proverbs

Rookie Mistake on Proverbs 3 & the Rest of the Story

By: Dan Seale

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Sunday morning as I was preaching at the 8:30 am service, I realized I made a rookie mistake.  I had too much material. So, while I was preaching my mind was also considering what changes I needed to make which impacted both the content and the delivery of the sermon.  Thankfully, I know God uses His Word by His Spirit no matter what, so while frustrated, I was not too discouraged.  That has not always been the case.  It can be very difficult to wrestle with feeling that you not only failed your people but that you also failed God in handling a passage of Scripture.  I had one pastor friend who would just disappear into the basement of the church after he preached a bad sermon.  By God’s grace, the Lord has taught me to be resilient after many perceived failures and trust Him more.  However, I used the time between the two services to reorganize and adjust my sermon for the 11 am service.  I also texted a few people to pray for my rewrites, for my heart and for the second service. I think my second sermon was greatly improved in organization and delivery, but again, the effectiveness of the sermon is ultimately up to the Lord not me. 

 

So why share that experience?  For the small number of people who heard both sermons, it will explain the changes I made – assuming anyone but me noticed.    Also, we all fall short of our own and others’ expectations at times in our work; and how we deal with that can help us or hurt us.  We need to learn to be resilient and lean into the Lord in our failures and be humble and grateful for any wins we experience. 

 

And here is the rest of the story of Proverbs 3 that never made it to either sermon.

 

First, a quick review.  In verses 1-12 we saw that if we want to experience life to its fullest, we must trust the Lord, with our whole heart and our whole life.

 

These  poetic couplets of commands for us followed by the benefits of wisdom lay out for us a compelling call to pursue wisdom and obey God’s commands.

 

v. 1 - Keep my commandments                                 v. 2 - Life & peace (shalom)

v. 3 - Don’t let go of steadfast love and faithfulness           v. 4 – Favor & success before God & people

v. 5 - Trust the Lord                                                   v. 6 - straight paths – get you to your goal

v. 7 -Fear the Lord                                                      v. 8 - healing and refreshment

v. 9 - Honor the Lord                                                 v. 10 - more wealth to use for Him

Don’t despise discipline                                            v. 12 - It’s a sign of His love

 

We are commanded to know God’s Word, to know His love, to trust Him, to know ourselves, and to worship him with our best.  When we fail to do that, he will lovingly discipline us to bring us back to him (Hebrews 12:1-11).

 

The next section, Proverbs 3:13-20, speaks of the beauty and value of wisdom.  The person who finds wisdom and gets understanding about how life works has greater wealth than all the gold, silver or jewels they could own.  Wisdom creates a culture of life in this world that is filled with so much death.  Wisdom enriches all who find it, not just in their length of days but also in the quality of those days (3:16). 

 

The reference in verse 18 to the tree of life is very provocative.  This causes us to think of the tree of life in the garden of Eden.  This image suggests more than long life but eternal life, being in the presence of God.  As long as you embrace the tree of life you live.  In order to prevent Adam and Eve from extending their lives in judgment in perpetuity, they had to be ejected from the garden. This removal provided the opportunity for God’s plan of redemption to be fulfilled ultimately in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the promised seed of Eve (Genesis 3:15).  Now through Jesus, who is our wisdom, we have contact with the tree of life, and can look forward to a future day where we will be with God again in a glorious garden in the new heavens and the new earth.

 

3:19-20 shows us again that wisdom matters to God and was used in creation (Proverbs 8, John 1).  Creation is ordered.  It is not random.  The fact that God created all things is why we are able to discover the logic and wisdom of how things work in the world in the realm of science and medicine. Recognizing wisdom in creation should make us want to pursue this wisdom and to study creation.  In the past Christians were often leaders in medical and scientific discoveries, and I believe we need to encourage believers to pursue being the best scientists and researchers.

 

The last section, Proverbs 3:21-35, unpacks what it looks like to trust God with all your life.  God’s wisdom provides personal safety (3:21-26).  Ray Ortlund writes, “As we grow in wisdom God protects us from the land mines that sin has hidden in the world.”  In addition, v. 26 reminds us the Lord will be our confidence and companion protecting us.  This idea is throughout the Bible and culminates in the incarnation of Jesus who is with us no matter what we face (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5).

 

In Proverbs 3:28-35, we see the marriage of worship and ethics. How we treat others is a prime indicator of how we view God and of who/what we truly worship. 1 John 4:20 says,

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brothers, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” 

This proverb calls us to love our neighbor.  Ray Ortlund has a helpful summary: We are to help our needy neighbor, protect our innocent neighbor, and avoid our violent neighbor.  In a culture of life where wisdom is valued people will help each other as much as possible.  We will protect and trust our neighbors. Trust is the glue that holds relationships and communities together.  When trust is broken it can take a long time to rebuild the trust that was lost. Lastly, wise people steer clear of trouble makers and violent people.  It can often seem like violent or evil people are getting ahead in the world which can tempt us to follow their behavior. The psalmist often cried out about this apparent success.  But 3:34 is translated this way in the Septuagint (the Old Testament written in Greek and quoted in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5):

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

 

Wisdom fosters an abiding trust in the Lord that emboldens us to love others.

Wisdom fosters a proper humility as we know and fear the Lord in all his beauty and holiness and understand our own limitations and tendency to self-trust and self-reliance.  

 

If we want to experience life to its fullest, we must trust the Lord, with our whole heart and our whole life and only the wise will do so.

