February 21, 2016 – Exhortation on Proverbs 27:9 by Cameron Mouro

“Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”

King Solomon was not a psychologist but he knew something that psychologists have since confirmed – our sense of smell has a direct and powerful link to the memory and emotion centers of our brains. Odors and fragrances can trigger emotional reactions, and the fragrance of a good perfume can actually make us feel happy.

This morning’s Proverb reminds us that like perfume, but far more powerfully, friendship can also give us delight. But the friendship spoken of here is not the friendship to which we have become accustomed. It is not casual or lighthearted. It’s not a “we’re friends on Facebook” type of friendship. What is described here is true friendship, a deep friendship in which there is concern for the condition and prosperity of each other’s soul.

Such concern is demonstrated in the giving of hearty counsel. Hearty counsel, as Matthew Henry describes, is “counsel of the soul, counsel that comes to the heart, counsel about soul-concerns.” It could be advice or encouragement or even admonishment. Whatever of these it may be, it is hearty counsel when it is grounded upon the truths of God’s Word, clothed in humility, spoken in sincere love, and solidified by an intimate knowledge of the friend to whom it is spoken.

Counsel like this gives delight because we desperately need it. Day after day, the devil, the world,, and sin rail against our souls. Time after time we encounter the bitter consequences of a fallen world. We fail, we get discouraged, we get off track, we get scared. This is true of all of us! We must recognize it and see that we cannot make it on our own. Friendship is a gift from God. We need the sweetness of friendship and the nurturing power of hearty counsel that a friend can give.

But here is where we may have fallen short. Have we let our pride prevent us from seeking out true friendship or from humbly receiving the wise counsel of a friend? Have we been so self-centered that we have not been a true friend to others or failed to be prepared to give hearty counsel when it is needed?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes then we must repent. Repent and then seek to develop deeper friendships with others. Repent and get into God’s Word. Study it so that we, as Paul told Timothy, can be “ready in season and out of season”, ready both to give and to receive hearty counsel.

At the core of all of this is love: love for God and love for others that leaves no room for self-protection or self-promotion, a love for God that longs to see His church made strong and desires to see Him glorified in the lives of His saints, a love for others that gives sacrificially of self and time and goods.

May we, the body of Christ, have such a love for God and for one another. Then we will be true friends to each other and the sweet aroma of Christ will give delight to us all.

Advertisements

January 3, 2016 – Exhortation on Proverbs 27:2 by Cameron Mouro

“Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips.”

“Beware of the Me-Monster”. This is actually advice that comedian Brian Regan gives in one of his stand up acts. In it he tells a story of his experience at a dinner party where one of the guests dominated the entire meal talking about himself.

This morning’s Proverb warns us not to be a Me-Monster. A Me-Monster is a boaster, a self-promoter, a person who seeks out the attention of others and is greatly concerned for his or her own recognition. Such a person is often a know-it-all and they are quick to express their opinion on anything and share their experiences with anyone.

Me-Monster is an appropriate title because such behavior is monstrous. It wrecks unity. It is behavior that is antithetic to love and this is the reason God’s Word warns us against it. To be a boaster is shameful and unloving.

In First Corinthians 13 we learn that “love does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own.” And in Philippians 2:3 we are instructed to “let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” This is true humility, to be lowly in mind about ourselves and to consider other people as being better.

Such a frame of mind keeps us from being a Me-Monster and whether we realize it or not, we all have Me-Monster tendencies in us. It can be blatant pride that leads us to boast. We think we have it all figured out and so we brag about such things as: our parenting skills, healthy eating habits, homeschool curriculum, our theology. The list could go on. But, boasting may also arise from feelings of insecurity. In this case talking about ourselves becomes an attempt to elicit praise or sympathy from others.

Whether we boast because we truly think too highly of ourselves and our accomplishments or because we are insecure and are seeking the approval of others, both motivations are selfish. But, loving God and loving our neighbor requires that we get our eyes off of ourselves. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about me.

Our attitudes should be like that of our Lord Jesus. When He walked upon this earth He was a man deserving of praise more than any other man in history and yet He “made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant”. Rather than promoting Himself, He gave of Himself, ALL of Himself. Rather than seeking the praise of men, He pursued the glory and praise of God the Father.

Let us have then, as Paul instructs in Philippians, the same mindset within us. This life that we live is God’s story, not our own. So let Him tell it. Let Him show off His glory and His power through our lives and let us pursue His praise and the good of our neighbors over our own.

