I'm Going Old School

During the last few years I've done my own thing as has been the custom of many other clergy. It has been relatively easy to do so because there are today so many resources available for sermon series directed at "felt needs" in churches.

However, as I began reflecting on sermon planning for the coming year, I felt a particular draw away from that approach. As I have grown to question the motivations of my own heart this past year, I couldn't help but consider how my heart might also be impacting how and what I preach.

This has led me to go 'old school' and return to something called the Lectionary. More specifically, the Revised Common Lectionary. That doesn't mean I'm giving up on series preaching. In fact, from my experience, the Lectionary plan lends itself ideally to series preaching just not felt need preaching.

It is kind of like the signs I've seen one church posting around:

"Church for people who don't do church."

How about we do church for people who want to meet God?

Not the god of my "felt need" but the God of the Universe, the God of mystery who meets us in bread and juice and in the hands of the poor? I realize that there are three fingers pointing back at me as I point fingers here - I don't mind - that is exactly my point.

I'm going old school because I don't trust my heart - I don't trust my mind - I don't trust my instincts. Instead, I'm trusting the mystery of the Body of Christ, the CHURCH, with its flaws and mistakes but also filled with the mystery of tradition, reason, experience but ultimately, the Bible.

Two Invitations - Walking Wisely Week 8

Proverbs 9:1-18
Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; (2) She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table; (3) She has sent out her maidens, she calls From the tops of the heights of the city: (4) "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks understanding she says, (5) "Come, eat of my food And drink of the wine I have mixed. (6) "Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding." (7) He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. (8) Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. (9) Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. (10) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (11) For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you. (12) If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you alone will bear it. (13) The woman of folly is boisterous, She is naive and knows nothing. (14) She sits at the doorway of her house, On a seat by the high places of the city, (15) Calling to those who pass by, Who are making their paths straight: (16) "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here," And to him who lacks understanding she says, (17) "Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant." (18) But he does not know that the dead are there, That her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

I began this series by asking what Pastor Andy Stanley calls, “The Best Question Ever,” namely, “What is the wise thing to do?” The book of Proverbs is chocked full of answers to the best question. We're not interested in asking “What do I want to do?” “What is the good thing to do?” or even, “What is the best thing to do?” No, it is about the wise thing.

Pastor Carlyle Fielding passed on a family story that occurred when his dad was a young man. It seems the young man had gotten in to hanging with a group of guys that were not making wise decisions and were getting into trouble. His father cautioned him but the young man continued to ignore him. Finally, the father asked his son to join him in his study to pray for him (how often are you doing this?). After prayer, the father said to him, “I don't want you running with these guys anymore.” “But Dad,” said the boy, “I'm not better than they are.” The father replied, “I'm not saying you are better than they are. I am saying that you have a better opportunity to make something out of your life.” And it was a lesson he never forgot.

There are two voices that cry out – shout out – even scream out to us. Two invitations are given to us. Solomon tells us those two choices boil down to choosing the way of Lady Wisdom or the way of Mistress Folly.

Wisdom has prepared a beautiful home with seven pillars (9:1). This number 7 throughout scripture implies the idea of completeness and perfection. The book of James in the New Testament sharese (Jam_3:17)the wisdom from above is described as (1) pure, (2) peaceable, (3) gentle, (4) willing to yield, (5) full of mercy and good fruits, (6) without partiality and (7) without hypocrisy. She has got a huge tailgate party spread. It has got the best brisquit and barbque, the best drinks available (9:2). No one is going away hungry.

What does Lady Wisdom desire? Wisdom desires a hearing (9:3) and to that end, wisdom doesn't sit idly by. She goes to the high place and sends out the message to those who are simple (9:4-6). Her promise is wisdom and understanding to those who fear and know God (9:10). Long life is found in wisdom (9:12). The way of wisdom is the BEST LIFE POSSIBLE!!!

