Truth Bearer

Proverbs 25:9
“Debate your case with your neighbor, and do not disclose the secret to another;”

The Bible clearly teaches that we are not to lie. Truthfulness is a very important trait, and is the foundation for healthy relationships. We cannot have a relationship with someone we cannot trust and we cannot trust someone who does not tell us the truth. That being said, it is also important to remember, we are not required to divulge all the information to every one who asks. If you are walking casually through the local department store and make eye contact with a passerby who asks the common question, “how are you,” a simple, “fine,” would suffice. It is not necessary, for the sake of honesty, to give an elaborate backstory, or to share your deepest feelings. In the same way, some truths, have their best applications when they are concealed. There are matters that are best left to you and your spouse to discuss, and are not the business of others. Sadly, we have all had the experience of trusting delicate information to another, who does not treat it with the same care. Soon their lose tongue has shared the matter with others, and we are left to pick up the pieces. Being the first to know something, or share it with others, does nothing to improve your character, but sharing matters that are not yours to share, reveals a weakness in your character, and hurts those you are supposed to love.

If you have had a problem with releasing information that is not yours to share, perhaps the following reminders may help.

Proverbs 20:19
“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets,  Therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

Psalm 34:13
“Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit.”

Proverbs 11:13
He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, 
But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Psalm 141:3
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Pastor Jim

 

Thoughts

Proverbs 16:3
“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Paul referred to the believer as a soldier, and compared the Christian life to a battle ground. One of the reasons the Christian life is often difficult, is because we are fighting on two fronts. A large part of our battle is seeking to see others impacted for the Kingdom of God. We enter the arena to fight whenever we pray for the unsaved or the backslider. Scripture tells us our weapons are not carnal but they are mighty and able to pull down strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). The weapons we have been given are prayer, the Word of God and our personal testimony. When those are used together, we will find that we become effective in impacting others for the kingdom of God.

The other front on which the Christian engages in battle is within. We are told the devil shoots fiery darts into the mind of the Christian (Ephesians 6:16). The darts often take the form of fear, doubt, lust, envy, covetousness, pride or even self-loathing. If we are going to succeed in our walk with the Lord, we must win in the battlefield of the mind. Solomon’s insights here give us a tactical advantage.

“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Jesus explained that our actions will be produced by what is in our hearts (Matthew 15:17-19). Solomon adds, our actions will produce what goes on in our minds. If everyday, you choose to drive by the new car lot and stare at the cars on the showroom floor, it is no wonder you will have a great longing for a new car. You will find yourself unsatisfied with your current mode of transportation and preoccupied with how to get that new car. Choosing a different route to work, where you do not see the new cars everyday, will lessen the temptation. Wanting a new car is not necessarily sinful, but it illustrates the principle Solomon is presenting. If we are going to win the battle against temptations of the flesh, we must win the battle in the mind. If we are going to win the battle of the mind, we must make some changes in our actions. If we are constantly filling the mind with images that produce the desires of the flesh, we will never win that battle.

Let’s make sure that today we,

“Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.”

Pastor Jim

 

Model Home 

Proverbs 14:4
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

A few years back, when we were looking to purchase a home, my wife and I spent our days off going to open houses and visiting model homes. It was easy to tell the difference between the two. The model homes were immaculate. The decor was thematic, the furniture and carpets unstained, and the walls were noticeably unmarked by crayon, ink pen or dirty hand prints. At first glance, I would feel envious, for our house looked nothing like that. Our carpets showed evidence of four boys, who were incapable of wiping the mud off their feet before entering the house. The walls bore the evidence that they had not, in fact, washed their hands before or after dinner, and the couches proved that cups with lids are no guarantee against things being spilled. I would look at the model and think to myself, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep our house looking like this.” However, after a little consideration, I realized, there was an explanation as to why the model home was so clean and our house, well, not so much. No one lived in the model. It was a shell, four walls that contained furnishings, but no life.

