The Mouth as a Well

February 12, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:11 (NKJV)
11 The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

After Ishmael mocked the young child Isaac, he and his mother Hagar were cast out of Abraham’s tent and wandered for a time in the wilderness. Soon their skin of water was used up and the two were dying of thirst. So Hagar placed Ishmael under a shrub and went away from him a short distance lest she see him die. Then she lifted up her voice and wept.

The Angel of the Lord heard their cry. He spoke to Hagar. “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She filled her waterskin with water, and gave the lad a drink and they lived. This well in the wilderness was a well of life.

As that well in the wilderness was to Hagar – preserving her life, rejuvenating her strength, and restoring her hope – so is the mouth of the righteous to those who hear him. The mouth of the righteous is a well of life. As those who live in a fallen world, the paths we travel are often dry and thirsty. We face doubts, discouragements, disappointments, and even death. Scattered throughout the world are wells, put there by God to refresh our souls. As a follower of Christ, you are to be one of those wells. Paul commands you, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph 4:29). Be a well of life.

Because wells are so precious in the wilderness, because they are the only places where one can obtain water, they were often chosen as a place of ambush. Thieves and marauders would prey upon unsuspecting travelers, pillaging their property and often taking their lives. Wells were often places of violence.

So too are the mouths of many. Violence covers the mouth of the wicked. Travelers come seeking water, seeking refreshment on the journey. But what they find instead is violence. They are confronted by bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, filthiness, foolish talking, and coarse jesting. Their souls are ravaged, their hope diminished, their dignity destroyed.

So what are you? Are you a well of life? Or are you a bandit? Do your words bring refreshment, strength, and hope? Or do they rob others of dignity and hope? How do you speak to your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your neighbors, and your friends? Do you build up or do you destroy? The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

Reminded of our calling to use our mouths to bring life to others, let us confess that we often use them to bite and devour and destroy. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

He who winks the eye

February 4, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations

Proverbs 10:10 (NKJV)
10 He who winks with the eye causes trouble, And a prating fool will fall.

The sin highlighted in our text today is that of the troublemaker or schemer – the one who plots against others because he boasts in his own strength. He winks with the eye, causing trouble for others perhaps by signaling to his compatriots to execute their plot against the innocent. He has no regard for the law of God but instead delights to air his own opinions. He is a prating fool.

These figures of “winking the eye” and “a prating mouth” are fairly common in Proverbs. For example, Solomon describes the wicked man in Proverbs 6:12-15:

A worthless person, a wicked man, Walks with a perverse mouth; He winks with his eyes, He shuffles his feet, He points with his fingers; Perversity is in his heart, He devises evil continually, He sows discord. Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.

Notice Solomon’s description of the gestures that characterize the wicked man: his mouth speaks perversely, he winks with the eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with the fingers – in other words, he is shifty and unreliable, he is a schemer and a plotter, he refuses to accept responsibility for his own sin, pointing at others as though he is the victim. So why do these things characterize him? Because perversity is in his heart. His fundamental problem is that he is alienated from God. Consequently, because he is alienated from God, his actions are evil. He devises evil continually, He sows discord. The one who winks the eye sows discord among brothers, exaggerates faults, and plots destruction.

What all this indicates is that God despises the plotter and the schemer. God despises the one who uses his mouth and his eyes to cause trouble rather than to bless. Consequently, the troublemaker shall fall. God will bring him down – whether through humbling him or humiliating him or exposing him or destroying him.

So what of you? God has given you the gift of eyes – are you using them to plot evil or to accomplish good? God has given you the gift of a mouth – are you using it to cause trouble or to bring peace? Are you shifty? Are you a troublemaker? Do you constantly point the finger at others, portraying yourself as the victim, meanwhile winking at your compatriots who know the truth? If this is you then hear God’s warning: you shall fall. God will bring you down. So cease blaming others and confess your own sin.

Reminded of the high calling that God has placed upon our eyes and our mouths, let us acknowledge that we often misuse them to dishonor God and to injure our neighbor rather than to bless him. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so.

Babies, Baptism, and the Kingdom of God

January 28, 2018 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Luke, Children, Parents

Luke 18:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Then they also brought infants to [Jesus] that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

Today I have the privilege of baptizing Mary Anna Joy Bryan. Since the baptism of infants is a relatively uncommon practice in the evangelical church, I usually like to offer a brief explanation. Why baptize babies?