But the voice of wisdom has a rival louder and more tempting. She has built nothing as is absent from the descriptions of her. She sits in the doorway or sits at the high place in the city. Believer's Bible Commentary describes her as “loudmouthed, empty-headed and brazen faced.” Another translation says of her that she is “loud, seductive and knows nothing. (ESV). God's Word Translation drops the description “folly” and says, “The woman Stupidity is loud, gullible, and ignorant.”

Folly is tempting – it sounds incredibly like what we want to be seen as in our day and age. But there is an interesting piece here in these words you may or may not have noted. You see, Mistress Folly is 'naïve.' Have you heard that before? Of course, she is no different from those she is calling to! Isn't it interesting that the word the world uses to describe people who follow after Jesus Christ - “naive” is the same word used by the Solomon to describe the world?

Did you hear about the controversy this week regarding Ms. Philippians at the Ms. Universe pagent? She grew up in hut with a dirt floor and no electricity. She worked her way through college. When asked about a major mistake in her life she said she hadn't made any. I listened as the guy on the radio, a member of a more “Open-minded” generation dismissed her answer as being a lie. Really? Did you know that same Hebrew word for naïve can also be translated - “Open-minded?”

The naïve, the silly, the simple calls to the simple and promises much! Stolen pleasures that are enjoyed in secret. They are no more than false promises.

I once met in the woods a former sheep dog. We struck up a conversation. Over the course of the conversation he shared with me how he recently became unemployed. It seemed a pack of coyotes lurked near a sheep pasture. But the dogs kept them at a distance and the sheep grazed safely. But the coyotes planned long and hard. From a distance out hearing of the dogs, the coyotes called out, “why is there always this hostility between us? We are wise and we know you are a simple minded and we have wanted to share our knowledge with you. But it is those dogs who are always stirring up trouble! Send them away and we will be good friends.” Well you can imagine where this is going, the dogs pleaded with the sheep not to send them away. The warned them but the sheep insisted. That evening the coyotes had the grandest feast of their lives.

The promise of Mistress Folly is hidden from the simple. In fact as I said, she her self is simple minded. A fairly accurate translation is that her home is a haunted house and it is the way of death. She promises much but the life she delivers is the worst possible.

It is a book seen as simple wisdom but then the best question is the same – what is the wise thing to do? Jesus said Mat 7:24 NASB "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Tell me church, tell me friends – after you have heard the call of the wise and the foolish, which way will you walk?

Riddle Me This - Walking Wisely Week 7

Pro 1:5-9 NKJV A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, (6) To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. (7) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (8) My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; (9) For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.

There is a mystery here in Atlanta. It may not have run across your mind but there are some who have pondered it through the years. It surrounds manager Bobby Cox, his success in winning but also the impact of breaking the record of being tossed out more than any manager in Major League History. Sports Illustrated did a feature on the Bobby as he approaches retirement. Chipper Jones has certainly fueled a great deal of speculation. The article reveals some of the mysteries surrounding Bobby. I'll admit, I've never been a fan of Bobby Cox but I believe that I have come in part to understand the real mystery. You see, it isn't the impact on games one or lost that is the issue. No, if you want to know the real mystery of why it is this incredible manager has been thrown out so many it is the loyalty it has bred in the players who have played for him through these many years.

I'm fairly certain we each carry with us a list of mysteries that dwell in the back of our minds. For instance the one that has most troubled me, why do we park on driveways and drive on parkways? Yours I'm certain are deeper than mine – I just tend to the simple.

Yet at the beginning of Proverbs, Solomon notes that one of the pieces of concern, one of the central things that the book intends to address is helping those who desire wisdom to understand the riddles of life. Nowhere in Proverbs are riddles more pronounced than in the words of Agur son of Jakeh. His riddles are found in chapter 30 and reflect a totally different style of writing and wisdom than in the previous work.

The word riddle in the Hebrew, reflects the idea of satire. In a sense it is making a mockery – sarcasm possibly. Not surprisingly I think, the writer opens his lists with a work of mockery towards those who do evil.

