The Key to Long Life and Fruitfulness

August 8, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:27–30 

27The fear of the Lord prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. 28The hope of the righteous will be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked will perish. 29The way of the Lord is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity. 30The righteous will never be removed, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth. 

What is the key to long life and fruitfulness? This is a pressing question that our generation continues to ask. However, because we have turned away from the Living God, our answers are many and vacuous. We suggest that the key is public education, or sexual liberation, or social justice, or state funded health care, or confiscatory taxation, or particular diets, or essential oils, or violating our marriage oaths. In our polytheistic culture, everyone seems to have their own answer.

But Solomon tells us that the correct answer is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord prolongs days. It is the one who hopes in the Lord that will experience gladness; the one who walks in the Lord’s ways, observing His moral law, that will be strong; the one who listens to the Word of God and implements it, that will never be moved. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord…he shall be like a tree planted by streams of living water, which yields its fruit in its season and does not wither. The key to long life and fruitfulness is the fear of the Lord for the righteous has an everlasting foundation. When the winds blow and the rains fall, it is the one who builds his house on the rock, who hears the words of Christ and does them, who will stand. Indeed, even if he perishes in this life, he knows that when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, he will be raised eternal and will serve the Lord in gladness forever. The fear of the Lord prolongs days.

So what is it that will bring death and desolation? Is it climate change, overpopulation, intolerance and discrimination, sexual repression, an unhappy marriage, poverty, capitalism, processed foods, vaccinations? Solomon tells us that the correct answer is wickedness: the years of the wicked will be shortened, his expectation will perish. The one who works iniquity, who violates God’s moral law, will be destroyed and will not inherit the earth. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. Though the wicked may prosper for a time, God will bring their plans and expectations to naught. He will destroy them and the earth will vomit them out. They are like a foolish man who builds his house upon sand – when the rains and floods come, his house will be destroyed. And this destruction will reach its culmination when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The wicked will be judged according to the things written in the books and they will perish eternally. The years of the wicked will be shortened. 

So where have you placed your hope for long life? What do your habits and passions reveal about your beliefs? Have you been distracted by the cacophany of voices surrounding us? Or have you remained centered on the answer that Solomon gives? Is the majority of your time devoted to knowing and serving God, to understanding His moral law and obeying His precepts, or have you become distracted by other things? Where have you placed your hope? 

Reminded that righteousness is the key to long life and fruitfulness, and that wickedness brings destruction, let us confess that as Americans we have abandoned the living God and embraced wickedness, and let us confess that we, the Church in America, have become confused by the foolish answers given by our neighbors. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel together as you are able.

The Folly of a Rushed Conclusion

June 27, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Satan, Wisdom

Proverbs 18:13, 17

13He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him… 17The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him. 

Frank and Deuce were neighbors and as they were both fairly young men just setting out in life neither had a family. But being ranchers, they worked hard – sunup to sundown on their ranches. And they often helped one another – sometimes one pair of hands just wasn’t enough.

One day another neighbor, Dolosus by name, who owned a large spread immediately south of Frank and Deuce paid Frank a visit.

“Howdy, Frank,” Dolosus greeted and then asked with a hint of concern in his voice, “Is everything okay down here on your ranch?”

“Why yes, thank you, everything seems to be just fine. Why do you ask?” Frank replied.

“Oh, it’s probably nothing,” Dolosus assured him good-naturedly.

“What’s probably nothing?” asked Frank, getting a bit concerned.

“Well,” Dolosus confided, “Deuce mentioned to me today at the store that he was tired of sharing the creek with you and was planning to stop it up with a dam and make a pond.”

“What?!” Frank demanded. “He’d never do such a thing!”

“Well,” said Dolosus with a sympathetic look, “I’m sorry to say that I saw him purchasing the supplies today – posts, supports, … Go see for yourself – I think you’ll see him putting the posts in now.”

And sure enough, when Frank climbed the bank to where he could see Deuce’s ranch there was Deuce putting posts in the ground right near the creek. Frank got so mad, steaming and stewing on Deuce’s audacity, that he grabbed his shotgun out of the house and set out across the field, making a beeline for Deuce. 

