Over-Indulgence

GTY_watching_tv_eating_pizza_thg_13719_80509847_16x9_608-2Over-indulgence and America go together like, well, America and apple pie-eating contests!

We do not seem to be able to find proper balance, do we?  I suspect the “all or nothing” mentality is at least partly responsible for what we are currently seeing in the political race for the White House.  We like fast cars, big trucks, and loud-mouthed braggarts.  If an 8 ounce steak is good, a 16 ounce is always better.  One scoop or two?  Is that a real question anymore?

We Americans over-indulge in so many ways and our economy loves it and feeds it.

  • Four hours of video games a day?  Over-indulgence.
  • Seventy hours at the office each week?  Over-indulgence.
  • Fifteen minutes of porn on your lunch break?  Over-indulgence.
  • A few beers every single night to “calm down?”  Over-indulgence.
  • Thousands of dollars on hobbies and vacations?  Over-indulgence.
  • Two hours or more on Facebook each day?  Over-indulgence.
  • Vegging out in front of the TV for the last three hours of every day?  Over-indulgence.

And the list goes on seemingly indefinitely!  We are so out of whack.  In dire need of simplicity.  We’ve forgotten that sometimes less is more, but at other times more is not enough.  The Lord’s wisdom comes crashing into our over-indulged, over-worked, over-stressed world:

Do not be with heavy drinkers of wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; For the heavy drinker and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them with rags (Proverbs 23:20-21).  

Turns out, all this over-indulgence leaves us empty in the end.  But Jesus gives us the corrective:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied (Matt 5:6).

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [basic life necessities] will be added to you (Matt 6:33).

Oh Lord, help us over-indulge in You and You only.  Give us a hunger for You that outstrips our appetites for all other people, places, and things.  Forgive us for filling our lives with cotton candy.  Forgive us for being drunk and gluttonous on so many temporal things.  Restore to us the balance we desperately need.  Tip our scales in favor of righteousness, time in Your Word, prayer, service, discipleship and worship.  Amen.  

 

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Dining with the Dead


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The woman of folly is boisterous, simple and knows nothing.  She sits at the doorway of her house on a seat by the high places of the city, calling to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight: ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here.’  And to him who lacks understanding she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’  But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol (Proverbs 9:13-18).

Early in the Book of God’s Wisdom, which we call Proverbs, we are introduced to Two Ladies.  Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly.  Both ladies call out to passersby from high places (Prov 8:1-2; 9:14-15).  Both ladies cry out to the “simple,” which is the way fools or naive men lacking wisdom are referred to in Proverbs (Prov 8:4-5; 9:16).  Both ladies have a house or home and have prepared a dinner (Prov. 9:1-6; 13-17).

But notice what appears to be a a few significant differences.

  • Lady Wisdom cries out to the simple to urge them to “understand wisdom” (8:5).  Lady Folly cries out to those “who are making their paths straight” and encourages them in their naivety / foolishness (8:15-16).
  • Lady Wisdom speaks “noble things” and “right things” (8:6).  Lady Folly is herself a fool, lacking in wisdom (8:13).  She’s got nothing noble or right to offer!
  • Lady Wisdom prepares a true feast of rich meat and wine (9:2).  Lady Folly offers “stolen water” and “secret bread” (9:17).

I do not pretend to know with 100% accuracy what “stolen water” and “secret bread” really is, but I can make some educated guesses based on the wisdom given in the Book of Proverbs.  Lady Folly is lazy.  She takes what is not hers, unwilling to work for it, then offers it tantalizingly to others!  She appears to offer life-giving water, but in the end it is stolen, its true source is unknown.  Perhaps she drew it from a poisoned well?  Her table cannot be put on full public display because it has shameful bread on it, things that one would not be willing to imbibe openly.

Just how many facets of our culture and society fit under this umbrella of “stolen water” and secret bread?”

Socialism?  Steal from some people to give it to others.  And this is done forcibly by the government!

