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Proverbs – Week 26 Sermon Notes


-On March 1, we had an update on the building project…I said then that it looked like we would begin on schedule…which was at that time…August.

-Two Sundays later, March 15 we began our unexpected 14 week long “church at home” phase.

-So, we have been praying, watching to see how the Lord might lead…a key indicator was what would finances look like in times of uncertainty.

-We want to operate with both faith and wisdom…they are never at odds but sometimes they are a challenge to balance in our lives.

Bottom line: This year giving has been up overall and between the money we have available in the general account combined with the money given specifically for the building project it seems clear that God  has indicated that he wants us to proceed.

As of last week: 355,000 has been given towards the building project.

As of last week: Approximately 500,000 is available from the general budget for use in the building project.

*(this number could change because we want to keep a minimum balance in the account for operating expenses):

So total available at this time for the building is 855,000

This indicates an opportunity to exercise both faith and wisdom…and move forward with the project.

We plan to begin construction of phase I, the new addition and remodel of the Non-sanctuary space in mid-September.

Phase II is redesign of the sanctuary space.

Phase I will cost about 1.1 million

Phase II will cost about 400K.

We anticipate funds will continue to come in as we proceed with the project…that will likely last until late next Spring.

It will be a mess…and an adventure.

If you missed the reason why we are doing this…please watch the video on the website and read the article there regarding “build@river”

Also please look on our front page at the new “virtual walk through” of the remodel…it is fantastic…the color scheme is not accurate but you will see how the space will work…very exciting.

If you have been giving towards the budget and the building…thank you.

-I know you aren’t doing it for my thanks…but I’m grateful for your sacrifice.

If you are a part of River and have not been giving towards the church budget and building program, I challenge you to do so.

If this is your church then you benefit from the building and the ministry that happens here…you important to give where you are getting.

It’s not good for us personally…spiritually or mentally…to live with the approach of letting others pay entirely or mostly for what benefits you and your family.

I’m not saying this because I don’t believe God will provide unless I press you.

I’m not selling anything…I’m just telling what is clearly rooted in biblical principle

If you want to see God move tangibly in your life…then make tangible moves in your life towards God…financially and otherwise.

If this is not your church…you are visiting or tuning in…this challenge is not for you.

It’s for those who God has called here.

If you have been giving, as Christy and I have been…you may have stories of ways God has used this past 15-16 months in your life to grow you, provide for you, challenge you.

Christy and I have some of our own…I know many of you do as well…although we will likely not see how God uses this in our lives in the short run…that’s okay.

When God said that he “loves a cheerful giver” in 2 Cor. 9:7…it doesn’t mean he loves them more (than the grumpy or non-giver)…it does mean that we have an opportunity to bring joy to his heart through our giving.

That really is enough to make it worth it to give.


  1. A Failure of Nerve is a book written by Ed Friedman a Jewish Psychologist who advised national level leaders of all types…as well as worked with many families…wide experience in what makes people “tick”

*If you decide to read it…it’s long…I recommend just the first 2 chapters.

Maybe a better option is to watch the 7 minute Youtube video about his “Theory of differentiated leadership”…it’s very good…and very short.

A Well-differentiated leader/individual is like a healthy cell

A cell part of the overall body but with distinct boundaries and purposes…a healthy heart cell is distinct from other heart cells but together they form the heart…they are distinct from brain cells…though they are part of the whole body.

This capacity (like a healthy cell) for connectedness and yet distinctiveness allows a person to be able to effectively navigate, lead and serve others especially during times of difficulty and high anxiety.

A well-differentiated person is able to rise above the chronic anxiety of their times and circumstances…to not be overwhelmed by them…and to lead through them.

A new term has entered the lexicon… “Doomscrolling”

It first appeared in 2018 but has taken on new meaning this year…click bad news, more bad news.

Experts say the habit is eroding our mental health.

It traps people in a  vicious cycle of negativity that fuels anxiety.

Well-differentiated people…can learn to not be sucked in.

*Of course…it helps if you just discipline yourself to not doomscroll.

Becoming this kind of person…allows us to be separate but connected…able to maintain a modifying, non-anxious and sometimes challenging presence to those around us.

Not someone who is quick to tell others what to do and feel but someone with clarity about his or her own life goals and therefore someone who is less likely to become lost in the anxious emotional processes swirling about them.

Friedman found that what is absent from chronically anxious families(and other organizations) is a member who can get himself or herself outside of its reactive, herding, blaming, quick-fix processes sufficiently to take stands.”

This is something we can grow in…it’s not just a personality type…it is a part of our…sanctification…our becoming like Christ.

Christ was, of course…perfect in this…he was (is) THE well-differentiated leader.

