Don’t Slip to the Default

Proverbs 11

Proverbs 11 3 NASB

Today is another comparison between the righteous and the wicked.  This time most of the comparisons are about outcomes.  Although it may already be clear, there is a relationship between wisdom and righteousness.  There is also a relationship between fools and the wicked.  Because of temptation always trying to lead us astray, fools turn towards wickedness, but it takes seeking wisdom to be righteous.

Verse 3 through 6 say:

The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed

We see that the upright or righteous person will be delivered from death.  The fool or wicked person will be destroyed.  The money, possessions or whatever else they have gained from their crooked ways cannot save them.  We see people who have gained wealth and power from all kinds of things that are not pleasing to God.   We see people that appear to have it made who are not seeking God’s wisdom.  We see righteous people who are seeking God’s wisdom go through struggles.  However, It is made very clear that no matter what people gain from their wicked ways, in the end it will catch up with them and they will be destroyed.  In the end, the righteous ones will be delivered.

Another example from this chapter is verses 24-26

24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.
25 The generous man will be prosperous,
And he who waters will himself be watered.
26 He who withholds grain, the people will curse him,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

There are people who teach that this is specifically talking about wealth in the current time.  They say that if you give away $10.00, you will get $100.00 in return.  I don’t think that is accurate, and I don’t think it is even a great blessing compared to all the blessings that God does give us.  However, the generous man is the one who is doing what God wants, which makes it a wise decision.  The generous will be blessed.  The miser who withholds everything for himself will be cursed.  I think some of this comes in everyday life.  If someone who is generous and helpful has a problem, often people will help that person.  However, when someone who is greedy and never helps anyone else has a problem, people are unlikely to help that person.

Verses 29 and 30 say:

He who troubles his own house will inherit wind,
And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.

The outcome of seeking Godly wisdom and following in God’s righteousness is life for themselves and for the souls they win.  We have to choose daily to seek after wisdom.  If we make no choice, foolishness and ultimately destruction are the default choice.

Andrew Hamilton

Watch Your Words

Proverbs 10

Proverbs 10 8

This chapter contrasts the righteous person versus the wicked person.  There are so many things that could be written about, and I started to pick and choose a few to write about.  As I read the chapter a few times, I was struck by how many times the mouth, or what we say was mentioned.

Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence

The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

13 On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.
14 Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.

18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding.

31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
But the perverted tongue will be cut out.
32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.

These are some of the verses, but maybe not all.  We can often see a lot about ourselves (and others) by what is said or not said.  Listen to what comes out of your mouth.  Are you listening, or receiving commands, or are you babbling and therefore unable to hear the instruction?  Are you choosing when to talk and when to refrain?  Are you speaking righteousness?  It is often hard to control what we say but doing this is a sign of wisdom and righteousness.

This topic is something that shows up several other places in proverbs, as well as other places in the Bible.  I think of James 1:19.

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

We often speak without thinking or think about what we should say instead of listening to the other person.  Then, what comes out of our mouth is either not appropriate or not helpful.  We often don’t like silence, so we say something just to have noise, even if it is not useful.

I encourage you to pay attention to what you are saying, and when you are talking.  Take time to listen.  Take time to gain from what others are saying.  Take time to allow silence to occur.  Our words are a good indicator of whether we are seeing wisdom or being fools.

Andrew Hamilton

Wealthy?

psalm 37 16

Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37.  Today we look at verses 12-17.

This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.

The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means  morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.

The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).

There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible.  With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.

1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

 

2.  Meditate:  Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.”  He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth.  I wonder why he makes those associations?  Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?

What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life?  He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day.  Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering.  According to Jesus, it was his wealth.  He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).

In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil.  It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous.  But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy.  So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness.  Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money).  If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.

To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy?  I live in a pretty nice house.  I have enough money to buy groceries.  I have access to excellent health benefits through my work.  I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water.  I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go.  If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy.  If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy.  So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?

As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues.  That is what it did for me.  Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you.  Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13.  What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”?  Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?

