These are a few of my favorite Proverbs

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, I quickly remember a few of my favorite Proverbs….  (apologies to Luther Vandross who wrote “My Favorite Things”)

A blog is not a sermon, right?  Not necessarily an essay, nor is it a theme written for a class.  Theoretically, a blogger should be able to write about whatever he/she wishes.  That being the case, I herewith submit this sampling from the riches of Proverbs which are among my favorites.  Along with appropriate comments, of course.

I said to my Old Testament and Hebrew professor, “Solomon could not have written these.  They champion monogamy and faithfulness to one’s wife, something he clearly knew nothing about.”  Dr. George Harrison said, “When it says in the opening verse ‘the proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel,’ it could mean something as simple as that he collected these.  It’s not necessarily saying he wrote them.”

Good.  Maybe he did write some of them.  After all, the Queen of the South was impressed by his wisdom (I Kings 10:7) and perhaps these are some of the reason.

Proverbs 3:5-6.  Everyone’s favorite.  My wife Bertha’s favorite. ” Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  (some translations say: “He will make your paths smooth.”  Or “straight.”)

That’s a promise.  Not everything in Proverbs that looks like a promise should be considered one.  But this is.  And it’s been time-tested over the centuries.

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A few word studies to bless the Bible student

What made me want to study Greek and Hebrew in seminary was faithful preachers during my college years who sometimes gave us the meaning of a word in their sermons.  Not too much, of course.  It’s easy to overdo this.  And nothing very technical.  The guy in the pew does not care a whit about the aorist tense or pluperfect whatever, or that Josephus used this in one way and Herodotus another.

Pastors should do this sparingly, but when they do it wisely and well, a word study can enrich Bible study and inspire the hearers.  (I suggest no more than one word meaning from the Greek or Hebrew per sermon.  The average worshiper can absorb only so much, and we must not presume upon their kindnesses.)

Here are a few from Pau’s Letter to the Philippians…

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100 things we do by faith

“The just shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; quoted in Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).

“We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

We are all about faith.

Every human on the planet lives by faith.  There is no one, no matter how scientifically driven or how agnostically-convicted, who does not live by faith in those around him–the druggist, the chef, the doctor, the other motorists.

Almost everything Christians do, we do by faith.  This means the presence of two huge elements: A strong confidence in Jesus Christ (the very essence of faith) and the absence of something (which is what makes this faith, not sight).

We believe…yet we still have unanswered questions or doubts arise or fears persist.  We believe…but we don’t have enough resources to go forward, or the vote was negative, or our advisors counsel against it.

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When opening the Word, context may be an advisor, but not the “King.”

“Context is king.”  Ever heard that?  Many seminary professors have taught that to the young preachers in their classrooms.

It’s in error.

According to so many scholars, “What did the author mean?” is the first question we should ask when seeking to understand a Scripture.  It implies that if we can get inside the head of the writer(s), we will have the full and accurate meaning of the text.

Not right.  Not even close.

This morning, a friend shared a devotional from Exodus 12 concerning the Passover Lamb and the blood upon the doorpost.  Christians–i.e., those who know the rest of the story and enjoy the teaching of the New Testament and the perspective of Calvary–know this was pointing to the blood of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are redeemed by the blood is the constant theme of the New Testament.  And the Passover Lamb was just one of many ways the inspiring Holy Spirit chose to plant that preparation in the minds and hearts of His people.

But Moses could not have known that.  He surely had no clue.

His job was to obey, whether he understood or not.

What the writer understood is informative, but not the end of the story.

Did Moses understand the “snake on a stick” from Numbers 21?  No way did he know what God was up to with that.  But Jesus knew. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

So, what Moses understood has nothing to do with anything.

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Wasting time in church

“When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, incense is an abomination to Me…. I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.  I hate your….appointed feasts; they have become a burden to me….  Even when you multiply prayers, I will not listen.”  (Isaiah 1)

Often I pray at the beginning of a sermon, “Lord, help me not to squander Thy blessing, waste their time, or miss my opportunity!”

Today, we’re talking about the second of these: Wasting time.

We do a lot of that in church, I fear.

We waste time in church every time we find ourselves:

–praising the God whose word you are flouting, pretending to adore the God whose will is the last thing you want.

–voicing hymns which express truths you do not believe and adoration you do not share.

–bringing pitiful offerings in place of something meaningful.  Or even worse, bringing an offering while griping about pastors preaching on money.

