Rebuke the Wise

“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” (Proverbs 9:7-9, NIV)

One of the most difficult things for me, personally, is bringing a challenge to a person. I don’t find it terribly hard to challenge a congregation through a sermon to come into alignment with God’s Word, to turn from sin, or to change the way they think or believe. But when it comes to meeting with someone personally, bringing a rebuke is not easy!

Yet, that is something we are called to do as brothers and sisters in Christ. We should love each other enough to bring correction when needed. And, we should be humble when we receive a rebuke. When I read these verses in Proverbs 9, I found myself asking, Am I more like the mocker or the wise person? When someone brings you a challenge, do you respond with defensiveness? Do you go into self-preservation mode? Or do you humble yourself, hear the rebuke, and grow wiser as a result?

I will confess that defensiveness is often my default reaction, but I am learning to put my self-preservation aside and hear the rebuke. Usually, there is something in it I can grow from. Of course, occasionally a challenge is brought that is entirely worthless, and not offered in an “I want to help you grow” spirit, but in an “I want to tear you down” attitude. When that happens, it’s best to turn the other cheek and forget the rebuke altogether as I remember whose I am–I am His, and nothing will change that!

I have found over the years that to avoid bringing a challenge rarely helps a person. As difficult as it can be to give a rebuke, sometimes that’s precisely what’s needed to help them mature and grow. But when you do offer a word of constructive criticism, it’s best to do it with an attitude of grace, in a spirit of humility and encouragement. The goal is never to merely challenge a person and walk away; it’s to bring both challenge and support, both rebuke and encouragement, both correction and accountability. Because at the end of the day, our goal should be to see the other person grow closer to the Lord.

One of the best and simplest tools out there to help think through challenge and support is The Support-Challenge Matrix from GiANT World Wide Leadership.

My prayer for this week is that you will have the courage to bring a challenge if it’s needed in the next seven days. Or, the humility to receive a rebuke and allow the Holy Spirit to use it as a catalyst for growth in your life.

 

The Highest Point Along the Way

“Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.” (Proverbs 8:6-7, NIV)

This chapter in Proverbs personifies Wisdom. She goes to “the highest point along the way, where the paths meet… beside the gate leading into the city” (vv. 2-3) and calls out, inviting people to come and learn wisdom and righteousness. At the beginning of her speech, she says verses 6-7 above.

Talk about a challenge! Do these verses describe you? Can people trust what I say, or do I tend to exaggerate too much? Is my word unreliable? Do I spin things to look more positive (or more negative) than they actually are? Is my speech right and true? Do my lips detest wickedness?

I think it becomes even more of a challenge when we consider communication beyond just our speech. In particular, I’m thinking of Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, email, etc. In today’s world, social media is the highest point along the way, where the paths meet. Yet, when we get on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites, how often do we think intentionally about what we say on those platforms? When we’re fired up and typing an email, do we remember how much easier it is to be snarky through a message than when we’re face-to-face?

Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). I think it would be consistent with His teaching to say a person’s Facebook page reflects what their heart is full of. Think about what you say, and look through your Facebook wall in light of Proverbs 8:6-7. What kinds of pictures do you post to Instagram? What does your SnapChat communicate about the kind of person you are? My prayer for this week is that all of us will think before we speak or post. Is this wise? Is it trustworthy? Is it right? Is it true? Does it represent Christ well?

 

The Door of Her House

“Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house…” (Proverbs 5:8, NIV).

Are you strong enough to resist sin? Be careful before you answer! Proverbs 5 is a lesson Solomon taught his son about avoiding an adulterous woman. One of the most intriguing things about his instruction is that he doesn’t encourage his son to resist the woman. Instead, he says to stay far away from her.

I think this principle applies universally. Many times in my life I have prayed for the strength to resist temptation. But the Lord has reminded me time and again that wisdom is better than strength. When we think we’re strong, we’re in great danger! Rather than taking pride in our strength to resist, it’s far better to admit our weakness and avoid the temptation altogether.

If I avoid the opportunity to sin, I avoid the sin (whatever sin it may be). Maybe I could withstand the temptation and remain faithful, but why risk it? In seminary, I remember reading about a pastor who went into a strip club to meet with one of the strippers who’d visited his church. I hope he was strong enough to handle that and didn’t fall into sin. I will never know if I have that kind of strength because I’d rather have the wisdom to avoid testing my strength. I don’t want to find my limits!

Avoiding the “door of her house” is why I have Covenant Eyes on my computer and phone (and I highly recommend it for everyone). I’d love to be strong enough that I don’t need it, but I’d rather be wise, avoid the battle, and stay pure to the Lord and to my bride. My prayer for the week is that in whatever your struggle is, God will not only give you strength to endure but also wisdom to avoid.