Solomon is expressing that same thought in another way. Simply put, he is declaring that at times, life is messy. If we try to avoid the mess, we may, in turn, miss out on living. Many of us work very hard to be comfortable, and we avoid anything that disturbs that comfort. We neglect getting more involved in church, because it may mess up the kids schedule, or we fail to commit to serving the Lord, because it will conflict with our comforts. Our goal should not be living in comfort, but living to please the Lord. There are times when God will ask us to do things which will disturb our routine, or force us outside of our comfort zone. Part of His reasoning for doing this, is our personal growth. It is in those times when we are most uncomfortable, that we look to the Lord the most. When we feel like we can handle things, we press on in our own capacities. It is when we realize we have no experience to lean on, that we find ourselves crying out to the Lord.

Keep in mind, that while stepping out and serving Christ may make life a bit messy, there is great, even eternal value in everything that is done faithfully unto the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Invest In Your Future 

Proverbs 13:7
“There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.”

Solomon is suggesting it is possible to have earthly possessions and yet to possess nothing of true value. At the same time, it is possible to have next to nothing, and have great wealth. He is not saying wealth is evil and poverty is good, but that within God’s economy, some things are of much greater value than others. The Bible teaches us there are three things that are eternal, and investments made in these areas will give a person lasting riches.

First off, God Himself is eternal. Before the universe existed, there was God. He is the un-caused cause that brought all other things into being. He is the source of all life, and the one who holds all things together. He is the one to whom we will give an account when our lives run their course. While it is not wrong to make capital investments and to store up for your family’s future, we must not do it at the expense of investing in a relationship with God. The most important investment we make is a decision to follow Jesus Christ.

Second, the Word of God is eternal. The writer of Hebrews explained that one day the heavens above us and the earth we stand upon, will be folded like a garment and replaced, but the Word of God will last forever (Hebrews 1:11-12). Every promise of God is eternal, and every investment of the Word of God in our lives, will bring eternal benefits. Often, the thing that keeps us from investing time in the Word, is the fact that we do not think it makes a difference. The reality is, when time has run its course, and the things of this life are a distant memory, we will still be reaping the benefits of our investments in the Word of God.

Finally, the Bible teaches us that the souls of men and women are eternal. God has done everything possible for each and every person to spend eternity with Him. He sent His Son to die for us, His Spirit to draw us, and His church to be an influence to win us. When we realize how much others matter to God, and we seek to influence them for eternity, we are making investments that will outlast time. The most important place where these investments are made is within the home.

There is nothing wrong with making earthly investments. There is nothing inherently wrong with riches, or with enjoying much of the pleasures that come with wealth. However, there are things of much greater value than stocks portfolios, profit margins and real estate holdings. The things that matter most, are the things that last forever. Don’t neglect to store up riches where they really matter.

Pastor Jim

 

Don’t Worry

Proverbs 12:25
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.”

Anxiety can be defined as an abnormal and overwhelming concern over the reality of a threat, and our inability to cope with it. Similar words would be care, concern, fear, nervousness or worry. Anxiety is usually accompanied by an inability to focus on other tasks, difficulty sleeping, and either no appetite or one that seems to rage out of control. Solomon observed that unchecked anxiety can lead to a much worse condition, that of all out depression. No doubt, life is filled with challenges greater than we can handle, which bring us to the brink of anxiety. Many of us may feel as though we have already slipped off that cliff. Fortunately, the Bible addresses the subject of anxiety and gives us some clear cures for our common worries.

Jesus told us not to worry, but to observe how our Heavenly Father cares for the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields (Matthew 6:26). He went on to explain that we are of much greater value to God than any other part of His creation, and He promises to meet our needs. The first step in curing common worries is to place your trust in the loving arms of God. Those who handle life’s challenges best, are those who have come to trust in the loving care of God. When all else fails, they remain calm because they know their lives are wrapped up in the arms of God.

Paul declared, instead of worrying about the challenges we are facing, we should pray. Worry does not have the ability to fix anything. In fact, it has been proven, worry can actually create physical problems. Jesus asked, “which of you by worrying can add a cubit to your stature?” (Luke 12:26) Worry does not help matters, but makes them worse. The clear alternatives to worry is to take my concerns to the Lord and allow Him to direct my steps.

