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Roses Have Thorns, But Not Always

Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.

(Proverbs 14:13)

In the lobby of my church a sudden outburst of laughing will pound through my office walls. At times I will look out just to see what is so funny. And it is funny, what I see. There may be two or maybe ten who are all enjoying a good story or the end of some tease. But I know these people. There is the one who is still recovering from surgery and has burdens for her family and their faith. There is the one whose spouse is a broken person who brings so many burdens into the home and lives of the family. There is that person whose job is currently up in the air and the reality of the unknown is upon him. I see the parents laughing who have a wayward child and they are very concerned.

If I wanted to stop any of that laughter all I would need to do is pull one of them aside and inquire as to how is the situation, the burden. Laughing eyes will reflect the burden and pain that is just below the surface. Tears or anguished faces will appear and a softer, heavier voice will speak.

For all of us there are times of great laughter that hide the pain we suffer within. It is the reality of living in this broken, sinful age. We will hold in our arms a small baby and be filled with joy never knowing that the end will be grief. We will walk down an aisle to marry only for the end to be grief. We will start out our life in college and in the end is grief.

We must never forget that many things in this life bring joy. And we can enjoy them as such. But like the thorns of the rose so too do all things bringing joy. So we hold things that belong to this age lightly. Rejoicing in the times of joy and weeping with those who weep in grief. We gather together on Sunday to hold up fists of rebellion to the gods of this age as we declare by faith that God the Father “. . . raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21)

Jesus tells us that we will never taste the fullness of death, called the second death, if our hope is in Him alone. Peter tells us we are kept safe by God’s power so that even if we have grief and sorrow we shall never be lost. Paul tells us that by the great love of our heavenly Father we were forgiven and raised up with Jesus Christ in the heavenly places all because we are in union with His Son.

I need to remember this more each day.

And so do you.

A Beautiful Woman Too Often Scorned

 20 Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square;
21 At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings:
22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge?
23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
24 “Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention;
25 And you neglected all my counsel, And did not want my reproof;
26 I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,
27 When your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come on you.
28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me,
29 Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the LORD.
30 “They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof.
31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices.
32 “For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, And the complacency of fools shall destroy them.
33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely, And shall be at ease from the dread of evil.”

 (Proverbs 1:20-1 NASB)

I don’t want to write much here for the lesson is clear but I do want to make a few simple observations that are on my mind.

  1. Calamity and dread in the lives of those who love God are a given.  Following and loving Jesus does not mean that the life you will experience will now be free of trouble.
  2. God’s voice is not silent.  Frankly, it is never silent.  It is crying out daily for us to bend our minds and hearts to hear and heed.
  3. The fool is not the one who does not know, but the fool who hears and does not heed God’s word and wisdom.
  4. The time to learn true wisdom is when the good and peaceful times are present.  But for the fool those times are for play, not work.
  5. There is little sympathy to those who have had ample opportunity to store up wisdom but do not.  When the pain of folly washes their feet from under them, this beautiful woman of wisdom laughs.  This is painful to read, but it is even more painful to experience.
  6. The only thing worse than being a person who has spurned wisdom and now desperately seeks it is the person who, in the midst of calamity hardens their heart even more.  Oh what a broken and contrite heart before the Lord accomplishes.

The Scoffer Has No Place at The Table

Here is a great little post by Ray Ortlund about the scoffer.

Not every opinion deserves a place at the table.  It is the responsibility of a church’s elders to monitor the conversation going on in their church and encourage the positive and confront the negative.

Sadly, some people just don’t listen.  They are too self-assured.  Reasonable discourse leaves them unsatisfied, because they are unsatisfiable.  They do not feel that you understand them until you agree with them.  The only acceptable outcome is their outcome, which they will pursue relentlessly.  The Bible calls this kind of person a scoffer (Proverbs 9:7-8; 13:1; 15:12; 21:24).  He (or she) might be a highly impressive person outwardly.  Very able.  A strong personality.  Convincing.  But even in little ways (“. . . winks with his eyes”), this person sows discord in their church — small provocations with big impact.

Sometimes people overreach in this way because they claim they have been hurt.  But no one, however wounded, has the right to disrupt the blood-bought peace of a church.  The sacred wounds of Christ overrule all others.  Moreover, in today’s climate of victimization, hurt can, in fact, be hate.  Elders are responsible to discern this and confront it, even if the person offending is a long-standing member and a personal friend.

You can read the whole thing here.