Deuce was so busy working on the fence that he never noticed Frank’s approach. He jumped when Frank yelled at him from just a few feet away, “You lousy neighbor!” Deuce had just enough time to turn around and see the shotgun aimed his way before Frank pulled the trigger and shot him dead. 

With grim satisfaction Frank looked at Deuce’s dead body sprawled on the ground. And it was then that he noticed the barbed wire that lay beside Deuce’s corpse – and then that he became aware of the awful truth: Deuce hadn’t been making a dam. He had been building the barbed wire fence the two of them had discussed only last week.

At that moment the Sheriff happened to arrive – it seems Dolosus had notified him there might be some trouble. The Sheriff clapped Frank in irons and led him off to be hanged. Dolosus smiled grimly as Frank passed by. He couldn’t wait for the auctioneer to put the two men’s farms up for sale. He had always thought they’d make a nice addition to his own spread.

Solomon tells us that he who listens to only one side of the story rarely gets the whole story. And the problem arises when we make conclusions based on only one side of the story. Like Dolosus, Satan delights to stir up trouble – for his own advantage, of course. And one of the ways he succeeds is by convincing us to act on inadequate information. So, this morning, let us confess that we have often proven as foolish as Frank. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Mystery of a Man with a Maid

February 14, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Covenantal Living, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Sexuality

Proverbs 30:18-19
18 There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Yes, four which I do not understand: 19 The way of an eagle in the air, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the midst of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid.

The world that God has made is full of wonders – wonders in the air, wonders on land, wonders in the sea, and wonders among men. Since today is Valentine’s Day, the day our culture has historically celebrated the wonder of romantic love, I thought I would meditate upon, as Solomon calls it, the way of a man with a maid..

There are few things more evident about young men than that they begin to develop a rather keen interest in young women. Proverbs 30 reminds us that this interest is good. After all, it was God who designed man and woman to be together. He said that it was not good when the man was alone; He put the man to sleep and extracted a rib from his side; He crafted and shaped the woman; He presented her to the man. God designed the affection that men and women have one for another.

So perfect was the design, that when God presented Eve to Adam, he spoke his first words. And these weren’t just run of the mill words. No, they were astonished words, glorious words, affectionate words – words of wonder, words of poetry:

This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh,
She shall be called woman Because she was taken out of man.

The first couple was designed by God and celebrated by man. And every couple since has been His handiwork as well. Wedded love is a gift from God, one of the best gifts from God to man.

Evolutionary culture would have us believe that the attraction of a man and woman for one another is a mere matter of biology. We are mere animals and the sight of certain things arouses us. But as Solomon meditates upon God’s gift of love, and the gift of lovers, he confesses that it is all mystery – not biology.

18 There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Yes, four which I do not understand: 19 The way of an eagle in the air, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the midst of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid.

How is it that a man otherwise taciturn and sullen, suddenly awakens and becomes sociable and amiable? How is it that a man directionless and purposeless, suddenly develops a clear and distinct vision? How is it that a man intent and disciplined, suddenly forgets himself, finds it difficult to focus, and is distracted from his work? And how is it that any man convinces a maid to love him and covenant with him?

All these things, Solomon confesses, are a mystery – but not because they are petty and foolish, rather because they are glorious and wonderful. We often marvel at the fool who wastes his life with drugs, drink, or gaming. Sin is a mystery. But this is not the type of mystery that confronts us when considering the way of a man with a maid – no this is a mystery of God’s making. It is a marvel like eagles in the air, serpents on a rock, and ships in the sea.

So, young men, God himself gave you the desire to be with a woman. Desiring to earn the hand of a woman is a good and noble thing. But a woman whose hand is worth having is a woman who makes you earn it – so be purposeful, be intent, be honorable – and treat all the women in your life with respect until God in His grace and kindness gives you one specific woman upon whom to shower your affections.

And older men, let us not forget the ardor with which we pursued the woman by our side. Let us remember that she is a gift of God – and let us continue to pursue her to the glory of God and the beautification of our bride.