Solomon adds an interesting step in curing worry. He reminds us of the value of a word carefully spoken. There are certain people who seem to have a gift for stirring up unwarranted concern, while others seem to be a calming voice of reason. We have all experienced times when a person opens their mouths and makes matters worse. The words that carry the ability to put gladness in the heart of the worrier, are the promises of God. In those times, when we are overwhelmed, we need to learn to cling to the promises of God.

Perhaps now would be a good time to set your worries aside and replace them with trust, by casting your cares upon the Lord, and filling your mind with His great and precious promises.

Pastor Jim

 

Mercy And Compassion 

Proverbs 11:17
“The merciful man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.”

Mercy is often defined as not getting what we deserve. While that is true, the word carries a greater meaning. It also means to show compassion and kindness to those who are in need or distressed. We see it evidenced in the life of Jesus. When He heard the leper calling out for Him, we read Jesus was moved with compassion, reached out His hand, touched the man, and cleansed him. Mercy stirred the heart of Jesus to touch the untouchable, and restore what leprosy had destroyed (Mark 1:40-41). When He felt a tug on His garment, He turned to see a woman who had been struggling with an illness for 12 years, without any hope of healing. Mercy stirred Him to heal her sickness, and reward her great faith (Luke 8:43). When He arrived on the scene of Lazarus’ funeral, and heard the wailing of his family and friends, mercy stirred the heart of Jesus, to weep with those who wept, and to intervene by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-17). Over and over, page after page, person after person, we see Jesus expressing His mercy, in compassion and kindness, to those in need. Nowhere, is this seen more clearly than in the cross. Our need was much greater than that of a woman with a blood disease, a man with leprosy, or even a family with a dead brother. Our need was caused by sin, and the only cure was the death of God. Jesus saw our condition, and bore the weight of all our sin, as He hung on Calvary’s cross. Mercy was extended as His blood was shed.

Mercy is something we are to receive and to spread. Solomon stated, it is the merciful man who does good for his own soul. Jesus said we are blessed when we are merciful. Just as Jesus looked for, and aided those in need, we should be looking for ways to express the mercy of God to others. Mercy is expressed in forgiveness. When we choose to forgive someone who has wronged us, and treat them as though they had never acted that way, we are expressing mercy. When we choose to be kind to someone, not because they have been kind to us, or in hopes of being rewarded, we are expressing mercy. When we go out of our way to show the love of Christ to others, whether it be in word or action, we are expressing mercy. This mercy will benefit the receiver and the giver alike. Those who receive mercy are learning something of the nature of God, and those giving it, are doing good to their own soul.

Pastor Jim

 

Sports 

Proverbs 10:23
“To do evil is like sport to a fool, bur a man of understanding has wisdom.”

While Jesus hung on the cross paying for the sins of humanity, paving the way for man to have fellowship with God, and giving entrance to heaven, we are told a group of soldiers were gambling for His clothing. The most important event in the history of humanity is unfolding, and these men are playing games at the foot of the cross. Sadly, their behavior is all too common among people today. Many, instead of taking seriously their need for Christ, are playing around with sin and treating it like sport. Even among believers this behavior is all too familiar. There are many Christians who seem to live for the adrenaline rush they receive, by getting as close to sin as possible, while not falling completely into it. That, my friend, is a dangerous game. Solomon wrote,

Proverbs 6:27-28
“Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
Can one walk on hot coals, And his feet not be seared?” 

Toying around with, and living on the edge of sin, is a very dangerous game. It will not be long before you find you have taken one step too many and fallen hard. For many, once that line is crossed, it is very difficult to be restored. Sin gets its teeth in us, and like a pit bull, is unwilling to let go. The secret to success, is to stay away from the fences. Don’t live as close to sinning as you can, but as far away as possible.