The Riddle Of Evil Doers: Proverbs 30:11-14
Pro 30:11-14 NKJV There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother. (12) There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. (13) There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. (14) There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, And whose fangs are like knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from among men.

As we read those words, I imagine we begin to form pictures of people and situations we've been in ourselves. But we'd me at fault ourselves if we did not ask, “What is the wise the thing to do?” You see the danger in a riddle or an enigma is how quickly it mocks not someone else but the reader. Regarding verse 12 a Rabbi once noted "If there are only two righteous men in the world, I and my son are the two. If only one, I am he."

It is not far from the scenario which played out before Jesus where the Pharisees attempted to carry out the death sentence on a woman caught in adultery. Jesus played in the dirt while they waited. When he spoke, his riddle was this, “He who doesn't have sin, you cast the first stone.” He went back to his drawing and all of the accusers went away. May I ask, what answers do you to these riddles of Agur in your life? (Pause)

The other point that comes through is the role of parables in Proverbs. These tend to often come out in the form of analogy and story. Of all the section which seems most applicable in my mind is Agur's 'Riddle of the Little.' In our world, so focused on big and shiny, Agur contrasts the wisdom of small things...

The Riddle Of Little: Proverbs 30:24-28
Pro 30:24-28 NKJV There are four things which are little on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: (25) The ants are a people not strong, Yet they prepare their food in the summer; (26) The rock badgers are a feeble folk, Yet they make their homes in the crags; (27) The locusts have no king, Yet they all advance in ranks; (28) The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, And it is in kings' palaces.

The use of grouping ideas in threes and fours is found in literature throughout the Ancient Near East. It seems to have been beneficial in sharing thoughts and ideas with their students. But it tells of something more, namely, the evidence of God's design in the world around us. In this way, we come back around to Job and the examination of Job by God.

While such knowledge is good and has it's purpose, for us again, we must ask of ourselves, “What is the wise thing to do with these words?” To that I would look at the writer's intent – what wisdom is here for us? When you look at the ants or feel that bite on your foot, remember to be planning ahead. The timid rock badger makes a wise choice to hide where enemies do not find them. The locust, like a massive army, work in unison. And what about the spider who does it's skillful work – do you take note of it?

I have to wonder, as a young man, did Jesus not find this wisdom literature fascinating? The wise thing to note too, is how Jesus brought parables to the forefront of his teaching – alerting and pointing us to reality of God's Kingdom surrounding us, just as Proverbs did. What do I mean?
Mat 13:31-32 NASB He [Jesus] presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; (32) and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES."

“Proverbs is the scrapbook of common grace.” from Charles G. Martin. This is the way of God. Not in the grandiose. Not in vulgar displays. Not in extravagance. Just as the way of wisdom is found in the little, so to the Kingdom of God.Jesus – God of the Common. He was found NOT in palaces & with kings BUT with the poor & kicked around. He didn't speak to his disciples about being leaders BUT being loving. He didn't encourage followers to live a lavish lifestyle BUT to be looking at the Little. Jesus known not for doing BIG things but for doing the HARD things. The riddle is what has Christianity become known for and what is it that Jesus said we should be known for?

Who Gets To Judge?

I'm in so many ways a son of the South. I have lived most of my life in Mississippi, North Carolina and Georgia with a few stops elsewhere. I have lived and ministered among those who still use the N-word in everyday language and I have counted upon and put my trust in my brothers in Christ who are of African-American descent.

It has long been my desire to visit the King Center here in Atlanta and this summer, our family set our sights on making that happen. I have not read as widely as I'd like on Dr. King though I've read probably more than most. What I am most often struck by in the writings of so many is the absolute lack of recognition of the deep faith and the sermons of Dr. King which speak so forcefully of his trust in Jesus Christ.

So, during our time at the King Center, I looked for copies of sermons, of the messages of Dr. King, those rarely mentioned words inspired by God's Spirit. I managed to find two. I'll admit I was disappointed but I bought them and took them home. They've sit to the side now for a couple of weeks.

