Proverbs 23 1-23-22

Jesus is our Representative. What he did for us went for all mankind.

24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.

Jesus has set mankind free from death and has healed our disease of sin. How did he do it? By being our representative, just like Adam was. God knew what He was doing by subjecting all things to sin so that He could save all things through Christ. Let’s read it,

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Want to know how much God loves us? Just look at the cross. He died there for us as Jesus.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 

This wrath is the judgment placed upon all mankind through Adam. It is death; it is disease; it is accidents; it is sin and rebellion; it is everything wrong with and in this world. But, we have been reconciled to God through Jesus, and all nature will be soon when God’s kingdom comes to earth!

11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The key word here is, “rejoice.” We can now rejoice that all mankind has been freed from the power of sin and the fear of death, and those who entrust themselves to Jesus live in that freedom. As we walk with Him, He heals us. One of these days, we will walk right out of this world and into his kingdom. Won’t that be a great day?!

But wait. There’s more…tomorrow!

Abba, you are wonderful! Thank you for your awesome plan that gave us the option to rebel and then to win us back. Your love for us knows no bounds! May we continue to delve the depths of your love. Amen.

Proverbs 22 1-22-22

The main point is that our sins are dealt with. The choice to receive that truth is ours.

17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, (18) for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips.

John the Baptizer said, “Behold [take notice and see], the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus made several references to his mission. In 3:14-15, he said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [see Numbers 21:4-9], so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” In 12:27, he said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” What, exactly, is it that Jesus did?

Sin has been described as a cancer, venom (from the serpent), heart disease, and other metaphors. The consensus is that we cannot help ourselves. We need the Healer. But, the death that sin causes has been dealt with. Now, Jesus’ paradigm statement, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth [about sin and how I am going to deal with it], and the truth will set you free,” makes perfect sense because Jesus has led us into the light of grace and truth (John 1:17). We were healed and are being healed as we walk with Jesus!

Tomorrow, we will look into Jesus as our Representative. For today, it is enough to revel in our freedom–and healing–in Christ!

Abba, thank You for the freedom we have in You. You have removed every hindrance of us coming to you. All we have to do now is turn from the darkness that is all around us to the light of your face. I am reminded of the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus [you], look full in His [your] wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his [your] glory and grace.” That is exactly how I want to live today, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 21 1-21-22

Fear or faith? Do we really believe that Jesus loves us and that Jesus is God, and therefore, God loves us?

2 Every man [person] appears righteous to himself, but the Lord makes hearts right.

While John the Baptizer was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3). It’s a fair and straightforward question. Jesus answered him rather obliquely by quoting Isaiah 35:5-6,

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;

To understand the import of what Jesus was quoting to John, let’s look at the verses before His quote,

1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance [judgment],
with the recompense [the discernment] of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Verses 1 and 2 speak poetically of John and his coming from the wilderness with the Great News that the Messiah is coming!

Verse 3 speaks of John’s message to get ready.

Verse 4 tells us to not be afraid. What a unique thought! Shouldn’t we fear God? Does he not say that the Lord is coming with vengeance and recompense? But, then he says that God has come to save us. Here is another opportunity for us to see the dualism of God’s perspective vs. man’s perspective. The LXX says “Be comforted, you fainthearted. Be strong, do not fear. Behold, our God renders judgment and will render it. He will come to save us.” The exhortation to not fear and that He comes with salvation enables us to see God’s judgment as His discernment of what we need. We Need Jesus! So, He sent John the Baptizer to make the way ready for our Savior.

John the Baptizer’s disciples went back to John. It never says that they returned and followed Jesus. John himself encouraged them to do so, “He must increase, I must decrease.” “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We know of two disciples that did, Andrew and probably John himself.

How about you? Do you fear God? He would not have you do so. In fact, the apostle John tells us in his letter that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). If we take Isaiah’s words to heart, we will understand that Jesus came to teach us to not fear God, but to love Him. We cannot approach someone we fear, and Jesus wants us to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Abba, I love the fact that You do not want us to fear You. Everyone who walks in Your light walks in Your life, as well. You are our source of joy and peace, comfort and love. May we always think of You in the plural: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in One. We bask in the Fellowship of the Trinity! Amen.

Proverbs 20 1-20-22

John the Baptizer (Baptist) was the “one who came before.” Before whom? Before Christ! Let’s look at his credentials.

1 Wine is an intemperate thing, and strong drink is full of violence; and all who commingle with it will not be wise. LXX Version

Of all the things John the Baptizer that gave him the most credibility, it was him being in the right place at the right time in history. In other words, timing is his best credential. His ministry began just a few months before Jesus came to be baptized. It was enough time for John to establish his ministry so that when he identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” people would take him (and Jesus) seriously. The interesting thing is that his ministry only lasted a few months after Jesus began his own ministry. We are looking at probably less than a year of John the Baptizer being on the scene. Yet, Jesus called him the greatest of all who were born of women (Matthew 11:11).