Let us also this morning remember that it is because of Jesus’ humility, because of His obedience even unto death on the cross, that we can be forgiven for our pride and selfishness. If we are to boast, let us boast in this: that Jesus Christ has redeemed wretched sinners like you and me; that through His Spirit, He is making us holy and making the Me-Monster within us a weak little creature that soon will be no more.

December 20, 2015 – Exhortation on Psalm 2:10-12 by Cameron Mouro

“Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.”

Here we have a terrific Psalm for the Advent season. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm. It is a pronouncement of the kingship of the Messiah. Listen to verses 6 through 8: “Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, You are my Son, today I have begotten you. Ask of Me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession.”

Jesus came into the world, not just to be the sacrifice for sins, but also to be established as King of all the world. This was announced even to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Speaking of Jesus, Gabriel says, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David….and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Jesus was born to be King.

Now each week it is our typical pattern to look into the wisdom of Proverbs for our Call to Confession but in this text from Psalm 2 we receive the greatest wisdom of all. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then submission to the rule and reign of His Son, Jesus Christ, is the pinnacle of wisdom.

We see in verse 10 that the instruction is given to earthly rulers, “be wise, O kings; be instructed you judges of the earth.” Even so we are not excluded from this command. If it is wise for the world’s leaders to submit to Christ, then it certainly is for us also as their subordinates. In addition, Jesus Christ, as the King of kings, is ruler over all people. Our allegiance to Him is no less expected than it is of earthly kings.

This allegiance is to be carried out in our lives with fear and trembling. We receive the same instruction from Paul in Philippians where he says that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Such language can be confusing. What does it mean to “serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling”?

It means to serve Him with awe and humility, with reverence and excitement because we know that God is Holy and therefore it is no small thing that He has done in saving us through Jesus Christ and establishing Him as King. It also means that we are terrified of what we receive apart from Jesus Christ.

We come to this segment of our worship service to confess our sin and it is our sin that deserves God’s wrath. We serve with fear and trembling because we recognize that without Jesus we receive the wrath of Almighty God.

John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

This morning’s text paints a very frightening picture. If we do not submit ourselves to the lordship of the Son then it is His wrath that is kindled against us. And if the One who is our Redeemer is wrathful toward us, what hope do we have? If the Son who is our High Priest is angry who will intercede for us? If His wrath is kindled but a little then there remains no sacrifice for our sin and no other name by which we can be saved.

Let us then kiss the Son! Not with the false kiss of Judas Iscariot, ; but with a kiss of allegiance, a kiss of adoration, a kiss of sincere love and gratitude like that of the woman who wept at Jesus’ feet, kissing them and anointing them with oil.

November 15, 2015 – Exhortation on Proverbs 26:28 by Cameron Mouro

“A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”

False speech is destructive and both lying and flattery are forms of false speech. Lying, as we all know, is the reporting of untrue information. Flattery is deceptive praise that is used to manipulate the one being flattered. This morning’s Proverb reminds us that both lying and flattery are destructive because they come from hatred and hatred is always destructive.

Therefore, false speaking is never a benign thing. When we lie we are expressing a form of hatred and acting in a way that is against God and against His purposes. We are His people and members of His body. His purpose for His body is growth and maturity. False speech opposes this purpose.

Therefore false speech has no place in the Church. But as Christians, as members of Christ’s Body, it is not enough just to avoid lying or to keep from flattery. It is important to not do the wrong but at the same time we must be pursuing the right.

There is no neutral ground in the Christian life. For example, we are told to put off the old man AND to put on the new. We don’t stop after doing away with the old. We then adorn the new man, “created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

So in the case of false speech, we must be a people who turn from lying AND engage in speaking the truth. Paul states this plainly in Ephesians: “Therefore putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another.”

There cannot be neutral ground in this matter because speaking the truth is vital to the purpose of growth and maturity that God has for His church. Again, listen to the instruction given to us in the book of Ephesians.

Ephesians 4:11-15 “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” There’s the purpose – the saints, us, are equipped for the mutual building up and growth of the Church.

Paul continues: “…that we should no longer be children [imature] tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of the deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ.”

Speaking the truth in love is how we grow up in the faith, it is how the body of Christ is edified. And it is not just the job of pastors or elders or evangelists. It is a responsibility for us all. We have a duty to know the truth and to be speaking it to one another, teaching it to our children, encouraging each other with God’s Word. This is why Paul tells the Saints in Colossi to “let the word of Christ dwell in [them] richly”.