The answer to that question is implied in our text today. When various followers of Jesus brought their infants to Jesus that He might bless them, the disciples rebuked them. They were convinced that these infants were a distraction, an inconvenience, a burden and that Jesus’ work was far too important to be disturbed by them. But Jesus insists that this mindset is deeply mistaken.

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them…” This “Let” is not one of allowance but of command. In other words, Jesus orders His disciples, “You must permit the children to come… it is your duty to permit them to come…” And who are these children? They are not children capable of bringing themselves, capable of running to Jesus or vocally confessing His Name. These are infants, brephos, nursing babes.

So why should infants be brought to Jesus? Jesus answers: for of such is the kingdom of God. In other words, God lays claim to the babies of believers and calls them His own, calls them by His Name. Therefore, they should be brought to Him. So how does God mark us out as His own? How does He place His Name upon us? In baptism. We are baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is God’s testimony: you are mine! Therefore, since God claims our children, it is fitting that we bring them to Him for baptism into His Name.

And as we bring these children to the waters of baptism, they teach us an important lesson. Jesus declares, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom as a little child will by no means enter it.” And how do these infants receive the kingdom? Helplessly, passively, dependently. So even as Mary Anna must be brought to Jesus by her parents in order for her to be blessed by Him, so you must be brought to Jesus by the Spirit in order for you to be blessed by Him. Her very dependency reminds us that we are in need of God’s grace to bring us spiritual life and blessing.

Integrity vs. Duplicity

January 28, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification

Proverbs 10:9 (NKJV)
9 He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known.

Hypocrisy is a deep and troubling sin. It is a type of lying or duplicity – saying one thing with one’s mouth but living in a completely different fashion. It is this sin of hypocrisy or duplicity that Solomon confronts in Proverbs 10:9 – He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known.

On the positive side is the man or woman who walks with integrity. This describes the one who walks uprightly and who behaves in private in the same way he speaks publicly – that person walks securely. The one who walks with integrity doesn’t have to worry about what happens when his parents look at his internet history; he doesn’t have to worry when his wife looks at his phone records; he doesn’t have to worry when his accounts are audited. Why not? Because he has nothing to hide. What he is publicly, that he is privately – and the public image is one God approves.

On the negative side is the man or woman who perverts his ways. This is the one who speaks peace with his lips but has war in his heart; the one who hides his desires and schemes behind a smiling face. That person, Solomon tells us, will become known. Though he deletes his internet history; though he is careful to make sure no one is at home to catch him; though he soothes his conscience, saying, “No one will know,” God knows and God will expose him in the end. As Jesus warns us, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Lk 8:17). The truth will out.

The prophet Isaiah gives us a colorful description of the man of integrity whose way is secure. He writes, “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, He who despises the gain of oppressions, Who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, Who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, And shuts his eyes from seeing evil: He will dwell on high; His place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; Bread will be given him, His water will be sure” (33:15-16).

So what of you? Are you walking in integrity? Are you carefully observing what God desires and commands? Are you willing to let those you respect look at your play list, your movie choices, and your internet history? Or are you perverting your way? Are you hiding? Are you dissembling? Be sure that God will find you out – so before that happens, confess your sin and make things right. Give up your hypocrisy and deceit.

Reminded of our calling to confess our sins to the Lord and to forsake them in fear of Him, reminded that we need His forgiving grace to restore us to fellowship with Him and His empowering grace to free us from our own perversity, let us confess our sins to the Lord and seek His favor. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so.

Abortion and the Law

January 21, 2018 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Confession

Exodus 21:22-25 (ESV)
22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, appointed such to mark the anniversary of the diabolical Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. For 45 years now our nation has given legal sanction to the murder and dismemberment of the unborn, the most vulnerable members of our society. The death toll has now topped 60 million in the United States alone and, through our influence on the rest of the world, many millions more than that. Our hands are covered with the blood of innocents and God is and will continue to exact vengeance upon us as a people for our evil.

In contrast with our law which does not recognize the personhood of the unborn child, the case law in Exodus 21 clearly identifies the unborn child as a person and affords that child protection under the law. Consider the opening admonition. Verse 22 declares: When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.

Note, first, that this law recognizes the personhood of the unborn. The ESV accurately captures the Hebrew and identifies the baby or babies in the mother’s womb as her “children” – not her property, nor her bodily tissue, but her children.