You might be wondering why I chose that verse of today’s Proverbs chapter. It’s because John the Baptizer was a Nazarite (see Numbers 6:1-5). Nazarites didn’t touch anything that comes from the grapevine, nor did they put a razor to their heads. Samson was a Nazarite from birth, as well. Include his long hair and bushy beard with his prophet’s outfit of camel hair and leather belt (see 2 Kings 1:8 concerning Elijah) and his diet of locusts and wild honey and you have a very compelling figure!

John baptized in a communal mikveh (a ritual bath that was built into the bank of the Jordan River, east of Jerusalem, near Jericho). It was one of many that people used to make themselves ritually pure. There have been as many as 70 mikvehs identified around the temple area alone and more than 700 in all of Israel–so far! Baptizing was not a new thing; being baptized for repentance of sins was definitely new. People were supposed to go to the temple and offer sacrifices for their sins, not be baptized in the muddy Jordan River. What were people thinking?! No wonder the religious leaders came out to see what was going on.

They asked John the Baptizer if he was one of three people:

  1. The Christ (Anointed One, Messiah);
  2. Elijah (back from wherever it was that he went on the chariot of fire);
  3. The Prophet (spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

He was none of the above. Jesus, on the other hand, said that if people were willing to see with spiritual eyes, that John was, indeed, Elijah (in spirit; see Matthew 11:14 who fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6). He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5, which said,

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain [for the coming of the King];
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Tomorrow, we will look at John’s message, and the message Jesus sent back to him for comfort.

Abba, John the Baptizer’s life and ministry were not long, but, oh, how important they were! Thank You for such a sign as the “One who Came Before.” I look forward to meeting him. Amen.

Proverbs 19 1-19-22

I love the Gospel of John. He wanted everyone to know that Jesus is God incarnate. His perspective shapes my theology.

21 There are many thoughts in the heart of a man, but the counsel of the Lord abides forever.

John opens his Gospel with a revelation of who Jesus is: The Word of God. Let’s read it:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

When I read John 1:1-5, I am in awe of its portent. The stage is set for the wonderful discovery of finding out who this Word is. In fact, John doesn’t take long to reveal the Word to us,

10 He was in the world…
11 He came to his own…
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…
17 …grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 …the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him [God] known.

I understand that Jesus is the Word of God because I see Him in the opening verses of Genesis. The term for God is, “Elohim,” which is plural. It’s referring to the Trinity.

In the beginning, God [the Father] created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God [the Son] said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God the Father was over creation;
God the Spirit was the fashioner of creation;
God the Son was the speaker of creation.

Jesus is the Voice of God, and has now been given a body. Hebrews 10:5 tells us,

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

What do we learn about Christ in this passage?

  1. Christ came into the world;
  2. Sacrifices and offerings (temple worship) didn’t fix the relationship between God and mankind;
  3. Jesus came in bodily form;
  4. Again, the sacrificial system did not justify mankind (Romans 3:20);
  5. Jesus came to do God the Father’s will;
  6. He fulfilled the Scripture because they pointed to Him (John 5:39).

Let’s praise Jesus today for coming to save us!

Abba, I praise You for stepping down from Your throne and removing Your glory to be born in human form. You came to be the Second Adam to represent us in dealing with the consequences of sin, namely death, once for all. Your plan was amazing! Thank You for desiring to do Your Father’s will. I desire to do Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 18 1-18-22

Remember the two main truths. Jesus: “No takes my life; I lay it down.” And Peter: “Jesus, whom you crucified.”

5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.

Yesterday, we ended with: Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, God did not withhold His compassion from Him, and God’s lovingkindness and truth preserved Him. But, wait. I thought that the Lord was pleased to crush Jesus. How do we reconcile these two passages?

In trying to describe spiritual truths on a level we can comprehend, the writers used imagery and other literary tools. The “crushing” was God allowing His Son to take the weight of the world’s sin upon Himself. Realizing that Jesus is God, we can say that God took our sin and disposed of it. Here again, it is an elementary way of describing a cosmic event. Jesus told Nicodemus,

“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  John 3:10-12

As we read our Bibles, let’s keep in mind that the content is designed for God’s children. CHILDREN, people! It is written simply and in story form so that we can grasp it. Let’s have grace with each other as we learn new truths and possibly new ways to view what we have learned.

Abba, it amazes me how our feeble attempts to understand Your grace do not keep you from loving us. I hang onto Your promise that I will come to know the truth, and as I do, it will set me free. I experienced Your truth when I first turned to You, and I experience it progressively throughout my life. Keep teaching me, O Lord. I’m a’listenin’! Amen.

Proverbs 17 1-17-22

We must be willing to view things differently. Jesus wants to expand our perspective.

8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers [it’s not the stone, but the bribe; perspective].

