Fountains

Proverbs 10:10-11

Sneaky! This is one of those traits that you love to hate. You love it when someone else gets the brunt of the joke, but when you get the bucket of water on your head, it becomes a different story. These subtle deceptions, lies that seem harmless, are the high end of a category of actions condemned by God. We are supposed to be exuding life.

We are living in an age when deception makes some filthy rich, and leaves the rest of us just getting by. I think of a former Vice President who touts a “Green” agenda because of his “concern” for the warming of the earth, and yet flies around in a private jet. His life betrays his real beliefs. He becomes filthy rich when he sells his largest asset to the very people who profit from destroying his “Green” agenda. He is “Green”, alright (wink, wink).

Or the members of Congress who voted to change the law to encourage sub-prime mortgages now pointing fingers at the banking industry for getting us into a mess. “It’s their fault.” (Wink, wink) We will fix it this time. (Wink, wink) All the while there are backroom deals that create millionaires who represent us. (Wink, wink)

How about the dad who says, “I’ll be at your ball game,” and then doesn’t show up. Or the mom who is “meeting with the girls” to carry on an affair. Or the child who says, “I clean up my room” and then does nothing.

When we set ourselves on the path of deceit we are set up for failure. Our speech will betray us over time. People can’t help but tell their story. Just give them time and they will tip their hand. They will show you what is on the inside.

For the righteous, life is about sharing the life we have in Christ. Life flows from someone who obeys the LORD. They become a fountain. When we were traveling in Italy we were drawn, like so many before us, to the many fountains that flow. There is just something refreshing about sitting beside a fountain, listening to the splashing water and feeling the gentle mist touching your skin. And on a hot day it is like air conditioning.

So it is with someone who lives a life of obedience. When people are around us, the sense the Life we participate in living. They can be refreshed just by being in our presence.

Are we a chattering fool or a refreshing fountain?

Swiss Cheese

Proverbs 10:9

Living on the edge! Risk-taking! Rush! We certainly live in a world where thrill-seeking has become the new Olympic-sized sport. It is almost as if the brain gets stuck in high gear and nothing at normal pace ever feels normal.

I am a very different type of person. I like not falling off cliffs. I like staying in the middle of the road. I don’t like the possibility of pain. I think pain is God’s way of saying, “Cut that out!” It is a warning system that keeps us from hurting ourselves. I don’t believe the saying, “No pain, no gain.” But then again, I am a little odd. I like walking on steady grown.

When we lack integrity we walk on uncertain ground every day. Walking without integrity is like walking around in an abandoned, unfamiliar building at night. You never know when the floor is going to give out. Will this step be the one that gives out? Will I be caught this time?

I love to see people slow down below the speed limit when they see a highway patrol on the interstate. We are allowed to go the speed limit! They slow down because of their guilt. They hope they weren’t caught.

But the person who is consistent in every area of their life doesn’t have to worry about their day to day decisions. He knows what to expect and how to react. He has been on that path before. He won’t be caught doing something that doesn’t fit with his internal character.

Someone who lacks integrity is often called two-faced. You see different actions in different circumstances. You never know exactly who is going to show up and any given moment. In fact, often, they don’t know who will show up either. They live in fear of being discovered.

Someone with integrity has thought through what they will do and why. They have put the pieces of life together into an integrated whole. They are not like Swiss cheese. There are no potholes just around the corner.

Unfortunately, none of us has complete integrity. We all have some holes in our lives, places that we don’t want other people looking into. But the more we walk according to God’s Word, the more integrity we will have.

So when you notice those holes in your life, fill them with God’s Word. Allow Him to bridge the gap in your integrity.

Chatterbox

Proverbs 10:8

Do you know someone who just won’t shut up? I mean, no matter what topic or when a conversation starts, they have to be the one doing the talking. The faucet gets turned on and there is no stopping it. People even leave the room and the chatter continues. They seem to have a compulsion to fill empty auditory space with the sound of their voice.

Or perhaps the conversation always turns to them. They make it about themselves, even though the situation warrants the conversation being allowed to center somewhere else. You could be talking about just about anything and they have a story about that subject. Sometime the stories fit, but many times they are sidetracking topics.

Sometime people who are this way have a very difficult time accepting what other people have to say. It is almost as if their brains only work in one direction. They seem to be able to give it out, but they can’t take it in. They are often very poor listeners.

One of the essential lessons of childhood is learning to follow directions. Kids need to learn that they are not in charge of their world. Parents are the first teachers of this lesson. It doesn’t make us tyrants if we make rules and enforce them. In fact, it makes us a better reflection of our Creator.