Now my own journey has taken me into the time that St. John of the Cross termed, “the dark night of the soul.” I have read his works and others on the role of suffering and pain in the life of the Christian. My own theology of suffering is being shaped in these many months and I've come to a recognition that our understanding of suffering in western Christianity is tragically underdeveloped. It barely hangs on life support, neglected and withered.

The times of dark nights are, in my estimation, misunderstood or more tragically, seen as weak faith. To read and hear Dr. King though, I come across one who both lived in times of dark nights and found there, the chance to face what God intends there – the places we need work.

As I rolled out of bed this week, I knocked those CDs off my bedside table. There, on the top, was the sermon, “Judging Others.” That signaled all to clearly a piece of my own soul that myself and others close to me, have found themselves dealing with lately.

Dr. King begins with the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1 saying, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” He goes on to share how Jesus modeled that with the woman caught in adultery, with Peter, the disciple who denied him, and Zacchaeus, the “wee-little man in the sycamore tree.” He added to it his own stories of trying to live out this command of Jesus in the face racism. He also shared of the conflict within the black community regarding the tension over non-violent protest or violent activism.

At the end of the sermon, Dr. King drives home the application points, questions which drive to the heart of the matter. We should ask these of ourselves in any and all situations where we might speak regarding others. Dr. King quotes from Dr. Alexander White, that before we speak we should ask:

1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?

“If you can answer these three questions you can go out here and talk about anybody you want to talk about. When you answer these you come to a love of humanity. You don't judge too easily for in the process of judging, you judge yourself. As I come to my conclusion, our job is to be like Jesus.”

No, it isn't Martin Luther King Jr. Day but then wisdom doesn't ever call it in. Neither did Dr. King. Neither should the followers of Jesus.

From Bling To Blessing - Walking Wisely Week 6

Proverbs 11:23-31

Did you know that at one time generosity was illegal in Santa Cruz, California? That's right. Pastor Billy Strayhorn noted that about fifteen years ago, it was illegal for someone to put money in other people's parking meters without their permission. The practice called "plugging coins" was considered an illegal act by Santa Cruz municipal code. The fine for a parking violation was $12.00. The penalty "plugging" thirteen dollar.
Mr. Twister whose real name is Cory McDonald, is a professional clown and balloon twister, who has spared many car owners in Santa Cruz, California the misery of that twelve dollar parking ticket by putting quarters in their expired parking meters. After several warnings, Mr. Twister was ticketed for his random acts of illegal kindness. However, he refused to stop doing what he considers "doing to others as he would have them do to him."
But there is justice. In a strange twist, the news media got hold of the story and pretty soon Mr. Twister was being interviewed by CNN and nearly every news organization in the US. Letters from children all over the country began pouring into Santa Cruz City offices. Other clowns got into the act. Bumper stickers were created.
Mr. Twister became a local and national hero.
His acts of kindness prevailed. Declaring the law a "public relationship disaster," the Santa Cruz City Council took emergency action to yank the law from the books immediately. In an effort to show their support and their chagrin, each member of the City Council, along with the mayor, donned red clown noses and beeped their vote of approval.
Rather than see his Benjamins and Bling as something to aquire and protect, Mr. Twister saw it as a blessing and a chance to bless.

I am not a fan of clowns but I am a fan of this one! His story speaks to the heart of Proverbs on being wise with our bling. Yes – Proverbs speaks to gaining wealth and Yes – it speaks on the issues of poverty and Yes – it speaks on dangers of greed. John Wesley neatly sums this up in the sermon on “The Use of Money”. He laid out the foundational understanding that a believer should, “Having first, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.”

But if all we dwell on is gaining and saving and avoiding greed – if this is what we take away from God's Word – on Solomon's wisdom then may God have mercy for we are clowns and jesters in the court and are making a mockery of the blessings of God and considering it merely our bling.

