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Lord's Day Liturgy

An Irritated Puddle of Retaliatory Goo

We are well into advent now, rounding third and headed home. Yet because of how the days fall on the calendar this year, the fourth advent Sunday is still six long days from Christmas. A lot of events are done, but there are more on your schedule, especially ones with the people who tend to get on your nerves the most…family. That presents a significant challenge, because with strangers, you can’t predict as well what they’ll argue about, and you may never see them again. With the ones God has chosen for your permanent “neighbors,” you’ve seen the show a thousand times.

In a week of final preparations and feasting, even for a week with siblings at home from school all day every day, Solomon provides some counsel for the prudent.

The vexation of a fool is known at once,
but the prudent ignores an insult.
(Proverbs 12:16)

Vexation refers to the spleen in the pot, foolishness is like the fire that makes the complaints simmer. Vexation is what pets your feathers backward, what puts salt in your tea. It could be about the state of democracy, it could be about the state of dinner. It could be about the commute, it could be about your comment. And because of how the proverb runs, vexation isn’t only generic grumbling in your presence, vexation may be insulting to your person.

I have said much about not being angry or ungrateful, this is about how to absorb it.

But…she’s wrong! But…others will get the wrong impression if I don’t make a public correction! But…you don’t know how insulting my brother has been for years!

The New Testament version goes even further: love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), which Peter uses as prep for the following imperative: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

Prudence and love like this are not pushovers, just the opposite. This sort of wisdom and care is unable to be pushed over into an irritated puddle of retaliatory goo.

Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
(Proverbs 19:11)

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A Shot of Encouragement

Recognize and Resist Wicked Rulers Day

Today is September 28. It’s a good day to read Proverbs 28. Maybe the wise should call the 28th Recognize and Resist Wicked Rulers Day.

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but THE RIGHTEOUS ARE BOLD AS A LION.
(Proverbs 28:1)

When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
its stability will long continue.
(Proverbs 28:2)

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but THOSE WHO KEEP THE LAW STRIVE AGAINST THEM.
(Proverbs 28:4)

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
(Proverbs 28:12)

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
(Proverbs 28:15)

A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
(Proverbs 28:16)

When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,
but when they perish, the righteous increase.
(Proverbs 28:28)

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Lord's Day Liturgy

If an Idiot Falls in a Forest

Word studies are often bad. Or done badly. Or a bad idea to begin with.

I am fond of words. The world is upheld by the word of Christ’s power (Hebrews 1:3). God created by speaking into existence (Hebrews 11:3). Jesus Himself is the Logos, the Word (John 1:1). God gave us His Word, and He gave us words, with form and function and meaning and history.

It’s easy enough to hear surface connections between words, or see simple derivatives, and make conclusions that are wrong. For example, dynamite comes from the Greek word dunamis, but when Paul said that the gospel is the “power (dunamis) of God to salvation” in Romans 1:16, the apostle did not mean that the gospel will explode and blow up our sin. Or, another example, for as much as we can appreciate compound words, the English word “butterfly” is neither a fly made out of butter or butter with wings.

That said, I recently came across the root of the word idiot. I have a pretty good idea of what idiot means; I have been called one, I have met more than one. It usually works fine as a synonym with fool, as one who makes it known that he is not in the know.

What I came to know is that it grew from the Greek word idios which means “ones own,” or “private.” It developed over time as a reference to one who couldn’t be bothered by what other people had to say, and described someone who was unskilled or inexperienced because of not being able, or willing, to learn from others.

That may seem like a lot to pin on just a word. Fine. So consider the corroboration from these inspired sentences.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Proverbs 18:2)

And that really stands out after reading the previous verse.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)

Or as the NKJV translates, “he rages against all wise judgment.”

One could be an idiot like this geographically, or argumentatively, or even silently, smugly judging how stupid everyone else is, just in your own head. Oh how wise it is to not be alone, and to listen to those who offer life-giving reproof (see Proverbs 6:23).

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Conspiracy Theories Like Pollen in the Windshield Crevices

Do you know what is convenient? Always being right. It’s a heavy burden to always be right because there is always someone who is wrong. Christians are some of the best at being right unhelpfully.

In case you haven’t read the news recently, we may or may not be in a pandemic with a virus that may or may not have been man made, that may or may not have been intentionally mishandled or released, that may or may not have become a cover for governmental overreach, that may or may not lead to social upheaval, that may or may not cause unrecoverable economic catastrophe, that may or may not be in order to elect a man with dementia as the obvious choice for president.

Because we live in a country that allows, and promotes, idiocy, Americans are some of the best bull-heads in the world. Social media only amplifies noise, and it’s hard to find any signal.

In special seasons, like this one, there are more conspiracy theories in the air than pollen, and “thankfully” there are a bunch of Christians telling other Christians to stop slandering assumed conspirators. One argument I read for why Christians are so gullible to conspiracy theories is is that we are so proud, we like to feel that super smart and powerful people put a lot of energy into duping us. Aren’t we great?

But don’t be naive, or look at everything through tin-foil glasses. Where two or three are gathered together in this Genesis 3 world, watch your wallet. You’d think that Christians, who know the doctrine of the depravity of man, who know their own capacity for sin, would be better at seeing the systemic effects of sin where they really are…among all the liars in high places.

For that matter, our country’s Constitution was written in anticipation of government conspiracies against the citizens. The three branches of government exist to stand against the conspiracies of the other two. Checks and balances assume the high likelihood of conspirators across the table.