As we begin looking into what type of offering Jesus made on the cross, I have four statements, one by Jesus and three by Peter, that I allow to guide me. They are:

17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:17-18

23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. Acts 2:23

14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. Acts 3:14

10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. Acts 4:10

These passages help shape what I read and put things into perspective. Jesus allowed Himself to be killed. Why? In that death, He took all of man’s malice and aggression toward Him, everything that the venom of sin had cultivated in mankind, and took it on Himself, and then died. The guilt, deceit, and the consequences for every wrong went with Him into the grave. Only God could do that!

With this perspective in mind, we turn again to our Hebrews 10:5-7 passage. David knew that sacrifices and offerings in themselves were not what pleased God–contrary to the gods of his day–but relationship. David then speaks prophetically for Jesus, “I have come to do Your will.” It is at this point that we might make some assumptions based upon what we have been taught for 500 years. Isaiah 53:10 tells us this,

10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

From this verse, we might conclude that it was God’s will to lay the punishment of the world on His Son. Somebody had to take the blame, right? The problem is that this conclusion does not reflect what David said in Psalm 40, which is quoted in Hebrews 10. Let’s look at more of the text,

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened; [LXX “a body You have prepared for me”]
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You know.
10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.
11 You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.

Jesus did the will of God by:

  1. Proclaiming glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
  2. Not restraining His lips and not hiding God’s righteousness in His heart (keeping it to Himself);
  3. Speaking of God’s faithfulness and salvation;
  4. Not concealing God’s lovingkindness and His truth from the great congregation.

Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, God did not withhold His compassion from Him, and God’s lovingkindness and truth preserved Him. But, wait. I thought that the Lord was pleased to crush Jesus. How do we reconcile these two passages? For that answer, you will have to wait until tomorrow.

Abba, learning about Your Word is such fun! It’s exciting! As I discover things I didn’t know, it makes me wonder what else I don’t know. May I be open to Your Spirit, O Lord. Stretch and grow me according to Your truth. Amen.

Proverbs 16 1-16-22

Out with the old and in with the new–Covenant, that is!

6 By [Jesus’] steadfast love and faithfulness sin is atoned for…

After saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired, nor have You taken pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will” (Psalm 40:6-8). He takes away the first in order [Covenant] to establish the second [Covenant]10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Old Covenant pointed to Jesus. He is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant (Matthew 5:17). The writer of Hebrews gives a great explanation in 7:23-25,

23 The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

What a beautiful description of salvation: Those who draw near to God through Jesus. It’s all about the relationship. Salvation is not designed to just save a person from hell, but to re-establish the wounded relationship between God and man. Jesus came to restore the fellowship–and even took it up a level: We now have been invited to enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity!

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say,

26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself28 For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect [the oath completed] forever.

Tomorrow, we’ll begin looking at the type of offering Jesus gave for us.

Abba, thank You for making the way back to the Father. Being in the Fellowship of the Trinity is, indeed, heaven! Regardless of how I feel physically or what’s going on circumstantially, I can always enjoy that sweet fellowship. Wow! Amen.

Proverbs 15 1-15-22

Your birth certificate does not have an expiration date. God sees and knows, but does not cause, our deaths.

3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

We tend to put on God’s shoulders something that is not really His doing. That “something” is the hour of our death. Growing up Southern Baptist, I heard often that God has an appointed hour for me to die, based upon Hebrews 9:27, which says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement,” but a specific hour is not what the text is really addressing. Let’s look at a bit closer,

24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

Let’s look at the text literally (who’s talking, background, plot, audience), morally (the point), and spiritually (application).

Literal- The writer is addressing Jews, hence the deep sacrificial descriptions. The time of the writing is around 50 A.D. The point is to build a case for Jesus being the Last Sacrifice.

Moral- The Old Covenant was built upon a sacrifice that covered sin, but did not take away sin. It was designed to point to a coming Ultimate Sacrifice, who is Jesus Christ. Just as the priests entered the holy place to offer sacrifices, Christ entered the heavenly holy place to offer Himself. But, the priests had to repeat this process year after year where Jesus did it only once for all. The comparison/contrast continues in verse 27: Just as we die once, so Christ died once. It’s not a matter of a certain time, but that it happens once. So, what kills us? Basically, it’s the overall consequences of sin in our world and in us through disease, nature, personal choice, other people’s choices, etc. The text simply tells us that WE WILL DIE–but that’s a good thing, because who wants to live forever in these decaying earth-suits?!

Spiritual- Whereas all previous sacrifices could not take away sins, Jesus’ perfect sacrifice could and did! Let’s look a little further in the book, 10:3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Tomorrow, we will look at 8-10 and how Jesus establishes the New Covenant with us.

Abba, thank You for Jesus coming and taking away my sin. I couldn’t do it myself; I needed You. And, now that I have met You and You have invited me to be a part of the Fellowship of the Trinity, I never want to be without You! Give me spiritual eyes, Lord, to see what You see in people, circumstances, and life. Amen.

Proverbs 14 1-14-22

This widely-held view of wealth in Jesus’ day is still held today. Jesus said it was a hard view to change. He wasn’t kidding!

