January 10, 2016 – Exhortation on Proverbs 27:3 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, But a fool’s wrath is heavier than both of them.

Here we see that the wrath of a fool is weighty. An angry fool is hard to bear.

The other way to translate this verse starts the same, but ends with… but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them. (ESV, NASB, etc.) The Hebrew is ambiguous, but the second translation is probably a little more helpful. It speaks of the provocation of a fool, this is far more broad than simply his anger, rather it points to the unbearable nature of fools, their annoying tendencies, and their persistence in folly.

It brings to mind the Dufflepuds in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Their master’s punishment was to bear with their simple-mindedness, things like their desire to wash the dishes before dinner in order to save time, or their ridiculous habit of agreeing with everything their chief said, when all that he said was patently obvious… “water, that’s powerful wet stuff, that is.” “Right you are, chief!” “Couldn’t have put it better myself!” Or their inordinate fear of, and unjustifiable vilifying of their master.

In the book, Coriakin, their master, bears with them with remarkable patience, wisdom, and love, but the point is that it requires exactly that, it is a burden.

You see, life is hard enough in general. There are stones that need moved and sand that needs transported, and this is hard work, but foolishness exacerbates life’s woes. The fool provokes. This happens in many ways… fools whine, complain, blame, and accuse. They are lazy, they waste time, waste energy, and they tax the patience and resources of those around them. This is a simple fact, but what is the moral duty that we can glean from this fact?

One thing is that this proverb can be an encouragement toward diligence in training our children. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) Much strife and much burden can be avoided by diligence early on. Foolishness can be driven from them, but our children’s hearts need shepherding, and like Coriakin does with the Dufflepuds, we must bear with our kids with patience, wisdom, and love, teaching them to forsake folly, and to embrace wisdom.

Another duty is that once we confess the truth of this proverb, we should do some introspection. Where do I fit into this picture? Fools are frequently oblivious to the provocation they bring. Men are regularly blind to their own offences, they can’t see their own foibles. Humility is the first step, and we must humbly look into our own lives. Ask yourself… Am I the fool? Am I the weak link? The burden on those around me? Do I provoke them?

Better yet, ask for insight on this from those who are close to you, or who have authority over you, and be willing to hear them out. Are there particular areas where you need to grow and learn and change?

Perhaps we can spin it more positively… Ask yourself… am I part of the answer? Am I carrying my load? Am I really faithful in my Christian duty of communicating God’s grace and shedding the light of the gospel? If not, we must confess our sin and turn from it.

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December 13, 2015 – Exhortation on Luke 7:31-35 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

31 And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 But wisdom is justified by all her children.”

Honestly, my wrestling with this passage has been a long time coming. I have been known to quote vs. 35 now and then… that “wisdom is justified by her children”, which seems pretty straightforward to me, but the rest of this text is more enigmatic. I mean, specifically, what does Jesus mean? He gives us a simile… that the men of this generation are like children sitting in the marketplace who complain that their music wasn’t appreciated.

The context is Jesus telling John’s disciples that He IS the one that John was waiting for, and then praising John’s ministry, which caused the people to rejoice, having been baptized by him, and the pharisees and lawyers, as the text says, “rejected the will of God for themselves” (vs. 30), because they had not received John’s baptism.

In the simile, the pharisees and lawyers are the children in the marketplace who complain that John didn’t dance (they called him demon possessed and thought he was crazy), and Jesus didn’t weep (He was throwing a party wherever he went, hanging out with sinners, they called him a glutton and a drunkard). That generation was playing an imaginary and pretend game in which they got to make all the rules, and they complain that John and Jesus don’t play by their rules.

In essence, Jesus is defining their ministry (the Pharisees’ and laywers’) as make-believe. They claim to represent God, but John and Jesus come onto the scene and they declare the real thing. All the people were drawn to John and Jesus. The ministry of John the Baptizer and the ministry of Jesus the Son of God were different in kind than the ministry of the Jews. John was preparing the way, and Jesus was announcing the coming of the actual Kingdom of God.

This is why the gospel message which both John and Jesus proclaimed resonated with the people. And God’s message was simple… “repent” (John) and “believe” (Jesus). So, while the Jews had it all backward and wanted to party and weep at the wrong times, Jesus and John set the record straight.