So then let us remember that false speaking, whether lying or flattery, is hateful and destructive. It is no small thing to speak falsely. Let us also remember that we cannot be neutral in this matter. We must be speakers of the truth. And in that vein let us set aside any notion of individualism within the body of Christ. We owe it to one another to be diligent in the study of God’s Word and faithful in our Christian walk so that we may be well prepared to communicate truth and therefore edify each other.

January 31, 2016 – Exhortation on Proverbs 27:6 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

The truth in this proverb requires us to take a deeper look at the world, or what might be called, “the long view.” The absolutes in this verse are friend and enemy. Friends are faithful and enemies are deceitful. The cognitive dissonance, or mental stress/discomfort, comes from attaching wounds to friends and kisses to enemies.

As children, we need and like simple rules. We like comic book worlds where good guys are good and bad guys are bad. The hero is handsome and noble, and always wins, and the bad guy has a pointy head, an evil laugh, and an obvious evil plan, like “kill Superman and enslave humanity”, but he always loses.

This is useful as far as it goes. The grand narrative of God is that good does overcome evil. It is helpful to define what evil is and to help our kids recognize it. Some things ARE obvious. Isis both looks bad and is bad. The same was true about Hitler and Stalin. On a smaller scale, bullies, drunks, drug dealers, and pimps fit the bill. Their sin is obvious and gross, therefore we fight or keep our distance.

But wisdom and maturity mean understanding that we live in a complex world.

Sometimes the bad guys seem to be good guys. Sometimes enemies are close enough to kiss us. Other times, good guys seem to be bad. Sometimes friends hurt us. In order to learn and embrace this wisdom, we must acknowledge two realities… first, ultimately, God defines what a friend or an enemy is. Second, we all have both darkness and light in ourselves.

This first reality is what I referred to as “the long view”, or the deeper look at the world a few moments ago. Ultimately, in the long run, a friend is anyone who loves us and who desires our best interest. The Christian definition for this is that a true friend is anyone who wants to fill our lives with good, glory, peace, and righteousness that lasts forever. In other words, they want to draw us closer to God, and God closer to us.

The second reality (our fallen nature) means that sometimes we need to hear rebuke Sometimes we need to be called out for our sin, because it will damage us and those around us, and can ultimately lead to death.

The inverse is true of our enemies. Ultimately, they desire our downfall, and they realize the convenience of winning our trust or flattering our egos in order to obtain their goals.

In the end, humility discerns the difference. Both friends and enemies wound us, and both enemies and friends kiss us (at least metaphorically). We need humility in order to discern whether a wound is faithful, deserved, and delivered by a friend, or an attack from an enemy.

Therefore we should take criticism wisely. We should honestly ask whether there is a grain of truth in it, and if there is, we should be ready with an eye toward repentance… In this particular aspect, even the wounds of enemies can be of great service to us! But what we may not do is turn on anyone who brings a rebuke without first humbly asking this question, lest we alienate our friends.

Likewise, we must be circumspect about the praise we receive. It certainly may be the encouragement of a friend, but we must beware of those who would inflate our egos, because “pride comes before a fall.”

The fact is that a friend won’t stand by and let us destroy ourselves. Jesus preaches hard sermons, not because he hates us, He does it because He loves us, and we need to be woken up!

January 24, 2016 – Exhortation on Proverbs 27:5 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

5 Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.

In order to explain this proverb, we need to nail down some definitions. I think we all know what open rebuke is. It is confrontation. It is calling out sin. But what does it mean to carefully conceal love?

This is the sort of thing that often happens in families or other close-knit communities, where we neglect holding someone accountable. We love them, but we fail to stop them from hurting themselves, or others, by committing offenses against God and other people. Different factors come into play here, and different root motivations might cause us to hide our love.

For instance, idolatry can do this. This is the sort of thing where we put the loved one before our love for God. In other words, we idolize them, and in our opinion, they can do no wrong, or every wrong they might do has a justifiable cause. One form of this is when parents are over-protective and under-exacting of their children. It looks like sheltering children from hard consequences, when wisdom says the child probably needs to learn of and even experience these very same consequences.

Another thing that conceals love is bad doctrine, teaching, or learned habits. Rather than speaking the truth in love, some people think that the “Christian” thing to do is always to turn the other cheek. They may have grown up in a family that never addressed problems, or they may have been taught a truncated gospel. Ultimately, they believe love is sentimental, defined by soft and warm feelings, and certainly does not hold its ground or confront. This is bad doctrine. Love requires truth, and false love ultimately brings pain and suffering.

