The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 1:20-23

Of these two, which is more valuable: paper money or gold? Of these two which is more valuable: gold or food? Friends or fame? How about yesterday or tomorrow? Today or eternity? Here is an easy one – stupidity or knowledge? I know the average person would disagree, but the wise man, Solomon, suggests that “wisdom” is perhaps the most valuable thing we might ever possess. “Wisdom” is the means to a wonderful eternity, to peace, to the prosperity which gold cannot provide. Let’s start tonight by reconsidering this wisdom. Some suggest this refers to an aspect of the character of Jehovah – “wisdom” is one of His attributes. While that is true, I prefer the suggestions of a larger group of Bible students – THIS wisdom is Christ. In Luke 11, one of the scribes was trying to argue with the Lord Jesus. Jesus replied, “Woe unto ye lawyers” and He mentioned various reasons. Then He said, “Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation.” Who was it that commissioned the prophets of God? The answer has to be God, of course, but more specifically Christ. And then we have I Corinthians 1 – “Of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” I know that Solomon has already introduced us, but he gives us a bit more information...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 1:10-19

In 1829, Mary Howitt published a little poem which eventually became an often misquoted a classic. “Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly, “‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy; The way into my parlour is up a winding stair, And I’ve a many curious things to show when you are there.” “Oh no, no,” said the little Fly, “to ask me is in vain, For who goes up your winding stair – can ne’er come down again.” Solomon’s children, like children everywhere, eventually left home. They left the protection of their parents, and they began to make decisions entirely on their own. Let’s say that Solomon tried his best to raise his children in “the fear and admonition of the Lord.” “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Eventually, wearing the finest apparel and ornaments their parents could provide they walked out the front door of their childhood homes. Some were prodigals; some were Josephs; some were Ruths. But they were on their own with only their parents’ instructions echoing in their hearts. Perhaps one of the last they heard was, “My child, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” Every beautiful, little Blue Bottle fly has its own predatorial spider. Every son has a sinner who wants to entice him into his web – perhaps hundreds of them. It is not as common here as it is in other parts of America, but most...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 1:7-9

A good sermon usually begins with an introduction of some sort. It might be an ear-catching illustration designed to hook the attention of the audience for a while. It might be a reiteration of what has been recently taught, building on that earlier foundation. Or it might be a simple preface, outlining where the message hopes to go. Verses 1-6 make up Solomon’s preface for the rest of the Book of Proverbs. He says, “The following proverbs are presented that you might know wisdom and instruction. With that wisdom and instruction it is hoped that you will be able to understand justice, judgment and equity. I would like to give subtilty to the simple and discretion to the young person. But please understand even the aged wise man will hear and increase in learning and wise counsel.” Solomon then takes a hammer, driving in the nail upon which the portrait of this book is to be hung. The nail is – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” The wire which ties the portrait to that nail; which supports it; levels it, and hides behind it reads… “But fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” I often use to a 350 page book called “Spurgeon’s Proverbs and Sayings” quoting it in the bulletin. I guarantee that it was not prepared...

The Proverbs of Solomon – 1:1-6

I have been thinking about a study of Proverbs for several years. But its enormity and probable tedium deterred; I just didn’t feel the Lord’s leadership in it. Well, I’ve looked at it again, and feel that it’s the Lord’s will that at least tonight we look at the first verses. In beginning, consider verse 5 – “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning.” Don’t most people have different definitions of wisdom and the wise man than what this expresses? Many think of the wise man as someone who has attained – who has reached some predetermined level of knowledge, learning to apply it well. But doesn’t this verse suggest that the wise man is someone who recognizes he still has a long way to go? “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning.” Isn’t this idea corroborated by Paul in Philippians – “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”? As a general rule, beware of the man who claims to have attained the status of the wise and has so apprehended the truth that he doesn’t need to consider anything new. In thinking about a study of Proverbs, there might be several avenues to follow. We could dig deeply into the Massoretic text, rooting out the nuances of the important Hebrew words. That could begin a study lasting well into the Millennium. It might be a...