John and Jesus weren’t “playing God”, they were revealing Him. And the revelation was powerful. Men were convicted of their sins, repented of them, and received new life. And the process is always the same… John then Jesus, Confession then Hope, Repentance then Party, Death then Resurrection. This is the gospel. This is the hope for the world, and this is wisdom.

Which is where Jesus finishes this passage. Wisdom is justified by all her children. The question is, which kind of children are we going to be? Are we going to be children of folly, making up our own rules, whining and complaining that nobody is listening to us? Or are we going to be children of the king, sons and daughters of wisdom, coming unto the Lord in simple humble faith, seeking truth, confessing sin, and finding life?

These kind of children make a difference in the world. Their love and grace, their faith and obedience declare to a needy world that the kingdom is here, and the King is here too.

December 6, 2015 – Exhortation on Malachi 3:5-7b by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

5 And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien— Because they do not fear Me,” Says the Lord of hosts.

God will judge sinners. Here he promises to judge, and to be a swift witness against sinners. The terms here are a little archaic and perhaps worth fleshing out a bit. Sorcerers are those who attempt to manipulate God or reality through divinations, incantations, magic, consulting with the dead, and even drugs (the Greek word for Sorcerer [LXX] is a derivative of φαρμακεια, from which we derive the English words… Pharmaceuticals, pharmacy, pharmacist, etc.) In the OT, the rites of pagan worship would also have been in sight, things like sacrificing children, cutting themselves (the prophets of Baal), and ritual intercourse (cult prostitution).

We have a tendency toward chronological snobbery, and when we hear about this stuff, we frequently think things like, “that was then, but not anymore, right?” Well, not so much. Drug abuse (speaking on abuse, i.e. addiction or slavery to drugs, not reasonable medicinal use) is rampant in America, even here in our county, just ask the policemen, or those who are actively trying to help the addicted. We ARE sacrificing children to the tune of 3,000 a day on the altars of the false gods Convenience and Whatever-Feels-Good. There ARE many who hurt themselves, because the emotional pain and distress of broken homes and communities and lives drives them to do something, just to know they are alive, or to cry out for help. And this isn’t even touching on the darkness of Wiccan neo-paganism, or the silliness of horoscopes and palm readers and psychics who still advertise their presence and wares today.

Adultery is more straightforward, but even here, extra-marital relations and divorce are rampant, and we are legalizing sin with the folly of homosexual marriage. Perjurers are liars, specifically those who lie on the witness stand in trial, but whoever bears false witness and hurts his neighbor is in view here. And there is no shortage of this going on today. The mere existence of organizations like the Homeschool Legal Defense Association or the Heritage Defense Fund betray the problem.

And the exploitation of wage earners and widows and orphans is a terrible evil, the one which ultimately brought on the exile of Israel. God loves the poor and the outcasts, and He comes to their defense. Wherever God is not honored, the weak are the ones who pay the penalty. America is a wealthy nation, and even the poor here tend to have it relatively better than the rest of the world, but as we turn away from God, and seek our own means of salvation, we institutionalize this kind of wickedness.

It is a lot harder to identify because of the confusing nature of sin, but it is evident in our society. The cost of living keeps going up and the ones who hurt most are those on limited incomes, the elderly, the jobless, and the lowest classes of society… wage earners, widows, and orphans.

Finally, as the verse says, this all happens because we do not fear God. Today is the second Sunday of Advent, and you may have noticed the theme on the covers of your bulletins, the theme of Rejoicing in the Incarnation. And since I bring it up, you might be wondering what that has to do with this verse. God will come near to us for judgment! He will be a swift witness against sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers and oppressors! What?!?! How can we rejoice in that?

God judges wickedness, but He saves His elect in the process. In Israel, a remnant was saved. In the first centuries after the resurrection, the church grew up in the persecutions of Rome. And all this is consistent with the next two verses…

6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,” Says the Lord of hosts.

God invites us to repent and to return, and this truly is indeed cause for rejoicing. God’s judgment is cause for rejoicing, because it is the means of His great reversal. He makes rough places smooth, and He paves the ways of salvation.

November 8, 2015 – Exhortation on Proverbs 26:27 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.

This is a common proverb in the Old Testament. We find the idea in several of the proverbs and the Psalms. In the law, it is commanded that whatever a false witness tried to bring down on his victim should be done to him (this is why perjury could be a capital offense). The idea is found interspersed throughout scripture because it is the essence, or basis, of justice… an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, and so on.