Second, note that this legal protection fosters a culture that honors pregnant women and the life they carry. This law specifically addresses incidental or accidental injury to a pregnant woman or her child. If two people are striving with one another and, in their striving, hit a pregnant woman, then they are held guilty for their action. God so honors the life-giving woman that it is a crime to strike her incidentally and precipitate her delivery. Those who do so are culpably irresponsibile. And note that this is the case even if no harm happens to the woman or child – if they strike her so that her children come out but there is no harm, then they shall pay as the husband demands and the court allows. In other words, God demands that people honor a pregnant woman by restraining their rage in her presence.

Finally, note that the Scripture adds additional consequences in cases when harm does occur. Verse 23 declares, if there is harm, then you shall pay. If there is harm – harm to whom, we ask? The woman or the child? Yes. The ambiguity of the text indicates that both woman and child are protected by the law. And what shall be paid? The lex talionis is applied: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Biblical law protects the mother and her unborn child.

We see, therefore, how perverse our law has become. And because our law refuses to protect the unborn, our honor for life generally has regressed. As God’s people, our calling is to reverse this trend by loving pregnant women, loving the unborn, and loving little ones. So thank God for the baby showers, for the regular prayers, for the love of life. May these continue. And, children, we have many pregnant women in our midst. You need to exercise care when you are running around lest you accidentally hit them. And, parents, you need to train your children to recognize and honor those who are with child.

And so reminded this morning that God honors and protects the women who bear children and the children themselves, let us confess that we have betrayed the unborn and that we are guilty as a people. And as we confess, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord.

The Prating Fool Will Fall

January 14, 2018 in Authority, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Children, Meditations, Parents, Tongue

Proverbs 10:8 (NKJV)
8 The wise in heart will receive commands, But a prating fool will fall.

Wisdom is a commodity that has often been in short supply. Praise God, therefore, that the Spirit whom the Father poured out upon Jesus and whom Jesus pours out upon His people is, according to the prophet Isaiah, “the Spirit of wisdom…” (Is 11:2). Hence, Paul prays for the Ephesians that “Father of glory may give to you the Spirit of wisdom…” (Eph 1:17). God pours out His Spirit upon the Church in order that we might become more wise.

So how does the Spirit grow us in wisdom, how does He impart His wisdom to us? One of the chief ways He does so is through instruction in the Word of God including the Proverbs of Solomon. The Proverbs guide and teach us that we might be full of wisdom; that we might govern our lives in a way that glorifies and honors our Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of hosts. So today Solomon gives us one of the evidences of wisdom: The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.

There are two parts to Solomon’s exhortation. First, Solomon tells us that the Spirit of wisdom teaches the wise to receive commands. In the words of James, the brother of our Lord, the wise in heart is”quick to hear” (Jas 1:19). The wise in heart recognizes that God has created a world in which there are proper authorities – parents, elders, employers, bosses, governors, kings, etc. Hence, the wise in heart receives commands, he listens to what these authorities tell him and, so far as he is able, he honors and obeys them in the fear of God.

Solomon contrasts the wise in heart with the prating fool. Who is a prating fool? To “prate” is “to talk much and without substance”; it is to “talk tediously about something.” The prating fool, therefore, is one who is so fond of his own opinions and desires that he refuses to listen to others. He goes on and on and on and on, sure that he is the fount of wisdom, knowledge, and instruction. He is not, in James’ words, quick to hear and slow to speak. No, the prating fool is so fond of his own opinions that he refuses to listen to instruction and he will fall. Why? Because the prating fool is proud and God is opposed to the proud.

The wise in heart will receive commands, But a prating fool will fall. Solomon’s words have particular relevance for the young. One of the great temptations of youth – listen up you teens – is to refuse to listen to your parents and instead to blather on about your own opinions. “Mom, I shouldn’t have to walk the dog because it is Susie’s turn to walk the dog and it isn’t fair that I’m always walking the dog and sometime last week Georgie stole my pencil and I think that I sprained my ankle last night and…” That is an example of a prating fool. But the wise in heart knows that when mom gives a command, it is time to be quiet and obey.

But Solomon’s words apply not only to the young; they apply to all. Solomon tells us that the wise in heart is humble, the wise in heart knows how to submit. So, wives, do you receive the commands of your husband? He is your lawful authority, do you listen to him? Men, do you receive the commands of your employers, bosses, and elders? They are your lawful authorities, do you listen to them? You see the same temptations that confront teens, also confront you. Do you too make excuses for your pride, are you too a prating fool, or are you wise in heart, humble, and inclined to receive commands?