(12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death, and (11) the house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.

The second example of extreme story-telling has to do with the rich having a difficult time learning to trust Jesus instead of their wealth:

18 A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

Even as far back as Job, who is thought to be a contemporary of Abraham around 2,000 B.C, people thought that wealth equaled righteousness. It certainly equaled power! Jesus set the record straight:

Righteousness is first bestowed by Him and is then wrapped up in a relationship with Him.

In Mark 10:21, it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Wow! Jesus knew exactly what was keeping the young man from following Jesus with his whole heart: His wealth. What if the young man had said, “Okay, Master. I’ll do it and catch up to You. Where will You be in a week’s time?” How would his life have changed? Who says it didn’t? All the Scriptures say is that he went away sad, but it doesn’t say that he didn’t change his mind. Who knows? He may have trusted Christ after the resurrection, or at Pentecost, he may have been one of the first converts.

Enough positing. Here’s what we do know: People who have riches have a very difficult time letting go of their riches and following Jesus up close and personal. In the Proverb at the beginning of this post, the rich lived in a house, but the upright lived in a tent. We would do well to set limits on ourselves and then give the rest away. Speaking of which, here is a little-known fact about Saint Nicholas:

Nicholas, born in Patara, which is now Turkey, was the son of wealthy parents who
raised him to be a devout Christian. Taking the words of Jesus literally when He told the
rich young ruler to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas did just
that. He took his entire inheritance and assisted the needy, the sick, and those who were
suffering.
After dedicating is life to serving God, in time he was made the Bishop of Myra,
becoming known as one who gave generously to people in need as well as for his love
for children and his concern for sailors. He was persecuted for his faith by the Roman
emperor Diocletian and was subsequently exiled and imprisoned. Upon release he
attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
“Business People Who Gave Generously” pg.10

The key to the passage is not so much Jesus’ extreme statement, but what He says right at the last, The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Jesus can save anyone, even the rich. All they have to do is turn and follow, just like us. Cool, huh?

Abba, thank You that I am not rich in worldly wealth. I don’t want anything to keep from coming between You and me. Even now, Robin and I pledge to give up any and all of our earthly wealth if You so desire. We are much more interested in knowing You more intimately and following You more closely. Whatever You want, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 13 1-13-22

Extremes in the Bible–why are they there? Let’s look…

7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.

We have all heard proverbs 22:6 used a hundred times concerning parenting,

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

The proverb has an equestrian background in that horses were trained to walk in the middle of a path. We often think of the Appian Way of Roman roads that connect the Roman Empire during Paul’s day, but Solomon wrote his proverbs a thousand years before those roads were built. The roads were merely trails that people used to get from one place to another. They were winding, narrow and treacherous. To get off the trail could spell disaster for a man on a horse or donkey, and especially on a cart.

If we think of the righteousness of God as the center of the trail, the admonishment that Jesus gave to people had to do with which side of the trail they were bent toward veering. Here are two examples from Luke 18,

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

This parable was not about the tax collector, although he and other undesirables like himself could take comfort in it. The parable was about the religious leaders, who looked down their noses at “those other people.” The scenario could have happened, but not likely; it was extreme in order to make a point. Jesus closed with a clue to true righteousness: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Pharisee had a bent toward the self-righteous side of the trail, therefore, Jesus told the story to highlight the fallacy of the Pharisee’s way of thinking.

The second example will have to wait until tomorrow. The take-away from this lesson is to not take extreme stories literally; they were told to make a point. Make sure you get the CIT (Central Idea of the Text).

Abba, when I read Your parables, I want You to explain them to me like You did to the disciples. Make Your message clear and plain. I want to be just like You in holiness and righteousness. Amen.

Proverbs 12 1-12-22

The three parables in Luke 15 show God in a new and exciting way. They are the lens of Jesus for us to view the Father.

28 In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.

The first parable is The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7).
The second parable is The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10).
The third parable is The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32).

Comparisons:

  • Each is lost and Someone goes to look for them.
  • That Someone looked until He found each one.
  • There is much rejoicing when each are returned.

Contrasts:

  • The sheep wandered off.
  • The coin was lost (it did not jump off the table).
  • The son chose to leave.
  • The sheep and the coin were rescued; the son chose to go home.

What do these parables tell us about the Father?

Before we answer that question, there is a matter that needs to be addressed. In Eastern culture, relationship is valued above all rules and regulations. There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rules where family is concerned. As we study these parables, let’s remember that Family Trumps Law.

  • The heavenly Father is the Searcher in the first two parables and the Father in the third parable.
  • He considers each one valuable and worth saving.
  • He searches until He finds the first two, and continues to watch the road for the return of the third.
  • There is no chastisement of the lamb, the coin, or the son–in fact, just the opposite. The Father throws a party for each of them.

What can we learn about our relationship with God from these parables?

