Some Personal Proverbs


The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:  To know wisdom and instruction,to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 

Proverbs 1:1-6

I’ve been thinking about Proverbs lately.  About God’s book of general statements of wisdom.  I’m grateful for the book of Proverbs, because it’s helped me to think through some very practical matters.  What’s the right way to parent?  What’s the right way to work?  What’s the right way to speak? 

I’m not old, and there are many ways in which I’m still foolish (I still often prize people’s opinion of me more than God’s, for instance).  But I think the following observations I’m making are faithful to the witness of God’s Word.  They’re in no way inspired, in that they are not breathed out by God, as the real book of Proverbs is.  

But I offer them for what they’re worth.  
A few personal proverbs, if I may:

  • Young, married men and women: Have children. I’ve never met a Godly older man or woman who wishes they’d had less children, but I’ve known more than a few who wish they’d had more.  
  • If I have a really long list of people that I can’t stand, it’s worth asking whether the issue might be me.  
  • There is nothing I’ve personally encountered that better illustrates the folly of the human heart than the movement to support the right to abortion.  “It’s not a life.  No, we don’t want to look at ultrasounds, I said it’s not a life!  And even if it is a life, a woman should have the right to end it.  No, she shouldn’t have the right to end other lives, just this one.  I’m not crazy, man, come on.  She should just have a right to end this life.  I mean if it’s a life.  And we celebrate that in this country.  Even though we want these things to be safe and legal and rare.  We celebrate it!  But no, seriously, I don’t want to look at an ultrasound!”
  • Forgiveness will be as hard as your heart is. 
  • The fundamental problem with ISIS is theological, not economic or social.  At root, they have a wrong understanding of the character and values of God.  Everything else flows from those headwaters.  
  • Where the world is a system of people moving further and further apart because of annoyances and unforgiven wrongs and technological isolation, the church should model people moving ever and ever closer in intimacy because of a shared love as big as the Gospel.  
  • Bitterness requires entitlement as it’s fuel.  You have to believe you were owed something that you didn’t get.  Remove the fuel and the spark won’t catch.  Replace the lie that you were owed something good you didn’t get with the truth that the only thing we were each owed is Hell, and bitterness won’t have any gas to keep blazing on.  
  • If you want to know how much a Christian man believes the Gospel, one way to find out is to watch how he treats his children.   
  • Remember, “father” is both a noun and a verb.  And appropriately so.   

Happy Wednesday, all!

    His Good Authority

      
    It’s surprisingly easy to fall in to what Proverbs calls “folly.”  Foolishness.  A lack of wisdom.  Incorrect thinking and feeling and behavior.  The heart and the flesh love folly, and I know from experience that my own flesh is no different from anyone else’s in that respect.  

    One of the marks of folly is to mock good things while defending twisted ones.  Unbelievers do it all the time, and even Spirit-wrought Christians can fall into it.

    For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.

    1 Peter 4:3-4

    O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 
    Galatians 3:1

    Last night I saw something on Facebook.  

    I know, I know, how many positive things start with that sentence?  Subtle rebuke taken.  

    But nonetheless, here’s what it was:  A graphic from some supposed Christians (I can only take them at their word) mocking what they perceived as the Bible’s inconsistencies on the teaching of marriage.  They apparently believe that while they are “Christian,” they are not obliged to follow the Bible’s teaching on marriage because it is, in their minds, hopelessly inconsistent.  To them, the Bible is written by people making their best efforts to talk about God, not by men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (which is what I believe, because it’s what Peter tells us in the New Testament).  They laid down this slick, well-made, intended-to-be-witty graphic/chart in the context of an interchange about the sinfulness of homosexual activity.  They, as Christians, were defending the goodness of same sex activity and same sex “marriage,” and thought the graphic playfully exposed the Bible as a slightly  misguided book just like any old slightly misguided book.  
    I’ve seen that sort of approach before, and you might’ve seen it, too.  I’ve seen it from unbelievers and, sadly, I’ve seen it from those who claim faith in Christ:  Playfully ribbing the Bible in the defense of some thing the God of the Bible calls sinful.  

    It’s a mark of spiritual blindness.  It is a sign of a prideful and foolish heart.  

    And in this context, in the conversation about same-sex intercourse and romance, I want to be as clear as I can be:  The Word of God is a sure hope of truth and salvation, while sodomy kills souls, wounds hearts, and damages bodies.  Christ gives life, sexual immorality brings death.  Mocking the Bible to defend homosexuality is like mocking a doctor to defend pancreatic cancer.  

    We have only one certain authority to rest morality on.  If we doubt or disdain God’s Word, we have nothing higher to appeal to.   Nothing stronger than human reason or speech to ground our ethics in.  Person A says God told him homosexual activity is good and permissible, Person B says God told him it is sinful and deadly.  Who’s right?  Does majority vote decide morality?  If so, how can we say Nazi Germany or the Antebellum South were sinful?  The majority vote in both cases was in, and Jewish persecution and African slavery were deemed ethically acceptable.  If we say the Word of Christ isn’t the moral appeal court, how do we say those cultures and governments were doing anything objectively evil?  We could say we don’t like what we did, but how do we authoritatively stand in judgment against it?  How do stand your intellectually consistent ground against any evil if you’ve said the final definer of “evil” is human judgment?  The guy you’re trying to stand against will just tell you his judgment landed him in a different spot than yours.  So out of the way, please.  He has a TV to steal.  And God told him it was OK.  