Reminded that we often despise the gifts of God, that we often seek His gifts in unlawful ways, that we often fail to thank Him for the gifts that He has given, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to Him. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Delight of Discipline

February 7, 2021 in Authority, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Covenantal Living, Human Condition, Judgment, Lord's Day, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

Proverbs 29:17 (NKJV)

17 Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.

Last week we insisted that a good father, an earthly father who imitates our Father in heaven, will discipline his children for their good. A loving father does not discipline out of frustration or anger or impatience. Outbursts of wrath are not the fruit of the Spirit but the works of the flesh. Such outbursts do not reflect the loving discipline of our Heavenly Father but the perverse self-interest of Satan and his minions. For, as James reminds us, the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

While our discipline of our children is not to be self-centered, there is a blessing that comes to those parents who discipline their children. It is to this blessing that Solomon points us today, Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.” A wise son gives delight to the soul, gives a deep and abiding sense of comfort or, as Solomon puts it, rest. Parents have no greater joy than to see their children joyfully serving the Lord and walking uprightly. “My son, if your heart is wise, My heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself; Yes, my inmost being will rejoice When your lips speak right things” (Prov 23:15-16).

But note that this delight and rest are the fruits of godly discipline. “Correct your son, and he will give you rest…” A child left to himself when young rarely brings delight when old. So Solomon urges you, “Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction” (Prov 19:18). Now, while your children are young and the concrete is still wet, discipline and train them so that, when the concrete sets, it doesn’t have to be destroyed. Use your lips, in love, to correct your son. Use the rod, in love, to correct your son. And if you want to know how to do that faithfully, then contact Bob or Jackie and join their upcoming parenting class; seek out older mentors who can give you wisdom.

The fact that we parents are to train our children to be a blessing, reminds us that untrained children are a curse. Children, considered in the abstract, are a blessing from God and the fruit of the womb is His reward (Psalm 127:3). However, parents who fail to train their children take that blessing and twist it into a curse. “A foolish son is a grief to his father, And bitterness to her who bore him” (Prov 17:25). Untrained children are a curse and a grief to mother and father as well as to others. So be diligent to train your children that they may be a delight. This is one way that you love your neighbor as yourself. Who enjoys being in the company of a child that lacks self-control, that refuses to listen to correction, or that is a regular disruption? No one. So if you don’t like it, then love your neighbor as yourself by training your own children so that they are not like that.

And, children, notice what your calling is. Your calling is to learn the lessons that your parents are teaching you. Give heed to their verbal corrections; welcome their discipline; and strive to bring joy to your parents and to others by growing in wisdom and maturity. Little children, pray that you may be like your Lord Jesus who “grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk 2:40). Teens, be like your Lord Jesus who “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk 2:52).

Reminded that discipline is to train us to bring joy to others, let us acknowledge that we often fail to bring the joy that we ought; we often fail to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. So let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through Jesus Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Other-Centered Discipline

January 31, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Love, Meditations, Parents, Wisdom

Proverbs 3:11-12

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights”

The Word of God assures us that God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely in control of each and every event, good or bad, which befalls us. Hence, even when we are experiencing a severe trial, we can be assured that it comes from the hand of God. As Job reminded his wife, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away…” (Job 1:21; 2:10).

So why do such trials come? Do they come because God hates us? If you are in Christ, the answer to that question is, “Absolutely not!” If you are in Christ, then Solomon assures you that the Lord sends trials to correct you because He loves you. “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov 3:11-12 cf. Heb 12:5-6). God corrects us because He is a good Father who loves us. It was this knowledge that enabled Jacob to endure under Laban’s evil schemes; that fortified Joseph with joy and hope despite the treachery of his brothers, the lies of Potiphar’s wife, and the forgetfulness of the cupbearer; that emboldened Israel to cry out to God while suffering under Pharaoh’s heavy hand; and that comforted our Lord Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Whom the Lord loves He corrects.

So notice what this means for earthly fathers. A righteous father, one who loves and cherishes his children, is concerned for his child’s spiritual and personal growth and maturity. Consequently, a righteous father corrects his son. He knows that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of his child” (Prov 22:15) and so he uses “the rod of discipline” to “drive” this foolishness far away from him. He wants his child to receive God’s blessing. And this blessing only comes to those who have been trained in the ways of righteousness and self-control.