And so reminded that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble, gives grace to those who receive commands, let us confess that we have often been proud and refused to receive commands. And as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Today the Bridegroom Claims His Bride

January 7, 2018 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Church Calendar, Liturgy, Meditations

Isaiah 49:6 – Indeed [the Lord] says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany means “revelation.” On this Sunday, therefore, we celebrate God’s wonderful mercy in revealing His Son to the world. Historically, Epiphany has been associated with three distinct yet related events: the coming of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding at Cana. Each of these events reveals Christ in a unique way.

Consider, first, the coming of the Magi. The Magi were a powerful class within the Persian Empire – wise men, counselors, astrologers who were often the power behind the throne. What is perhaps most significant is that while Herod, the King of the Jews, plotted Jesus’ destruction, these Gentile rulers sought Him out and bowed before Him, acknowledging Him as God’s King. God revealed His Son to these Gentile rulers; they were the first fruits among the Gentiles.

Even as God revealed His Son to the Magi, He also revealed His Son to the world in His baptism. In the waters of the Jordan, Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry; He was washed in water to identify with His people and prepare the way for our forgiveness. As Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven declared, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. God revealed His Son to the watching world.

Finally, God revealed the identity of His Son at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This was the first sign that Jesus performed after His temptation in the wilderness. As Jesus entered upon His earthly ministry, He turned water into wine and, in the words of the Apostle John, revealed His glory – revealed that He was indeed God’s Anointed King, come to rescue His bride, and to shed His own blood for her that He might restore to her the joy of salvation and celebration.

Epiphany, therefore, is a day of revelation, a day when God demonstrates how determined He has been to eliminate our excuses for rejecting His Son and refusing His love. As one of the ancient blessings for Epiphany announced, “Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.”

So what of you? Have you given heed to God’s revelation of Himself in Christ and acknowledged Him as God’s Son? Have you rejoiced in His coming and brought your gifts before Him? Have you rejoiced that God has revealed Himself to you and to the world? If you have done all these things, then thanks be to God! So one more question: have you then, in turn, been another means of God’s revelation of Himself to the world? It is to this that Epiphany calls us – to reveal Christ to the watching world.

Reminded of our calling to receive the revelation of God in Christ and to be the revelation of Christ to the world, let us bow before our Christ, confess our sins, and rejoice in His mercy.

Man as Male and Female – Repost

January 2, 2018 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Greek Gods, Homosexuality, Human Condition, Image of God, Truth

Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is only a dim reflection of the truly significant world, the world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.

The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For you see, there is only one perfect form for the myriad objects in the world. There is one perfect circle to which all our circles approximate. There is one perfect chair, one perfect triangle, one perfect human. And it is this latter observation that got things going the wrong way. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the human form was male – and the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.

The implications of this for Greek practice were many. First, the Greek acceptance of the perversion of sodomy and homosexuality was born out of this mistaken notion. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another?

Second, women were degraded and viewed as a lesser form of human since they were further from the form. And the more like men women became the more human they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like men.

Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we start traveling down the Platonic sewer pipe, Moses informs us that by man he means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God.

So what does this mean? First, men, it means that the women whom God has placed in our lives – wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, etc. – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women. God created them to be women and He intends to teach us about Himself through the women in our lives. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Second, women, it means that the men whom God has placed in your lives – husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, etc. – have been put there to teach you about Him. They, in company with you, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as men. God created us to be men and He intends to teach you about Himself through the men in your lives. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Reminded that we often fail to learn the lessons that we are supposed to learn from the opposite sex, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The New Has Come!

December 31, 2017 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Faith, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we prepare to enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So who is this God to whom Paul is giving glory? He is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads. God’s power is infinite. He is Almighty God. Dream big.

Second, Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, then the omnipotent God, who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. As we will see in Psalm 37 today, God’s favor is toward His own and the meek shall inherit the earth.

You see, Paul wants the Ephesians to grow in wisdom and maturity and the way we grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done and is doing and promises yet to do for us in Christ. So note that Paul gives glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus. Note that the glory to God is by Christ Jesus – Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Glory to God by Christ Jesus.

But note that this glory that is by Christ Jesus is in the Church. In other words, Paul wants glory to abound to God’s Name in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of Satan and his minions when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop. God wants to display the wonder and the power of His grace in your life. Are you looking for a proof that God exists? Look for it as you grow in faith and godly character.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ, those urges are from the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord on the cusp of a New Year, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.