And, because our God is a just God, this proverb is displayed for us in several of the OT stories… This is the story of Haman being hung on his own gallows, which he had constructed for Mordecai. This is the story of Daniel’s accusers being thrown into the lion’s den after God delivered him. This is Nehemiah’s persecutors being forced to pay for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. And there are more examples than these.

Ultimately this is displayed in the cosmic battle between good and evil that plays out on the cross. In the very act of crucifying Jesus, Satan drives a stake through his own skull.

The context of this verse in Proverbs gives it a more singular application. It falls near the end of a section of Proverbs all about gossipping, liars, deceitful tongues, and false words (ch. 26:18-28). Solomon’s point is obvious… as wicked men spin their tales, they set themselves up to get caught in their own webs of lies.

One little lie leads to another, then to another, and so on, and the consequences and damage only increase, until they make a mistake, and then the pit that they dug little by little, has become too deep for them to get out of. Their wickedness blows up in their face, and they suffer the consequences of their own scheming and plotting. As Solomon just said in the previous verse… “Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.” (Proverbs 26:26)

Our take away from this is two-fold… first, acknowledge that God is a just God, and He judges wickedness, this means that in the end, you are always better off obeying than disobeying. Open your eyes and understand that there will be consequences for sin.

Second, if you are guilty of sin, if you have been lying to yourself, or if you have been lying to others, if you are caught in a cycle and culture of sin, if you complain and grumble, if you are a gossip, if you speak evil of others, stop it. Confess it and repent of it. Seek forgiveness and make restitution.

Our God is merciful and kind to the penitent. This is the gospel, God graciously forgives sin to those who genuinely confess and turn from it, but He is not fooled by anybody’s lies or treacheries. He sees our hearts and He judges our motives justly and righteously. As Paul says in Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

November 1, 2015 – Exhortation on Proverbs 26:24-26 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

24 He who hates, disguises it with his lips, And lays up deceit within himself; 25 When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, For there are seven abominations in his heart; 26 Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.

Hatred is ugly, and manifestly so. So that, those who are filled with hatred, hide it with their speech. They are deceivers and their deceit goes to the depths of their hearts. As the proverb says, “there are seven abominations in his heart.” In bitterness and wrath, they bide their time, they connive, they plan, and they meditate on their designs to hurt. But this is wickedness, and this wickedness cannot be concealed forever.

God’s people are not to be taken by surprise at this. Wise men and women understand that hatred is a reality in the world we live in. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus sends out his disciples into the world and gives them some very important instructions…

Matthew 10:16 … “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

We should be wise to the ways of the world. There are wicked men who speak deceitfully. Sometimes you will be lied to, and when that happens, you have to work through it.

But in this, we are, and must remain, ambassadors of Christ. We must be pure and holy, and maintain our witness by being “harmless as doves.” This is divine wisdom. Our natural tendency is to return fire for fire. We want nothing more than to hurt back, but Jesus insists on us blessing our enemies and proclaiming the good news that grace overcomes wickedness in Him.

The “wise as serpents” part, wisdom, means we should rest in God, trusting Him to use man’s hatred for the gospel’s advantage. Think of David using his exile from Saul as an opportunity to establish the kingdom of Israel while being harbored by the Philistines in Ziklag. Or think of Paul turning the Pharisees against the Saducees as they were trying to tear him apart on the steps outside of the temple.

In the end, Saul’s deceit was displayed before all, and David was made king of Israel, likewise Paul is exonerated as a saint while both the Pharisees and Saducees have their names smeared through the ages in the pages of Scripture.

God sees, and He establishes justice. The wrath of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God, but the love of God, does establish righteousness, peace, and justice.

Our take-away from this is two-fold… first, that we must give up our hatred. God calls us to simplicity, purity, and love. In Christ, and in humility, we are sheep, not wolves. God will judge the wolves, so give it up.

Second, wisely discern the ways of the world. Don’t be fooled by liars. Don’t believe the man soaked up in hatred when he speaks kindly. Instead, trust in God, do what is right, and wait on Him for justice and vengeance.

October 25, 2015 – Exhortation on Proverbs 26:23 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

23 Fervent lips with a wicked heart Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.

This verse is sandwiched between a few verses about gossiping and being a troublemaker, and a few verses about liars and how they hate. The point is this… wicked people know how to spin a good yarn, tell a good tale, and to put you off your guard. Their words mask their hearts. The proverb likens them to cheap pottery with a shiny glaze. Instead of beautiful words revealing a heart of gold, their lips spew lying words concealing evil.