I had a good friend who had a substance abuse problem. He was doing his best to walk with the Lord, and stay away from former habits. He knew, he not only had to make investments in his walk with the Lord, but he also had to avoid his old stomping grounds. He even had to choose new routes home from work, because the way he traveled in the past took him right through the neighborhood where he would purchase drugs. After months of doing well, staying clean, and growing in Christ, he thought he was strong enough to handle it, and decided to take a short cut home. His path took him right by his dealers place. Before he knew it, he had parked the car, entered the home, purchased drugs, and fell hard. It was over a week later when I heard from him. He had been on a binge and had finally come down. Broken, hurting, filled with self-loathing, and fearing what was ahead, he told me the details of his story.

His story is not an isolated case. If we are honest, we all have stories of toying with sin and falling. Our landing may not have been as hard as his, but sin has had a devastating effect upon us, and those to whom we are seeking to be a godly witness. It is folly to think we can gamble with sin and not lose. If you have been treating sin like sport, it is time to retire. Whatever has been leading you to the edge, remove it from your life, and draw as close to Christ as you can. Paul told Timothy to flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22) and Joseph took this so seriously he ran from Potiphar’s house leaving his clothes behind (Genesis 39:12).

Pastor Jim

 

Overflowing Life 

Proverbs 9:11
“For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.”

Jesus promised, those who believe in Him would be the recipients of eternal life. He also promised we would have abundant life while we live.

John wrote in 1 John 1:5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 

We will never experience the abundant life God intends for us until we first receive Christ and begin to walk with Him. Scripture promises the love of God will flood our hearts, the peace of God will guard our minds, and the life of God will well up within us like a fountain, flowing out upon others around us. Once we receive Christ, we begin to experience the abundant grace of God flowing into our lives. Paul knew this kind of life, and it enabled him to celebrate the Lord, even in the most difficult situations.

There are, however, many Christians who are failing to experience abundant life. They seem to be constantly downtrodden and defeated. In some cases, it may be a result of failing to choose the path of wisdom. Solomon explains that true wisdom has, as its goal, a desire to live pleasing to the Lord. When we walk that road (when all decisions are filtered through a desire to do what is right in the eyes of God), we will find “our days are multiplied and years of life are added.” Things are simply better when we follow the Lord and do it His way. So often, our will fights against the will of God. When we resist Him, we fail to see that His desires are best for us. The height of life is always reached when we surrender all to Christ, and live in obedience to His Word.

Let’s commit together to begin each day by offering ourselves to the Lord, and looking at our circumstances in the light of Scripture. Begin each day this week by dedicating yourself to Him, praying for the things you are facing, and reading His Word. End each day by examining your actions in light of the Lord and His Word. Let’s see how far He can take us down the road of abundant life.

Pastor Jim

 

A Fork In The Road 

Proverbs 8:2
“She takes her stand on the top of the high hill, beside the way, where the paths meet.”

Have you ever been following someone’s directions to a place you have never been, and encountered an unexpected fork in the road? When that happens, we are forced to stop, study the map again, ask for help, and make a decision as to which way to go. Solomon tells us, that in life, when we encounter the unexpected fork in the road, wisdom is there to meet us, and provide direction for our lives. While wisdom is always available to us, there are times when it may be more difficult to know the right path to take. Solomon gives a description of wisdom so we will be able to recognize it the next time we are in need.

Proverbs 8:7 “For my mouth will speak truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

God’s wisdom will always lead us away from wickedness and sin. Later, Solomon defines the fear of the Lord as hating evil (Proverbs 8:13). Any direction that leads you closer to sin, or away from fellowship with God, is not the way of wisdom. If you are trying to decide whether to go out with the guy from work, look at his life. Has he been showing evidence that he wants to walk with, serve and please God? If you are trying to decide about a move. Is there a healthy church nearby where you will be able to continue to grow in Christ and raise your family around the things of the Lord? The way of wisdom always leads us toward the Lord.

Proverbs 8:12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.

Wisdom does not travel alone, she has a partner named Prudence. Prudence is defined as the ability to govern oneself, especially as it related to being circumspect in times of peril. We are able to recognize the way of wisdom when we realize that God’s way will always lead us to denying the flesh, and to personal growth in Christ. We were all taught about adrenaline and the body’s “fight or flight” reaction to danger. It is natural for all of us to want to avoid danger or difficulty; to choose the easy road over the difficult one. There are times, however, when God wants us to take the more challenging road, because He desires to do a work within us. That work will always involve the cutting away of the flesh. While that may be difficult, the end of that road, is our becoming the persons God created us to be, in Christ.

