#P5: Speak Truth Wisely

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.” Proverbs 26:4-5, NASB

This is, perhaps, one of my favorite proverbs. Before I offer my reflection, it is important to remind us of two things: First, this is the Word of God. It is inspired in every detail, sufficient for our lives and perfect in what it says. Secondly, accepting it (and everything else in the world) at face value is difficult and the difficult increases as the Word teaches things that are further and further from our cultural acceptance.

For example, 60 years ago, declaring that homosexuality was an abomination before God…sin in every respect and instance and absolutely wrong no matter the context was a more easily accepted truth. Where homosexuality occurred, it was still considered taboo and generally was hidden from sight. Today, homosexuality is a protected behavior in America and is becoming in many cases, a protected activity with “hate crimes” treatment for those who speak against it. The “coming out” is celebrated in our culture. Accepting biblical truth (which was the same 60 years ago as it is today) is more difficult today because it is increasingly outside of the mainstream.

Now, back to the verses. Our culture celebrates freedom of thought and values “tolerance” over truth as though tolerance were the ultimate ideal and indicator of enlightenment. So, no matter how “foolish” a statement sounds, the culturally appropriate response in no response or affirmation of the foolishness…at least as a valid personal opinion. The Word of God teaches differently. It says AUTHORITATIVELY that to accept foolishness without rebuttal or to affirm foolishness as valid on some level makes you a fool. You share in the foolishness because you did not speak up.

Furthermore, v.5 tells us to ANSWER the fool with truth lest he continue in his foolish mindset and be righteous in his own eyes. The first step to recovery is to admit there is a problem. Allowing someone to persist in their foolishness masks the problem and consigns them to destructive living.

Is this easy? Not really (depending on what you mean by easy) but it is loving. In fact, one of the most UNLOVING things you can do is watch a fool continue in his foolishness without speaking up…or worse still…telling him it is okay to believe (affirming him) in whatever he wants. Ultimately, whether we choose to accept it or not, God’s standard is still the only standard we will be measured by and it is the only one that give us abundant life.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Only God

Pastor's Five P5 logoIn the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments, God set out the expectations of His Covenant with His People. Topping the list: “You shall have no other gods before my face.”

It is one thing to declare that we worship God alone. It may be a different matter altogether in the way we demonstrate that. The psalmist gives us a great example of what it is to worship God alone.

“…This I know, that God is for me…In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:9b, 11, NASB.

“For God is my stronghold. My God in His lovingkindness will meet me; God will let me look triumphantly on my foes. Do not slay them, or my people will forget; scatter them by Your power, and bring them down, O Lord, our shield.” Psalm 59:9b-11, NASB.

These two statements from the Psalms give us insight into two critical truths for our lives. David trusted in God. This was not only belief, it was actionable belief. IOW…it was true belief. He did not worship on Sunday declaring “How Great is our God,” and then cry out on Monday that he had no idea how to pay the power bill. His actions were a confession of worship. David did not look about for a rescuer. He rested in the One who had rescued him from his mother’s womb.

I think the last verse I shared drives that home for me. My paraphrase: “God will give me victory over my adversaries. Do not kill them or the people will soon forget your powerful deliverance. Cause my enemy’s defeat and scatter them but allow them to live (so they can try again one day if they choose). We do not fear or lack trust in God, for You are our shield.”

David desired that God would deliver but he equally desired that he and the people would never lose their dependence on the Deliverer, that is God. God save us, but do not destroy our enemies, just be our shield whom we NEED, lest we become complacent. Keep us on our TOES by allowing the enemy to persist.

STOP THE PRESSES! Could God not destroy the devil and all of His minions today with a blast from His nostril? Certainly! If He did though…would there be anything that drove us to God? Only if we are good to the core of our being…which we are not. We’d soon forget the benevolent act of our Father and chart our own course away from God…but God, who is rich in mercy and who is all-knowing, is ultimately able to shield us from all of the schemes of the enemy…if we trust only in Him!

In this way, we gain insight into a purpose for evil. It reminds us of our impotence against its sway and drives us back to the cross and the God who chose the cross to save us. God is our ever-present help in time of need.