From this truth, we can draw much wisdom… First… all is not gold that glitters. We must learn to discern and decipher what is truly valuable from what is tall tale, or worse, a dangerous lie. A good rule of thumb, or jumping off point for this, is to remember the other proverb… “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

You’ve probably noticed by now that the internet is filled with free offers of thousands of dollars of money, if you’ll just send them your bank account and personal information. You are the answer to their prayers, and you will be helping them out by transferring funds from Burkina Faso, or Liberia, or some other exotic locale.

There are also many offers of a good time with no strings attached from complete strangers… girls, whose only goal in life is to bring you pleasure. Don’t worry, it’s all on the up and up.   Don’t be a fool and don’t fall for the lies. Don’t be dazzled by the Las Vegas glitter and lights. Somebody is after your wallet or your reputation, or both, and they don’t care how much it hurts you.

Second, and a little closer to home, we must learn to discern and decipher the hearts of those who speak around us. The immediately preceding verses are about gossipping. Gossip is frequently carried on under the guise of concern for someone, or some other noble cause, but when speech is driven by wicked motives, e.g. to hurt others, to make them look bad, or to gloat over them, no matter what the appearance is, the result is damage to community. Instead of investing in the body, they are hurting it.

Finally, and closest to home, this proverb is a warning to us to guard our own hearts and repent of any wickedness in ourselves. It is easy for us to judge others, but wickedness and pride are deceiful, and we must acknowledge that we are both capable of, and probably guilty of, putting a veneer on our own motives. We know that appearances matter, so we know how to put on a happy face, and to say all the right things, but appearance is not enough.

God judges hypocrisy, and we must match our outward profession with the humility and wisdom of genuine love, lest we be found to be worthless pottery.

October 11, 2015 – Exhortation on Proverbs 26:18-19 by Pastor Dirk DeWinkle

18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death,
19 Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “I was only joking!”

This proverb has an important lesson for the realm of humor. An obvious application here is practical joking. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to learn to lighten up a bit, but there is a kind of practical joking that goes too far, and it has real consequences for people, and that is not cool. You can have a lot of fun with toilet paper and saran wrap and shaving cream, but when somebody ends up in the ER, or loses a job, or the paint job on their car is destroyed, it’s too much. This is a lesson that high school and college kids should learn.

There is another kind of humor that makes fun of people. There are whole genres of these kinds of jokes … fat jokes, yo mama jokes, poor jokes, etc. And they’re funny because they make surprising connections or observations about reality. Again, helping people to see the funny side of reality isn’t bad, as long as your not demeaning your audience or a bystander. Laugh with them, not at them.

This means that righteous comedians must use wisdom and perceive their audience and pick up on their cues. If people start getting hurt, the joke isn’t funny anymore. In fact, it’s not a joke at all. It’s time to stop, and even seek forgiveness or make restitution.

This proverb has another lesson for life. It highlights the destructive nature of lies. Notice how the man who deceives his neighbor cannot be trusted. Not only can he not be trusted in the first place, for he deceives, he also sets up a roadblock to the restoration of peace by deflecting confrontation. As if “I was only joking” was a justifiable reason for the damage done to his neighbor.

There are people who cover up their sin. They deny it, and they bury it under more sin by lying about it. Usually this comes from a deep self-deception. This “neighbor” is deceived. He or she thinks that whatever they did was ok because of what they tell themselves their motives were. Perhaps they won’t or can’t believe they are capable of doing what they are accused of, because it is really bad, so they make up a new reality for themselves and insist on it. This is the definition of madness, no wonder Solomon compares them to madmen.

On the fly, they can come up with “what they really meant”, or “what they really said”. And if there’s no avoiding the truth, then they say, “I was only joking, can’t you take a joke?”

Solomon doesn’t pull any punches. He observes, knows, and declares that this is deadly. It is a height of pride and it can tear people and relationships up. What do you do with a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death? You avoid him at all costs, because there is no peace or safety if you are within range. That is what happens when you destroy trust.

And here is where we are called to repentance. We are masters of deception, “The [human] heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9) We are entirely capable of deceiving ourselves and violating the trust of our neighbors. And it is only through measuring ourselves against the standard of holiness delivered in God’s word that we can see our way through to humility and repentance, but there we find grace, forgiveness, and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.