So fathers, how are you doing? Are you engaged with the discipline of your children? Are you concerned for them even as your Heavenly Father is for you? A loving father disciplines his children. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Pr 13:24). And loving discipline, discipline that glorifies our Father in heaven, that imitates His character toward His children, must always be for the good of our children. Our discipline must be designed to bless them and strengthen them; to train them in righteousness and self-control; to make them ever more faithful servants of Christ Jesus. Biblical discipline, discipline that imitates our Heavenly Father, is a gift not a noose. God commanded Israel, “You shall not boil a kid [a baby goat] in its mother’s milk.” Yet how many children have been destroyed by the very discipline that should have been the means of blessing them?

So what are ways we can be tempted to distort the gift of discipline? Our chief temptation is to discipline our children not for their good but for our good. So we discipline them to get them out of our hair – to prevent them from disturbing our tranquility or our enjoyment of some other activity. Or we discipline them because we are frustrated with ourselves or with our day at work – we take out our frustration on them. Or we discipline them because we are concerned about what others might think of us, perhaps because we are embarrassed by our child’s behavior. In all these cases, the discipline is for us rather than for them.

Note carefully, however, that this is not how our Heavenly Father treats us. Therefore, if we discipline our children in this self-centered fashion, we are preaching a false Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so concerned about Himself that He lashes out at those who irritate Him.” Let us rather teach a true Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so satisfied in Himself and filled with love for His sons that He disciplines them for their good.”

And for you children out there, remember that this passage teaches you an important lesson – if your parents love you, they will discipline you. It is the permissive parent, the parent who says, “Oh do what you like I don’t really care” who truly doesn’t care. So when your parents limit your screen time, when they rebuke your attitude, when they spank you for disobeying them, when they give you consequences for your behavior, when they question your choice of friends or music or movies, be sure to thank them for loving you and caring for you. Discipline is a gift – and we all know what we’re supposed to say when we receive a gift, don’t we? Haven’t your parents trained you to say, “Thank you!”?

Reminded that the Lord chastens those He loves even as a father the son in whom he delights, let us confess that, as parents, we often fail to train our children as we ought, and that, as children, we often fail to thank God for disciplining us. And, as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Blessed and Cursed Marriages

January 24, 2021 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Love, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Trials

Proverbs 31:10, 23

10Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies… 23Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

As we begin this new year, I want to deliver a couple exhortations regarding family life, first marriage and then children. The book of Proverbs regularly extols the blessedness of marriage. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord” (18:22). “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord” (19:14). When God created Adam in the Garden, it was God Himself who declared that the man alone was not good. Consequently, God put the man to sleep, crafted Eve from one of his ribs, and presented her to the man. God created marriage and blessed it – for the mutual advantage of both husband and wife. A man who finds a virtuous wife finds a treasure more valuable than rubies; and a woman who finds a righteous man derives great honor from her marriage to him.

While the Scriptures extol the blessing of marriage, they regularly extol its dangers as well. Marriage in itself is a blessing for the world, a good gift from a generous God. However, an unhappy marriage is a curse. Hence, when I have done pre-marital counseling, I regularly tell couples, “The only thing worse than being single and unhappy is being married and unhappy.” So Solomon warns us, “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones” (Prov 12:4). And even as a wife who causes shame is a misery to her husband, so a husband who causes shame is a misery to his wife. When David was determined to destroy Nabal’s entire household because of Nabal’s folly, Nabal’s wife Abigail pleaded with David, “Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he; Nabal [Fool] is his name, and folly is with him!” (1 Sam 25:25) Better not to marry at all than to marry a foolish man or woman.

As we commence a new year, therefore, give heed to a few exhortations. First, single, marriageable men and women – so develop your character that should God see fit to bless you with a spouse, you prove a blessing to your spouse and not a curse. Rarely does marriage radically transform the character of a man or woman; more commonly, marriage reveals your character. Marriage takes the musical chords you have been playing while single and plugs them into an amplifier. Hence, if you are indulging selfishness or impatience or lust or greed or anger now, that spirit will plague your marriage. Consecrate your life to the service of Christ and cultivate a godly character that you may prove a blessing and not a curse to your future spouse.

