Wisdom Calls Out (Proverbs 8:1-9)

Wisdom cries out to you each day. The voice of wisdom comes to you from God’s Word whenever you read it or hear it taught. The call of truth and guidance also comes to you from your school and possibly your parents and church and friends, too. Proverbs 8 describes wisdom, or choosing to do what is right and good, as a kind woman crying out for our attention, like a godly mother pleading with her child. Sadly, many students and adults ignore wisdom’s call and instead choose the way of foolishness and sin. They are led away by the voices of this world, Satan, and their own evil desires. They believe the great Hollywood myth that everything will be okay if they just “follow their hearts,” not recognizing that all of our hearts are desperately wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Only the Word of God, the voice of wisdom, can show us what is right and true and best. Only the Bible can teach us the good and perfect will of God for our lives. Only Jesus can give us real, lasting happiness and joy.

You can choose today and every day to follow the voice of wisdom or the voice of folly. You do not have to suffer from a life apart from Christ and His joy. If you will study God’s Word and commit your heart to following the Lord, you fill have peace and grow in faith and godliness. Wisdom calls out to us all. Will you hear her voice?

The Text (Proverbs 8:1-9)

Does not wisdom call out?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
    where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
    at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
    I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
    you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say;
    I open my lips to speak what is right.
My mouth speaks what is true,
    for my lips detest wickedness.
All the words of my mouth are just;
    none of them is crooked or perverse.
To the discerning all of them are right;
    they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

Questions to Think About

  1. How would you explain the biblical difference between being smart and being wise?
  2. Are you and your closest friends growing wise in the biblical sense? How can you tell?
  3. Why do think that so many students and adults choose the broad path of foolishness and sin instead of the narrow path of wisdom and godliness?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Shared Debt, Shared Danger (Proverbs 6:1-5)

The Bible talks a lot about money. God often tells us to be careful not to love money more than Him and other people. At the same time, however, Scripture encourages us to use money wisely. We should work hard and take care of our wealth so that we can provide for our families and give to the church and those in need. And we should be very suspicious of debt in all forms. Debt carries with it promises and obligations. When we borrow money, we are agreeing to pay it back in a certain amount of time, usually with interest. We are betting on having money in the future that we don’t have now. Since only God knows the future, all we can do is make logical guesses about income that we hope to gain. We can plan to work hard and smart to earn what we need to fulfill our debt, but things can happen that are beyond our control (lost jobs, major sicknesses, damages to our homes, sudden changes in the economy, etc.).

Proverbs 6 begins with a powerful warning against sharing debt with others, even close friends (and possibly family, too). This would include co-signing on loans, a legal agreement where two or more people borrow money together and then share the responsibility for paying it back. This often happens when parents help a teenage child to buy a car or lease an apartment, but it can also happen with college friends sharing a place. The higher stakes version involves business ventures where partners or investment groups borrow a lot of money together (hundreds of thousands of dollars or more) with plans to eventually make enough profit to pay back the loans and still have money left over. Risky, the Bible says. As you read today’s passage from Proverbs, notice the urgency of God’s call to get out of shared debt as soon as possible; we are told to even lose sleep until we are free from the danger of shared “surety” or legal responsibility for loans (chances are, a person in a lot of debt is already losing sleep with worry anyways). God likens the person with shared debt to a hunted animal like a deer or bird, which must run desperately until it gets away. Yikes!

The application of this passage for you as middle school students may seem far in the future, but it is not as far away as you think. In a few years you will want to buy a car, and you may want to get help from your parents in doing so. After that, you may want to rent an apartment while in college or starting out on your own in your career. Will you expect your parents to co-sign a loan or a lease? Maybe. But if they tell you, “No,” or give some heavy strings attached to a “Yes,” just know that they are probably not being mean, but simply listening to the warnings of Scripture about shared debt. For now, it would be wise to start earning and saving money through chores or allowances or small jobs. You want to start preparing now to avoid entering the cycle of debt at a young age like so many other Americans. If you want to know more about how your family can start applying the Bible’s teachings on money for your life right now as a student, a great book on this topic is “Smart Money, Smart Kids” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze.

The Text (Proverbs 6:1-5)

1 My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,

2 You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.

3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; Plead with your friend.