Luke wrote his Gospel around 60 A.D. (before writing the book of Acts , which was written before Paul’s execution in 67 A.D. and before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). This is 27 years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Luke had plenty of time to gather stories, interview people (like Jesus’ mother, Mary), and get his facts right. We can trust the Gospel of Luke to be accurate.

This being said, we can gain quite a few insights into the mind of believers in his day. Consider:

  • Everyone identified with one of the three prodigals (lost ones).
  • The heavenly Father loves everyone–even those who choose to leave.
  • He searches for some (those who lost their way are are waiting to be rescued). Others, He waits for them to “come to their senses.” In fact, I believe that it is God the Spirit who calls to mind their bad choices and the subsequent consequences. He is the One who urges them to turn for home.
  • Much rejoicing is in store for each soul that is rescued and returns home (Luke 15:7).
  • He continues to search and to wait. How long? That conclusion depends upon how we read the Scriptures. The Old Testament is about the law; the New Testament is about the relationship. Let’s keep this truth in mind as we consider these parables.

As in all things, seek the Lord to open your eyes to His truth. Scripture is like peeling an onion, which has layer upon layer all the way to its core. Let’s keep peeling those layers back through prayer, study, reading and discussion.

Abba, You have so much to show us and we have so little time on this earth. I can only think that our education continues into Your kingdom. May we learn to trust You more, love You more, and follow You more closely every day. Amen.

Proverbs 11 1-11-22

How do the writers in the Bible tell time? How do we tell time? Is there a difference between the two? Yes!

7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too [his death is coming; is it an event or at a certain hour?].

The Greek language uses two words for time: Kairos, which means, “event,” and Chronos, which stands for the literal time, as on a clock or watch. Whichever one is used indicates how the author intends for us to view his narration. The interesting part is that Kairos is used twice as much as Chronos, and is the cultural way of seeing time/events.

For instance, take Luke 2:6,

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.

The Greek word, Kairos, is used here indicating that it was an event and not a specific time on a calendar. The NASB says, “the days were completed,” meaning that the baby was ready to be born. Parents wait for the event of the birth–although inducing the birth is common nowadays for convenience and necessity. In our Western minds, most of us heard the story of Jesus’ birth like this:

As Joseph and Mary came into Bethlehem, Joseph couldn’t find a place with any extra rooms. Mary was in labor, so they sought shelter in the barn of a gracious innkeeper.”

Hardly! Who would do that to his wife? Especially the mother of God? More than likely, they arrived in plenty of time with plenty of relatives–on the trip and in Bethlehem–to make room in the stable portion of the dwelling. Can’t we just see all the aunts and cousins running around cleaning and working hard to make a cozy and private place for Mary to give birth? It was quite an event.

Another example gives us a feeling of time, but is really an event. It’s found in Hebrews 9:27-28,

27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

It sounds like God has appointed a time for each person to die. That would be chronos. Actually, the culture would have us read it as kairos–an event. In other words, it is appointed unto mankind to die once physically–whenever that happens, after which comes judgment. The phrase, “a second time,” is wrapped up in one Greek word, deuterou, and also indicates an event. In fact, Jesus downplays the disciples’ question as to when He is returning,

36 “But of that day and hour [a specific time, as in chronos] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Matthew 24:36

So, we must learn to take a step back when we read and consider the literal meaning of the text, which means that we look at who wrote it, when, where, to whom, and who translated it and what was their intent (an exact translation or a true meaning translation). Only then are we ready to read the text morally, which means to look at what the central idea of the text is. Finally, we are ready to deduce what the spiritual lesson is for us.

Abba, give us eyes to read and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to Your Bride, the Church–to us! I believe that You speak to us constantly and that Your Word helps us to tune in and discern what You are saying. Nevertheless, You abide in us and we in You so that we always have Fellowship with the Trinity. May we continue to cultivate the soil of our hearts; prepare us for a rich harvest, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 10 1-10-22

Collectivism and Individualism: East, meet West.

1 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.

We Westerners, who live in Western Europe, North America, and Canada, have a culture built on individualism. “Be true to yourself,” “I just have to be me,” and other phrases like these pretty much tell the tale. Our choices are our own, and we live and die by them. The problem is that the Eastern part of the world and South America live collective lives. Their culture is built around family, clan, and nation. Honor and shame are built-in to their lives. Why does this difference even matter? Let’s look at Luke 12:51-53,

51 Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

We Westerners see this passage as logical and we don’t see a problem; Easterners are shocked and appalled by it. What Jesus was saying was inconceivable to most people of His day. Family, tribe and nation were everything. Yet, Jesus calls everyone to make his own decision to follow Him. He was beginning a new code of honor: Loyalty to Him. He was also inaugurating a new family: His family, the Church.