Some rules are just meant to be obeyed. We can try all we want to disobey the rule of gravity, but it will win. What goes up, must come down. If we try to ignore the rule, we will just end up falling. We can temporarily experience what it feels like to be in a no gravity situation, but this only happens when the plane is falling at the same speed as we are falling. Gravity still wins.

Commands are meant to be obeyed. If we obey quickly, there are better results than if we delay obedience. Quitting smoking one day before we die of lung cancer is not as helpful as quitting after only one day of smoking.

When we really obey a command we take the truth contained in the command and make it a part of who we are. It becomes part of the fabric of our being. Then we don’t even have to think about obeying, obedience is just the way we live.

People say it takes several weeks to establish a new habit or break and old one. Is there a habit you would like to replace with another habit? Now is as good a time to start as any. Start obeying.

Pigpen

Proverbs 10:6-7

One of my most memorable cartoon characters is Pigpen from Charlie Brown. He carried his own atmosphere with him, a dust cloud. Everywhere he went the cloud went with him. It would arrive a few moments before he got somewhere and lag a few moments after he left. Some people carry their mood like they have their own weather system. They enter a room and the mood in the room changes.

Verses six and seven talk about what kind of cloud that accompanies both the righteous and the wicked. The righteous carry around blessings with them. We call this their reputation. Their reputation paves the way for blessings to come. Blessings are something that get shared. They overflow and positively affect those around us. You can’t contain a blessing. I don’t know about you, but I like being around this kind of person. I feel better about myself and about life after they have been around.

I don’t really like being around people whose mouths spew ugliness. I don’t care whether it is foul language or foul content; if I have a choice, I will leave. This kind of cloud pulls the whole crowd down. It can pull a family down as well.

Have you ever noticed that it can be very hard to pull a conversation upward, but very easy to turn it downward? Once one person starts complaining, it seems that everyone follows. It takes very little to get it started and a whole lot to get it stopped.

And the color of a person’s life does not automatically change when they die. We call this after effect someone’s legacy. Even the memory of the righteous person carries a blessing, while the wicked rots. Think about that for a moment. Have you ever left garbage in a trash can and gone on vacation. What was it like when you returned? Stink? Crawling, squirming things, flies? That is what it is like with a wicked person. Even after they are dead, it can take a while to get things cleaned up.

What kind of reputation do you have? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? Now is the time to do things that create both.

Lazy During Peak Season

Proverbs 10:1-5

Raising children is like the egg and spoon race. Just when you think you have been successful, the spoon seems to get smaller and the egg less stable. Your attention shifts from the finish line to the egg and back again. Distractions abound, twists and turns, bumps and potholes.

But when you finally get them launched… your concern still does not diminish. There is one thing that makes a parent’s heart skip with joy. When a parent sees their children making wise choices; that makes it all worthwhile.

I have had that joy repeated many times over the last few years. My children continue to make wise decisions. This does not mean I am not still concerned about them, but I am much less concerned than if they were being fools.

One of the areas where we get into trouble is the area of money. As a country we spend like it is air. There is no concerted effort to face the inevitable consequences of an ever expanding debt. Lord, forgives us for placing such a great burden on our children’s children’s children. If we would just listen to the wisdom in verses like these!

Capitalism in its worst form makes winners and losers, rich and poor, haves and have nots. That is because greed is the motivating force, rather than service of others. In capitalism as is practiced in the West, there is little sense of the common good. What is important is the bottom line. What matters is the rate of growth.

If we would avoid laziness, things would be much better. But now our system rewards laziness. We pay people to do nothing, and incentivize them to continue to be unproductive.

God has called us to be productive. There are times when the burden of work will be greater, like harvest time in an agrarian society, summer time for construction, Thanksgiving to Christmas for retail.

And our productivity reflects back to our parents. It says something about our upbringing, and about our character. It is an outward sign of an inward trait.

False Advertisement: Proverbs, Deception, Deceive

Proverbs 9:13-18

Promises, promises, promises. I find myself turning out the promises some people make. Do you tune some people out? Why is that?

As Wisdom was given the opportunity to speak, so folly tells us about herself. She is compared to an unruly woman. This woman is stupid, at the bottom of the gene pool, a few bricks short of a full load, the elevator doesn’t travel to the top floor. This is not intelligence, but the application of wisdom. She doesn’t learn from her mistakes.

Just like wisdom, folly wants followers. It has something to offer those who pay it a visit. Notice that it doesn’t want anyone with wisdom visiting. That is because wise people would just ignore folly’s invitation. That is a pretty good marketing campaign. It is targeted and focused. Wisdom called out to everyone in that hopes that even some of the simple would come.