 

3.  Pray:  Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer.  Talk it over with God.  Bring him your questions.  Bring him your complaints.  Bring him your fears.  Bring him your gratitude and joy.  Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating.  Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble?  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Do not just speak, also take time to listen.  Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.

 

4.  Rest in God:  As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God.  Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient.  Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector.  He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior.  Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

What We Deserve

eccles 9 10

Ecclesiastes 8:2-9:12

Solomon begins here with examples of improper decorum before a king. In his great authority he can do whatever he pleases, his word is law. So who in their right mind would say to him. “What are you doing?” We see this same idea applied to God in Job 9:12 and Isaiah 45:9. So Solomon says to obey the king, be loyal and not rebellious. Do not do something that is bad or wrong just because you do not like or agree with someone. Seems like common sense but we see it every day on the street level all the way up to those with the greatest wealth, power, and influence. There is even a saying that goes with it, “You cut off your nose to spite your face.”

So do not ask, “What are you doing?” but submit, for “whoever obeys will come to no harm.” This is the way of the wise. The wise person has a better chance of knowing the best course of action and when to act, knowing the proper time and procedure. And yet they still find misery as none knows what the future holds. Misery because we do know that there are consequences for our wickedness. And just as no one can control the wind or delay death, no one can escape the consequences for our wicked, sinful ways.

Life is not fair! … Solomon talks about the wicked being buried. In this context it implies that they receive undeserved respect. A proper burial given to an undeserving wretch. False believers who say the words and make a show of faith. So much so that they receive praise, but they are wicked none the less. They reach this status when justice is not dealt out in proper time. He may commit a hundred crimes and yet live a long life. Worse, he is adored by others who wallow in their own sin, rejoicing that this glorious example has been set for them to work towards. But there will be judgment! The righteous, God-fearing man will have life and the wicked … death!

Life is not fair! … Righteous men get what the wicked deserve and the wicked get what the righteous deserve. Circumstances and choices can lead to what might appear to be unrighteous judgment. Verse 13 tells us that justice will come … in time. Until then, verse 15 points to the wisdom of trusting God and enjoying the many ways in which we are blessed. See, we do not see the “big picture” that God does so we cannot fully understand why things happen when and in the ways that they do. It is better to accept what we are capable of and not stress ourselves with what we are not.

We are in God’s hands. He alone knows what awaits the righteous and the wise and all that they do. “All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.” … Death! Death is the destiny we share and the answer to the question, “What does the future hold, what awaits us?” Solomon refers to this as “the evil in everything.” It cuts down the young and old alike. Death does not care whether you are good or bad. Some believe that because death is so arbitrary that it is excusable to rush into sin, to relish in it all their days. It is where we get sayings like, “Live like there is no tomorrow, live life to the fullest” and of course the most popular one in recent years, “YOLO, you only live once.”

For the wicked I guess this is pretty much true. They have no hope for the eternal life promised by God through His son Jesus so this is all that they have. But the living, those who have life through Jesus, they have hope. But in death we will know nothing. No longer able to learn or grow and in time we will be forgotten. God will not forget you though. We can believe this, we can trust it. He did not forget Saul who became Paul. He did not forget Peter, who denied Jesus. He did not forget Ezra, Nehemiah, Joseph or Job. He will not forget you!

Life is not fair! … I hear this all the time from people of all ages. I used to say this myself in frustration, thinking of the ways that I have been hurt or wronged. I stopped saying it when I took Romans 6:23 to heart, “For the wages of sin is death.” If life was fair and was as immediate as our impatience would hope it was, we would be dead the moment we sinned for the first time. In other words, man-kind would be extinct! If we got what we deserved we would not exist! Instead we have received mercy and compassion that goes beyond our comprehension and that we do not deserve.

I for one am grateful, not for what I deserve but for what I do not.