The issue at hand is not about giving money to the church – the issue is the condition of your heart. These aren't my words but the words of Solomon. This section begins and ends with a reference to those who are “Righteous.” A person who is righteous is in line with God's character for God is just/righteous as noted in the words of Job: "Shall mortal man be more just [righteous] than God?" (Job_4:1). On our own can we be righteous? The Bible clearly says no but it also makes clear that one of God's deepest desires is for his children to follow in His way. Over and over, the Bible identifies, describes, shows and demonstrates it is the nature of God to be generous. So to with His followers.

There are unfortunately barriers that come to us all – verses 27-29 identify that there are those who go after evil and when they do so they will find the results destructive. When it comes to finances and greed, such desire will damage even a family. Bankruptcy and tax evasion are two that I have seen in ministry that have damaged families, some irreprably.

When that damage occurs in the church, the family of God suffers harm and it calls into question whether the church is trustworthy. I know there are those who come here who carry wounds caused by churches. I know many of your stories related to this so you may think at this moment I am talking directly to you – and I am – but “you” are a whole lot of people.

It is hard not to hold back when we've been hurt in any relationship. But Solomon in his wisdom noted the danger in verse (24) that, “One person spends freely and yet grows richer, while another holds back what he owes and yet grows poorer.” Be it our estate or our soul, when we lack generosity we will know poverty. And so I ask the question, when it comes to generosity, what is the wise thing to do?

But Ken, that poor guy could get a job, why should I give? But Ken, I was in a church that abused my financial gifts? There valid questions – good questions but not the best because the wise question has to do with our souls. And the wise hear that we need not be irresponsible with our bling but turn it into blessing.

In 1731 Wesley began to limit his expenses so that he would have more money to give to the poor. He records that one year his income was 30 pounds and his living expenses 28 pounds, so he had 2 pounds to give away. The next year his income doubled, but he still managed to live on 28 pounds, so he had 32 pounds to give to the poor. In the third year, his income jumped to 90 pounds. When he died in 1791, the only money mentioned in his will was the miscellaneous coins to be found in his pockets and dresser drawers. Most of the 30,000 pounds he had earned in his lifetime he had given away.

Wesley wasn't tithing. Tithing is the Bible's understanding of the minimum we ought to be giving to God. Generosity means we're talking above the 10 percent! Now you may say God has no right to ask that but if you believe God is God, and you are alive and have breath and are here then you are blessed. We all tithe to our mechanic, to our mortgage lender, to the grocery store – they tell us the cost – we give the minimum.

My words are a poor expression of all that I feel toward what God has given me. But the life that I now live following cancer and depression has strengthened my understanding of the generosity of God. If God only gave the minimum to us, we might have an argument. Look at it this way [says Paul in Romans 5:6-10] At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people. (7) Finding someone who would die for a godly person is rare. Maybe someone would have the courage to die for a good person. (8) Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God's love for us. (9) Since Christ's blood has now given us God's approval, we are even more certain that Christ will save us from God's anger. (10) If the death of his Son restored our relationship with God while we were still his enemies, we are even more certain that, because of this restored relationship, the life of his Son will save us.

Who Do You Flock With? Walking Wisely Week 5

Proverbs 18:24 NASB A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Have you ever heard anyone say, "Birds of a feather flock together"? Have you ever stopped and really asked yourself what it means? Let me tell you a story which will help you to understand.
One spring a great many crows began to pull up a farmer's young corn. The farmer loaded his shotgun and went out to frighten them away. Bang! The farmer fired at the crows, and hurried out into the field to see how many he had hit. To his surprise he found that, besides killing three crows, he had wounded Polly, his pet parrot!
You can imagine how upset his children were when he came home with Polly in his hands.
"O Daddy," they cried, "who was so cruel as to hurt poor Polly! Where was she?"
Before the farmer could explain, Polly began to say, "Bad Company! Bad Company!"
"That is certainly the truth, Polly!" laughed the man. Then he explained to his children that Polly had evidently seen the crows in the field and had left the house (she was allowed out of her cage a great deal of the time) and had gone to join the other birds. She had been among the crows when the farmer fired on them.