The Trap Mis-Sprung – John 8:1-11

Have you ever tried to set a mouse trap, only to have it spring before you were ready? Maybe it was when you were latching it, or as you were putting it down in a tight corner. Pow! It snapped at you, and perhaps even bit your finger. No wonder people have been looking for the better mouse trap all these years. In this scripture, the enemies of our Saviour were trying to entrap Him. They had made crude attempts before, by asking Jesus various theological questions. And every time, His answer was better than the questions themselves. But this time they thought that they had come up with the better mouse trap. This one was fool proof; not even they could mis-manage this one. There were just two possible answers, and either one could be turned to their side. If Jesus answered one way they could condemn Him before the Romans. If He answered the other way, they could condemn Him for despising the law of Moses. He would be trapped; there would be no escape. And this time those crafty serpents had a real, live sinner for bait – a transgressor of the Law of God. “Moses’ law says that this woman should be stoned to death, but what do you say?” If Christ replied that she should be freed or given some lesser punishment, then they would shout that He could not be a servant of God, because he had forsaken the law of Moses. But if He said that she should be stoned, then they could accuse him before the Romans, who had taken from...

Sources of Joy – Galatians 5:22-23

In my reading Monday, the Lord placed before me an article about joy. My first reaction was to put it down, because of some of the author’s initial statements. He said, and I quote, “God don’t make nobody for misery. If we are miserable, it is because we have chosen to say no to joy. God intended joy for us from the start.” In the margin I put a question mark, meaning that I’d have to think about that for a while. It had nothing to do with the grammar, because I like misusing grammar from time to time myself. I know that I refer to joy fairly frequently. I have preached half a dozen messages on the subject, and I refer to it as points in other messages. Some of my message titles have been: “The Secret of Abiding Joy,” “Whence cometh Joy,” and its antithesis, “Where has the Joy Gone.” We are commanded to be joyful – “Rejoice ever more,” ” Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice.” Joy and rejoicing are far more important than most Christians realize. In the midst of all the books on personal evangelism and how to make Christians out of the children of Satan, there ought to be chapters and books on joy. Laying aside eternal realities which we know to be true, the lost world is not interested in Heaven. Our unsaved neighbors don’t care about theology; about the Second Coming; about sanctification. They struggling from day to day under the effects of devastating sin. They are trying to pay their bills, keep their marriages together and satisfying their...

Responsibility and Faithfulness – Matthew 25:14-30

On August 24 in the year 79, the volcano Vesuvius erupted and entombed the city of Pompeii, Italy. The destruction began and ended in just few minutes, killing multitudes of people. The ash and gases of that volcano caught the residents city like a camera catches people in action. Some were running to the sea, some were hiding, some were looking for their wealth and others for their kids. And in a moment of time, many of them were entombed and mummified in mid-step by the ash. One was a Roman sentry who was apparently ordered to guard the gate of the city. He had every opportunity to be the first to the sea and possible safety. But do you know where archeologists found his body? He was at his post with his weapons in their proper position. The man was faithful to his orders. The man showed responsibility and faithfulness; He displayed character. Unlike the last man in our Lord’s parable. We will begin with some definitions and synonyms. But first, notice that all three men are described as the Master’s “own servants.” They are not strangers or hirelings. They obviously knew their Employer and knew at least some of what He expected. The first two servants were described as “faithful.” What do we mean by the word “faithfulness”? Looking it up in a thesaurus, we find synonyms like: loyalty, steadfastness, dedication, devotion and trust. And we see that sort of people in the Bible. There is Daniel, taken from his home and his people, but he remained faithful to his God. We have others like Job –...

Four Kinds of Prayer – Matthew 6:5-8; 18:19-20

The title of our little devotional this evening is “Four Kinds of Prayer” similar to “How to Pray.” But that can leave as bad a taste in one’s mouth – as bad as “12 Ways in which to Lead People to Christ.” It might be as silly as a book on “The Methods of Breathing.” And yet, if someone really wanted to, he could make a list of different ways to breathe. There is gasping for breath, wheezing, deep or shallow breathing, puffing, panting, huffing and so on. And we probably should have a paragraph on “holding one’s breath” as well. We don’t usually think about breathing, until we are asked to describe someone breathing. As I was thinking about prayer, I came up with four kinds or methods of prayer. Is PRIVATE PRAYER the most important? Matthew 6:5-8 – “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” The man who longs to...