 

 

If only we had a GPS for our spiritual life…well maybe not.

By: Dan Seale

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Before GPS, if you were driving and became lost you would be faced with the decision to try to drive your way out of your lostness or to stop and ask directions.  More often than not trying to drive your way out of your lostness ended up in becoming more lost.  With the advent of GPS, we are told when and where to turn and also warned of accidents and traffic jams so that we can arrive at our destination faster.  It seems the worst-case scenario is we miss a turn or start heading in the wrong direction and GPS tell us to make a U-turn and get back on the right path. There is no such device for our walk with God. 

There is a sense in which God does provide a road map through His law and wisdom and leading by the Spirit but we are not given second by second directions to navigate life nor would most of us truly want that.  Too often through our own folly or rebellion we end up lost and headed away from God and His design for us. Too often pride, guilt, shame, and fear of rejection and fear of consequences keep us from asking for help from God or from others who love us. And if we are honest there are times when we love our sin more than we desire to return to following God. 

What do we do when we find ourselves in trouble having ignored God and His wisdom?

We need to return to God which in biblical terms is faith and repentance.  We may also need to ask for help from friends and experts if we find ourselves really lost and disabled on the side of the road due to our sin or others – but that’s a topic for another day.

Today I want to share some insights on repentance that I gathered in my studies preparing for the sermon on Proverbs 1 &2 that didn’t make it into the sermon. 

If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.

Proverbs 1:23

We have a choice (If you turn). We can turn back to the Lord and get back on the right path and he will guide and direct us or we can choose to stay on the path of folly and reject God’s wisdom, thus rejecting God himself.  The heart of repentance is returning to God.

We are faced with a choice and Proverbs often helps clarify those choices.

You can choose to experience the pain of change or live with the pain of regret.

Which will you choose?

In 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, Paul distinguishes between worldly sorrow and godly grief which leads to repentance.  How can you tell which is which?  Both tend to produce tears.  Both seem to have sadness for the damage that has taken place. Only time can help you distinguish the difference between the two. Initially they can look the same.  We can mistake being sorry for being repentant.

Let’s say Adam sins against me.  How can I tell if Adam is repentant or just sorry he got caught?  With just worldly sorrow Adam will feel sadness and regret for the harm that he caused and for the consequences and fall out, but his focus will be more on himself than on me and how his actions harmed me.

Worldly sorrow sheds tears over the pain I am feeling more than crying over the pain I have inflicted.

Over time godly sorrow leads to repentance so that Adam takes full responsibility for his words or actions.  He doesn’t try to blame me or circumstances, or rationalize and defend himself, or lie, minimize or deny what he did.  Godly repentance leads Adam to make amends not just in words but in new obedience.  Adam will endure the appropriate consequences of his actions without complaint having been humbled before God enabling him to keep his mouth shut and not defend or minimize his sinful actions.

Words do not immediately restore broken relationships. New behaviors restore trust.

However, this is still not a full orbed repentance.  True repentance recognizes the pardon of God. We must turn away from looking at our sin to looking at Christ, so that His grace can enable us to repent and believe.  True repentance is a gift of God as he melts our heart and draws us back to him. Repentance is a return to God and life marked by the light of God in our lives.

Here are several marks of repentance from 2 Cor. 7:8-11

1.     Earnestness – serious attitude about sin– before indifferent & careless to sin

2.     Eagerness to clear themselves – not self-defense – BUT rectifying their faults – deal with the cause of their sin lest they be found guilty again

3.     Indignation – vexation/frustration with themselves

4.     Alarm / fear – fear – awakened conscience and seeing they are under the discipline of God

5.     Longing – longing for things to be right with God and others –

6.     Concern / zeal – restoration to Christ and the body of Christ – zealous to obey Paul and God’s commands

Repentance is comprehensive. It impacts our emotions but extends to every aspect of our being.  Repentance means the whole of life returning to the purpose of God.

The paradox – as faith deepens and brings new levels of joy and assurance, so also repentance deepens, bringing ever more profound an awareness of our need of Christ.

We may not have a spiritual GPS but we have something greater, a living vital union and communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  May God by his grace and mercy continue to work deep faith and repentance in us for His glory and our good.

Wise Living: A study of the book of Proverbs

By: Dan Seale

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This week we began our journey through the Book of Proverbs.  We will be working our way through this book from now through the summer.  While we may be familiar with a few of the pithy sayings, few of us know the purpose of the book of Proverbs or are skilled in how to properly use it in our pursuit of God. 

Proverbs is not about a little self-improvement to have a better life.  Proverbs is about your ultimate choices that are revealed in your small choices.  Proverbs is about life and death.

The big question is, “Will you pursue and listen to God’s words to you and find security and peace, or will you refuse to listen to Him, chart your own course and ultimately find calamity?”

These topical sermons could be a great opportunity to invite believing and non-believing friends to church to find wisdom for living with regard to parenting, words, anger, laziness, forgiveness, family, work, sex, finances and much more.

Here are some helpful resources to help orient you to literary genre of wisdom literature as well as how to read the book of Proverbs and how it can serve as a mini-guide to life.

Wisdom Literature – a 5 minute video

How to read Proverbs – an 8 minute video

A mini-guide to life – a 5 minute read from Tim Keller 

I am looking forward to our journey to seek wisdom together as a family of faith.

Pastor Dan

 

1 Corinthians 1:26-34

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”