So remember to be wise. Proverbs 18 applies; don’t make decisions without evidence (verse 13), and don’t listen only to the first side, or the side you like (verse 18). And don’t be bullied by other people, even Christians, telling you not to ask questions. And above all, confess your sin. But for the grace of God, we would all be so stupid.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

Proverbial Nose Bleeds

How many ways can you have a bad day? I’m not sure, but I know for sure how to make one worse.

Maybe the “bad” is due to your body. It’s not traceable to anything foolish you did, it’s due to something in God’s sovereignty, and it causes you some amount of suffering. Maybe the bad is in your mailbox, or email inbox. Out of what seems like nowhere to you, God sent you a bill, or a criticism, or an “opportunity” that will take you a week just to decide what to do. People have had it worse than you, but this is bad.

I have come back from the land of attempted sanctification and can report a guaranteed way to multiply the problem. I’m going to tell it to you know, for free, it doesn’t take long to teach. If you want to make it worse, see what’s bad and then get mad. Anger will pour vinegar on the soda of your papier-mâché volcano. Eruption!

Solomon wrote a lot about anger, and about how fools get angry. It starts with too high a view of the man in the mirror.

If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been devising evil,
put your hand on your mouth.
For pressing milk produces curds,
pressing the nose produces blood,
and pressing anger produces strife.

Proverbs 30:32-33

Anger starts when you’ve decided that you are doing things God’s way, or rather that what you’ve decided is as good as God’s way. If God’s way isn’t happening, which by this point you’re seeing very clearly from your perspective on high, you get angry. Anger never dances alone for long. It wants a partner, or rather, a target, and so it “produces strife.”

Now your bad day, which may have been God’s plan to get glory (as in John 9), has you hot and your wife in fight or flight and your kids (or coworkers) questioning if you are as #blessed as your bumper sticker claims.

But, good news, Jesus already bled for the proverbial nose bleeds you’ve caused, and His grace is like cool milk to a heart on fire.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

More Hope for Fools

It’s one thing to live with zero desire to be respected and it’s another thing to live dishonorably and demand to be respected. Some people are hard to steer, others are hard to motivate, and still others are both yet they love to give advice.

The common denominator, and it is the lowest one, is of persons who are deceiving themselves. They think they are wise, but they may be the only ones who don’t know the truth.

These sorts of fools use proverbs but they are useless, like a lame lan’s legs. They get assignments but they hurt those who send them or hire them. They do the same painful, sickening things over and over, like a dog that returns to his vomit.

Solomon once took eleven verses to talk about how bad a fool is, only to follow it by saying: “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).

The issue of self-deception is explicitly bad in James 1:22-24. There is a religious person, a person who hangs out with church people and even one who listens to God’s Word, but who cheats himself from the blessing of obedience.

The word “deceive” comes from the idea of catching or ensnaring. To deceive someone else is to try to gain an advantage over them, to deceive oneself is to make-believe something that isn’t true. The only advantage of deceiving oneself is to not have do deal with uncomfortable reality. There’s more hope for fools than deniers.

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Lord's Day Liturgy

On Not Sponsoring Stupidity

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom, wisdom for those who need to get wisdom, and wisdom for those who need to give it. Solomon helps the one who already understands obtain guidance and then also give guidance to others.

One of the proverbs most quoted in our house is Solomon’s lesson on the unteachable.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.
(Proverbs 12:1, ESV)

The word “stupid” (translated as such in the ESV, NAS, NIV) usually referred to an animal that lacks sense. To hate correction is “brutish” (KJV). Lots of times parents are up against the worst sort of willful stupidity. Some other times parents are the worst at keeping their kids dumb.

Jonathan Edwards illustrated it this way.

If any of you that are heads of families, saw one of your children in a house that was all on fire over its head, and in eminent danger of being soon consumed in the flames, that seemed to be very insensible of its danger, and neglected to escape, after you had often spake to it, and called to it, would you go on to speak to it only in a cold and indifferent manner? Would not you cry aloud, and call earnestly to it, and represent the danger it was in, and its own folly of delaying, in the most lively manner you were capable of? Would not nature itself teach this, and oblige you to it? If you should continue to speak to it only in a cold manner, as you are wont to do in ordinary conversation about indifferent matters, would not those about you begin to think you were bereft of reason yourself? (emphasis mine)

Who has the bigger problem, the child in the burning house or the dad who sees the child in the burning house and acts as if it’s no big deal? He who hates reproof is stupid. He who hates giving reproof when it is necessary sponsors stupidity, and death (Proverbs 19:18). Maybe the most ironic response is hating correction so much that you get fired up to correct the ones urging your kids to get out of the burning house because you don’t like their tone. We should be wiser than that.

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A Shot of Encouragement

Four Chariots Wide

These sermon notes on self-control are better than a heap of Babylonian bricks. Wilson aims his admonition at the angry, but certainly there is application for all sorts of afflicting or tempting emotions. It all starts from the text: “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, KVJ).

Notice that a man who is not self-governed is compared in the first instance to a man who is defenseless. Not having rule in his own spirit, which means he does not have rule over his own spirit, means that the walls of his “city” are little more than rubble. Now this means that self-control is a wall, a bulwark, and you should want walls like Babylon had, where four chariots could drive abreast around the top of them. Now that’s a wall. But there is more. The man who has “no rule” is a man who has no rule over his spirit. In other words, the problem is that his soul is tempestuous. He lets others live in his head rent-free. This is the man who is defenseless.

Someone who is self-controlled in his spirit is someone who is a warrior. His city is not defenseless, but this control is not just a defensive posture. Note what Proverbs tells us elsewhere. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).

A man with self-control in his spirit can defend his city, but more than this, he can take a city.

Read the rest.