In the book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, page 118, they explain the difference between the two ways of thinking:

“To summarize, in an innocence/guilt culture (which includes most Western societies), the laws of society, the rules of the church, local mores (pronounced, “mahrez,” and means, “colloquial perspective) and code of the home are all internalized in the person. The goal is that when a person breaks one of these, her or his conscience will be pricked. In fact, it is hoped that the conscience will discourage the person from breaking the rule in the first place. The battle is fought inside.
In the honor/shame society, such as that of the Bible and much of the non-Western world today, the driving force is to not bring shame upon yourself, your family, your church, your village, your tribe or even your faith. The determining force is the expectations of your significant others (primarily your family). Their expectations don’t override morals or right/wrong; they actually are the ethical standards. In these cultures, you are shamed when you disappoint those whose expectations matter.”

So, when Jesus made this statement, He was going against the culture of society. It’s just another layer of the New Covenant, one that we Westerners can’t see because we don’t think like that. Easterners, on the other hand, have to transfer their loyalty to Christ and His family. In their minds, they are having to turn their backs on the family, clan, nation, and even ancestors. It was–and is–a much bigger deal to them than it is to us.

If we were to implement anything into the Gospel from the Collective way of thinking, it would be that Christ comes first, then His Church, and then our society, which includes our families, clans, and nation. We are not to play the Shame Game, but we are to stir each other up to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). We must remember that “No man is an island.” Our decisions affect those around us in ever-increasing concentric circles, much like the waves created by a rock thrown into a pond.

Let’s not judge our Eastern neighbors too harshly. There’s a reason they think the way they do.

Abba, may You guide us into Your ever-increasing truth. Open our eyes and minds to new truths in Your Word. It’s like a bottomless treasure chest! We’ll keep digging; please keep speaking. Amen.

Proverbs 9 1-9-22

“Listen to Me.” That’s what Jesus says. We must run everything through the filters of what He has told us.

Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

Yesterday, we saw where Jesus was giving a whole new perspective on how to interpret the Scriptures. He was saying that from then on, people were to read the Scriptures through the filters He would show them about His Father. There is one more passage that clearly indicates this truth. It is Luke 9:28-36,

The Transfiguration

28 Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. 33 And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not realizing what he was saying. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.

This story wasn’t a parable, but an account. It really happened. There are several things to note in this passage:

  • One is the recognizability of Moses and Elijah. Peter had no trouble discerning who they were. We are given a window into what the kingdom of heaven is like!
  • When Peter offered to make three tabernacles (tents), one for each of them, he was putting them all on the same level of authority. He naturally assumed that Jesus would be working within the bounds of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). WRONG! Jesus came to fulfill it and to finish them. Their work was done, which was to show people that there is nothing they could do to save themselves and to point to His Coming. Jesus came to save the world.
  • The cloud is God the Spirit. It’s the same cloud that covered Mount Sinai, led the Israelites in the desert, and filled Solomon’s temple.
  • There are three times that God spoke audibly concerning His Son, Jesus: Matthew 3:17 (the Spirit came down in the form of a dove), Luke 9:35 (the Spirit came down in a cloud), and John 12:28 (God’s voice sounded like thunder). God said, “Listen to My Son.”
  • When the cloud lifted, only Jesus was standing there, thus indicating that He is the One to whom they were to listen from then on. The authority baton was passed.
  • Jesus had already made it evident that the New Covenant was coming. In Luke 5:33-35, He changed the rules about fasting and praying by calling Himself the bridegroom and His disciples His attendants. He then went on to compare the Old Covenant to old cloth and old wine skins and the New Covenant to new cloth and new wine skins (Luke 5:36-39), which was a warning against trying to mix the two covenants. Jesus was bringing in the New Covenant, the covenant of His blood (Luke 22:20).

To recap, there are three major clues for us to discover that Jesus is Lord of the word (to use His own phraseology, i.e. Lord of the Sabbath-Luke 6:5). These clues are: “But I say…” “The seed is the word of God (Me).” “This is My Son. Listen to Him.” Subsequently, we are to now view Scripture through the lens of Jesus. You may be asking, “Exactly what in the Old Testament did Jesus change?” For that answer, go to Matthew 5 and/or Luke 6 and see what Jesus changed. There are other things, as well, like the tradition of fasting and praying, and the way Sabbaths were viewed, for examples. He was also big on seeing God as the loving heavenly Father and not an angry punisher (that’s a big one!).

God is our loving and merciful Father; Jesus is our gracious and truthful Savior. We can confidently give our lives to them. They are trustworthy and true. They love us!

Abba, thank You for loving me! I trust You implicitly. I may not get everything right, but I trust You to help me make things right and to set my sights on next time. You are a patient and kind Teacher and Companion. I love walking with You. Amen.

Proverbs 8 1-8-22

Jesus didn’t come to simply clarify the Scriptures. He came to fulfill them and to give us new marching orders!

8 All the words of my [wisdom] mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them [Paul refers to Jesus as the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 1:24].