Second, married men – so develop your character that your wife be proud to be married to you. Your wife is called to respect you. So be respectable. Cultivate such wisdom and godly character that others want your counsel, solicit your direction, and imitate your character. A wife doesn’t want a husband who follows in her wake but a husband who loves her by leading her, providing for her and protecting her. Earn her respect by stepping up to the plate and doing so. Push yourself and stretch yourself to be a better man.

Finally, married women – so develop your character that you make it easy for your husband to love and lead you. Ground yourself in Christ and imitate Lady Wisdom in Proverbs. Routinely take the log out of your own eye before attempting to take the speck out of your husband’s. Beware being a dripping faucet. Beware being cold sexually. Beware exposing your husband’s faults to others. Make his home a haven to which he may return regularly with joy and not resignation. Enable your husband to put his full trust in you.

Reminded that marriage to an honorable man or virtuous woman is God’s good gift to us, let us confess that we often fail to cultivate the character necessary to be a blessing to our spouse; and, as we confess our sin, let us kneel as we are able before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Do Christmas Again!

December 20, 2020 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Christmas, Church Calendar, Covenantal Living, Fabulosities, King Jesus, Thankfulness, Worship

Proverbs 8:30–32 (NKJV)

30 Then I [Wisdom] was beside [the Creator] as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, 31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men. 32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.”

As we anticipate the arrival of Christmas, I doubt that I have to remind you that children love these times of festivity. While we adults often grow tired, kids never tire; they long for the celebration. “When are we going to get the tree? When are we going to put up the lights? When are we going to open stockings and presents? When is everyone coming over?”

We see in our text from Proverbs today that the delight and energy and joy of children reveals God’s own delight in all His work. Wisdom was daily God’s delight and rejoiced in His presence, rejoicing in God’s creative genius, and delighting in the sons of men. So who is the blessed one? What does Wisdom speak to you children? “Now therefore, listen to me, my children, For blessed are those who keep my ways.” The blessed one is the one who keeps and observes the way of wisdom – and the chief of wisdom’s ways is to delight in God and to rejoice in His works. The blessed man or woman or child is he who looks upon the world with wide-eyed wonder at God’s creativity and genius and generosity; who marvels at the intricacy of the human cell; who laughs at the gangliness of a giraffe; who delights in the companionship of a friend. The cursed man is the one who has grown too dull to perceive the wonder of the world and those who dwell therein.

G.K. Chesterton explains all this in his inimitable way in his book Orthodoxy. He writes:

Now, to put the matter in a popular phrase, it might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

So what of you? Have you sinned and grown old? Have you ceased to look in wide-eyed wonder at the world? You teens, have you become too insecure, too self-important, or too distant to rejoice with joy? You young adults, have you become too self-absorbed or too ambitious to slow down and enjoy family and friends? You adults, have you become too tired or too lazy to celebrate with joy? Or perhaps too greedy to enjoy the simple delights of friendship?

Reminded that we often sin in various ways and that our sin causes us to “grow old”, that we become bored and complacent with God our Creator and Redeemer and with the world in which He has placed us, that we complain and mutter rather than overflow with thanksgiving, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

They are Whisperers

January 5, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Confession, Depravity, Meditations, Sin, Tongue, Truth

Romans 1:28–32 (NKJV)

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1 that God in His justice delivers those who stubbornly rebel against Him to a debased mind. And this debased mind bears numerous bitter fruits. Today we consider the eleventh of these fruits: whisperers. Paul writes that rebellious peoples “are whisperers.”

Most modern translations opt for the word gossipers to convey the sense of the Greek. The word captures the way in which sins of the tongue – gossip or slander – are frequently conveyed from one person to another. The gossiper pulls someone aside and whispers to them. “Have you heard about…?” Groups of people under judgment – whether churches or cities or nations – become full of this type of whispering. With their tongues, they bite and devour one another.

The Scriptures are full of instruction regarding such abuses of the tongue. Psalm 15, for instance, declares that the type of person who shall be able to dwell in peace with God is, “He who… speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.” Righteous men take sins of the tongue seriously. They speak truth to one another and defend the reputation of their friends.