*When those around him were churning in their anxiety…because of a storm in a boat, a hungry crowd, or a hostile armed group…Jesus did not reflect their anxiety, he was not caught up in it…he kept his head and his purpose through it all.

He connected deeply with people…and yet remained, emotionally centered on the inner peace he possessed…a peace that was tied to his clear sense of purpose.

He knew who he was, what his life was about…this empowered him to love others, to obey God…and not be caught up in the drama all around him.

Again…he was deeply involved with others…more so than those who were caught in the drama were able to be.

Maturity, for Friedman, is defined as the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own emotional being and destiny…not at the mercy of the emotions of others.

There is empathy for the anxiety and emotions of others…but they are not sucked in and therefore they able to provide real help that people need.

Imagine a parent who is continually sucked in to the emotional processes of their child.

What does this mean for the child?  How hard is it for that child to move to maturity?

What does it mean for the health and well-being of the parent?

Want to study a military leader who exemplified this?

-Some say “Of course I do”

-Others, “Of course I don’t”

For those who say yes and who don’t love to read books…you will be happy to know I recommend a video.

-Watch “Dick Winters: Hang Tough” on Amazon.

He was a calm, others serving and immensely effective leader in WWII.

He was the leader of the group made famous in the series “Band of Brothers”

He speaks in the documentary, hang tough, on the importance of “being with his men, connected to them…but being distinct from them, not overly tied to them.”

His approach…well connected and well differentiated leadership…was tested on D-Day, and the Battle of the Bulge…it won respect…and it saved lives.

In the Scriptures…Read Esther.

Queen Esther exemplifies this quite well.

She was able to connect with and win the respect of a foreign king (whom she was forced to marry),

She remained connected to her own people…

And yet she could take a courageous stand that was against the law, could have earned the King’s wrath…yet the right thing to do…it could have cost her life but it saved the lives of the Jewish people.

She was a well-differentiated leader.

What Freidman calls the “well-differentiated” person, would be what I would describe as a person who is internally oriented to pleasing God not people…and internally orientated to mirror God’s peace and presence not the swirling emotional processes around them.

The ability to love and serve others…and to love and serve God requires a well-differentiated internal orientation…heat.

Look to a Proverb then to other passages to see what this looks like in terms of:

  1. Living to please God not people.
  2. Navigating life by the internal peace of God not continually being overwhelmed by the external emotional processes of others.

Our Scripture for today is: Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

  1. First part…state it the positive…Live to please God

Fear of people…doesn’t mean just that they might physically harm you.

This has to do with all the manifestations of letting others dictate your emotions, actions, your overall approach to life.

It often means fearing their disapproval…desperately wanting their approval.

Most everyone struggles with this to a degree…there are outliers…those who are totally unconcerned with what others think…but they are not mentally, emotionally, relationally healthy people.

We ought to care, within boundaries…what some people think about us.

This is not about refusing to let others influence you in positive ways and or about not caring for the emotional well-being of others…unconcerned with how you impact them.

This is the negative thing…called “people-pleasing”

It is trying to navigate life not by principle, not by a clear sense of direction and purpose…but by the winds of public opinion.

This kind of life will prove to be a “snare.”

This is a word used for a trap that hunters used to catch animals.

Snares are dangerous things…at the very least…they take your freedom, at worst…they take your life.

Why is this fear of man such a trap?

Remember what the beginning of wisdom is in Proverbs?

Yes…fear of the Lord.


People pleasing (in the negative sense) is having your direction and affections overly influenced by what others think of you…or what you think they think of you.

Most people are in fact…too busy thinking of self…to be thinking of you at all.

And since we are thinking mostly of us…we think about what others are thinking about us.

Again…not much usually.

When we live fearing the disapproval of others…or fearing not having the approval of others…we tend to “obey” that fear.

This is how Proverbs 13:20 and others like it…works.

“The one who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

The wise are seeking the ways of God…fearing him…growing wiser.

The one who runs with fools…clearly cares more for what they think than what God does…they are in essence fearing and obey fools…to their own harm.

Speaking of doomscrolling…you can find a story every day, many of them…where this principle is illustrated.

I read one terrible story last week…of two fools following a wicked fool into their destruction…and the death three other men.

It will likely not get to that extreme level in your life…unlikely we will follow folly to our deaths..

But even living to win the approval of the wise is not a good path…walk with the wise…but live for the approval of God.

Again, don’t mis-apply this…we want to take the counsel of people, we want to live in connected community, we should care about what others feel and think.

This is about heart level issues…who do we really want to please at the heart level?

What is the engine that drives our lives?

Galatians 1:10 “Am I now trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I still trying to please men?  If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

This is going to be a struggle to varying degrees for all of us…but struggle don’t surrender.

Don’t give your heart over to living for the approval of others…at the cost of the approval of God.