In reading chapters 8 and 9 in Luke yesterday, I saw something that intrigued me. Jesus really did a major paradigm shift concerning what we use as our base of authority. Let’s look:

His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable [the sower and the seed] meant. 10 And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand [a quote from Isaiah 6].
11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
Luke 8:9-11

At this point in history, we would assume that the word of God was the Scriptures of Genesis through Malachi. Jesus even quoted from Isaiah! But, in Luke 6 (and in Matthew 5-7) Jesus redirected the entire way of interpreting those scriptures. First, He told them that He was Lord of the Sabbath (6:5) and then proved it by healing a man on the Sabbath (6:6-11). He gave the people new directives with the Beatitudes (6:20-23) and to bless those who curse them and pray for those who abuse them (6:27-31). He told them to love their enemies and to be merciful even as their heavenly Father is merciful (6:35-36). He warned them not to judge others, and that they could tell a good/bad person by his/her fruit (6:37-45). Lastly, He told them to build their foundation for life on His words by doing them (6:46-49).

So, when Jesus said that the seed was representative of the word of God, I believe that He was referring to His words.

The second passage that sealed the deal for me is 9:28-36, at which we will look tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for caring for us and wanting us to know the Father through You. Your Spirit teaches us. May we continue to listen to You and to allow You to interpret what we read, what we hear, and even what we think, O Lord.

One more thing: Thank You for Robin. Bless her today on her 60th birthday. Amen.

Proverbs 7 1-7-22

We don’t have to worry about getting people lost to get them saved. God has already done that (in a manner of speaking).

27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going own to the chambers of death [aren’t we glad Jesus rescued us?].

Yesterday, we established that Jesus came to redeem us. Jesus also used the term, “ransom,” (Matthew 20:28) which was used to indicate the purchasing of slaves. We were slaves to sin and we were held in bondage to the fear of death. Jesus saved us from them both! To understand this process, let’s begin with Romans 11:32 and then work our way backwards through Romans,

32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

God has always considered all of His children as equals, no matter how different things were and are in the physical world. He sees us with spiritual eyes that “divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart” of mankind (Hebrews 4:12). We are all on the same plane in His eyes: We are sinners in need of saving, lost children in need of rescue, and His treasures in need of restoration.

Now that we recognize that we all need a Savior, let’s look at 2:1-3,

Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

The judgment of God of which Paul speaks is not the passing of a sentence, but rather the meting out of mercy, the mercy mentioned in 11:32. It’s a discernment of what is needed and then applied. Now, the judgment that man uses is, indeed, condemnation, but it backfires because every man falls to the same temptations. We are all in this mess together!

I think we’re ready now to discuss 1:18,

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

This “wrath of God” is God “shutting us all up in disobedience” (11:32) so that He could show mercy to us all! The description of the acts of rebellion and defiance show the depths of the Father’s love. A singing group named Philips, Craig and Dean had a song called, He’ll Do Whatever It Takes,” that says,

He’ll do whatever, whatever it takes
His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake
And His love will run farther than you can run away, my friend
He’ll do whatever, whatever it takes
He’ll do whatever, it takes

Rather than seeing “us and them,” “the saved and the sinner,” let’s see everyone as lost sheep, lost coins, and lost sons. Jesus makes the same plea to everyone,

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

It’s all about a relationship with Jesus. Always has been; always will be.

Abba, thank You for calling me into a deep and abiding relationship with You. When people ask me how I’m doing, I think that I will respond, “I am full of joy,” or “I am peaceful,” or “I am loved.” If/when they ask me why, I will have the opportunity to share with them the wonderful news of Your mercy and grace, and the invitation for them to come and receive You and all You bring with You. I’m looking forward to it. Amen.

Proverbs 6 1-6-22

What was it that Jesus accomplished on the cross? Good question! Let’s begin to look into it and see…

24 to preserve you from the evil woman [the temptations of destructive pleasure]…

Christ’s work on the cross is finished. I don’t pretend to know all He accomplished by going to the grave and then coming out three days later, but I do know that whatever He did was a completed work. There is a verse in John 1 that sums up what He did,

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,

In John 3:16, it says “that whoever believes in him.” What is it that we are supposed to believe? In John 6:29, Jesus says, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” He goes on to say in verse 53, “Truly I say to you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you. But if you do, you have eternal life…” “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (v63).” Later on, in the upper room, He told His disciples to eat the bread, for it is representative of His body, the ministry of His earthly life. In the same way, He told them to drink from the cup, for it represented His blood, which would be poured out at the cross, the price for mankind’s destructive nature.

While on the cross, Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Was He talking about just the Roman soldiers, or was He talking about all who had a hand in His crucifixion? Since the soldiers were simply doing their jobs, I believe that He was referring to the religious leaders, the Roman leaders, and everyone who went along with it–basically, the whole world. Since He and the Father are one, I must assume that the Father replied, “Done,” which is actually the end of Psalm 22, which states the completion of Christ’s work on the cross,

31 and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it.

The qualifier is this, that a person believes that Jesus is the Christ:

  1. We believe that He is God the Son, Creator of the Universe and our Messiah.
  2. We confess Him as Lord and pledge our lives to Him.
  3. He commands us to follow Him away from darkness and into His glorious light.
  4. We receive Him and His forgiveness, both of which have been freely offered to everyone.

