of the wicked or anyone else for that matter. Perfect love keeps no record of wrongs. We are called to do the same.

July 18, 2017

July 18, 2017

PROVERBS 16-18

Focus Verse: Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
Proverbs 16:18-19

 

This right here is a principle in God’s Kingdom that is just as sure as gravity here on earth. The proud will fall. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. We, as Christians, believe that when Jesus comes back to this earth that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

 

So the question is, will you humble yourself and bow, or will you be forced to bow? God gives everyone 100% freewill. There is no question about that. Yet there is a phenomena we see throughout the Bible every time God’s glory falls in which everyone falls to the ground in awe and wonder of such a great God.

 

My friend, Jon Jakubowski tells of this phenomenon that occurred at one of his soccer camps that he runs for Champions in Action (an absolutely awesome ministry that you should really check out: www.championsinaction.org ). At this camp, they had some of the roughest boys you can imagine. Kids in gangs, murderers, rapists, you name it. Jon was extremely discouraged with how the camp had been going; the messages just weren’t sinking in and the boys were out of control. Sitting in the back of one of the worship services, Jon asked God why He would bring him this far with this organization only to watch it fail now.

 

Then it happened. The glory of God fell and those boys who were obstinate, disobedient, rowdy and proud ALL fell to their knees. Every single person there, when encountering the presence of the One True God, bowed before Him in all of His majesty.

 

There are only two options: humble yourself before God or be humbled by God.

 

How do you do it?

 

You can’t. But Jesus did (see Philippians 2) and will through the Holy Spirit in you if you will allow Him.

July 17, 2017

July 17, 2017

PROVERBS 13-15

Focus Verse: He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.
Proverbs 14:31

 

We are all made in the image of God. Therefore, when you oppress the poor (or anyone else for that matter), you are taunting the One who made that person. Yet if you honor that person, God will honor you. This is why Jesus taught that “whaterver you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”

 

This goes so much further than just oppressing the poor. I didn’t post any of these verses, but check out the reading for today. How many times do you see a warning to hold your tongue. And, spoiler alert, one of my favorite passages is coming tomorrow from Proverbs 18:21. But why is it so important to weigh our words so carefully? Because, like James warns us in James 3:8-10,

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

 

How are you treating others who were made in God’s image? Are you honoring them with your thoughts, words and deeds or are you oppressing them? This goes so much further than just giving the poor a handout. That’s good! But it is about giving them something that they need so much more: honor, dignity, respect.

 

Do you treat the poor the same way that you would treat the C.E.O. of a fortune 500 company? Do you treat the most successful person you know, the person you respect more than anyone else, the same way that you treat someone who is living off of government assistance (whether they ‘deserve’ that assistance in your opinion or not).

 

Here’s the truth of it: my answer is no, I don’t treat everyone equally. And even if I do act like I do, my thoughts and words very rarely live up to that standard. My guess is that you are probably in the same boat as I am here. Here’s why: We CAN’T do this. But Jesus did. And He will do through us if we allow the Holy Spirit to have control.

 

I can’t. But Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in me.

July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017

PROVERBS 10-12

Focus Verse: Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely,
But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.
Proverbs 10:4-5

 

I want to make something very clear from the start here: we cannot earn our salvation. So what I am talking about today has nothing to do with salvation. We all clear on that? Good! Let’s proceed.

 

I kind of lied. This does have to do with salvation, but not earning it. The danger that we can fall into when it comes to talking about not having to work for our salvation is that we often use that as a crutch to be lazy Christ followers. You can see it far too often in far too many churches – people who profess Jesus as their Lord and Savior but don’t do any of the things that He teaches. Now I’m not talking about avoiding sin, I’m talking about DOING the things that He has told us to DO.

 

Christ tells us to GO and disciple the nations. Now don’t confuse this, the country you are living in right now is a nation. Disciple someone in it! Go reach out to someone in your neighborhood who doesn’t know Jesus. Go help the poor. Micah 6:8 tells us that the Lord requires us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. These are all action steps. And I cannot believe that God wants us to do these things half-heartedly.

 

Here’s the deal: as followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to work harder than anyone else on the planet. Not because we need to be saved, but because we ARE SAVED! We, if we are truly walking with Christ, know the most amazing love of the Creator who became part of His creation. This is the most humbling news on the planet. The God of all things died for me. This ought to push us to work tirelessly to obey His commands to us and see to it that His kingdom of love is advanced according to His perfect will.

 

What camp would you put yourself in? The one who sleeps in harvest or the one who gathers much?

July 15, 2017

July 15, 2017

PROVERBS 7-9

Focus Verse: He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
Proverbs 9:7-9

 

The difference between a wise, righteous man and a wicked, foolish mocker is all in how they accept correction. What is your first reaction when someone corrects you? What is your final reaction?