    But the truth is that there is an objective reality to good and evil.  Some things are truly beautiful and good and others are truly detestable and harmful.  And they are defined by the One through whom all things were created:  Jesus.  He has revealed them in the Old Testament He quoted and called Scripture and in the New Testament that records His words and those of His chosen apostles.  Those words, all of them, are theopneustos, or “God-breathed,” according to the Apostle Paul. They tell us who God is, what He blesses, what He loves, and what He wants for us.  

    The Bible is God’s good authority given to a world made to reflect His beauty and glory.  

    We mock it, and so mock Him, at our own peril.

    After all, He tells us woe to those who call good “evil” and evil “good” for a reason. 

    He’s told us what they are.   

    The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.  And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.  So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.’

    Numbers 15:37-40

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God,  for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

    Isaiah 55:6-11

    15 Seconds On Sin Killing Things

      
    Death entered the world when Satan made sin look promising.  And death enters a life, a marriage, a home, a mind when we believe him again.  

    Don’t be enticed by pornography.  Don’t be enticed by the idea of divorce.  Don’t be seduced by or attracted to the prospects of gossip, deceit, or greed.  Sin promises life but always delivers death.  Those clothed in it face God’s eternal wrath, and those who know God but tolerate it face its murderous powers in their lives.  Envy kills friendships, lust kills marriages, greed kills companies, bitterness kills families, and unrepentant sin of all kinds kills souls.  

    Sin brings death.  Always has, always will, until God casts it away from His presence forever and ever, that is.  But boy, does it look good while it’s hanging on the tree and the father of lies starts whispering.  

    You’d almost never know he was peddling poison.  

    60 Seconds On Men and Women

      
    You honor neither women nor their Maker by treating them as if they are identical to men.  Men and women are both made in the image of God, both reflect His beauty and glory, and (if believers in Jesus) are both co-heirs of eternal life.  

    But they are not identical.  

    A husband is called to honor his wife as the weaker vessel.  He is called to love her as her head as Christ loved the church, for whom He is head.  He is to manage the household of which she is a (vital) part.

    He is called to these things.  

    And he will not do them, will not even understand them, if he has been deceived into thinking his wife is exactly the same as he is, and that she is called to exactly the same purposes.  

    I think the cultural confusion and deceit on what men and women are has spun out in a few different ways.  For instance, a man who knows (and loves) the truth about what he is and should be and what a woman is and should be is a man more likely to hold the door for a woman and a man more likely to lead his wife and daughters in prayer.  But a man who does not know (or hates) those truths is a man who has made himself primed and ready to watch strange women be debased on the  internet or to passively observe the disintegration of his marriage.  “Women are the same as men, remember?” Satan can whisper.  “No need to protect them and no need to step up to the plate at home.”  

    Gender lies are not the only cause of the rampant pornography use in American men or of American divorce (obviously), but I think that they are, for many, a cause.  Our culture should call men to be men, hold them accountable to it, and then hold them in honor when they behave as men should.  But at the moment it seems to have a problem at that very first level:  It doesn’t really know (or want to admit) what men are to be.  

    Men and women are not identical.  It does not honor a porcelain vase to call it a dining room table and then take a handsaw to it.  

    Men and women are designed, and their designs reflect the good purposes of a great God.  

    Here’s hoping (and praying) our culture recovers a sense of wonder at just how good.  

    60 Seconds of Thanks

      
    I am thankful that Jesus Christ is a real Savior, the only Son of a real God, who sustains every person who believes in Him with real grace.  

    We do not worship a theory.  We are not watched over and cared for and held by an idea.  If you have called upon the name of Jesus in faith, have trusted in Him and follow Him in life-altering belief, then you are being led by a Shepherd, a Messiah, who is unfathomably, unshakeable real.  

    I am thankful that while looking for a house, wrestling with sadness, working and playing and trying to raise children and live out a God-pleasing marriage, I am not alone.  

    My faith is not in fiction, but in the ever-present, soon-returning King who cherishes His people beyond all measure.  

    My Jesus is real, and therefore so are my thanks.  

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    For Dads and Tippers

    2015/06/img_5575.jpg

    I tip the way I do because of my father.

    My dad was a restaurant manager when God saved him from heroin addiction, right before I was born. So as a young man who had managed, served in, cooked for, and delivered pizzas for a local Cincinnati pizzeria for years, he always made a point to tip generously when he took his family out to dinner. I grew up watching him pay the check at restaurants, and I took note of it. I absorbed it. It became normal to me. And now as a thirty year-old father of three, I tip what I do because of him.

    I am my dad’s son.