Paul’s Greatest Prayer? – Ephesians 3:13-21

Let’s play a little game: I will give you a name and you picture that person’s greatest prayer. Solomon – What was it? His request for wisdom, or his prayer at the dedication of the temple? Samson – strength to glorify God and to bring down Dagon’s temple? Abraham – Was it his conversation about a son; deliverance of Lot from Sodom? Moses – show me thy glory. David – the Psalm pleading for the Lord’s forgiveness? Gideon – the will of the Lord in the fleece? Elijah – on Mt. Carmel? The Lord Jesus – John 17? Paul – Ephesians 3??? This prayer reveals much about Paul’s theology. Does he believe in the omnipotence of God? “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us….” Does he believe in the love of God; that he careth for us? Listen to his description of God’s love. This prayer also reveals the depths of Paul’s love for Christ. Does Paul pray for his enemies as he has been commanded? Does he show a heavenly-mindedness or are his prayers of the self-centered variety? Does he yearn for the glory of God? This is one of my favorite scriptures. It is certainly one of my favorite Biblical prayers. Briefly this evening, let’s consider just a couple of points. Does Paul have a primary purpose in this prayer – or does he just ramble? He begins by saying, “I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this cause I...

An Experiment in Riotous Mirth – Ecclesiastes 2:1-2, 10-11

I grew up in the riotous 60’s. Those were the days of Viet Nam, Race Riots, LSD, Hippies and a great deal of turmoil. More than one of my high school class-mates became drop outs. Not only did they drop out of school but some of them dropped out society. Some moved south and became beach bums, and others moved to the hills and became ski bums. It was not uncommon to hear someone say that he was going off to “find himself.” Those were days when Hindu gurus were as common as houseflies. Every third person my age was climbing to top of mountain to ask some guru about the meaning of life. Thankfully, I didn’t have to find life, He who is “the way, the truth and the life,” found me. Although that sort of thing was common in the 60’s, it was not new to the 60’s, nor did it die in the 60’s. This is basically what Ecclesiastes is all about: “What is the meaning of life?” Solomon wanted happiness, peace, joy and fulfilment. He thought that if he got some of these, then life would have meaning for him. This book is the chronicle of Solomon’s search for life through various mazes. He lit a candle and swept the world to find “IT” – whatever “IT” might be. In chapter 1 he tried a couple things, including philosophical wisdom, but found nothing substantial. Now he moves on to pleasure at any price – riotous mirth. He is like the man in Jesus’ parable: “Soul thou has much goods, eat, drink and be merry, before...

Hope – I John 3:1-3

Americans seem to love bumper stickers. My car doesn’t have one, but I do like to read them – I am a closet bumper-sticker reader. Have you ever pulled up at a red light, and the car in front of us had a tiny bumper sticker. Slowly you inch a bit closer and closer, trying to look nonchalant. Then when there is only half a inch between you and that bumper, you can read that it says: “If you can read this bumper sticker then you’re took close.” Today I saw one that said, “Go Vegan.” Is that like the other one I saw, “Go Zags”? Some time ago I spotted one which read, “Now that I’ve given up all hope – I feel much better.” Isn’t that cute? I’m sure the original author meant the statement as some sort of joke, and perhaps the car owner too. But some of the stupid people who read it, might think it is really profound. I can’t speak for those people, but I can speak for myself – “I not only have hope; I love my hope.” The hope that I have is a wonderful, key part of my life. Someone has said, “Where there is life there is hope.” While that may be true so is the reverse – “Where there is hope there is life.” Some researchers at Duke University tried studying hope. They had two tubs filled with your ordinary water – mildly polluted, but highly chlorinated water. Into these identical tubs they put two ordinary laboratory rats – who were bred to die. The first rat had...