Another false way of thinking is a failure to grasp our own worth. We can twist the doctrine of total depravity, the fact that we are all sinners, into a thinking that somehow we deserve to suffer. In this case, we fail to rebuke because of insecurity. The answer is the gospel. We don’t deserve to be mistreated. God loves us, He chose us from before the foundation of the world. He sent His Son to die for us. What greater value could He bestow on us?

Another reason that may cause us to conceal our love for another person is fear. What are we afraid of? We fear what we don’t know. We are afraid we are not seeing clearly, and that confrontation might be unjust. We fear that there might be consequences of confrontation, and things could get worse. Being governed by fear can certainly cause us to carefully conceal our love and affections. But God wants us to live, not in fear, but in strength, standing firm on His promises… that He will not leave us or forsake us.

The final root cause for hiding love which I’ll address this morning is simple laziness. Sometimes we don’t confront because it’s work to rebuke. It’s work to invest in each other. It’s easier to “let sleeping dogs lie”. It’s easier to ignore the problem and hope it will go away. It’s easier, but it’s not love.

Love is proactive. Love cares enough to do something about problems. Love embraces truth and refuses to let go of it. Love worships God, and makes Him and His standards our hearts’ and souls’ highest good. And perfect love casts out fear.

This kind of love is sanctifying love. It is love that changes us into the likeness of our Lord and makes us holy. It gives us the courage to stand up and bear witness that God is in heaven, and He holds us all accountable. Therefore, we must humble ourselves before Him, confessing our sins, and crying out for the mercy of His gospel.

January 17, 2016 – Exhortation on Proverbs 27:4 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

4 Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent,
But who is able to stand before jealousy?

Jealousy is a force to be reckoned with. It surpasses anger and wrath for vehemence.

First let’s cover the anger and wrath… Wrath is cruel. It lashes out and it hurts and damages, it is vindictive and mean. It is the opposite of gentleness and kindness. And anger is overwhelming, our text calls it a torrent, the text in the Hebrew is literally, a flood. This is why you get out of the way of an angry person, because you don’t want to be overcome by their fury.

So far, we have two statements of fact, but the point is the rhetorical question… who is able to stand before jealousy? Provoked jealousy, or envy, OR zeal (the word means all three depending on context) is worse than the fierceness of wrath or the overflow of anger.

Jealousy is the sort of thing that Solomon warns of in Proverbs 6…

32 Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul. 33 Wounds and dishonor he will get, And his reproach will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy is a husband’s fury; Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35 He will accept no recompense, Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.

In this scenario, there is no avoiding the consequences, and there are no limits to them either. This is because Jealousy is connected to honor and honor cannot be bought.

This is also connected to the fact that jealousy is a necessary component of love. We see this in the Shulamite’s declaration to her lover at the end of Song of Solomon… 8:6-7 –

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised.

In this, we are made in God’s image, for our God is a jealous God, jealous of His people. Because He loves us, He holds us accountable and demands our purity and faithfulness to Him.

Envy is very similar to Jealousy. Envy is covetous jealousy. Envy is twisted desire. But it also is very strong. The cold calculations and settled intentions of envy far surpass the damage caused by wrath and anger, for, like jealousy, it cannot be satisfied, but unlike jealousy, because of its wickedness, envy works in the dark, hidden from sight, and it is a root causing all sorts of ill will, evil speaking, and destruction to community, lives, and property.

Finally, zeal is also more powerful than simple anger or wrath. Zealots are fanatics. When men are filled with zeal, they may justify all kinds of riotous and revolutionary tactics. In the name of a cause, they will latch onto whatever means they have at their disposal. For the sake of a fad, they may sacrifice all kinds of common sense and wisdom. But here is where we must become very discerning…

If fanaticism is focused on anything less than God and His Christ, it is idolatry, and it will end in some form of destruction. But in Christ, in the zeal of the service of the Lord, godly men have moved mountains, taken cities, and furthered the boundaries of the kingdom of heaven. Indeed before the church, filled with the zeal for heaven, who can stand? But the path toward that righteous zeal is only ours in the humility of faith of repentance.

It is only when we give up our inordinate loves and lusts, that God makes room for holy ones. He cleanses us, and makes us fit for His service by His means and in His time…