4 Give no sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids.

5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do you expect to borrow money to buy a car in high school? Why or why not? What is your family’s plan for purchasing your first vehicle?
  2. Do you plan to rent an apartment with friends during college and ask your parents to co-sign the lease? If not, what other options might be available to you so that you can avoid getting your parents to share debt and responsibility not just with you, but with one, two, or even three roommates?
  3. Have you started learning how to earn, manage, and save money? Explain.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Walk in Light, Not Darkness (Ephesians 5:8-14)

In helping to teach children’s church one Sunday, I was amazed at the insights of one little first grade girl. First, during prayer requests, she raised her hand and asked that “God would take away everyone’s sins.” Then, during the lesson about the Fall, when the question was about what Adam and Eve did after they ate the fruit and disobeyed God (Answer – They hid.), she blurted out, “You can’t hide from God!” My friend looked at me and said, “Out of the mouth of babes” [can come the deepest truths – if you don’t know the expression.]. Today’s passage in Ephesians 5 reminds us that we need to let the light of the gospel pour into the darkness of our sin and drive out the evil stuff that we try to hide from God. Light is a biblical metaphor for goodness, holiness, and truth. Jesus taught that He Himself is the very “Light of the world” and that “he who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). It is not God’s desire for Christians to hide from Him in fear and guilt and shame over our sin. Jesus came to deliver us from the power of sin and bring us into the light of His love. He wants us to confess and repent of our sins as soon as we realize that we have done wrong, so that we can experience His forgiveness and enjoy the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control – Galatians 5:22-23) in our lives.

If you are struggling with areas of darkness and sin like we saw in the last post on Ephesians 5:1-7 or the posts on Ephesians 4:17-32, here is some very practical advice that I plan to use with my own children as they get older:

1) Do not be alone in your room with your phone or other non-school issued device. For the guys, this will protect you from watching inappropriate videos, shows, or photos. For the girls, this will help to protect you from overuse of social media that research is showing to be linked with depression, anxiety, and poor self-esteem. For both guys and girls, it will help you to avoid spending too much time on your device so that you can have more time for real life activities and social interaction with your family. It will also give you more time to spend with God, which if you are a Christian, your soul should be longing for each day. YouTube and Snapchat simply cannot fill the God-shaped holes in our hearts – only fellowship with Jesus can quench our spiritual thirst.

2) Seek out strong Christian mentors and friends who can help you to walk in the light and stay out of the darkness. At NRCA, spend time with friends who are showing evidence of following Jesus and avoiding sin. Make the most out of Bible class, homeroom devotions, and chapel by really trying to listen and follow along with the lesson or message in your own Bibles. On your travel and club teams, find the other Christians and start praying together before practices and games. This will strengthen your walk with Christ and your witness to your lost teammates and coaches. Finally, if your parents are Christians, ask them about trying to start a family devotion or prayer time, if not every day, maybe at least once a week on the weekend. If your family does not have time to plan something, you could offer to read the blog post (even during a car ride) and then talk about it and pray afterwards.

3) If you attend church, seek out friends who really want to be there and avoid close fellowship with the students who obviously don’t want to be there. Pay attention during the lesson or sermon and bring a print Bible with you to follow along. If your family does not attend church, find a church you like that puts sermons online. Block off some time each weekend to listen to some worship music, listen to or watch a sermon with your Bible out to follow along, and spend some time in prayer. Maybe text a friend afterwards to talk about what you learned.

You might say, “This sounds like a lot of work.” Well, yes, living the Christian life does take discipline, but it really is about putting yourself in God’s presence so that He can do the work of change in your life each day. Would you rather remain in the darkness of sin and the world, or walk in the light with Jesus and your brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Text (Ephesians 5:8-14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Questions to Think About

  1. What do you think about the practical suggestions above?
  2. Who is trying to help you to walk with Christ in the light right now?
  3. Are you spiritually asleep or are you awake to the things of God? How can you tell?