Pornography?  Steal all dignity from women, degrade them and encourage them to degrade themselves all to allow fools to drink that poison water.  The “bread” of pornography is very secret!  It offers up stolen pleasure, which was never meant to be ours in the first place.

Laziness?  Proverbs has much to say on it!  The desire to pursue or achieve life and pleasure without putting our own hands to the plow.  I saw a documentary sometime last year that chronicled the growing number of young men in America who just want to play video games, smoke dope and enjoy their checks from the government (i.e., stolen money).

But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.

Beware!  Stolen water and secret bread never deliver on their promises.  Once you step inside Lady Folly’s front door, that door slams and you’re trapped at a table full of haunting skeletons.  

Oh, if we could only hear their screams, voices from hell, before we set foot in that door.  Oh, if God would mercifully tune our ears only to that of Lady Wisdom.  For her house is really the Lord’s house.  And at His right hand are “pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11).

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Michael Wood - Amen brother!

A Wise Guy Eh?

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One of my all-time favorite TV shows is “The Three Stooges.”  Curly, Larry and Moe are still the original and best of the comedic actors specializing in “physical comedy.”

Funny?  Yes!  Hilarious!

Wise?  Uh, no.  They’re called stooges for a reason folks!

When frustrated with one another, Curly or Moe would often utter the now famous line: “Oh, a wise guy eh?”  What followed was usually a bash to the skull with a hammer, a finger to the eye, or a swift kick in the pants!

But all kidding aside, the world and the church desperately need more “wise guys.”  Men of wisdom.  This month I invited the men of our church to join me in reading a Chapter in the Proverbs each day.  31 days of March.  31 Chapters in Proverbs, God’s book of wisdom.  What’s not to love?  So, at least once a week this month I will pull out a nugget from this book and expound on it briefly.  May we all grow wiser by the word and grace of God.

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov 1:10).  

My son – we first note that the Book of Proverbs is written from a Dad to a son (see 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1, 10, 20; 5:1; 6:20; 7:1).  The church has suffered long in our land from a lack of father-to-son discipleship.  Men have too often abandoned their sons / children, either literally or functionally.  Workaholism and video-gamitis are taking a toll.

What a blessing it was for one of the men in our church to tell me he was reading these chapters with his sons every night this month!  That’s the spirit!  Rise up O men of God!  Have done with lesser things.  Open your Bibles and read and delight and discuss with your sons / children.  The Church is surely an important partner with you in this task.  But you dare not leave it to the Church alone.  There is no surrogate, no substitute for Dad teaching his family the Word of God.  You work so hard, men, to put food on the tables.  I commend you.  Praise God for your work ethic.  But please, please, work just as hard to set before your families each day The Bread of Life.

If sinners entice you – we dare not add to God’s Word, but here we might just add a side-comment that we might as well say, “When sinners entice you.”  And that’s really the sense of the wording here anyway, isn’t it?  Solomon knows the enticement is coming.  He just wants his son to be armed, sober, on alert.

How desperately we need to warn our sons of all the enticements of this world!  Dads, we must push past our comfort zones to talk transparently, boldly, and often with our sons / children concerning sexual temptations, perversions, pornography, relationships / friendships, drugs, music, movies, corruption in business and government, and the list goes on and on.  This world and Satan will never stop their enticements until Jesus makes all things new. Sin so often looks alluring (remember Genesis 3:6).  The Bible even says sin is pleasurable for a season.  We had better be up front about the allurements assaulting us day-by-day.  People, places, things.  They can all become sinful enticements, because our flesh is weak and fallen and set on sin (Rom 8:5-8).

Do not consent – wisdom speaking here!  Do you and your sons know how to fight sin God’s way?  Is your son /child saved?  Is he in Christ?  A lover of Jesus and His Word?  A hungry learner and follower of Jesus?  A son who embraces the critical sanctifying role of the church family in his life?  If not, get busy saturating that boy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as often as humanly possible!  Stop wasting time on lesser things!  His soul is at stake and he will never be able to “not consent” to sin until he is first found in Christ.

