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Lombard CRC

Proverbs teaches Us Our Limits So That We Trust in The Lord

There were a lot of happy kids running and playing

on our church grounds this past week:

volleyball, kickball, dodgeball, soccer,

gaga ball, and foursquare.

The only calmer place was at foodpacking,

where 16,000 meals were made

for the WorldHope kids in Uganda.

 

Some of the kids were right in their element:

they gave our huddle coaches a run for their money! Be honest, some of you were glad Sportscamp ended Thursday night! J

Too much energy!

Too wild!

But some of the kids also,

like some of the volunteers,

were stretched this week.

Some of the sports were harder than others.

Some of the kids were faster or stronger.

Packing food reminded us

that some kids need our help,

and we concentrated to do it just right

because this was gonna be their meal for the day.

Some kids won a prize,

some were disappointed they didn’t win,

and wise parents used that teachable moment.

But really, once again

sportscamp was a teachable moment for us all:

for in gracious ways all of us came face to face

with the truth that we human beings are limited.

Some of us still have a lot of growing up to do.

Others of us are seeing the other side of the hill.

We are not stronger than everybody else.

Even tho we do our best sometimes we still lose.

And if we’re limited physically,

we confess how much more

we are limited spiritually,

so how can we ever live well with God

or wisely in the Lord’s creation?

 

That’s where the Old Testament book of Proverbs comes in.

We’ve been listening to Proverbs

for a couple of months now

in hopes of growing in our wisdom.

That’s what Proverbs is all about:

being wise, living wisely.

Have you thought of that?

Most of the time we reduce our living to

surviving,

being happy,

getting what we want,

work hard and support our kids.

Life is about good choices and bad choices.

All fair enough,

but how do we discern all that

knowing how selfish,

how self-deceiving,

how quick we are to justify anything

and everything we do . . .

how often I confess

I know what I was feeling,

but what was I thinking!

 

So Proverbs reminds us that

wisdom is a gift from our Heavenly Father

which we human beings are created to receive

and mature into practicing.

The point is we won’t live well

without living as God intends.

Since God made the world in wisdom,

living well follows that path shown most clearly

in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

So for all you sportscampers

who came up against your limitations,

and for all of us yearning to live well,

let’s wrap up our study of Proverbs

with a few sayings from Proverbs 22,

and what for many of us

is the most well known statement of the book:

Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

 

Remember, we learned a few weeks ago

that to get the most out of the proverbs in the book we have to take notice of the type of proverb

we are reading:

for instance, Proverbs 22:1

A good name is more desirable than great riches;

    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

This type of proverb is a synonymous proverb.

Do you see how the second line

restates what the first line says

but then builds on

and adds to the first line?

A good name in the first line is echoed with

being esteemed in the second line.

And that is to be preferred over riches,

in the first line, and silver and gold in the second line.

We learn that being well thought of

isn’t about having more than anyone else;

that life isn’t about thinking highly of ourselves either,

but practicing goodness, generosity

so that we are well thought of by others

for our righteousness.

 

This proverb asks us what is it that we desire?

What do you want?

And it cautions us that we can’t have everything.

There are limits to life,

so examine your desires

so that you give yourself to that what matters.

Wealth doesn’t matter;

but being esteemed,

known as a generous, caring, selfless person, does.

 

But hear what it’s saying:

we can desire the wrong things;

we can think we’re living for what’s most important when we’re not.

So how can we be wise in our desires?

We start by admitting we need

the transforming power

of the Lord’s love

to re-shape and re-form our desires

because we are made for God.

Look at vs 2 –

2 Rich and poor have this in common:

    The Lord is the Maker of them all.

This type of parable is called a saying.

It reveals wisdom from God.

This is not something we would deduce

by our own smarts and wits and reason.

Looking around we assume

people who have more must have God’s favor.

So the Lord reveals this to us.

What the Lord reveals

is that each life is treasured by the Creator.

Every person is made because

God is gracious and loving,

made to live for God’s glory and not our own.

Your life and mine, every life answers to the Lord.

You can’t buy your forgiveness.

You can’t in pride say this is me, I am

whatever I decide and choose to be and do.

No one is above or excused from the law of God.

 

This wisdom is meant to put limits

on our pride and on our injustice.

It is also to direct us to our comfort and peace.

Too often we are tempted to validate ourselves

or justify our lives

or find our identity

in wealth

or health

or pleasure

or sexual freedom

or our job

or our lack of any of these.

We wind up as Jesus said

running after these things like pagans.

Jesus went on to say

seek after my kingdom and righteousness

and depend on the Lord for what you need,

for the Lord is gracious and caring.

 

How can we learn to be wise in our desires?

Start by remembering that we belong to God.

That life is a gift from the Lord

so your life is for our Heavenly Father’s glory.

In the end the square footage in your house

or the numbers in your retirement account

or the choices and freedoms you exercise

won’t impress God.