Righteous men guard their tongues because God highly values truthfulness and discretion; He despises gossip. The Lord declares, “You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord” (Lev 19:16). Note that the Lord links the telling of tales, links gossip, with premeditated murder. Gossip destroys relationships as sure as murder destroys lives. It descends into the heart and causes suspicion to grow. “The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body” (Prov 18:8). Gossip is like poison. Though we may make light of the tale brought to our ears, it starts poisoning our thoughts, “Suppose it should be true. Perhaps, though it may be exaggerated, there is some truth in what was said.” And this thought breeds suspicion, distrust, coldness and often ends in the separation of the most intimate companions.

What then is the solution? Solomon tells us quite plainly in Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer reveals secrets,” – that’s what he does. He or she goes about looking for tasty morsels to consume and takes delight in sharing them with his neighbor. Yum. But what’s the alternative? “But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.” That’s the alternative. “He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Prov 17:9). Don’t go blabbing about your friends’ faults; don’t advertise what your brother said rashly in frustration; conceal, as much as possible, the faults of your spouse. The one who loves covers a transgression; a faithful spirit conceals a matter. So what of you?

Reminded that we are often tempted to whisper and gossip and undermine the reputation of others, let us kneel and let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

Discipline is a Gift

June 30, 2019 in Authority, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Discipline, Love, Parents, Responsibility

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NKJV)
11
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.

The Word of God assures us that God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely in control of each and every event, good or bad, which befalls us. Hence, even when we are experiencing a severe trial, we can be assured that it comes from the hand of God. As Job reminds us, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away…” So why do such trials come? Do they come because God hates us? If you are in Christ, the answer to that question is, “Absolutely not!” If you are in Christ, then Solomon assures you that the Lord sends trials your way to correct you and He does that because He loves you. My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” God corrects us because He is a good Father who loves us.

So notice what this means for earthly fathers. Solomon writes: “For whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” A righteous father, one who loves and cherishes his children, is concerned for his child’s spiritual and personal growth and maturity. Consequently, a righteous father corrects his son. He knows that “foolishness is bound up in the heart of his child” (Prov 22:15) and so he uses “the rod of discipline” to “drive” this foolishness far away from him. He wants his child to receive the blessing of God, a blessing that can only come through the pursuit of wisdom.

So fathers, how are you doing? Are you engaged with the discipline of your children? Are you concerned for them even as your Heavenly Father is for you? A loving father disciplines his children. “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Pr 13:24). And loving discipline, discipline that glorifies our Father in heaven, that imitates His character toward His children, must always be for the good of our children. Our discipline must be designed to bless them and strengthen them and make them ever more faithful servants of Christ Jesus. Discipline is supposed to be a gift.

So what are ways we can be tempted to distort this as fathers and as mothers? Our chief temptation is to discipline our children not for their good but for our good. So we discipline them to get them out of our hair – to prevent them from disturbing our tranquility or our enjoyment of some other activity. Or we discipline them because we are frustrated with ourselves or with our day at work – we take out our frustration on them. Or we discipline them because we are concerned what others might think of us, perhaps because we are embarrassed by our child’s behavior. In all these cases, the discipline is for us rather than for them.

Note carefully, however, that this is not how our Heavenly Father treats us. Therefore, if we discpline our children in this self-centered fashion, we are teaching a false Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so concerned about Himself that He lashes out at those who irritate Him.” Let us rather teach a true Gospel, a Gospel that says, “God is so satisfied in Himself and filled with love for His sons that He disciplines them for their good.”

And for you children out there, remember that this passage teaches you an important lesson – if your parents love you, they will discipline you. It is the permissive parent, the parent who says, “Oh do what you like I don’t really care” who truly doesn’t care. So when your parents limit your screen time, when they rebuke your attitude, when they discipline you and give you consequences for your behavior, be sure to thank them for loving you and caring for you. Discipline is a gift – and we all know to say thank you when we’re given a gift.

Reminded that we engage with those we truly love, let us confess that we have failed to love our children as we ought, failed to respect our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.