Proverbs 8:20 “I traverse the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice”

Righteousness, like holiness, is a word we sometimes struggle to define. I recently saw a sign that referred to a location as a holy site, and stated “no smoking, bare feet or loud talking.” Apparently, their definition of holy was to be quiet, not smoke and have covered toes. Biblical righteousness is best defined as becoming more like Jesus, and the path of wisdom always leads us to Christ.

Proverbs 8:23 “I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth.”

Solomon takes us back to the very beginning, when all things were created, and reminds us that wisdom was there. We learn true godly wisdom does not change when culture does. The things that will lead us toward or away from God, do not change like the tide. Cultural mores may be different now than they were back in the “good old days”, but the wisdom of God has not changed. Regardless of what Hollywood says, or what new laws are passed in Washington, the wisdom of God will never change. Sin will always be sin, and righteousness will always be righteousness. Wisdom and prudence lead us to knowledge and discretion.

Let’s be sure, as we face a fork in the road, that we are looking for signs that point to heaven’s wisdom.

Pastor Jim

 

Falling Down

Proverbs 7:24
“Now therefore, listen to me, my children; Pay attention to the words of my mouth”

This chapter is given entirely as a warning against the danger of falling into sexual sin. It is written as a letter from a father to his son, pleading with him to avoid the things that will lead to sin. While this sin is perhaps more common among young men, it is a sin we all must avoid. The principles found in this chapter will apply to guarding against all sin. To grasp the danger being warned against, look at what happened to this young man who turns aside from the Lord for sinful pleasure.

Proverbs 7:22 “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks . . .“

While it seems as though he was suddenly destroyed by sin, it was actually quite a long road that took him there, and one filled with warning signs he chose to ignore. Falling from the Lord is never something that takes place over night. This young man’s failure illustrates the steps that always lead to a fall.

First, we read he was a young man. While he may have thought of himself as all grown up, in reality he was quite immature. We read he was “simple and devoid of understanding.” Hebrews 5 refers to a group of people who should be teaching others, but because they had failed to grow in Christ, they were still behaving like baby Christians. It is appropriate for an infant to act like a baby, but it is sad when an adult is still behaving childishly. Growth in Christ does not happen simply by being a believer for a long period of time. We grow when we invest in our relationship with the Lord. Failure to do so will make us susceptible to a fall.

Second, we read of the young man walking the street that led to her home. His failure was a result of being in the wrong place. Instead of choosing a different route, he walked where he should not have been. We cannot expect to come right to the edge of sin and not fall off that cliff. To avoid a fall we need to steer clear of the things that will incite the flesh and lead to failure.

Third, this young man is walking alone. Many of our failures could be avoided if we got others involved in the fight. Had this young man walked those same streets with a godly friend, they could watch each other’s back, and encourage each other in order to avoid failure. Finding someone who will be an encouragement to you in your walk, involves being in church regularly, stepping out of your comfort zone to get to know others, and letting down some guards so others can know how to pray for and encourage you. There are certain aspects of our walk with the Lord where we must walk alone, but for the most part, God did not intend for us to travel this road alone.

Finally, our traveler fell because he ignored the obvious warning signs. Whatever he was thinking, the moment she used the word “husband,” he should have known this was not a path to continue on. The correct response at that moment was to flee. The problem was, he had allowed himself to reach a point of no return. Once he began following his desires, rather than the Word of the God, those desires began to control him. Flattering words mixed with her embrace, her kiss and her seduction, brought him to a point where failure was inevitable. We must deal with temptation long before we get to the point where it is too strong to avoid. If we are honest, we will recognize that before we fail, we have passed sign after sign warning us to turn around and travel some other route.

Before we come to the slaughter house of sin, let’s take the time to examine our lives in light of these warnings.

Pastor Jim