–saying prayers by rote when your mind is a thousand miles away.

Our Lord said, “This people honors me with their mouths, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

Such worshipers are wasting their time.

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How to dismiss a scripture that nails you to the wall

On our website, we welcome comments from friends who disagree, so long as they do so graciously.  But from time to time, we receive tirades from the angry, onslaughts from the dark side, hurling slanderous accusations at us for daring to suggest that (take your pick) Christians should go to church, the faithful should tithe their income, or the Lord’s salvation is for all time.  Such heretical positions, to be sure. (Not!)  I’ve noticed a trend in some of these mean-spirited commenters, which provoked the following little essay…. 

“I know I’m right! I’m not going to change!”

When you are wedded to your position, you tend to a) become angry at anyone taking a contrary position, particularly if their point of view is the historically orthodox view with Scriptural support.  In that case, you will need to b)  justify your position and c) deal with scriptures that say something different.

a) You become angry with contrary views. 

Each of us could learn a lot about ourselves by noticing what views on Facebook or in blogs pluck our strings.  There has to be a trend, and that trend will reveal great insights about us.

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Ten biblical truths a lot of God’s people don’t really believe

From the beginning, the Lord’s people talk a better game than we live.

So many biblical truths look good on paper and sound great when we’re spouting them.  And yet, judging by the way we live, the Lord’s people probably do not believe the following…

One.  God sends the pastor to the church. 

Churches survey their congregation to find the kind of pastor everyone wants in the next guy.  People lobby for a candidate they like and rally against one they don’t.  And they vote on the recommendation of their committee.  And after he arrives, when some turn against him, they send him on his way.

Do we really believe God sends pastors to churches?  They are God’s undershepherds (see I Peter 5:1-4) and appointed by the Holy Spirit as overseers of the church (Acts 20:28).

Two.  God hears our prayers, cares for our needs, and answers our prayers.

In the typical congregation, what percentage of the people are serious about their prayer life?

If we believed that God hears, cares, and answers, we would be praying over every detail of our lives.  “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17) would define our very existence.

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Destroyed for lack of knowledge–and loving it

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6).

There is a reason people reject information that is new or different;  they love to be left alone in their comfortable deceit than to have to deal with all the changes required by the light.

Ignorance is bliss, they say.

The problem–whether with mankind or the redeemed–isn’t exactly a lack of knowledge.  If that were the case, we could remedy the situation by sending everyone back to school.

God would send educators to the church.  Instead, He sent prophets and shepherds.  He sent light-bringers. He sent a Savior.

Neither is the problem that people do not know the truth. Nor that no one has come to tell them the truth.  The problem is not that they have never heard the truth.  The problem is that they have rejected truth when it did come.

They are ignorant because they rejected true knowledge.   This is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light, for their deeds were evil.  (John 3:19).

Not knowing something and rejecting the knowledge of something are two different animals.

Over here is someone in darkness who yearns for the light. It comes and he awakens and all is well.  The hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live (John 5:25).

Stumbling in the darkness, they spurn the light offered.

The speaker of Truth comes and they run him out of town.  Or scoff and jeer and mock him.

They crucify Him.

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I said, “Open your Bibles,” and got two incredible reactions

It was a typical church service.  When time came for the sermon, I suggested that everyone turn in their Bibles to the text we would be considering.

That was all.

You will not believe the two completely opposite responses I received.

First, that week I received a letter from a Rosemary Warner, someone I did not know.  Here is the letter in its entirety, unedited…

Yesterday I had the occasion to visit in your church.  I didn’t know why I chose to do that.  It just seemed like it was the thing for me to do, but now I know it was the will of someone much higher.  He sent me there for a reason.  I will not be back.

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The Jeopardy interpretation of Scripture

Do you enjoy the TV quiz program “Jeopardy”?

If so, you have lots of company.  My young friend Josh Woo was a contestant on that program when he was maybe 12. Anyway…

What makes the program unique is its format.  They give you the answer and you provide the question.  For example, if they said “1492,” you would say, “When did Columbus discover America?”  If they said, “George Washington,” you would say, “Who was the first president of the U.S.?”

Well.  Did you know that much of the New Testament was written in the Jeopardy format?

The epistles, for instance, are letters answering various needs in the early churches. The problem is we are not given the questions they address. So we have to work our way back. We have the answer; what is the question?

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