 

A fool gets angry when they are corrected. They immediately lash out (and be careful, because even if you’re only lashing out in your mind, you’re still lashing out). “Who does she think she is, pointing out all my flaws when she can’t even do this or that right.” That’s the wisdom of a fool right there and it leads to a life full of bitterness, rage and never growing. And if something isn’t growing, it’s dying!

 

A fool is too proud to accept that they are doing something wrong. They are an expert at everything that they put their hand to, so to try to even wrap their mind around the fact that they aren’t the best is unfathomable. And when they are approached with a product that proves that they aren’t the best, the excuses start to pour out. The attacks start to come out. Anything to bring someone else down to their level and bring them up to someone else’s level.

 

A fool who is trying to change (this is the category I find myself in most often) is very similar to the fool. They show all of the initial signs of being a fool. They get mad at being corrected. They think poorly of the person doing the correcting. They come up with excuses at to why they don’t really need corrected. In the end though, they reason that there is something wrong. They realize that they don’t have all of the answers, and deep down, they want to get better so they heed the correction and do their best to change. The first reaction is still broken, but the final reaction leads to wisdom.

 

And finally, the place we all should be aiming for is the righteous, wise man. This person looks inward first. When correction comes, they immediately look at themselves to see if there is a fault that needs corrected. Then, if there is, they change and learn and grow. If there isn’t a need to change, they don’t get angry at the person offering correction, but instead see the correction for what it is (insecurity from the other person, a misunderstanding, etc) and love the person through it.

 

The righteous, wise man not only accepts correction well, but he or she invites it. They ask others to openly critique their work. They desperately want to be the best they can, so they want to learn from their mistakes and are humble enough to admit that they indeed make mistakes. Yet there is also a balancing act in knowing when to stop critiquing and move on. This is a genuine aim to get better, not a backhanded way to be edified by others.

 

So what is your first reaction to correction?

July 14, 2017

July 14, 2017

PROVERBS 4-6

Focus Verse: Drink water from your own cistern
And fresh water from your own well.
Should your springs be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be yours alone
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.
For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress
And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?
Proverbs 5:15-20

 

Proverbs teaches to avoid a number of different sins and character flaws and adultery is one of them that it teaches the most frequently on avoiding. Now let’s be honest, Solomon was probably a pretty good person to be writing on this topic since he had roughly 1,000 wives and concubines. Now before you write me off as a lunatic, let’s think for a second on this. Who is a better expert on someone struggling with drug addiction, someone who has read a lot of books on drug addiction or someone who has struggled with and overcome a drug addiction?

 

Solomon knew what a disaster the whole multiple marriage thing was. If it wasn’t a disaster, why would he be telling his son to be content with the wife (of the singular variety) of his youth. Clearly Solomon had gotten down the road in years with these thousand wives and concubines and regretted 999 of those decisions.

 

So what is Solomon’s expert advice to his son on how to avoid adultery? Don’t look for it!

 

I’m going to dive into some birds and bees stuff here, so parents, hide your children and put on your PG-13 hats.

 

If you keep the home fires burning, you don’t have to warm yourself by the fire of someone else’s home. If you’re eating good at your dinner table, then you don’t have to wish you were eating at someone else’s dinner table. If you are having outstanding sex in your marriage bed, then you won’t be looking for it in someone else’s bed.

 

The key to this is practice and communication. Sex is such a taboo conversation topic, but it’s one that has to happen between a husband and a wife. If my wife makes something for dinner that I don’t like, I tell her that I don’t like it so that I don’t have to keep eating it. I learned this the hard way. I loathe French toast. Cannot stand it. But I never communicated this to my wife. Guess what we had for dinner for nearly three years of our marriage? I finally got up the gumption to tell her that French toast just really doesn’t do anything for me, and guess what we don’t eat nearly as frequently?

 

So why don’t we do the same thing with sex? If there’s something you really like, tell your husband or wife! If there’s some “French toast” in your sex life, talks about it! Maybe your husband or wife really likes the “French toast”, so you’ll still have it on occasion. But because you love each other, it won’t be the only thing.

 

Be happy with your husband, be happy with your wife, and you won’t have to look to someone else’s. If you aren’t happy, TALK ABOUT IT! Problems don’t go away by ignoring them and hoping they’ll get better. They go away by talking about them and making them better. The best way to get steer clear of adultery is to make sure it’s not an option in the first place. Marriage is hard. You will never get your marriage so “strong” that you won’t walk through hard times. But those times will be easier to bear if you have a solid, Christ-centered base to fall back on. And really a really great sex-life definitely doesn’t hurt anything.