Now, if by God’s glorious grace, your son is in Christ, let me return to my original question: Do you and your sons / children know how to fight sin God’s way?  Are you fighting God’s way?  If your answer to either question is “no,” please contact a pastor or elder brother in Christ right away and ask that man to teach you the way of holiness and to walk alongside you in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).  Soon enough we’ll come to Proverbs 27:17.  Might as well get started now brothers!  

Be a wise guy.  For your family.  For your church.  For your world.  For the glory of God alone.

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Michael Wood - Sharpen us brother!

From Fear to Fear

 

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Fear is an often misunderstood emotion and concept among Christians.

I distinctly remember teaching a Bible study several years ago.  My passage had as its theme the fear of the Lord.  This is a common theme in the Bible.  There’s no escaping it.  Anyway, about 2/3 of the way through the study, an older brother raised his hand, red-faced, and popped off his question:

“I thought we’re supposed to love God.  I thought we’re supposed to serve God out of love, not fear.”

He was visibly irritated.  But his color returned as I began to answer as gently, lovingly, fearfully and faithfully as I knew how.

What this brother had done is to bifurcate or divide love and fear into two mutually exclusive or contradictory categories.  It’s a common malady among us westerners.  We love to compartmentalize our lives, me included.  It seems to simplify things a bit for us in our hectic schedules.  So, we pour our “love syrup” into one square of our life’s waffle, and our “fear syrup” into another square.  And the two squares are poles apart.

But the Bible does not make such a division.  God does not treat fear of Him and love of Him as if they are incompatible or mutually exclusive.  We know this for one simple reason.  God commands us to do both!

“You shall fear only the Lord your God” (Deut 6:13).

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5; Matt 22:37).

My family and I have recently been reading through Exodus together.  I love how we see the lesson of proper fear being taught by God to Israel.  After the death plague of the first-born, Pharaoh finally lets the people of Israel go free.  But he changes his mind and begins to pursue them.  Israel is on the shore of the Red Sea.  Egypt’s mighty army is closing in fast, chariots-a-rolling.

“As Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel looked and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord” (Ex 14:10).  

Fear.  Fear of man.  But we can surely understand Israel’s concern at this point!  This does not look good.  And they begin to complain and grumble against God and Moses, expressing their desire just to go back to slavery in Egypt.  But God redeems them with a mighty hand and parts the Sea.  When Egypt pursues, the sea swallows them up, and God is glorified by both Egypt and Israel.

“When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses” (Ex 14:31).  

Again fear.  But this time it’s fear of the Lord.  And faith in the Lord.  Fear and faith then are clearly not mutually exclusive.  God had begun to transform Israel, you see, at the level of their fear.  They moved from fear of man and circumstances, to fear of God.  Blessed change!  And after giving the Ten Commandments, God through Moses again expresses His desire for Israel to properly direct her fear:

“Do not be afraid; for God has come to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin” (Ex 20:20).  

Do not fear.  Fear.  Which one is it, Lord?  Yes.  It’s both.  In context, Israel feared God would utterly destroy them in wrath.  But God reassured them through Moses that His intention toward them was gracious.  They were to fear Him in a way that drove them to love and obey and trust Him.  Fear done rightly keeps us from sin (Prov 16:6).

But fear of God’s wrath is also commendable.  God Himself commended this attitude in Israel (Deut 5:28).  Anyone who does not fear God’s holy wrath against sin is a fool (Prov 1:7).  Even the thief on the cross beside Jesus understood that much (Luke 23:40).

And Jesus understood it too.  In ways we cannot ever.  This is surely what the agony of Gethsemane was about – fear of God’s holy wrath against sin.  As the Eternal Son of God, Jesus knows full well what He is about to endure.  More than you or I can ever fathom, Jesus knew, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).  So He sweat blood.  Now, when’s the last time you and I ever feared God so greatly?