Proverbs and The Wise Man Described

So what does a wise man look like according to the book of Proverbs.  You attend a church and want to be discipled by someone but you are unsure who you might approach. Though you are not wise in a Proverbs sort of way, you would not fit the mold of a fool either.  You are a young man (stick ‘woman’ here anywhere you wish by-the-way) who wants to grow in wisdom.  You seek wisdom from God because he tells you to in James 1:5 and you begin to then cast your observing eye around the church over the next few weeks, watching and listening.  As you watch and listen you hear a lot more comments than you did before when you were busy talking. And as various comments are made by men you start asking them ‘why’ questions.  Questions like, “Why did you decide not to go to that event next weekend, it sounded fun.” Or, “Why do you spend so much time reading those kind of books?”  After a bit of time has passed you decide now to sit and carefully read Proverbs in search of how the Spirit of God describes a wise man so that you can compare it to what you have heard and observed in the lives of those with whom you have been.

Here are some things you begin to note:

  • A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless. (Proverbs 14:16) The wise man respects and fears God.  This means he also knows evil and avoids it for God hates evil.  The fool thinks his is fine and can handle it.  The wise man knows the exact opposite.  He is not the mighty man, Jesus is.  He is a man prone to fall so his walk is cautious and the first hint of evil is enough for him to back away.
  • A wise man knows how to listen and learn from God–Proverbs 8:32-34.  The take-away quote is in vs 33, “Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect it”  Note that a person is wise when he hears instruction and does not neglect it or let it go (33).  Both vs. 32 and 34 speak of the promise of blessing that comes from obedience. This is something that will come up over and over in the book of Proverbs. In 1:5 where it is written that a wise man will acquire wisdom. In other words, a wise man is one who is never too wise to learn more from God’s word. He has not arrived, he is on a journey that ends when he is in presence of the source of all wisdom, his Lord and Savior.
  • Closely connected to this is the idea that a wise man will learn from others. He is not one of those spiritual men who only learn from God. He understands that God uses others to teach us many things.  Therefore he seeks the advice of others–Proverbs 24:5,6. The wise man is strengthened in his knowledge by seeking the wise counsel of others.
  • And connected to both of the above points we can even extend it further.  He learns wisdom through creation.  In Proverbs 6:6 Solomon says to go to the ant to learn what hard work and diligence looks like.  If a fool will see it he will become wise. For the wise man, his eyes are always looking and his mind is always thinking about how God has ordered the universe, why things work the way they do.
  • He learns from the mistakes of others–Proverbs 24:30-34. Here he goes by the home of the lazy man and sees the slow destruction of the home. Note that he doesn’t cluck his tongue and walk away, he thinks and considers and concludes. I would do this with my children as I raised them. I would show them those who made foolish choices and the results of those decisions and speak to their heart about it.  I would show them wise people and praise those people, showing my children why they were worthy of imitation. The world is full of people from whom those seeking wisdom can learn.
  •  A wise man will learn from a rebuke.  “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.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  (Proverbs 9:8-10) Notice how a wise man acts when he is shown he is wrong: He shows love to the one who rebukes (9:8). He gains more wisdom (9:9a). And the rebuke teaches him what is really important (9:9b-10).  Also, the motto of the book is repeated here–wisdom begins by fearing God.

There are more to see but this should be more than enough to chew on for the rest of the day.  I have a sermon to work on, a wedding to prepare to officiate, a lawn out of control, and a basement that needed de-cluttering.  Life on the edge.

Proverbs and The Wise Man, An Introduction

Last week I did a short series developing the idea of a fool.  That was primarily drawn from the book of Proverbs.  This week I want to do some posts on the nature of what a wise man looks like in the book of Proverbs.  Obviously this will not be an exhaustive examination of the subject, but it should be one that allows for solid thought, application, and self-examination.

So, what is a wise man? The idea of the wise man occurs 65 times in the book of Proverbs. The word used most frequently has the idea of one with sound judgment, prudence or shrewdness.  Basically a wise man is one who is skilled in living his life.  He has learned how to allow God’s word to control his life so that there is a godly purpose to life.  When I write ‘godly,’ I mean a God-centered perspective.  Along with that, if the fool is one who closes his mind to the Word of God, then the wise man is one who opens his mind to the Word of God. As in the case of the fool, the question is not mental ability but rather obedience.  It is a heart issue that motivates and drives a person in his life. You can do wise actions out of a foolish heart. And a wise man will do foolish things. But the motivation of both as well as the response when the consequences of those actions come about will help reveal the heart of the person.