Neither does having to go without

or having a tough go in life

give you an excuse to dismiss or turn away from

the Lord God.

 

In fact, vs 3 – 5 expand on these first two proverbs.

Vs 3 and 5 are a type of proverb called

contrasting or antithetical.

the first line contrasts with the second line:

the prudent are contrasted with the simple

and the wicked are contrasted with those who seek safety and security.

3 The prudent see danger and take refuge,

    but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.

4 Humility is the fear of the Lord;

    its wages are riches and honor and life.

5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,

    but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.

 

At Sportscamp we talked about salvation.

We learned that one meaning of that big word

is ‘being safe.’

These proverbs teach us that

a wise choice is to find safety and security

in Christ alone.

To choose safety apart from God’s grace

is to fall,

it is really to be wicked because you are

rejecting the kindness and love of Jesus,

dishonoring his cross.

 

The contrast is meant to accent warning.

Not all paths lead to God.

Now, we don’t want to forget that

the Lord God’s mercy never ends

and you can always depend on

the Father’s forgiving love.

But the warning is that if you walk along the path

that leads away from God for too long,

you won’t desire forgiveness anymore,

and the God you seek won’t be the saving,

life-giving Lord,

but merely an idol of your own making.

 

In between, vs 4 is a synthetic or integral proverb,

where the second line

completes the thought of the first line.

And gives us a clue into how to live wisely:

humility, fearing the Lord,

not in the sense of being afraid of God

but in the sense of being in awe of God

so much that we submit our desires and vision

to the Lord’s way and revelation –

this brings our heart’s true desire.

It takes humility

because evidence can point us away

from these proverbs.

We’re pressured to be consumers.

To get more and have more as the American way.

So why wouldn’t we value riches more?

Why wouldn’t we idolize our own ways above all?

We don’t see the danger,

we are oblivious to the snares.

The humble person has the freedom to say,

God is God and I am not.

I won’t always understand

what the Lord is up to,

but our Heavenly Father is pure love,

perfect righteousness,

unfailingly gracious and saving.

 

So remember the Lord God made you,

gave you life,

remember Jesus redeemed you by grace alone,

not because you deserved it

not because of anything you did

in spite of your sin,

and in that humility recognize your limitations

so that the Lord may direct you.

 

Vs 6 summarizes these verses from Proverbs 22 –

6 Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

 

Here is another saying.

It is not advice.

It is not a promise.

It is a revelation to strengthen, amaze, and assure us.

To strengthen us in the raising of our children.

It’s not enough just to feed them and keep them safe

and provide opportunities for them

in education and life.

You are called to train them spiritually,

to mentor them

and provide for their mentoring

in a faith relationship with Jesus.

That means walking the talk, right?

What do we say at a child’s baptism?

Do you promise

to instruct this child

in the truth of God’s Word,

in the way of salvation through Jesus Christ;

to pray for them, to teach them to pray;

and to train them in Christ’s way by your example,

through worship, and

in the nurture of the church?

 

Just as it’s true that the best relational gift

you can give your children is a healthy marriage;

so the best spiritual gift you give your children

is practicing a living faith in Jesus.

Here’s the assurance:

first for ourselves –

some of us have strayed from our parents’ witness and spiritual training -

the Lord is still at work in you,

our God is a forgiving and restoring God.

What did we learn at Sportscamp this week?

We shared Elisha’s story

noting that Elisha’s name means:

God is my salvation.

Salvation is a big word,

so we defined it this way:

being safe

being treasured

and being rescued.

That’s what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus reminds us.

 

And that’s our assurance

for the ache in our hearts today

over children who are missing from us spiritually:

who aren’t worshiping with us or anywhere else

with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,

who look for all the world

as having given up on faith and the love of God.

And we hear this verse as judgment:

we blame ourselves.

Where did we go wrong?

Has God forgotten his promises?

 

Here we come up against

our greatest limitations.

What kind of faith must I really have

if my children aren’t believers right now?

So here’s what’s amazing:

The Lord doesn’t give up on his promises.

Read this verse as assurance of the Lord’s resolve

in the lives of those close to us,

working beyond our limited abilities

to love and redeem spiritually.

 

And just as we are each limited,

so are our children.

But grace abounds.

The verse leaves room for God

to treasure and rescue and in the end keep safe

the one for whom you ache spiritually.

One family counselor said -  

Bear in mind, too,

that the final chapter of their story

has yet to be written.

God is able to use their youthful errors

to teach them valuable lessons

and bring them at last

to a place of humility and repentance.

This is evident from the examples

of many biblical characters such as Jacob,

Joseph's brothers, and Jonah.

Remember the words

in which Proverbs 22:6 expresses its revelation

"Even when they are old they will not depart from it.”

Even when all hope is almost gone,

the Lord is still at work.