Worship only God. Not a statement of philosophy but a recipe for how we live out our faith and faithful worship every day.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Offering

Pastor's Five P5 logo“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble’ I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:14-15, NASB.

I would encourage the reading of Psalm 50 several times over. Why? It answers the question that many ask in their hearts and it is the wedge issue that the enemy uses to derail disciples from abundant life. How so?

In this psalm we are reminded that God has no needs. He does not need sacrifices. He does not have a self-image issue whereby He needs worshippers. He is not hungry or thirsty and He does not fret over the condition of the world. In these verses, He addresses an underlying idea that people were doing God “a solid” by bringing sacrifices to Him. [This resonates in my spirit because I saw this attitude prevailing as I explored the altars in India to the Hindu gods. Some brought milk to the gods. Some brought food. All did these things to somehow evoke gladness and kindness from the god so that their prayers would be answered.

In this psalm, God states that if he was hungry, He’d get something Himself from the earth which is already His (50:11-13). Yet, He commends and even commanded the offering of sacrifices at the Temple. Does God not know that these things were costly to the ones giving the sacrifice? Of course He knows!

Vv.14-15 set the sacrifices in context. Give God a sacrifice of thanksgiving. He has no need but we NEED to express our thankfulness to God. In doing so, we acknowledge our dependence on Him. This faithful acknowledgment is necessary for our right relationship to God. Any other posture apart from dependence is offensive to Holy God. He alone is God. He has no needs because He alone meets needs.

In v.15 He states such. Call upon Me…I will rescue you…you will honor Me. We do not honor Him to curry favor so that He will rescue us. Not even close!

When we worship through bringing offerings to God we are making a statement. We are thankful for God’s provision. We honor the God who gives life and sustains us. He is WORTHY culminating in our response of WORTH-SHIP “worship.”

So, what if a friend gave your child 100 jelly beans and your child said thank you but would not share? You’d say that the child was “stingy” or “self-absorbed” or “selfish.” You would know that the child was not thankful at all for the gracious gift she received.

Is not the same principle as easy to understand…when we the children of God do not share back to God a generous portion of what He provided to us? He is God! He did not need to give us anything. We could not have it apart from His gift. And yet…we wimper and cry when handing Him a few jelly beans…or we argue that we cannot spare any jelly beans because we have bills! Do any of those surprise God? Absolutely not!!!

So today…be thankful. Give away what God has poured out on you. Give it away because God loaned it to you so that you would be a conduit and not merely a container of His gracious gifts.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Gone and Forgotten

Pastor's Five P5 logo“For he sees that even wise men die; the stupid and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses are forever and their dwelling places to all generations; they have called their lands after their own names. But man in his pomp will not endure; he is like the beasts that perish.” Psalm 49:10-12, NASB.

Might I just begin and say that the songs in the psalms (like this one today) would not win many grammys in today’s culture. The truth though is eternal.

The psalmist here reminds us that the things which man seeks as valuable and values as ultimate in this life are at best- transitory. If I could restate this in SC vernacular- “When you die, and you will, someone will divide your stuff and squander your wealth. Nothing will remain of it.”

As harsh as that appears, we are wise to consider it and allow it to permeate the deepest recesses of our hearts. Truthfully, if our entire purpose for existing is tied up in what we can accumulate and what we can name for ourselves in this life, we will be forgotten soon after our last breath on this earth.

Those who have true legacies, are those that live for something beyond this life. They dedicate their lives to knowing Christ and to making Him known throughout the earth. How can I say that with certainty and authority? Because apart from God Himself, only two things are eternal, the Word of God and the souls of men.

The only reasonable conclusion then for a man seeking to have a real legacy is to invest in that which transcends this temporal existence. Tell someone about Jesus’ love. Make disciples. Live in the will of God. Teach your kids to love God supremely. Lean on the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Ultimately, this is all that matters.

Shalom, CA

#P5: Nothing Hidden

Pastor's Five P5 logo“If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hand to  strange god, would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” Psalm 44:20-21, NASB.

What would it take for us to be ashamed? That is a moving target these days. What would have evoked shame 20 years ago if it was discovered is a great Facebook post or Instagram image today. A “rule of thumb” I share with folks at times is, “What would you think if your mother walked in the room and saw___?” If it would leave you looking for a place to hide, then you might rethink doing it at all.

It is one thing to be potentially embarrassed by our parents learning a secret about us…but what about God? Is there no shame as it relates to God? I think one of the unintended consequences of trying so hard to present God as our “relatable friend” who never judges us but loves us where we are and for who we are…is we have blunted the edge of His piercing gaze, at least in our own minds.

Is there though, anything that God does not see or discern perfectly? Is there any movement in God’s holy standard? If it was wrong 500 years ago or 5 minutes ago it will still be wrong 5 days from now or 5,000 years from now. God’s standard does not change!

Recently a “minister” at a church in Alabama announced that “she” was going to start performing gay marriage ceremonies as part of her ministry as a Baptist minister. She feels that the “old views” were wrong and that her new understanding of what God blesses is more culturally appropriate. When did we as the people of God get to redefine who God is and what God approves of? Even if I agreed with this woman, I could not claim that God does. There is no evidence to support the assertion and every evidence to contradict it! How could I CLAIM to represent God by affirming something God denies?

The same argument could and should be made against ministers of old that held to the inequality of the races and used Bible verses to affirm the proper and even “god-ordained” subjugation of the races (other than their own of course).

The same could be stated against any and every rebellious act by a Christian. Every page view of porn, every drunken moment, every angry outburst, every lie on your taxes…all of these things by someone wearing a Christian t-shirt should evoke shame in the misrepresentation of our Lord’s position on these matters.

In the verses I referenced above, the psalmist reminds us that every neglect of worship or action of false worship is seen and recorded by God who never misses a thing.

So, not what your mother might see…but what is there in your life and conduct that God sees that His knowing causes you great shame or embarrassment? With THAT THING, here are two prescribed actions: STOP DOING IT…and RUN TO THE CROSS for God’s forgiveness and God’s help to never again do something that shames the name of God.

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Stop

Pastor's Five P5 logo“I said, ‘I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.’ “ Psalm 39:1, NASB.

Most of the sins we commit with our words are not sins of omission (we failed to speak) but are sins of commission (we spoke when we should not have).

Much is said through the Scripture about “filtering” our words because our language is directly connected to our discipline and holiness. A man who cannot bridle his tongue must not even consider himself religious, James indicates.

I wonder how much less we’d say and how much more it would mean if we were cautious to say only that which was useful for building up the Body of Christ? (This includes both affirmation and correction).

Shalom, CA.

#P5: Eyes on the Horizon

Pastor's Five P5 logo” I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken of his descendants begging bread. All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing.” Psalm 37:25-26, NASB.

One of the things that I love about wise, old men is that they have learned to not get too excited over the skirmishes that go on around them. They keep their focus on the endgame.

Take sports. Fans (and even young players) watch a sporting event (particularly in HS or college) and get fired up over every call or every interception or every dropped pass. It is as if there were 2 seconds on the clock and that play just lost the game! You can see it at times with outbursts of disgust. When the cameras cut to the sidelines, the Defensive line coach (who is paid to be the crazy guy) is purple in the face and spitting and sputtering over the play. Cut to the head coach…he is calmly talking into his headset and calling in the next series.

What’s the difference? The line coach knows the game is a series of plays. Each one builds on the other. The head coach knows the game is 60 minutes. It isn’t over until the last “zero-zero” on the clock.

This is David’s point. I was young, now I’m old. Stuff happens. I’ve never seen it turn out bad for righteous people in the end. They may lose a few in the journey but they ultimately prevail.

Now every play is important. I get it. But, it is the result at the end that is remembered, not the nuances of each individual play along the way. Wise, old men get it. Be a wise old man…regardless of your age.

If you are a child of God, the final score has already been published. Is there reason to have angst over the individual plays you’re engaged in right now? Probably not.

Shalom, CA