Here are some biblical examples of a wise man. The preeminent example is Jesus our Lord. Colossians 2:3 says that the treasure of wisdom and knowledge are wrapped up in Christ. One of those fascinating passages about His humanity is that as man he grew in relation to wisdom and knowledge (Luke 2:40, 52).  Aside from our Lord my mind immediately goes to the example of Solomon. It was David, his father, who instructed his son Solomon to obey the Lord  (1 Chronicles 28:8, 9).  To the early life of Solomon was one of obedience to God, but even then you see it was not total wisdom (1 Kings 3:3, 9, 28; 4:32).   Solomon was no longer a wise man when he turned his back on God’s word (1 Kings 11:1-11).  And this is an important point that I will develop in a later post.  Wisdom one day can become folly the next.

Every Christian needs to learn how to be wise.  While much of the book of Proverbs is given over to the subject, I will over the next few posts offer a few principles on what a wise man looks like and how he lives.

Without Further Ado: I Bring You The Fool

Today I want to give a brief introduction to a subject often misunderstood or simply ignored.  It is the person who is a fool. Not a fool as defined by the world, for they see the Christian as a fool.  But the fool as God defines it.  It is not a small matter as the next few posts will make clear. And it is something that parents need to strive to train out of their children through the practical application of the gospel and discipline.

So, what is a fool? There are three words for “fool” in the book of Proverbs, all meaning basically the same thing. The essential meaning is of one who is stubborn or lacking in judgment.  In addition to these it also involves one who is dull, obstinate, or inappropriately self-confident.  The bible has the idea of a person who is choosing this mind-set rather than one who is mentally lacking.  To put it bluntly, a biblical fool is one who closes his heart to the Word of God.

The fool is not just the one who says that there is no God.  The fool of the Bible is the one who spurns God and His ways.  That is why you can’t reason with a fool—his foundation for all thinking and decisions is built upon himself; therefore, as you bring the Word to bear on the problem he rejects it. The essence of a fool is summed up in Psalm 14:1,  “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” In the New Testament it is also seen in the same manner: Romans 1:21-22, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Therefore, because at his heart he is rejecting God and His ways the fool ultimately makes the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.

The next post will look at the key characteristics of a fool.

A Woman Scorned . . .

Proverbs 1:20-33,  Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square;  21 At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings:  22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, And fools hate knowledge?  23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.  24 “Because I called, and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention;  25 And you neglected all my counsel, And did not want my reproof;  26 I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,  27 When your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come on you.  28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me,  29 Because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the LORD.  30 “They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof.  31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, And be satiated with their own devices.  32 “For the waywardness of the naive shall kill them, And the complacency of fools shall destroy them.  33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely, And shall be at ease from the dread of evil.” (NASB)

Here we see Lady Wisdom shouting faithfully crying out in a very public manner.  This is a call to repent and to come to a fear of the Lord, the beginning of wisdom.  She is honest in her dealings as she describes the difficult road of growing in wisdom, involving her reproof.  But she also points out that she shall pour out her spirit upon the repentant one.

But notice what happens starting in verse 24.  She offered her wisdom and actively sought people and they rejected it.  She was not hidden in some alleyway daring people to find her, she is stretching out her hand for them, but is scorned.  Therefore, in verse 26 there is the dire warning that she shall not be present when their evil befalls them.  And that is really important.  It is “when” not “if.”  To reject wisdom is to reject life.  Though the way of folly seems good (though only to a fool) its way always ends the same, broken and destroyed, filled with regrets that cannot be removed.

Verses 26-27 give us three dire results:

  1. It shall come in its appointed and appropriate time (26b and 27c).  God is not mocked, whatsoever we sow, so shall we reap and for these people there is a time in the mind of the Lord that the cost of rejecting Wisdom’s call shall come.
  2. It shall come at an unexpected moment (27a).  The word is “calamity” and is the word that is commonly translated as “evil.”  It comes without warning, but when it comes, it comes as an earthquake that suddenly erupts around you, filling you with nothing but terror.  Believe me on this one, been in a big earthquake and there is nothing fun about it–utter helplessness.
  3. It shall come at an uncontrollable speed (27b).  Like a whirlwind, or tornado that suddenly becomes the center of your existence as it come bearing down upon you, so is the recompense of the Lord.

And for those who find themselves in these situations the picture is very bleak.  They shall cry out for that wisdom that they had made their habit to scorn and she will only laugh at them.  What a horrible place to be, desperately in need of wisdom and finding none.  The silence of God is a terrible thing for needy man to experience.

What is the answer?  Simply this:  hear Lady Wisdom and heed her.  Come to her and you shall find life.  And where is Lady Wisdom found?  In our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 1:3).

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