Care deeply about people…but have an internal orientation that drives your life…live for the approval of God.

Let’s look at the second half of that Proverb.

Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

  1. Navigate by the internal peace of God so we will not continually overwhelmed by the external emotional processes around us.

Clearly “safe” in Scripture is not free from all possible physical harm.

“If I trust in the Lord I will not get Covid or cancer…this verse tells me that.”

“No…it doesn’t.”

Remember, Proverbs are general descriptions of how life works…they are not individual promises.

Safety in Scripture is communicated profoundly and poetically in Psalms 23.

There you have a deer in green pastures by quiet waters…you and I are the deer.

-We are not a lion or a wolf hunting deer.

– I don’t want to be a deer…even if the pasture is green…deer have no sharp teeth, no claws…they are the vulnerable animals in the food chain.

That is us…

Then you have a walk through the valley of the shadow of death (minus the fear of evil)…not minus fear of physical harm.

Then there is a dinner…but a dinner surrounded by enemies.

Goodness and love will follow me throughout my life…not always health and prosperity.

Then…the ultimate promise of God…I will dwell with God in his presence forever…but of course, this means you have to die of something first.

“Kept safe” is primarily an internal orientation of the heart that trusts (has confidence in) God.

It’s not primarily a subjective feeling…though those are nice.

It’s not a promise of never being sick, sad, or dead.

It’s safety in relationship with Jesus.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30

This is safety…nothing is stronger than the Savior…I am eternally safe in him.

We want God to guarantee we will not suffer any harm…and neither will the ones we love.

And if he won’t guarantee this…we will show him…we will just fret and stress and worry!

I can’t be sure harm won’t come to me or my loved one…so in place of that assurance…I will substitute…worry!

If I can’t have a promise of complete safety and security…I’ll take the next best thing…fear.

We obey what we fear.

We fear loss, we fear harm, we fear sadness, we fear pain, we fear death…we know we are largely powerless in all this…so we obey our fear by trying to fulfill its demands.

The problem with these kinds of fears are that they cannot be satisfied…if we give them more of what they want…more worry…more of our freedom…they say give me “just a little more”…until they have everything.

The direction we must go in our hearts and lives is proactively “trust in the Lord”…therein is real safety.

Our anxiety (of the non-medical type) often flows from our desire to know and control the future…to fix it in our favor.

WE often want God to speak…but only to tell us how good everything will be.

We are not God…we cannot control the future…God does…and we can’t control him.

We are to walk by faith (trust) not sight (control).

God knows and controls the future…if you trust him, you are not at ultimate risk…you are safe.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Bottom line:

We are not to worry about the future…it belongs to God.

God knows what we need to live.

When he wants us to die…then we will die.

As long as he wants us to live…we are to seek his glory in our lives

Worrying about tomorrow…doesn’t work…(it won’t make anyone live longer)

But it does make the life we do have…much worse.

Let’s close the loop: This verse (one of many) describes what Dr. Friedman discovered in his personal experience.

Proverbs 29:25 “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

Well-differentiated people/leaders are empowered to live lives that are blessing to others and more emotional satisfying personally.

A final application by way of illustration:

Imagine a loved one is floundering in the ocean surf…you hear their cries; you feel deeply their fear and distress and anxiety.

You say… “I’ll throw you a rope and pull you in.”

They reply “No, come out here to me…if you stay on shore, I won’t feel loved.”

You say “Okay, I’ll get in this raft and row out to you.”

They reply “No, you can’t really empathize with me if you are not in the water with me.”

You say “But I want you to be safe, I want you to live.”

They say “You don’t care, you are unfeeling, heartless…just because you are not in the ocean, you think you are better…you will never understand”

What do you do?

What does love do?

People pleasing might get you killed along with your loved one.

The well-differentiated leader demonstrates real love…though it may not feel like that at the moment to the one living swimming in their own stress.

This kind of person/leader will not always be applauded by those floundering in the emotional surf.

In fact, they may be seen in a negative light by the those who perpetually livein anxiety and crisis mode…but this kind of person is showing actual love.

You and I must be fixed in our hearts on pleasing God and loving others…not pleasing others and loving self.

What we fear we obey

What we obey we worship

What become like what we worship.

God in his mercy calls us to fear, obey and worship only him.

So that we will, to our great joy and satisfaction…become like him.

So that we will be empowered and equipped…to love others well.

*You can escape the gravitational pull of the constant anxiety swirling around us all.

Not by being aloof and disengaged from others…but by being connected but well-differentiated.

There is simplicity on the other side of all this complexity…

Jesus is saying to us still… “Do not let your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me.”

John 14:1

Do not let your heart be troubled…does that surprise you?

It indicates that you do not have to let your heart be troubled…but the condition is “put the full weight of your confidence on Jesus.”

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