 

So respond not with judgment but with prayer,

not with despair but love,

not with bitterness but with hope.

 

Matthew West’s song, ‘Mended’ gets its power

from the hope and assurance of God’s presence

in this proverb:

When you see broken beyond repair

I see healing beyond belief

When you see too far gone

I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods

I see something good in the making

I'm not finished yet

When you see wounded, I see mended

You see your worst mistake

But I see the price I paid

There's nothing you could ever do, to loose what grace has won

So hold on it's not the end

This is where love's work begins

I'm making all things new

And I will make a miracle in you

 

That sounds wise,

that sounds like where we want to be.

And that’s where the verses from Proverbs 3 lead us:

Proverbs 3

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.

 

It’s about seeing the Lord and submitting

to his way in all things.

You know, the temptation for human beings

since the beginning of human history

has been to turn faith into religion:

some outward practices that make us look good,

but don’t get us close to God,

and after a while we shrug our shoulders

and assume I guess this what God is all about:

trying to be good,

attending worship services,

giving to some charitable causes.

None of those are bad things,

but they are only training wheels for the real thing,

the real thing isn’t religion, it’s relationship,

it’s responding to the love of the Lord

in the person of Jesus,

living with Jesus and his wisdom in all things:

that’s what these verse in Proverbs are pointing to.

 

Did you notice over the last few weeks that

it’s hard to read the proverbs

because each proverb kind of jumps around

in subject matter?

From wealth and poverty

to children

to paths and direction . . .

how do we make sense of them

when they are all scattered in their subject matter?

Proverbs are given to us this way

because life is like that.

Work, rest, people, alone time,

health, sickness, errands,

Sunday worship, Saturday ballgames.

Proverbs jump around because

we jump around in life.

The point is to be mindful of the presence of Jesus

in all things and at all times.

For Jesus shared fully in our lives.

Meaning he also limited himself:

deity taking on humanity,

immortality becoming mortal.

He came as God’s wisdom in the flesh,

and fulfilled the wisdom of God

in his loving sacrifice.

We meet this living Lord

in the wisdom he gives us

in each one of our roles,

relationships,

and responsibilities.

 

So listen again to Proverbs 3 –

Hear the invitations to relationship with God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart . . .

Proverbs – faith is not first a set of beliefs

but a set of practices,

and practices founded in the fear of the Lord,

a living relationship where God is God

and we are not,

God is God on God’s terms, not ours,

where life is not our own but lived for God’s glory.

That union with God leads to practices

that witness to, long for,

and live in the kingdom of God –

God’s sovereign rule and providential reign.

And as we long for God,

our heart’s desires are sanctified,

made holy, pure, righteous,

and life-giving.

 

Lean not on your own understanding . . .

We have hungers we aren’t aware of,

not every sin is a decision,

it can be a habit, an attitude,

so we must be re-trained to God’s fear

instead of plain old earthly fear

that leads to sin and drives out love.

So begin this way:

In all your ways acknowledge him . . .

exercising gratitude,

praying humbly about all things,

remembering the fulfillment

of God’s promises in Christ,

these practices open us up to the wisdom of God.

 

When you spend time together

you begin to expect each other's company

and that's what you long for most.

We encounter the living Lord

in the full range of human experience:

in your loves

and in your losses,

in joy and in sorrow,

in strength and in need.

In all those ways of ours

Jesus points to the one living way

of his cross and empty tomb.

A wisdom more profound

than our need for it.

But offered, freely,

by his grace.

 

And he will make your paths straight . . .

When we submit to the Spirit’s counsel

we are granted wisdom from all around us.

And we are blessed with a new kind of confidence:

not a self-confidence,

not in our strength or our accomplishments

or our notoriety,

for we must confess how limited we are

if we would gain a heart of wisdom.

Just watching one storm is enough to show us

how helpless we are,

but Jesus stills the storms.

So a different, holy confidence is given:

a confidence that the world is filled with God’s glory

and the wisdom of God is made available

to the people of God.

 

What difference does it make?

Life is difficult and complicated today.

They’re breaking down the distance

between right and wrong,

says the old Bob Dylan song,

so much so it’s hard for us to discern

the right thing to do.

We yearn for knowledge, advice, counsel.

But humility teaches us we can’t always know the right thing to do,

and even when we do,

we can’t always manage to pull it off.

Our deliverance is Jesus.

But not the idea of Jesus

or the concept of Christianity,

but a living faith relationship with the living Lord.

I like how Barbara Brown Taylor puts it:

We go to counselors

when we want help getting out of spiritual caves.

We go to spiritual directors

when we are ready to be led farther in

because even in the depths the Lord is there.

 

Sometimes we need that help getting out.

But there are times when we need direction

going deeper.

That’s what the wisdom of Proverbs gives us,

leading us deeper in the wisdom of life with God

in Jesus.

 

 

 

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