Sunrise – Malachi 4:1-2

Despite the fact that our streets are lined with piles of snow and the temperatures are often still below freezing, our days are getting longer. As I drive east at 6:00 am, I see more sunlight each morning, and soon the sun will be in my eyes again. Spring is on its way; summer is coming. But more importantly, with each passing day, the dawn of the Sun of Righteousness is getting nearer. “Behold, the day cometh… unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” When you woke up this morning what sort of expectations did you have? Were there appointments on your calendar, or were your hours free until after supper? Some of you went off to work – were you expecting anything different when you got there? Were you anticipating accidents on the road today? Were you expecting a headache? We know that every day contains different sets of blessings and trials, hopes and problems. We know there will be work and maybe a little worry, but there should be blessings greater than both. And isn’t this the message that we read from this scripture? When the Sun of Righteousness arises upon the earth, it will be with both blessings and curses. Before we proceed, I’d like you to notice two things. Unless there is a misprint in your Bible, you should see that the word “Sun” in verse 2 is capitalized. That capitalization indicates that our translators considered this to be speaking of deity – Christ. But the Hebrew word is not that of a “son,” a...

Bashful Boasting – II Corinthians 11:16-33

The church in Corinth was one of Paul’s thorns in the flesh. Obviously it should not have been, but it was what it was. The church was prosperous in the things of the world, but it also rife with spiritual poverty. It appears to have been relatively large, but that was due to the abundance of worldly people. It was a church where there was a mixture of people who love and respected Paul and others who didn’t. In some ways it was like many modern churches, but it one was of the first like this. Some of those Christians were making Paul’s life rather miserable with their disrespect. How did the apostle deal with it? For a time he tried to ignore all the lies and innuendos – the jabs and unjust laughter. He tried to live his life before them in such a way as to offset what was being said. Someone else might have retaliated in the flesh, trying to vindicate himself, but that was not Paul. But then finally responded with the words of this scripture. It is a mixture of facts, some well-known and other little known, blended with a bit of sarcasm. Am I misreading verse 19? “For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” “Sometimes you willingly overlook foolish people like me, because you people are SOOOOooo smart.” After that, Paul pulls out his personal diary, trying to enlist a proper perspective. This passage contains simple facts; things which he suffered in order to spread the gospel. These things prove his dedication to the Lord and to people like these...

How to Die Content – Genesis 25:7-8

  I was talking to Bro. Martinson yesterday, and missionary David Brainard came up. Bro. Chris was just finishing re-reading Brainard’s biography – which is taken from notes in his journal. The man died quite young from the effects of tuberculosis. But it might be said that it wasn’t disease which took his life; it appears that the man wore himself out. In his love for the Lord and his service for Indian souls he worked himself to death. Suffering through his long illness, he repeatedly expressed his wish to leave this world to be with Christ. I’m not going to say that he wanted to die, but he was ready to die, and he was willing to glorify his Saviour even in death. That sort of attitude is rare today. Christians are far more interested in remaining in this life than to begin to enjoy the future life. And the reasons are legion. Some of them are good, but they aren’t great. “I want to see God’s blessings on my grandson.” On the other hand, some Christian’s reasons to remain in this world aren’t good at all. They are sinful. Then there are Christians who are simply fearful of the dying process – just as our unsaved neighbors are What is the difference between the average person and David Brainard? Our scripture speaks of what some people think is the most terrifying event in life. Yet there seems to be a smoothness, calmness and pleasantness in Abraham which is unnatural. There is no hint that Abraham died in fear or in anger – two of the most common...

Names in the Book – Philippians 4:1-3

How large were the churches in the New Testament? What were their attendance & membership numbers? The church in Philippi had started with a Jewish lady’s prayer meeting, but then God began to bless. Through persecution the church became well-known in town. By the time Paul was in Rome how large had it become? A hundred members? Three hundred? How many of the members did Paul know, and how man did he specifically name here in this letter? Less than a dozen; less than half a dozen. Paul was led of the Spirit to mention three of the members: Euodias, Syntyche and Clement. But there were certainly many others who could have been named for a great many reasons. And probably there were some who thought they should have been named. But Paul grouped them all together in a graceful, half-apologetic reminder that their names are written in a greater book than his little letter. It is as though he said, “Don’t be upset if I don’t mention your name. You can afford to be anonymous in this little epistle, because your names are inscribed in the Book of Life.” There is great consolation for good, but obscure, people whose names are never in the limelight. You may not be a preacher or teacher, or holding any great office in one of the churches of the Lord. Your name may be held in reverence by only two or three hearts in the entire world. Your name may or may not even be inscribed on some tombstone somewhere, sometime. But if your name is written in Heaven, then you can...