In Christ,

Mr. Reel

Walk in Love, Not Evil (Ephesians 5:1-7)

Jesus taught that His greatest desire for us was that we would love Him with all of our hearts and minds and souls and strength; His second greatest desire was that we would love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). As we begin Ephesians 5, Paul reminds us that as children of God, we should seek to copy God by loving the Father and other people the way that Jesus taught and modeled. Jesus in His humanity was tempted in every way like us, but He passed every spiritual test and never sinned against God’s law or people. Because of His perfect righteousness and obedience to every commandment, Jesus was fit to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. The Father found the Son’s death in our place to be pleasing in His sight (“a fragrant offering”), which means that the Lord accepted Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and forgave those who trust in Him of all of our evil words, actions, thoughts, and desires. For the children of God, that amazing truth will always make our hearts cry with joy, thankfulness, and humility.

So how then can we who have tasted the love and grace of God fall back into evil, darkness, and foolishness? That’s what Paul goes on to talk about in verses 3-20 (we will just go through verse 7 in this post). You see, our God is a jealous God; He cannot and will not tolerate sin. He killed His own beloved Son on the cross because of our sin. Like the lamb’s blood that covered the homes of His children in Egypt during the first Passover, it is only the precious blood of Jesus Christ that protect us from God’s wrath and punishment. The Egyptians died in this world as a picture of what would happen to us in the next world without the blood of the Lamb – just condemnation to eternity in hell. If you are saved, it is only because of God’s great mercy. It was His mercy that woke you up to see your sin as the horrible evil that it is, your deserved guilt before your holy Creator, and your desperate need for Jesus to rescue you. The Holy Spirit convicted you and shone light into your sin-darkened soul, and then He enabled you to call out to Jesus, to reach out to the Lamb of God and be saved. That event was a miracle that your lost friends, family, and teammates have not experienced. They remain under God’s condemnation and the awful punishment of hell awaits them if they do not turn to Jesus before they die.

So again, how can we love Jesus and also love sin? We cannot. No one have two masters – we will ultimately end up loving one and hating the other. In verses 3-7, Paul lists specific evil sins that Christians simply must get out of our lives. Sexual sin, greed, filthy language and dirty jokes – such sins have no place in our lives as believers. We cannot walk in the love of Christ and also wallow in the muck of impurity. God speaks a very strong warning through Paul in verses 5-6: People who continually do such sins without any guilt or shame or attempt to turn from them prove that they really love these sins and not Jesus and will not be in His heaven. We cannot reject God’s truth on this matter just because our culture is so immersed in these sins. Our eternal destiny is at stake. We must flee from sexual immorality, the love of money and stuff, and filthy conversations and joking and instead follow Jesus and His way of love. It will be the narrow road, but that is the only road that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). More practical advice on how we can do this will follow in the next post (“Walk in His Light, Not Darkness”).

The Text (Ephesians 5:1-7)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.[a] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.Therefore do not be partners with them.

Questions to Think About

  1. Do your parents have any restrictions on what you can do with your phone, television, and video games? If so, what are they and why do you have them?
  2. Do you want help in protecting yourself from evil? Do you desire to flee from the sins described in today’s passage? If you are struggling with any of these sins, what specific steps can you take to get this spiritual garbage out of your life?
  3. Do you have any “friends” who are bringing sin into your life and hurting your walk with Christ? Are these really friends that you need? Learning to witness to the lost is important, but we must do this carefully to protect ourselves from falling into sin ourselves. We should spend most of our time in fellowship with other believers. We should approach witnessing relationships strategically with prayer and accountability from other believers in our efforts to win people from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Christ. Just hanging out with lost people all by ourselves without a Christ-centered plan and purpose is a recipe for disaster.

Notes

  • The chapter divisions of the Bible did not exist when it was originally written. They are normally helpful, but sometimes they break up a section where it should not be broken up. Verses 1-2 of chapter 5 of Ephesians are actually a continuation of what Paul was discussing at the end of chapter 4. Paul has just explained our need to love and forgive others as Christ has forgiven us. Today he presses on with that thought, saying that when we love and forgive others, we are imitating Jesus, who loved us and gave His life for us. Then Paul goes on show other ways we imitate Jesus, namely by fleeing from evil and immorality.
  • Christians are saved by grace alone, by faith in the blood of Jesus alone. Yet once we are saved, we should begin to turn away from sin and turn towards God in loving obedience, like children with their father. When people who claim to be Christian show no effort or interest in repentance and godliness, we are right to lovingly challenge them about their walk with the Lord. They may not be children of God. Their eternal destiny is at stake. If we really care about them, we will not let them go down the road to hell without an intervention.

In Christ,

Mr. Reel