“But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out…” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).


Photo by Evelyn Paris on Unsplash

Never Let Go

“Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13, NIV).

As I sat down to read through Proverbs 4, I asked the Lord, “What do You have for me in this chapter this morning?” He replied directly (which is pretty rare for me), It’s not for you. Pray this for your sons.

I read through the chapter a couple times to get a sense for its flow and meaning and then prayed through each verse, putting in the names of Asher, Jack, Elliot, and Graham. What a beautiful prayer for my boys, and what a great lesson that God loves my children and has specific things He wants me to pray for them! Too often I get into a rut with my prayers for my family, and this was a reminder to use God’s words more often when I pray for them.

As I prayed through these verses, I noticed something I’d missed in previous readings (sometimes praying a passage brings new insight). Five times in this one chapter we’re instructed not to forget, forsake, or let go of wisdom, instruction, understanding, etc. I love to learn new things, have new experiences, go on new adventures, and explore new places. Sometimes in my passion for discovery, I get frustrated with rehashing what I “already know.”

But through directing me to pray for my boys, God also reminded me that sometimes I don’t need to learn something new, I need to hold onto what I already know. And, here’s the kicker, knowing is of no value if we don’t apply it to our lives. Maybe it’s not a fresh revelation I need; maybe I need to apply the revelation I already have received. It’s our fallen human nature to loosen our grip on God’s instruction over time, to lose our focus and stray to the right or to the left. Sometimes we need to be reminded to live according to the Word we’ve been given. My prayer for this week is that God will show you where you can you refocus your heart on His Word, and renew your commitment to live it out every day.


Photo by Robert Baker on Unsplash

Light and Truth

“Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place. Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy.” (Psalm 43:3-4, HCSB)

How often do I pray this? How often do I ask for God’s light and His truth to guide me in the decisions I make day in and day out? I’ve found that when I’m faced with a large, life-changing decision (like whether to move my family to a new community and take on a new role as a lead pastor) I tend to ask for wisdom more often. But in those in-between-years, when life seems manageable and there are no world-altering decisions staring me in the face, my tendency is to run with my own ideas, thoughts, and plans without asking for light and truth from God first.

And, even when I do ask for wisdom from God, do I seek it? Do I ask God to just download light and truth into my brain like an app update, or do I ask God for guidance as I seek His light and His truth in His Word? Sometimes we ask God to speak or give us direction and wonder why He doesn’t answer when in reality, He put that wisdom just in front of us if we’ll look for it. Have your kids ever asked you for something, and you put it just out of their reach, so they’ll have to work to get it? Why do you do you that? Because when they work to get what you have given, it’s more meaningful; and sometimes it sticks more than if you just hand it to them.

God has given us tools to seek His wisdom. He has given us His Word. He has given us the ability to reason and think rationally. He allows us to have experiences that shape us and should teach us more about life. And, most importantly, He has given us His Holy Spirit who will “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). But that truth doesn’t just come as an update or a new operating system. It’s not downloaded and installed in our brains while we sleep. When we pray for light and wisdom, we need to look for God’s answer using the tools, gifts, and opportunities He’s blessed us with. And as we seek Him, He will guide us into all truth.

My prayer for us this week as that God will send His light and His truth to lead us each day, and that we will have the discernment to see and hear His voice.

 


Photo by Himesh Kumar Behera on Unsplash

Wisdom Plans Ahead

So many of us spend hours and hours playing strategy games, where we have to think several moves ahead, and yet when it comes to real life, we simply live in the moment and fail to plan for the future. It’s wise to think about tomorrow today. That’s one thing Solomon teaches in Proverbs 27:23-27. We should think about the future, and intentionally change our actions today in light of that.


Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on 1/21/2018.

Prayer for the Fools

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1, ESV)

We live in a society that largely has declared, “There is no God.” While it’s true that the majority of Americans claim to believe in God, it’s also true that the majority of Americans (including the majority of Christians in America) live as though God doesn’t exist. When we fail to acknowledge God, we not only overlook an entire Universe of evidence that He is real, we also reject the foundation of right and wrong. If there is no God, there is no morality–no real justice to build a society on.

We’ve all seen where the path of denying God leads. This is true whether we say He doesn’t exist, or whether we claim to believe and yet live as though He doesn’t matter. To deny or forget about God is to be a fool, and that will ultimately lead to “every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. [Those who ignore God] are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:29-32, NIV).

Sadly those words are a pretty accurate description of our society. This week, let’s pray for the fools who deny God (knowing that sometimes we’ll be praying for ourselves when our actions fail to acknowledge the Lord).


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash