It’s a Thanksgiving Sermon, Charlie Brown

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Do you have any holiday traditions? I haven’t been to a family thanksgiving get-together in a while, but I imagine things like watching football with my uncles, if there was no snow – maybe playing horseshoes, and of course my aunt’s delicious pies. Family would gather in different areas of my aunt and uncle’s home and talk and catch-up. When I was really young, my sister and I would play games with our cousins – “Chutes and Ladders” and “Chinese checkers” were some of my favorites. One thing that we would do once we got home that night…if we hadn’t missed watching it on TV was the “Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” Special. Originally broadcast in 1973, this family favorite was such a tradition for so many families, TV stations just had to play it on Thanksgiving. Of course now, we have it on blu-ray but back in the day the best you could do was to record it on your VHS tape and watch it back next year…commercials and all.

Jacki, the girls and I watch this on Thanksgiving and the story is a typical Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang cartoon. (You can get a bit of side-shenanigans from Snoopy and Woodstock as well.)

Today I wanted to reflect on the biblical topic of giving thanks and use this film as a frame of reference. If you haven’t watched it yet: spoiler alert! The movie’s been out for 48 years! What have you been waiting for? 

The word “Thanksgiving” begs the question:

Thankful for what?

I’m sure if Charles M. Shultz was still alive, he’d be thankful people still watch and enjoy his creations. What might Charlie Brown be thankful for?

In the film, Charlie and his sister Sally are going over to their grandmother’s for Thanksgiving meal. They’re just kids! They probably don’t need to do anything other than show up. 

Question: Have you ever been invited to something and felt like you needed to do something, bring something…contribute in some way to justify your invitation? 

IF your answer is yes, then I have news for you: you don’t have to do ANYTHING.

Just like Charlie and Sally, guests aren’t required to do anything other than show up and enjoy the meal set before them. Now perhaps Sally and Charlie helped and maybe there was an expectation of everyone pitching in…but all we know for sure was that they were invited to enjoy a meal on Thanksgiving day. And when you receive something, especially one you did nothing to earn or deserve – (like a thanksgiving meal) Hopefully you respond with thankfulness for what was provided.   

“Dear Lord, thank you for providing this food. Amen.”

You may hear something like that on Thursday. You might hear something like that every time you sit down for a meal. Thankfulness is a response for… 

What has been provided.

Let’s look at a biblical example for a moment

Daniel prayed to God a prayer of thanksgiving for what God had given him. What was that?

Wisdom and Power

“I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:

    You have given me wisdom and power,

you have made known to me what we asked of you,

    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

Daniel 2:23 NIV

So Daniel recognized his wisdom and power were not from his own hard work and determination. He didn’t play his cards right and the result is wisdom and power. Daniel received them as a gift and his response was thankfulness.

In another example, King David was thankful for God’s…

Wonderful Deeds. Psalm 9:1-6 says: 

1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;

    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

2 I will be glad and rejoice in you;

    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.

3 My enemies turn back;

    they stumble and perish before you.

4 For you have upheld my right and my cause,

    sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.

5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;

    you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6 Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,

    you have uprooted their cities;

    even the memory of them has perished.

Psalm 9:1-6 NIV

For context, that selection says that it is set to the tune of “The Death of the Son.” I can’t imagine it would be an upbeat, number one pop song of it’s time. Yet in the midst of sorrow and sadness, David can remember all the good God has done for him. Not only remember it, but verbally recount and give thanks to God for it.

Yet another example comes from Psalm 100.

Psalm 100 isn’t attributed to anyone in particular, but it does have a clear purpose. Before verse 1 it says, “A Psalm. For giving thanks.” This is a tune of worship and thanks to God. It’s shared here in this hymnal called “The book of Psalms.”

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2 Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.”

Psalm 100:1-5 ESV

This psalm was for all to use in their times of giving thanks. Let’s zero in on what this psalm is saying we should be thankful for:

  1. God being good.
  2. God being God.
  3. God having made us.
  4. We are His – (people, sheep)
  5. God’s forever-enduring love
  6. His enduring faithfulness

So we are thankful for what was provided. But that then leads to the next question…

Thankful to Whom? 

In an animated film that could be all about going to grandma’s for Thanksgiving, Something quirky occurs. Charlie gets a call from his friend Peppermint Patty. Through his wishy-washiness and her kind of pushiness, Patty has invited herself over for a thanksgiving meal at Charlie Brown’s house! Charlie has to think fast…since he’d rather not try to uninvite Patty and explain the misunderstanding between the two of them. (I mean, hey! The movie’s got to happen, right?)

So he attempts to come up with a plan. With the help of Linus, Snoopy and Woodstock, Charlie Brown begins making a feast and scheduling it earlier in the day so He and Sally can still go to their Grandmother’s. Patty calls back at one point and has invited Marcie and Franklin to join her at Chea’ Brown. Charlie of course needs to make more food and Snoopy set up more chairs around a very special table.

If you were a guest somewhere, the proper manners dictate that you thank your host. For dinners, it’s who’s providing the meal. In life…with so much to be thankful for you and I thank …

  • The one who provided it. Of course in a biblical context, it should be VERY obvious who we are talking about.

It’s hard to read a verse from the bible about thankfulness, giving praise or thanks and the recipient isn’t God. James had his eyes wide open when he wrote the following: 

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

(James 1:17 NIV)

If God is the ultimate provider, then he is the one who receives thanks, praise, exaltation, and worship. Here’s some more examples from scripture of thanking God:

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Cor 1:4 NIV)

“I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”

(Psalm 7:17 NIV)

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.”

(1 Thes 1:2 NIV)

We know who to thank and there is so much to be thankful for, however…

What if my circumstances…stink?

And now we come back to the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special. Circumstances were rough. Rough for Charlie, with unexpected guests coming for Thanksgiving. For Peppermint Patty who, for the show’s story to happen, her dad left her alone on Thanksgiving. For the friends like Marcie and Franklin who might have been in a similar situation as Patty. No plans with the family. 

We’re not done with “Chuck.” He’s in another rough situation: He doesn’t know how to cook or how to please his guests. What does he do?

He does the BEST a kid can do at his age: Pops some Popcorn, Toasts some bread, Finds the leftover Easter Candy and includes some Jelly Beans and brings in some pretzel sticks for good measure. 

When Charlie Brown’s circumstances stunk, he did what he could.

When our circumstances smell so bad they haven’t taken a shower in years, we do what we can do:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thes 5:16-18 ESV

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

(Phil 4:6-7 NIV)

We bring all these woes, troubles, aches, pains, emotions, loneliness, heart break, inadequacies and lay them at the Lord’s feet. But not just any old way…We just read it. We offer our request to God with thanksgiving. The Manner of giving thanks. The attitude of thankfulness. The belief that the one you are thanking in advance will do what you are thanking him for.

You know who didn’t have a thankful attitude? Peppermint Patty. She invites herself over, she brings two additional guests…and she is displeased (to say the least) with the food that Charlie and the others provided. 

Maybe you’d react the same way. You pull back the cover of the platter for the big juicy turkey and find buttered toast and jelly beans. Where the Green bean casserole is supposed to be, you find those pretzel sticks and popcorn. If you are familiar with Patty’s reaction, She lays into “Chuck” and really complains at him for such a poor choice of food. Charlie Brown leaves the dinner dejected, believing he can never do anything right. Marcie tries to go and smooth things over and Patty and the others apologize for inviting themselves over and Patty for reacting the way she did.

She did not act very thankful. She let her stinky circumstances dictate whether she was going to have a stinky behavior. In the end, forgiveness and restoration occurred when she looked beyond those circumstances.

I think we all have times when our circumstances stink. No one wants to endure the pain of losing a loved one, of a family member being sick. Of a job that’s lost, a home that’s foreclosed on, and a relationship on the rocks. But regardless of our circumstances we can choose how we respond. Will we recognize the good things provided right in front of us? Like brown paper packages tied up with string. We need to thank the one who did the providing. We need to be thankful in all circumstances.

Regardless of our circumstances we can choose how we respond.

Back to the Peanuts Gang. The kids don’t head back outside to the ping-pong table to finish lunch. The phone rings and it’s Charlie Brown’s grandmother. She ends up inviting all of Charlie’s guests. As they ride together in the back of a car, they merrily sing a song. I can only imagine, they sing it with a great deal of thankfulness. Someone thought of and included them. They were heading over the river and through the woods…to Grandma’s house.

Conclusion 

Have you felt left out? Maybe you identify with Patty. You might not tell your friends and family, but you’re lonely. You’d like to be invited. 

  • Even in the midst of those circumstances, you can practice the attitude of Thankfulness. 
  • The only other option is something that comes quite naturally to us: stewing and having a pity party.
  • You never know when you circumstances might change, but if you always have an attitude of thankfulness, sudden shifts in your life won’t phase you.

Maybe you connect with Charlie Brown.

  • You’ve done your best and people are still not thankful for what you provide. 
    • Dwelling on that causes resentment and bitterness to grow. 
  • If you are thankful for the one who provides for your every need, you may not get so worked up about how others react to your best attempts to please them. You might remember it is only what God says about you that matters.

How do we thank God in all circumstances? It may be helpful to join those who have gone before us and sing and pray Psalm 100.  (Read this psalm again to yourself or say it out loud.)

1“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2 Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:1-5 ESV

  • We remember to be thankful for what was provided.
  • Give all thanks to the Provider.
  • And not allow our circumstances to control our ability to be thankful.

Faith Basics: You Gotta Have Faith!

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If you’ve got a bible handy, turn to Hebrews chapter 11. We are continuing on with the series “Faith Basics.” But one thing occurred to me this week. 

All we talked about last week and all we will talk about in the coming weeks are pointless…until you embrace Faith itself. Faith is not a structure of religious practices. Faith is not the manual of the Church of the Nazarene. Faith is believing in what you do not see…what you hope for. What you trust in. All the other basics can be tossed out the window if you don’t have faith. So We need to talk about Faith today. Hebrews 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith.” It’s a grand retelling of the Heroes of the history of the Israelites, but it is framed in such a way to highlight a few things: Who they were (as if the audience didn’t know), what they believed in without seeing, and what was the result. 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1 NIV

The New Living translation puts it this way:

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.” 

Hebrews 11:1 NLT

The reality of what we hope for. It’s the truth that is truth, even if we don’t believe in it. But when we do believe in it without seeing it, that’s what faith looks like.

  1. Faith is the Evidence/assurance of things unseen.
    1. What were the unseen things in these verses?
PersonUnseen ThingResult
AbelGod’s acceptance of his offeringRighteousness
EnochPleased GodTaken without death
NoahFloodFamily Safe
AbrahamFuture home (didn’t know where he was going)Inheritance (land/children)
SarahFaithfulness of GodChild
A Chart of the people, what they believed in without seeing and the result of that.

4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.

Hebrews 11:4 NIV
  • Abel had faith that his offering was going to the God who would accept it. It was a good offering, a better offering than his brother’s. He believed God was worthy of this offering – (“fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock” Gen 4:4b)  

5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”[a] For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.

Hebrews 11:5 NIV

We’ll look at verse 6 in a moment or two, but let’s skip down to verse 7 and Noah.

7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen (Flood), in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

Hebrews 11:7 NIV

Let’s look at verse 8 and Abraham:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 

Hebrews 11:8-10 NIV

Even Abraham’s wife, Sarah, gets in on this Faith thing. Hebrews 11:11

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. 

Hebrews 11:11 NIV

The Hebrews author paints a much nicer picture of Sarah than Genesis, as the Old Testament records that she laughed when she heard that she would have a child. Somewhere down the line, this became the view and the observation of the Hebrews writer. Even though she thought it so funny she giggled, she still hoped and believed and then she had a son.

These are some examples of historical heroes having faith and God blesses the results. Presumably we want to please God, but the more and more we try, it doesn’t seem to add up. What do we need ?    Let’s look back at verse 6 to learn what it takes to please God. 

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Hebrews 11:6 NIV

To please God, you must believe God and seek God.

Believing in God and seeking him are essential to pleasing Him.

Let’s look at this verse from the Amplified Bible. Essentially, the Amplified bible gives commentary-like context to the text as you read it. So it has those notes in brackets, clarifying the deeper meanings behind certain words. It says:

“But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.”

Hebrews 11:6 Amplified

Try as we may, as we illustrated last week with the drawing of the chasm of sin that’s between us and God, we can’t jump high enough, run fast enough, use things to propel us to him…Hebrews says we must believe he exists…(and it doesn’t stop there.) And that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

Sinner’s prayer or “A,B,C’s of Salvation” are perfect examples.

  • Admit – I am a sinner. You aren’t really pursuing help if you don’t think you need it. Recognizing you are a sinner is the first step to salvation. 
  • Believe – Believe Jesus died for my sins and I ask for forgiveness. I accept his gift of Salvation. I believe he saves me now.
  • Confess – Confess your faith before others, tell the whole word of what God has done for you!

It’s that “Believe”, the “B” in the A,B,C’s of salvation we are talking about. It’s the trust in someone you haven’t seen, but yet believe…in faith. It is essential. Otherwise it looks like this.

  1. I’m a sinner
  2. I’m kinda trying some stuff to fix my sin problem. I hope one of them works
  3. I don’t know if my life has changed yet, I’ll get back to you on that.

It’s like trying different diets to find out which one will give you the best results. Then when you find that one, can you actually stick with it? That’s what we are doing when we fit ANYTHING else into the spot where Belief in Jesus, dying for our sins, and that he saves you now. We are rolling the dice, leaving it up to luck…but we are NOT placing our trust in anything. In Anyone.

3. Believing and Seeking

Person/PeopleBelievedHow they sought God
Abraham (again) (v17-19)His Son back from the DeadTrusted God’s directions even when it sounded crazy.
Israelites (v29)God’s Power to keep red sea partedStepped out onto the place where the Red Sea had been.
Israelites (v30)The conquering of JerichoFollowed their literal marching orders.
another chart

Let’s look at a few more examples. This chapter has tons. It has so many examples, the writer even lumps some folks all together at the end, big names like Samson, David, and  Samuel. Let’s look at Abraham again in verses 17-19.

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Hebrews 11:17-19 NIV

Abraham Believed God. He believed God existed and was living and active. He believed he wasn’t going crazy when he heard words of direction straight from God. He believed it so much, He trusted in God so much that he sought God through his obedience. He went to sacrifice his only son, believing –as the Hebrews writer points out, he believed God would resurrect Isaac. Otherwise God’s initial promise wouldn’t be fulfilled!

There are several other examples of Joseph and Moses, but let’s skip down to verse 29 and see how a general people group, the Israelites, Believed and Sought God. How they trusted him by faith.

29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

Hebrews 11:29 NIV

Have you ever been to an aquarium before? There in Jenks, Oklahoma there is the Oklahoma Aquarium. It’s got stingrays, sea turtles, shrimp, starfish, an octopus and so much more. One of the highlights of the Aquarium is the Shark Exhibit. This Shark Adventure houses the world’s largest collection of bull sharks. Now this is not just a tank you walk around, but through. There is a glass tunnel that leads you underneath the shark exhibit. It’s something you have to experience for yourself to get the full effect. But even though I did not know it, I had faith in something, walking through that tunnel. I had faith that the glass wouldn’t break and sharks would come flooding down the tunnel to munch on me and my family. I had faith in the engineers who designed and the workers who built it. I showed that faith by walking down the tunnel.  I imagine something similar to those crossing the Red Sea. Moses was holding up his staff. He was following directions by faith…but the people could have been all wiped out that day, just as the Egyptians were where they tried to cross after them.

The Israelites showed they sought God by…Stepping out onto the place where the Red Sea had been.

 Let’s look at the next verse, verse 30.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days.

Hebrews 11:30 NIV

If you don’t know the story, here’s the summary: Joshua and the Israelites were given some very strange battle plans by God: March around Jericho once a day for 6 days. Don’t shout or play your horns or anything. On the 7th day, march around it 7 times, blow trumpets and shout at the conclusion of the last lap. They believed. They were seeking God to do the impossible and the city of Jericho was delivered into their hands. They couldn’t have done it without faith.

They Believed God would deliver Jericho into their hands.  They sought God through obeying their literal “Marching orders.”

4. Everyday Faith

The best and most tangible demonstration I have ever seen concerning faith looks like this. This is a stool. I can look at that stool, I can investigate it “Sure looks like a sturdy stool!” I can maybe push on it a little, give it a kick like people do with tires for…whatever reason they do that for. I could go so far as to look into the stool’s history, “Who bought this stool? What material is it made from?”    

But it all comes down to this one question: “When I sit on it, will it hold me up?”

[At this point in the message I got a volunteer to help me with this demonstration.]

Now you know that I wouldn’t want you to fall and have everyone laugh at you, right?

You also don’t know if I messed with this stool before the service. It could be wobbly or it could be sturdy.

The interesting this is, you will NEVER know until you sit down.

You will never know for sure until you put your whole weight on this stool and see if it will hold you up. 

Perhaps you’ve seen other people sit on other stools before, much like our Hall of Faith from Hebrews 11, but you’ve never sat on this stool before.

[Hopefully the volunteer sits down. Stool stays in one piece.]

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Though you couldn’t know for sure that the stool would hold you up, you hoped it would. You had enough confidence in that hope that you sat down and risked falling. Now, go ahead and stand up. Ok, now sit down on the stool again. Did you believe it would hold you up?

Why?  (Because you’d already experience the stool’s faithfulness as you put your trust or full weight on it.)

Dismiss volunteer

Wrap up: What’s this have to do with the other faith basics?

Without faith, without actually sitting down on the stool. Without trusting God, his word, how He’s revealed himself throughout history…all you are left with is doubt. And when you stay there, you can even doubt the most basics of the Christian Faith. And so, we needed to address the very topic of Faith…putting your whole trust in something you can’t see, but you’re hopeful for. 

Do you want to be free from addiction? The first step is to believe it is possible for you to be from that addiction. What about worries? Do you enjoy being stressed and terrified all the time or do you want to live life in a state of calm and peace? You’ve got to have faith that’s possible. 

No matter what anyone pursues in life, they must have faith that it is pursuable…or else they wouldn’t pursue it!

No matter what anyone pursues in life, they must have faith that it is pursuable…or else they wouldn’t pursue it!
What about God? Do you have faith that he loves you? His Son died for you…to fix the sin problem we talked about last week? Do you trust God’s word? These are the questions, but we have two choices, to stand there looking at it “I wonder if that will hold me up or if it will collapse…” and the other choice is to trust in faith and simply…sit… down.

Faith Basics: Salvation

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Sermon Sept 3, 2021

Today we are going to begin talking about the Basics of the Christian Faith. If you are a Christian or if you are not, this series entitled Faith Basics is for you. If you don’t know anything about the Christian faith, I assume you are open to learning more about it since you are listening to (reading) this message today. Perhaps you come from a background where religious groups have distorted the message of the bible. Maybe you came from a family or church that preached things that it didn’t live out. My hope is that at Viroqua Nazarene you will find that not only do we understand and believe what the bible says about God, Jesus, Sin, and salvation…but you see it reflected in the love and fellowship of believers who gather regularly here.

If you are a Christian, these messages are still for you as well! I find the toughest thing that most  Christians deal with is being bogged down by discouragement when it comes to sharing their faith. So the methods I’ll use each week to share the message about the Faith, you can use them as well. 

I’ll try not to over complicate things with big words, but know that if I do use these words I will define them for easy use. I went through numerous courses in college and kept forgetting what the meaning of this one word ment. The word was “Soteriology.” Any time you hear the ending “ology” it means “to talk about or the study of.” But what does Soteri mean? (Bible.org source)

It comes from the Greek word “sorteia” which comes from another Greek word “soter” (σότερ) meaning savior. So Soteriology is the study or the talk about Salvation or the work of salvation.

Whether you grew up in church or this is your first time, you’ve probably heard Christians talking about the need to “get saved.” Today, that’s what we are going to talk about and I hope to illustrate it in a way that this act of God (Salvation) is clear enough that we could easily share it with someone else.

Mankind’s main problem in Life is SIN.

Sin separates us from a relationship with God. Sin says, “I want what I want…even if it’s not what God wants.” Sin Says, “I know what is right, but I’m doing otherwise because It’s convenient.”

Around here, our beliefs and teachings are guided by God’s word, the bible. So don’t be surprised if I quote it to support each week’s Faith Basic. We look to The Bible because we believe it is the authoritative Word of God and the only perfect guide for all things concerning salvation. We’ll talk in more detail about the Bible in a different week, but I think you need to know this…before we go any further today: Christians believe in the authority of God’s Word. In God’s word we find all the details for God’s perfect plan of salvation. 

And God’s word tells us that mankind has a problem and it’s called SIN.

James, Jesus’ brother once wrote:

 “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

James 4:17 NIV

Former persecutor of Christians, Paul of Tarsus wrote about how all mankind has had to deal with this sin problem.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—”

Romans 5:12 NIV

So not only do we have a sinful condition because one man (Adam) sinned…it leads us to make sinful choices which ultimately lead to death. 

One day, Jesus was trying to explain to some people that what comes out of a person, their words and actions – that’s what defiles them and makes them unclean…rather than eating or drinking the wrong thing. Gospel of Mark chapter 7:20-23 NIV

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Mark 7:20-23 NIV

Jesus spells it out for us, just in case we didn’t know what some prime examples of sin were. So we’ve all got this sin problem. We have desires to live in ways opposite of what God’s best is for us. But that’s not the worst part about sin.  

Sin Separates us from God

I know, forgive this very rudimentary drawing. We’ve got a cliff on either side. God’s on one side and we are on the other. I’m going to tell you right now, no illustrations are 100% perfect. So go with me on this one, if you will. 

Sin gets between us and God. 

A very good example of this comes from Isaiah 59. Isaiah was a prophet of God. God would tell him what to say to the Israelites and he would tell them. What he said wasn’t always pretty or even encouraging. He tells them:

“But your iniquities have separated

    you from your God;

your sins have hidden his face from you,

    so that he will not hear.”

Isaiah 59:2-3 NIV

You might say, “I didn’t do anything wrong!” “My mama says I’m perfect! My Granny says I’m perfect.” Maybe you just say, “Well I’m a good person, I don’t know anything about this ‘sin’ stuff of which you speak…”

I’ve got news for you. Romans 3:23 makes it very clear:

“23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

Romans 3:23 NIV

Not only are we born with the desire to put our desires before others’, especially before God’s desires, but we practice it regularly!

It’s that sin that creates a chasm…between us and God. Our Sin…His holiness. And the thing we dislike most about this situation is that…

We can’t fix this problem ourselves.

Are you an Olympian or a track and field star? No? Awesome. No one can call me out for not knowing what I’m talking about. 

So, in Track and Field there are various events with similar goals:

With the Long jump it’s all about who can go the farthest. With the High Jump and Pole vault, the goal is to get over the bar without knocking it over. They keep raising the bar to see who can get the highest jump or vault.

With our illustration here, we try things to get to God. We try “being good” or being a nice person. We back up really far, we take off in a dead sprint, we jump forward with all our might and all our goodness and niceness…and we fall short. We can’t get over that Sin pitfall by being nice or “good.” 

What if we jumped and put an extra little flourish to our jump, jumping higher. What if we said this was going to church…maybe saying “I’m religious” or even “I believe in God.”  These are things we might say that look like we are putting in a bit more effort to reach God…But just like before, we fall short. The pitfall of sin is what we can’t get past through being religious or being a church-goer.

What if we used a tool like pole vaulters use a pole to get over that super high bar? This might be doing good things: “I volunteer at a (fill in the blank). I DO lots of good and nice things. I teach Sunday school.” What about “I’ve dedicated my life to being a missionary” or “given it to religious service? I always recycle. I help clean trash on the side of the road. I encourage others to do good and nice things. I don’t just say I’m good or nice, I do nice things!”

OSLO, NORWAY – JUNE 28: Jeff Hartwig of the USA comes second in the mens Pole Vault during the IAAF Exxon Mobil Bislett Games at the Bislett Stadium in Oslo , Norway on June 28, 2002. (Photo by Christopher Lee / Getty Images )

This is that Pole in Pole vaulting. Have you ever seen a vaulter who fails to cleanly get over the bar? It’s disheartening. It’s sad. It’s embarrassing. It is the same with people who equate good works with a way over or past Sin. If that is their method, rather than the fruit of a tight relationship with God, they will knock that bar off everytime. They will not make it.

So believing we’re good enough isn’t enough. Being religious isn’t good enough. Doing “good” things isn’t enough. What’s it going to take to get over sin and to God? 

Fixing our sin problem takes an act of God 

God wants us to be close to Him. He wanted it so much that he took steps to help us cross that ravine. In the middle of the night, Jesus is teaching a religious leader, Nicodemus, about the Kingdom of God and the extent that God has gone to get us to him. He tell Nicodemus in John’s gospel, chapter 3 verse 16-17:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17 NIV

Jesus was of course talking about himself. What was the Son supposed to do to save the world?

He was to lay down his life as a sacrifice to fix the sin problem in our lives. That pesky thing that drives a relational wedge between us and God.

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Cor 5:12 NIV

Peter, an early leader in the Christian faith proclaimed this boldly:

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12 NIV

This is one of the most challenging pieces for some folks. 

  • I want to be saved, but I’m going to get it by being good
  • Or I’m all good for the “afterlife” because I believe in this god or that god. I pray three times a day to that god.
  • Oh my salvation is found at the bottom of a bottle.
  • I’m part of a secret society that does good stuff for the community. I can’t tell you anything about it, but I’m sure that’s enough to get wherever I’m going.

There are countless other examples. 

So fixing our sin problem takes an act of God. God sends his Son, Jesus… 

And Jesus lays down his life as a sacrifice for you and me. He makes a way for us to get to God.  That bridge comes by his sacrifice on the cross. 

John 14:6 paints a clear description of what we see here today in this illustration.

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6 NIV

The Key point to this message of salvation is this: JESUS is the only way. This is an essential basic piece to the Christian Faith. If someone believes or acts as though they believe something other than Jesus fixes the sin problem and restores our relationship with God, they are incorrect. 

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

John 3:36 NIV

Jesus also describes himself as the gate in John 10:9

9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 10:9 NIV

There is only one way to:

  • God
  • Heaven
  • Salvation
  • Forgiveness
  • Redemption
  • Wholeness
  • Holiness
  • Restoration

That is through Jesus Christ.

The question is, where do you see yourself in this illustration? Firmly planted on your side? Trying to run and jump over the chasm? A couple inches onto the bridge? Half way? All the way?

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Proverbs 30 – I didn’t do that!

Back to my silly roots! So many things in scripture remind me of movies I’ve seen. This passage reminds me of that elderly gremlin from Hotel Transylvania. If you’ve seen this wacky movie, you’ll know see seems old and feeble, but in a quick moment…she’ll eat something larger than herself and then give a sly look all around. She’ll then proclaim, “I didn’t do that!”

The clip from the film, the scripture point out our real life excuses. We are prepared to sin, make the wrong choice. When we do it, the first thing we do is deny doing it. We might point the blame on others.

Why? Because taking responsibility for our actions is the first step to reconciliation. As long as as a person denies they did nothing wrong, relationships stay broke and forgiveness and healing can’t take place.

Smashing Pottery

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Sermon – Jeremiah 19

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

If you’ve got your bibles, go ahead and turn to Jeremiah 19, we will be looking at this whole chapter and then toward the end of the message we’ll fast-forward to see what happens down the line in the story of Jeremiah. 

Today, at some point in my sermon, I’m going to break something. I’m not going to tell you when. And right now, I’m not going to tell you what I will break. But I’m going to break something and I hope you will be caught off guard by it. If you want to prepare yourself, that’s fine…just know, it’s coming.

That being said, have you ever had a dish or a bowl you really liked, and it breaks? I mean really broken beyond repair. And I mean you really liked this bowl, cup or plate. It had sentimental value.

About 4-5 years ago, in all the hustle and bustle of life, we broke a few bowls and plates in our good dish set. We purchased this set of dishes when we were first married. We didn’t really have people over for meals, so 16 plates and 8 bowls lasted us a long while before having to do dishes. Then for some reason we started having more dishes to wash…something to do with having kids and that they enjoy food like adults…I guess. Somehow dropping two of these bowls into a sink with soapy water can lead to breakage. At least that is what happened with a couple of the bowls. It’s a bit sad when you look at something attached to memories and know it’s destined for the dumpster. You pick up the pieces and no matter how good you are at glueing things, you probably wouldn’t want to eat Christmas dinner off it. 

Other breakables, such as nick-nacks, can be repaired with glue and maybe some touch-up paint. Such as my little Garfield the cat figurine. Decades ago, his arm needed to be glued back in place. Unless you look very carefully, you probably couldn’t tell. 

not my real nick-nack

Breakable things. Some breakable things can be put back together when they are broken. Others, such as jars and cups, really can’t or should not be put back together. They no longer can serve their intended purpose. We end up replacing them or living without them. 

Something similar is presented to the leaders of Jerusalem and Judah. Last week’s illustration of the potter breaking down the clay and making a new jar…that didn’t sink in enough for the people Jeremiah told it to. Let’s look at the first few verses of Jeremiah 19.

“This is what the Lord says: “Go and buy a clay jar from a potter. Take along some of the elders of the people and of the priests 2 and go out to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. There proclaim the words I tell you,”

Jeremiah 19:1-2 NIV

I can’t tell you how jealous I am of Jeremiah. Well maybe not so jealous of how well his message is received, but seriously! Coming up with object lessons and visual aids to help drive home the message that God is trying to get across? That can be like 50% or more of sermon prep! I have learned that not everyone is a visual person or needs the visual aids to assist in communication. However there are just some people who just WON’T concentrate or listen unless you do something tangible, something to connect the spiritual realities you’re talking about with their physical every-day life. I know, because I’m one of them!

God tailor makes these object lessons for Jeremiah to present. Jeremiah records “God told me to go to a place…and I did. God told me to buy a thing…so I bought a thing.”

He even tells him who to get to listen to the message.

“the elders of the people and of the priests.“ He tells Jeremiah, “this is for the leaders among you. They are the ones who need this message.” The judgement that will flow from the message also means that the leaders are responsible for leading the people astray. Their veering so far off course should have been corrected by the leadership if they had also not been caught up in the same sinful acts Jeremiah is about to call them out on.

If bad things happen within the organization, it’s the leadership who will be looked at, questioned and potentially fired.

It’s so true. Leadership of any group, religious or otherwise, are responsible for their organization’s direction. If bad things happen within the organization, it’s the leadership who will be looked at, questioned and potentially fired. Let’s keep reading…

“There proclaim the words I tell you, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Listen! I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.”

Jeremiah 19:2c-3 NIV

I want you to stop and think of a sound that makes your ears tingle. Perhaps, sets you on edge. When I’m working at the store and my head is buried in the cooler, all I hear are the humming of the fans. That is until someone, from out of nowhere calls out my name or starts talking to me without me knowing what’s going on. Each time, I startle a bit, but then I figure out what has happened. Maybe for you, you’ve been out to a restaurant before and through the normal noise of plates, cups and mumbled conversations of about 50 different people, a loud CRASH coms from across the room. It seems everyone stops and looks, trying to find the source of the frightening sound. Perhaps a waiter or waitress dropped a tray and all the plates and glasses are on the floor. Other employees come to aid their colleague in cleaning up the mess. As adults we know that is about as far as we respond to this startling noise. When you are a highschooler and someone in the cafeteria has just dropped several plates making a tremendous amount of noise, you stop and look and then you clap and hoot and holler. It can be extra embarrassing for the person who dropped their stuff.

This is the tingle that God’s talking about. A sudden, shocking disaster that will get the attention of all who hear it and cause some sort of reaction. My guess is shivers up and down their spine or at least some goose bumps.

Why is God bringing this calamity? Let’s read on.

“4 For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned incense in it to gods that neither they nor their ancestors nor the kings of Judah ever knew, and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. 5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. 6 So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 7 “‘In this place I will ruin[a] the plans of Judah and Jerusalem. I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them, and I will give their carcasses as food to the birds and the wild animals. 8 I will devastate this city and make it an object of horror and scorn; all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff because of all its wounds. 9 I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters, and they will eat one another’s flesh because their enemies will press the siege so hard against them to destroy them.’“

Jeremiah 4-9 NIV

God is Calling them out for their ungodly behavior.

For their choices, including but not limited to:

  • Making their land a place for foriegn gods
  • Burning incense to “new” gods
  • Filled the land with the blood of the innocent (This is a reference to child sacrifices.)
  • Building high places on which to do the sacrifices

Essentially, by their actions Judah and Jerusalem’s allegiance had switched. They were the people of God, of Yahweh. Now they are the people of whatever god feels good at the time. They might call themselves the sons and daughters of Abraham. But they are not holding up their part of the promise. They are unfaithful and have broken trust and relationship with the one true God.

So God (through Jeremiah) pronounces terrible doom upon them. Disgraced deaths, horrible living conditions requiring them to survive through cannibalism, and their “great city” will be reduced to something to scoff at.

Then Jeremiah reaches into his brown paper sack and brings out a baked potter’s jar. This isn’t metal or wood. It’s made from expertly formed, hardened clay.

10 “Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, 11 and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter’s jar is smashed and cannot be repaired. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. 12 This is what I will do to this place and to those who live here, declares the Lord. I will make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses in Jerusalem and those of the kings of Judah will be defiled like this place, Topheth—all the houses where they burned incense on the roofs to all the starry hosts and poured out drink offerings to other gods.’”

Jeremiah 19:10-13 NIV

HULK Jeremiah SMASH!

This is the abrupt, shocking, physical representation to the people he is speaking to. CRASH! BANG! BOOM! He breaks this item in their viewing and hearing. It’s a message of condemnation. It represents:

  • The broken relationship between God’s people and God
  • The sudden and shocking nature of the consequence (tossing a plate or jar to scare and frighten)

I know I’ve said this a time or two, but one of my favorite Old Testament characters is Gideon. During one part of his story God gives Gideon instructions for overthrowing the Midianite camp. Thousands of Midianites and only 3 groups of 100 men each. Just 300 men armed with their voices, torches, jars, and horns to sound a battle call on. They smashed the jars, all at the same time. The midianites heard they were surrounded by a great noise. It only grew worse as shouts of “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” followed by noisy trumpet like blasts came from groupings of flaming torches on the hillside surrounding them. This was psychological warfare! The noise was the weapon and it worked. The Midianites panicked and began to turn their swords on one another.  Sudden, shocking noises can make us realize how much trouble we are in. This was true for Midian. It was also true for Jeremiah’s audience. When something breaks, very rarely can it be properly repaired. Which leads me to the last point of the smashing of the pottery. It represents the…

  • The finality of the judgement – It’s going to happen. It can’t be repaired (like the potter’s jar can’t be repaired.) We learned last week that before a jar is fired in a kiln, or the clay is completely hardened, there is still hope for tearing it down and making something new out of it. It can be rewetted, merged together with other pieces of clay and the potter starts all over again with a hunk he or she shapes into a new item.    In the hearing of THIS particular pronouncement, it was final. But here is why:
  • Not because God had given up on the work of restoration. He’s still open to doing his part. He sent Jeremiah to warn the people before it was too late. No, not because of God but because of the hardened hearts of man. The people had already made up in their hearts and minds who they would serve. God saw and knew this. He knew the path they would take. It broke something. God’s heart.

The last two verses of this chapter are what we hear from Jeremiah before the people begin to retaliate against his message. Remember, they already did all they could to discredit his warning in chapter 18. They attacked his character instead of debating and considering the message he brought.

“14 Jeremiah then returned from Topheth, where the Lord had sent him to prophesy, and stood in the court of the Lord’s temple and said to all the people, 15 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on this city and all the villages around it every disaster I pronounced against them, because they were stiff-necked and would not listen to my words.’”

Jeremiah 19:14-15 NIV

They didn’t waste much time after this pronouncement by Jeremiah. I talked about it a bit just a couple weeks ago. Pashhur, the official in charge of the temple of the Lord…had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and put in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple.

There were much more severe consequences for Jeremiah, yet he continued to speak what God had called him to speak.

In Chapter 24 exile begins to happen. And later, in chapter 26 it seems we have a flashback to the early days of King Jehoiakim, King Josiah’s son, happening before the exile. Jeremiah is giving yet another warning:

‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’”

Jeremiah 26:4-6 NIV

For this warning, the prophet received a death threat and a semi-formal request to the religious officials for his execution.

At this point you might think Jeremiah was toast. Though the fact this is a flashback chapter AND that we still have 30 more chapters in Jeremiah help us to relax a bit. The Officials finally get their heads on straight. They reason that someone who has brought messages from the Lord shouldn’t be executed, especially just because we didn’t like the message! 

18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “‘Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.’

19 “Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the Lord and seek his favor? And did not the Lord relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves!”

Jeremiah 26:18-19 NIV

It’s the ultimate, “don’t shoot the messenger” scenario. We’ve heard this one before! They didn’t kill the prophet in the past, why start now?

Conclusion

This passage from Jeremiah is about one main thing: a warning. The abrupt smashing of a pot. The shock to the system. Danger Will Robinson, Danger! And like any other passage, head knowledge is great and all but it’s got to apply to us today. So, how many warnings will it take before “the jar” is smashed in our lives?

In our families?  Community?  County?  State?  Country? World?

How many loud, abrupt, irreverent crashings need to happen before we turn back and make a change? Only you can answer that for yourself.

And it’s true because the solution is you making a change. It’s taking personal responsibility, something the people of Judah and Jerusalem were not doing. It’s personally removing idol worship in your life. Sure you probably don’t have household gods (although you might have a Ganesha or a Budda statuette on your mantel), but there are plenty of other things we worship in this life that need to be knocked down to size. Cell phones, news and TV, career ambitions and how we look in the mirror. All can be idol worship that needs cleaning up. 

Judah no only had a problem with idol worship…by giving time and attention to gods other than Yahweh, they would sacrifice their children. This was literal, but children figuratively stood for a person’s future. Your legacy dies with you when you don’t invest it into the next generation.

Today we literally and figuratively sacrifice children at the behest of our own benefit.

  1. Literal child sacrifice today – abortion, abandonment, absentee parents (provide financially, not there relationally)
  2. Caring more about your career, making money than caring for your family
    1. I don’t think it would surprise you to know that pastor’s families are not immune from this. The pressure to perform, achieve goals, or just keep things afloat…can get in the way of ministry leaders being there for their spouse and children.
    2. If we succeed in business, in growing a large church but sacrifice our families to do so…we’ve already lost.

So we remove sacrificing our future, our children, the next generation, for the immediate benefits that might come our way if we do.

Judah, in their worship to other gods, burned incense. I see this as a reliance on something other than the God of all the universe and everything. People still do this today.

They rely on whatever it is to fix all their problems.

  1. Technology – better phone, car, computer…
  2. Money (touched on career and money earlier)
  3. Status…We don’t have Lords, Ladies, Dukes and duchesses but you know when you see someone with status. They generally look down their nose at those without status.
  4. Politicians – Looking to laws and rules and funding to fix the woes of society.
  5. Medicine/Science
    1. Have you ever listened to those commercials that say, “Ask your Doctor if medicine “so and so” is right for you?” They legally have to list off all the potentially harmful and unwanted side effects of taking the drug in order to deal with another problem in your body. The funniest ones (not really funny) but happen to be anti-depressant meds with side effects of potentially suicidal thoughts!
    2. Medicine has given us some wonderful things, but we often rely on it to be our “magic bullet” and solve our medical problems.
    3. Science and scientific data is another one that we can cling to…yet eventually, if you wait long enough…you’ll be let down. New, better discoveries will be made. Scientists might rush things in order to be first and most famous.

We might find out that in 1883 the Paleontologist, Charles Marsh “discovered” the Brontosaurus. He actually had a nearly full skeleton of a dinosaur he dubbed “Apatosaurus” but it lacked a skull. He then included a skull from a different dinosaur in order to make the discovery first. Later a skull was found and he declared that one to be from a “brontosaurus” but it was actually a more complete skull for the skeleton he already had. (Source)

So even science can let us down and mislead us.

So what do all these things have in common? Fully trusting in, worshipping, and obeying God solves it all. Trust, Worship, Obey. The very things the people of God needed to do were the very things they ran from. Let’s run to these things and not end up smashed. Not end up broken like a jar. It no longer serves its purpose of holding liquid. It no longer can be repaired and be of any use.

Let’s Trust God. Let’s Worship God alone. Let’s Obey God.

To hear what I broken during this sermon…listen to the recording. It’s best to hear it for yourself.

Proverbs 27 – Iron Sharpens what now?

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As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another.

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Have you ever worked with a dull knife? The Deli I worked in had a rule: a dull knife is an unsafe knife. You tend to chop or push harder when you knife is dull. This can lead to accidents. If you lose control over the item you’re cutting and you’re pushing down real hard with you dull knife…you might soon lose a part of you.

The deli I worked in had a knife sharpening service. All of our knives would be collected every 2-4 weeks and the service would bring us freshly sharpened and polished knives to work with. We could all tell how smooth and easy it was to cut a loaf of bread or dice vegetables after receiving these freshly sharpened knives.

As I understand it, sharpening any metal tool takes a took of a denser toughness. You scrape the blade along side the harder tool and it shaves away bits of imperfections in the blade. You may have seen butchers or deli workers use a honing rod. In between knife sharpening, we would need to smooth out those bumps on our own by using the honing rod.

What does this have to say about people “sharpening” each other? Mad props to God’s Chemistry Set blog. I was looking for some insight and scientific info on what happens in this process of metal sharpening and they pointed me in the right direction.

Mentoring frequently comes to mind when we talk about helping others grow. Mentors challenge their mentees to try new things. They use their own experience to shave off some of the bumps and nicks in the person they are mentoring. They then also rely on someone else, stronger, tougher and more experienced than themselves to do the same for them.

Ultimately we need to let God’s word and his Holy Spirit correct and shave off those bits in our life that are displeasing to him (or at least not as useful as they could be if they were sharpened.) But we need fellowship with others to guide and help us discern these things. I hope you find that here in this blog. I also find that doing a YouVersion bible study with others is beneficial. You can join me there. “What If” Reading Plan by Matthew West.

Proverbs 26 – Bad Archery

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“Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.”

Proverbs‬ ‭26:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have you ever hired an employee before? More likely you’ve been an employee. Perhaps you’ve worked with someone that you just wonder why was that person hired?

I can imagine being Human Resources at a business is a hard job. But, sometimes you just need people who might not be the best skilled or experienced at the job they are hired for (but hey, you got to get experience somewhere and sometime.)

This passage stresses the importance of hiring the right person for the job. Don’t hire fools. (Hopefully the interview process weeds out the fools) and passerby’s just might not be faithful.

I think as a person who has been hired for jobs (you probably can relate) I want to be the kind of person who isn’t a fool. And I want to be wise (and not harm my team) when I hire new people.

Question for you: have you ever worked with a person and felt, “did HR fire at random?” What was your experience?

Proverbs 25 – Refreshing News

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“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.”

Proverbs‬ ‭25:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have you noticed that we live in a world saturated and obsessed with bad news? When I was a kid, I always wondered why my parents read the newspaper at night or bothered to watch the evening news. Now I’m an adult with a family of my own and I find myself drawn to news and info. And 99% of it is bad or at least sassy news. YouTube news videos and news article frequently have “so and so destroyed this person who has bad ideas and does bad stuff!”

If we start to drown in all that bad news, it can make us weary. We need to be refreshed. Enter: Good news. Good news from afar doesn’t care about your cynicism. It just is good.

I felt at church we were focusing on negative and sad news. We needed a counter balance. I found some by looking at Nazarene News. I found news stories there of encouragement. People and churches who were learning to care for their community in new an desperately needed ways all across the globe.

Perhaps you need some good news today. Here is a link to their site so you can see for yourself how God is refreshing people with His good news all over the world.

https://nazarene.org/news

Proverbs 24 – Home Improverments

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“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”

Proverbs‬ ‭24:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬
(Not my actual house)

We recently had “some” work done on our house. Air quotes on the “some” because it was actually many major things that needed updated and it was decided to go ahead and take care of them all now. Our immediate issue was a leaky basement, however the updates started on the outside and worked their way into the house.

I didn’t tell the contractor what he had to work on. His experience, his expertise far out weighed my own. He did a fabulous job. It reminded me of how little I personally know about updating or repairing things the best way possible. A few years ago I installed a new sink and vanity in our main bathroom. Google and YouTube videos helped me install a functioning sink, but it wasn’t a “quite right.”

The wisdom and experience of our contractor proved there were areas of improvement (like having the sink flush up against the wall…I guess that’s important). So now I know the sink is secure, working properly and will be there for years to come. I’m thankful for his wisdom that established these actual repairs to my home.

In our own hearts and lives we can try to “do it ourselves” and we can even get by with our versions of “good enough.” However, for our lives to be established we’ve got to trust the wisdom of the Lord. We need his word to be our foundation. Otherwise all we are doing is trying to get by through patch-work.

Proverbs 23 – “Sorry to inconvenience you…”

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“Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.”

Proverbs‬ ‭23:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have you ever had this happen to you? (I know I sound like an infomercial). You are invited for dinner or a party, but the host only talks about how much it is costing them?

I can picture this being something the father of the bride who is paying for a wedding reception might say. They love their daughter, but begrudgingly fork over the cash to pay for various guests at the wedding meal.

Only advice I have: don’t be like that guy. If you give something away out of love (or any reason, really) it’s not longer yours to control or be upset with how it’s spent. Essentially, if you’re going to be generous, don’t attach strings. If you’re not going to be generous, don’t pretend like you are. Or your guests will sarcastically reply, “sorry to inconvenience you…”