And it is this glorious, unfathomable love of Christ that now drives out our fear of God’s hot wrath against our sin.  This in context is precisely what the Apostle John gets at when he writes, “Perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

Jesus feared for us!  Jesus bore the wrath for us!  For those whom He has redeemed by His blood on the cross, it is a sign of weak faith to fear God’s punishment in hell on us.  Why?  Because Jesus took our hell on the cross.  And God can now no more send us to hell than to send His Holy, Risen and Reigning Son back onto the cross.  And that ain’t happening (Heb 7:23-28).  We’re saved to the uttermost!  His sacrifice is once for all!

And now maybe we can see more clearly how proper fear of God drives us to love Him more deeply.  I do fear God.  I fear displeasing Him.  I fear dishonoring His Holy name.  I fear misrepresenting Him.  And when I think on Calvary, I tremble.  I tremble at a love so great for such a worm as I.  I tremble that all the wrath my sins earned was poured out on the Righteous One.  But I fear not that that wrath will somehow find me.  God is not a God of “double jeopardy.”  Has He said and will He not do it?  (Num 23:19; John 3:16)

As the amazing hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty proclaims:

“What a love!  What a cost!  We stand forgiven at the Cross.”

God help us fear rightly.  God help us love rightly.  God help us believe rightly.  For when by God’s amazing grace the right kind of fear, love and faith come together, we are hot on the trail of Christ-likeness.  

        

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Stephen Cox - The New Testament displays the fear of God in a rather striking way in Acts 5:11,13 which say,” So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.’ ” Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly.” Both believer and unbeliever took vary serious the things of God, and this reverence, or awe, or fear, was a healthy thing we all need to imbibe. It does Gods love or grace no violence, but strengthens it. 🙂

Be Fruitless and Subtract?

 

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The very first command God gave humanity was, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28).  This command is the reason I believe the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin in Genesis 3 happened very quickly after they were created.  Maybe no more than a day or two.  For surely in their state of Purity, they would have delighted in obeying God’s first command!  But no children are mentioned until after the Fall.

But I digress.

I write this blog as a Dad of two amazing daughters.  My wife is the best mother I have ever known.  We’re thrilled to be parents and have found it deeply sanctifying and satisfying.  But we also experienced the pain of a medical condition forcing a surgery which ended our ability to have more biological children.  So, please know that I am in no way condemning every couple who has not had a child.  Nor am I trying to say every couple must have x number of children to be holy.  All children are gifts of God and family size is no measure of true holiness!  I realize there are legitimate reasons for childlessness, such as a call to single-hood or medical / health conditions.  My heart is with those of you who want children but cannot have them (at least biologically).  And I would ask you to prayerfully consider adoption, if you find yourself in such a boat.

All that said, the dilemma or disaster being faced by America today is childlessness.  Intentional childlessness.  By married couples.  Not only is this a sad commentary on our hearts as it relates to God’s command, but it is also heading us toward disaster as a nation and culture.  We are not multiplying.  We are subtracting!  Our view of marriage and family and children is plunging us over the cliff of our own making.

Rather than try to regurgitate what very capable researchers are discovering, I invite you to explore this subject further by clicking this Link.

 

 

 

 

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Stephen Cox - I agree dear Pastor that this command, this blessing in our generation, is being disobeyed for many reasons, most of them worldly in many cases. Anna and I could not have children for physical reasons as well as legal in my situation. We sought to adopt but because of my criminal past while a teenager, where refused by the adoption agency. We determined to be the very best Aunt and Uncle we could be, as well as those who set a godly example to the many children of our Brethren in the Church.
Our greatest ministry to the family and their children is constant prayer to God for this foundational unit called the family. Abortion,abandonement, and chronic neglect, are the great curses of our day, and this is far to prevelant in the church I fear.
We are a distracted people, a peolple who know not their past history, nor the course we are on for the future in the church or Nation. Some signs of hope are seen, but not to the degree we need for God to revive, restore and establish a godly heritage. May the Commandments of the LORD, like the one you highlighted, once again have the heart of Gods people in order that, He may bless and prosper the church and Nation we are blessed to live in is my prayer.

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