Living together on this planet, it is near impossible to get by without being in contact with other human beings. We cannot escape it but if there is a place to ask “what is the wise thing to do?” it is in regards to who we call friends. Who we chose to spend time with will be one of the most influential decisions we make in our lives.

Solomon's words were clear, be careful who you surround yourself with, there are FRIENDS YOU DO NOT WANT...
1. Gossips - Pr 20:19
2. Short-tempered - Pr 22:24-25
3. Those given to drinking and gluttony - Pr 23:20-21
4. Those given to change - Pr 24:21-22
5. Liars, those untrustworthy, and those inconsiderate - Pr 25: 18-20
6. Those given to violence - Pr 1:10-19

If only Solomon's son, Rehoboam had read his father's words it would have helped him greatly. A division had arisen in Israel, a division between the 12 tribes. Solomon had been a bit hard on the tribes other than the tribe of Judah and their leader Jeroboam came and asked for grace and mercy. They said, (4) "Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you." Rehoboam consulted the advisors of Solomon who said, “the people are right – listen to them.” Then he consulted those he hung out with all the time – his friends and (10) The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, "Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!' But you shall speak to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's loins! (11) 'Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'" (1 Kings 12:1-11 NASB) And from there the nation split into civil war and collapsed.

Who you chose to surround yourself with will shape you more than you know. Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:20 ESV You may say, “well, Ken, so-so invited me to this party and some friends will be there. Now there is this group that is really into getting drunk BUT I'm not. Is it wrong to go?” That is a good question BUT isn't the best question – WHAT IS THE WISE THING TO DO? It isn't about RIGHT or WRONG but what is the wise thing to do?

So who are we looking for? What does the character of a wise friend look like? Well let's consider that for a minute. When it comes to relationships and character, I want to note 8 things Solomon said in Proverbs and then we'll consider the opposite....

1. At peace with God - cf. Pr 16:7 vs. hate toward God?
2. Be slow to anger - Pr 15:18; vs. being quick to anger?
3. Be slow to respond - Pr 18:13 vs. jumping to conclusions?
4. Avoid quarreling - Pr 20:3 vs. ready to start a fight?
5. Speak gently - Pr 15:1 vs. speaking harshly?
6. Speak briefly - Pr 10:19 vs. going on & on & on & on...
7. Be quick to show love - Pr 10:12 vs. being quick to show hate?
8. Correct rather than flatter - Pr 28:23 vs. flattering before correcting?

So now you tell me – what is the wise thing to do? And don't think for a minute I'm just talking to teenagers here. At our work places or in our neighborhoods, adults, what is the wise thing to do? Who do you flock with? Who we choose to flock with models for younger generations. Networking and business card trading is one thing. The rules of business and getting ahead aren't the way of winning friends and influencing people.

No friend I've ever tried to 'win' ever seemed to be a friend worth having in the end. The wise thing would be start with this defining characteristic, namely, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (Jn 15:13). No greater friend can we have than Jesus Christ. He offers that friendship to you and to me and it remains the defining act of friendship.

Have you taken Jesus up on his offer of friendship? Compare Jesus with Solomon's friendship test? Then add to this – what friend has ever died for you? When it comes to your life right now, this day, let me ask you, chosing Jesus as your friend or not – what is the wise thing to do?

Do Yo u Need To Be Put In Place? Walking Wisely Part 4

Luke 7:1-9 NASB When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. (2) And a centurion's slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. (3) When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. (4) When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying, "He is worthy for You to grant this to him; (5) for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue." (6) Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; (7) for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. (8) "For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." (9) Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, "I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith."