    Listen, as a father, you are putting yourself into your children. You are going to be in your kids, whether you want to be or not. If you choose, you can walk out and never even meet them, but you’ll still be in them. If you leave, they’ll still have your blood and they’ll have the hatred or hole you leave in their souls. And if you stay, they’ll have what you show them about fatherhood.

    You know what your kids’ first thoughts about the fatherhood of God will be?

    That it must be like yours.

    What are you putting in your kids?

    I sin in anger and self-pity. I have for as long as I remember. And I am resolved that I don’t want that in my children. I don’t want to rebuild my brittle self-pity or the very same fury I’m trying to crucify in me in my little children’s souls.

    Today at lunch I went home and read a verse of 1 John 2 for my wife and kids, and did my best to explain it in the light of the rest of God’s Word. It was hot and I had to be brief so I could be back at work on time. The kids didn’t understand what I was saying; they’re too young. And my wife was tired though lovingly trying to listen. But when I was done with this imperfect little attempt at faithfulness before my Creator, I took my little girl and I put her on my lap and we prayed a one-sentence prayer to the Savior. And when I said “Jesus loves His…” and paused, seeing if she’d know the rest, she finished the sentence for me: “Church!”

    I am an idolatrous, still often petty man, but I refuse to leave that in my children. I will fight for their hearts, and I will leave them with the only Jesus who can save them, the One who redeemed and sanctifies their Daddy.

    What do I want to put in my children?

    The words of Scripture.

    The sure sense that those words are breathtakingly beautiful, unshakably true, and healing beyond all measure.

    The confidence that Daddy would’ve been a wreck and a wretch if it weren’t for Jesus Christ, the living Holy Spirit, and God the Father.

    The love of a Christ-made dad, meaning one who is sacrificial, patient, bold, honest, worshipful, and adores their mommy.

    I don’t want to just put in my kids my love of baseball or the Marlins or The Twilight Zone. And I don’t want to brand them with my anger or my grudge-holding or my greed. I want to kill my sin day by day by God’s grace, and then put in my little kids the faith that’s remade me and remaking me.

    I want my daughter to be reading and loving and trusting Jesus Christ for as long as she lives. I want my little boy to grow up ready to live and die for the Gospel of His good God. I’m hoping that the daughter we haven’t met yet will pull her hover car up into its holo-port next to her floating condominium and thank Jesus Christ for the gorgeous day around her. Then I hope she’ll go inside and tell her little guys about how wonderful the risen Savior is.

    We are in our children. Each day, each week we are putting more and more of our selves, more of what they’ll believe about the concept of fatherhood and about the world around them, into their minds and memories.

    What do you want it to be? What do you want to leave with them and in them?

    The first place I learned how to tip was sitting next to my father. It’s also the first place I learned how good Jesus is.

    I am my father’s son. I hope someday my children will be able to say that with the same gratitude.

    At Least She’s Honest

    2015/05/img_5407.png

    From an editorial in today’s Cincinnati Enquirer, by Verna Williams, a University of Cincinnati law professor: “History shows that marriage is what we say it is.”

    I do not think history is filled with government-sanctioned unions between men with other men or women with other women, but that’s beside my point. My point: That sentence is the crux of the current political and social marriage debate.

    Does God define what something is or do humans?

    The professor makes a similar statement, albeit in passing, earlier: “The 13th and 14th Amendments gave slaves humanity…”

    No. They did not. At most, those Amendments recognized the humanity of freed slaves. But God gave it. And every slaveowner, white person, or fellow African who who denied that African/African-American human beings were human beings was sinning against God. He created humans, He created marriage, and He is the standard and the judge of what is fitting and what is good.

    “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him…’ So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man… Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
    From Genesis 2

    “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior… Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
    From Ephesians 5

    If we want to know what marriage is, if we want to know what a human is, if we seek to know what goodness or truth or meaning or happiness are, we have to look to the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the Maker, Sustainer, and Definer of all good things.

    You cannot change what marriage is any more than you can change your birthday or raise the dead. The most you can do is to play god and pretend that authority is yours. But that always ends badly for the one who does it. And for anyone foolish enough to take him seriously.

    I do actually appreciate the professor’s clarity: At least it is evident now (at least to the editorial’s readers) that she and those of us who look to and submit to Jesus Christ as Lord are in fundamental disagreement. We say that He is in charge, and that every knee will someday bow to Him as each corresponding tongue confesses that He is Lord. We say He is the Judge, and that He is a far better, fairer, and more righteous One than any of us could be.

    And we also say, or at least should, with great urgency, joy, and worship: “Come repent and believe in Him, the Savior, while you have time! Come be safe, and be rescued from the wrath for your sins! He is wonderful and has made a way that we do not deserve! Come now, because He is Lord, and He is returning!”

    It’s increasingly clear that we are not simply a nudge in the right Christian direction amongst a nation of Jesus-lovers (I seriously doubt that was ever the case, but it may have once felt that way). No, we are a God-fearing, Jesus-loving light in the darkness of deepening folly. It’s a great responsibility, and a fantastic gift, to be a bearer of the truth in a world that loves lies.

    Let us speak the truth in a love that outshines their shadows, and hope to lead many home to the Father of Lights.