Folly’s promises are obviously false, but people still respond. Stolen water is just water. It doesn’t magically become better in the process of being stolen. The same holds true to a meal secretly eaten. In fact, I don’t even like eating secretly. I want other people around so that I can have conversation.

But just like most marketing campaigns, there is a dark side that isn’t shown. Wheels fall off, toys that break, poisonous ingredients, rat meat, higher taxes, fewer options, building code violations, hidden beliefs. But in this case the promised sweet water and delicious food is served with dead people at the table. I don’t care how good the food is, if there are dead people at the table, no thanks.

But a fool never bothers to scratch beyond the surface. They take what is offered at face value, without questioning even obvious errors. They swallow whole the lies that are given, and then they will defend those lies against attack.

Folly can’t admit wrong. But wisdom had the ability to do just that. Wisdom knows when a mistake has been made and turns around. Folly continues on the same course, even if that course goes off a cliff.

Narcissists in Charge

Proverbs 9:7-12

We all know people who are never wrong, or at least that is what they will tell you. They always point the finger of blame at someone else. They never say they are sorry, or at least never really mean it, or say it without a “but” attached. It is hard to live with someone like that. We have a modern name for this kind of person. We call them Narcissists.

But one of the worst problems is when someone like that gets into a powerful leadership position, whether it be in a small organization or in a powerful country, that entity is in trouble. That is because one of the needed attributes of a good leader is the ability to be corrected, to receive input, even negative input from other people.

Our text today begins with what anyone who has tried to give negative feedback to someone like this has found. They will not receive correction. They will mock you and insult you. They never answer the question or complaint. They turn it around and talk about an imagined or invented question or argument.

I hate to say it, but we see this alot in politics these days. One party demonizing the other, saying they want to enslave women and send us back to the 1950’s. They invent statements and positions about their opponents that the opponent doesn’t even believe, and they the attack that invented position as if it were real.

You can never correct such a person or organization. They will not listen to reason. They have believed their own lies about you and have begun to hate you.

But by a great contrast you can rebuke a wise person. They are open to course correction and change. And when they receive that correction, they are better for it. Their lives are ones of taking the input of others. That doesn’t mean they take everyone’s input equally, but they have the ability to hear the wisdom even in a fools speech.

The wise person takes input from the LORD as well. They recognize that they don’t have a corner on the wisdom market and are willing to, or should I say eager to find more wisdom and apply it.

The familiar word “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” carry a powerful punch. When we place the LORD in His proper place in our life, at the center of our worldview, then the rest has the ability to fall into place. He is in charge. He has the right to make the rules and enforce them. Getting this right begins our journey of wisdom. Reward is on its way.

The House that Wisdom Built

Proverbs 9:1-6

Starting in Chapter Nine of Proverbs, the author shares shorter bits of wisdom often cloaked in very colorful pictures. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the picture and miss the simple wisdom contained in the picture. Sometimes there are many bits of wisdom that can be extracted from the picture. I will work hard not to jump too far from the text. I would invite you to do the same.

As we begin our text today, some have jumped very far in understanding verse one. Some have suggested that the seven pillars are the universal truths that underlay all religions of the world. A jump off the high dive indeed! I hope they filled the bathtub before landing.

This text was written to help a father pass along wisdom to his son and to others who would read it. At the time of this writing, larger houses often were built around a courtyard. The edges of the courtyard were often sections of covered porch or second floor. They were often supported by pillars. The writer is painting the picture of a well prepared home, ready for entertainment.

All the food is prepared and it is ready. Everything is ready; all we need is for people to show up and eat. This is a picture of God’s provision as He has given us the Word. Its wisdom will sustain us if we will just take time to feast.

Notice that those called to the house are not people already filled with wisdom. Wisdom is not something to be horded. If we have it, we don’t need to keep gathering more of the same. We need to put it into practice in our lives. We need to pass it along to others.

Notice that the wine is “mixed” wine. What does this mean? I don’t know. If you do a search you will find all sorts of explanations, everything from non-alcoholic to super-enriched liquor. All I know is, wisdom uses it as part of the package to draw the simple in to the house for the meal. It had to be special. It had to be good tasting.

As I reflect on this picture I get a couple of things. First, sometimes you have to use food to draw people in. They have a need in their life, and you offer to satisfy that need in order to have the opportunity to pass along wisdom. Wisdom didn’t just open the doors and say, “Come in for a lecture.” Wisdom offered a special meal in a special place.

Secondly, if we want to pass along wisdom, people have to feel like we care about them, and that they are special. To put it another way, we need to earn the right to speak into their lives. We need to make outsiders feel welcome. Oh, that churches would heed this wisdom!

Thirdly, we ourselves need to leave our simple ways. We need to stop holding onto foolishness. We need to embrace wisdom in every corner of our lives.