You may have heard me share my first day driving in drivers Ed as a high school student. That first day behind the wheel of a car was my first ever. Sitting beside me was the old retired football coach who knew more creative descriptions than I had ever heard in my young life. No doubt he was once a drill sergeant. The most memorable part of the day was the moments following running a stop sign. I recall him yelling at me: “What did that sign say?!?!” “Stop,” I replied. “What did YOU do?!?!” “I drove through it.”

There was no force-field to stop me. There was no wall to run into or any car in my way. Coach had his own brake and could have stopped the car. It was just a piece of metal right? Yes, but it carried with it the weight of the law and coach had the weight of grades which that day was an “F.” Those who walk wisely walk under the truth that there is authority in this world. But we may not realize that how live with this truth can and does have eternal implications.

In our lives we will often be both in authority over others and at times under the authority of someone. How we conduct ourselves in both situation is the concern of Solomon. Throughout his Proverbs he makes note of the truths in leadership. Most often in Proverbs, this issue of authority is spoken of in regards to kings. Yet, the implications are applicable to us all in the places we find ourselves.

Whether one is a king or a president, a teacher or a manager, an elder, or a parent, a team captain or a patrol leader, God expects us to exercise authority with justice. But that isn't determined by our title BUT but by our character. In a leader it starts by taking away evil influences as Solomon says in Proverbs 25:4-5 GNB Take the impurities out of silver and the artist can produce a thing of beauty. (5) Keep evil advisers away from the king and his government will be known for its justice. In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the imagery is shown in the corruption of King Theoden of Rohan through the advice of Grima Wormtounge. Because a leader is charged with the care of others, Solomon points to the heart of the leader as a key place to start namely that Kings cannot tolerate evil, because justice is what makes a government strong. Proverbs 16:12 GNB

It was King Lemuel who shares the words of his mother regarding the role of leaders. The temptation is always great to grasp for power for its own sake. But it is in the nature of a godly leader to be others centered as Proverbs 31 notes - "Speak up for people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless. (9) Speak for them and be a righteous judge. Protect the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9 GNB

But I am no person of power or influence! No, maybe we don't serve as the president of the U.S. and I am not a bishop either. We live under authority and regarding being under authority, Solomon challenges us to (21) Have reverence for the LORD, my child, and honor the king. Have nothing to do with people who rebel against them; (22) such people could be ruined in a moment. Do you realize the disaster that God or the king can cause? Proverbs 24:21-22 GNB
But there is more to it than just that. Our own lives should reflect certain qualities in response to those who are in authority over us.
1. Wise conduct, not shameful - Pr 14:35
2. Righteous speech - Pr 16:13
3. Purity of heart and graceful lips - Pr 22:11
4. Excellence in one's work - Pr 22:29
5. Self-control of one's passions and appetites - Pr 23:1-3
6. Humility - Pr 25:6-7
7. Patience and gentleness - Pr 25:15

And are these not the very character traits we want to see in our leaders, in those in authority over us?

It makes significant the incident here between the centurion and Jesus. The centurion saw the character of Jesus, who (7)... of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. (8) He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death--- his death on the cross. (Phil. 2). And so, as one who was both UNDER authority and who HAD AUTHORITY, he put himself under Jesus.

And then we catch a glimpse of what faith looks like in the eyes of Jesus, the King of the Jews. Faith is seen when we place ourselves willingly under the authority of God. The centurion had practiced it in his career. When one came worthy of his submission, one whose character was beyond question – this centurion – stepped out and placed himself under the authority of Jesus. And Jesus said – this is what faith looks like.

How silly we have been! How silly I have been! Faith is not out there – something unable to be grasped or claimed! No! But it is our nature to rebel. We see the cost of the rebellion, the results of our fallen nature, our sin – but the answer is simple but not simplistic – it starts with looking at Jesus, the King of Kings.

Kids, we practice it in our homes with our parents and guardians. Youth and adults, we practice it in our work and our world. It is in the simple things. Look at life wisely – if you've not had faith or as I have often done, lost my faith, then today is the day and now is the time to say, place yourself under authority,

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