-Jeff Ransom

Confession Time

PROVERBS 28

Proverbs 28-18

Verses 13-28 examine the fates of the wicked compared to the righteous.  Verse 13 reads, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”  In which camp would you routinely place yourself?  Are there certain parts of our lives that we are quick to share if we sin or fall short, but others that we conceal for the sake of reputation or fear of conflict or avoidance of the consequences?  This verse doesn’t specify between transgressions; whoever conceals his sins will not prosper.  Confessing before the Lord and all other necessary parties brings mercy and an opportunity for growth.  Are there specific wrongs in your life that need to come into the light?  We all have room for growth, and we should ask the Lord to reveal to us our shortcomings.  John 15:2 reads, “Every branch that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Even our fruitful endeavors need pruning.

 

I would encourage you to pray about your transgressions.  Admit to yourself and the Lord that you have sins, not that you just make mistakes or have oversights.  Ask for help in renouncing and repenting of these shortcomings, and actually try to follow through in walking away from whatever you have been keeping in the dark.  Don’t just make a quick promise, but deliberately seek righteousness.

 

-Megan Bryant

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

ezek 20-17

Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)

“Here I Am! Send Me!”

Isaiah 4-6

is6

Monday, February 6

Today, we continue on to Isaiah 4-6.   In this section, there is one of the most well-known passages in the whole Bible, Isaiah’s vision of the LORD in chapter 6.  Before we get there though, we will talk briefly about chapters 4 and 5.

There are essentially two main purposes to the book of Isaiah: “to assure Judah that God would surely judge them for their sins… [And] to assure God’s people of God’s wonderful plan for their future,” (The 5Ws and 1H of Genesis Through Malachi, Robert Jones).  In the first three chapters, we got a sense of the first purpose, to assure Judah/Israel that God does not leave the guilty unpunished.  However, starting in chapter 4, we get a sense of God’s wonderful plan for their future.  After ridding the place of evil, God will establish a place (The Kingdom of God) that shall be “beautiful and glorious.”

Chapter 5 deals with the wicked, once again.  Verse 24 and 25 sums it up fairly well: “for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.  Therefore, the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people.”  We have two things happening here.  One, the people are rejecting the LORD and despising Him.  On the other hand, we see that the anger of the LORD is put against his own chosen people.  The people sin, and God responds by getting angry.  However, we know that God is slow to anger as he describes himself in Exodus 34:6, 7.  God’s chosen people kept sinning with no signs of repentance.  What Isaiah is describing is not a sin here or there.  Rather, Isaiah is describing a people, whom God loves very much, living a life of sin.  God’s chosen people of Israel, the same people He has performed many miracles for, were forsaking the LORD.  God does not leave the guilty unpunished, also found in Exodus 34:6, 7.

The beginning of chapter 6 sets the scene of when this was going on.  Isaiah 6:1 states, “In the year that King Uzziah died.”  King Uzziah was one of the Kings of Judah after the split of Israel, and he died in the year 740 BC.  This is not long after the Golden Age of Israel when it was a unified nation under kings Saul, David, and Solomon.  It is also before the Israelites were exiled into the Babylonian land.  Therefore, the ministry and writing of Isaiah took place before books such as Ezra and Nehemiah.  Isaiah’s ministry is taking place at the same time many of the events in 1st and 2nd Kings and Chronicles are taking place.

As mentioned before, Isaiah 6 is one of the most well-known passages in the whole Bible.  It paints a beautiful picture as to what the Throne of God looks like. You can compare this picture to the description of God’s Throne in Revelation 4.  In Isaiah’s vision, as he approaches the throne of God, he humbles himself by basically saying he was not worthy to be seeing what he was seeing.  Then, God asks Isaiah whom He shall send.  Isaiah then wonderfully replied by stating, “Here I am! Send me.”  We can learn a lot from this simple statement.  The attitude that Isaiah displayed here should be the same attitude we express in our lives.  The harvest indeed is plenty and the workers few.  The LORD is seeing who he can send to do His work.  Are you willing to do his work?

-Kyle McClain

My name is Kyle McClain, and I am currently attending the Atlanta Bible College.  It is my second year at the Bible college and I will receive my bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry next year.  I am excited to be able to go through the first third of the book of Isaiah with you all (or y’all as they say down here in Georgia).