Tomorrow, we will look at how this forgiveness that has been extended to all people and how it played out in the spiritual world as we look at Romans 11:32, 2:1, and 1:18.

Abba, the hugeness of what You accomplished on the cross amazes me. I’ve been a follower of You for 54 years and a minister for 38 of those years, and I am just now beginning to understand the vastness of it all. May You continue to reveal salvation to me and all it entails, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 5 1-5-22

Fire insurance or a true relationship? That’s what we will discuss today.

1 My child, be attentive to my wisdom [seeing from God’s perspective]; incline your ear to my understanding [paying attention to God’s ways], 2 that you may keep discretion [live holy and righteous lives], and your lips may guard knowledge [speak godly and true statements].

When Zechariah got his voice back (Luke 1:64), he began to praise God and prophesy much like Mary. After speaking about redemption and salvation (v68-69), about deliverance and mercy (v70-72), about the holy covenant and the oath to Father Abraham (v.73), Zechariah says this:

74 To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Would serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
76 And you, child, also will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
77 To give His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
79 To shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

  • v.74 With fear is how they always served God–up until John. John prepared the way for Yeshua (Jesus); Yeshua (Jesus) showed the way to His loving Father.
  • v.75 Christ will make us holy and righteous.
  • v.76-77 John will go ahead of the Messiah and prepare the way; he will begin the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins.
  • v.78 God now begins to be portrayed as a loving Father who has tender mercy for His children–all of them (Gentiles, too).
  • v.79 The light of Christ will shine in our hearts. He will shine on every heart and say, “Do you trust Me? Then, follow Me.” We spend our entire lives learning to trust and follow.

So, how are you doing? Do you want to follow Christ and meet with Him up close and personal? Or, are you comfortable at a distance? A lot of people have their “get out of jail free” cards and they’re fine keeping Christ at arm’s length. But, that’s not what salvation is all about. If we take heaven and hell off the table and just deal with a personal, one-on-one relationship with Jesus for life, would everyone who claims to be a Christian really take Him up on it? Of course, if we have a relationship with Jesus, then hell is averted and heaven is secured. Christ in us IS heaven!

Let’s follow Christ because He has called us. Let’s be obedient because His Spirit urges us to do so. Let’s converse with Him constantly and consistently all day, every day. We don’t have to worry about hell because Christ is in us, nor do we need to worry about heaven because He has promised to take us to be with Him (John 17:24). But, we must not miss the point of the cross/grave/resurrection/ascension, which is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Abba, thank You for living in me. The lack of Your presence would surely be hell. May our relationship grow closer and closer together until You and I are completely one–now, THAT’S heaven! I love You. Thank You for loving me. Amen.

Proverbs 4 1-4-22

The mercy of God has been poured out on all mankind. All we have to do is turn to Him and receive it.

22 For [these words] are life to those who find them, and healing to all their body.

Mary’s song of praise which is recorded in Luke 1:46-55, called The Magnificat, really grabbed my attention while reading it yesterday. As a reminder, Mary had just been greeted by Aunt Elizabeth,

46 And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond-servant;
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is to generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has given help to His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 Just as He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

There are several things to point out:

  • Verses 46-47 are words of praise; she calls God her Savior.
  • Verse 48 tells us the reason for her praise and then prophesies that all generations will call her blessed, which they do.
  • Verse 49 is more testimony along the lines of King David (her ancestor).
  • Verse 50 speaks of God’s mercy toward those who fear Him (to fear God is what they were taught). Jesus changed their viewpoint about God by referring to Him as their Heavenly Father.
  • Verses 51-53 reveals God’s strength as He humbles the proud and lifts up the humble. Jesus referred to this process as “the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).
  • Verses 54-55 talk again about God’s mercy remembering back to Abraham and his offspring, referring to herself and to all Israel, past, (her) present, and future. This mercy is that which Jesus refers to twice when He quoted Hosea 6:6 in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7.

The Magnificat is a powerful song of praise that speaks of Jesus’ mission of mercy. Our prison bars and our shackles are of our own doing, and Satan holds us in bondage to the fear of death. Jesus came to strip Satan of his keys to death and Hades–keys that WE gave him in the Garden. God reconciled Himself to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:18). Yup, God was there with Jesus on the cross! We can’t separate the two because they are One (John 10:30). God never left Jesus (John 8:29).

God’s mercy was poured out on all mankind at the cross. Amnesty (a full pardon) was given to everyone. Now, all people have to do is turn to Jesus and receive that pardon. His Spirit brings that pardon and then stays with us. Mankind is once again united with the Father! We can now enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity forever.

Abba, thinking of You as my Heavenly Father is pretty easy because I had a great dad. I know that lots of people don’t have that privilege. Thank you. I trust in Your love and I respect Your discipline. You love me as Your son. May all my readers realize that You love them and have their best interests at Your heart. You are trustworthy, and You are worth getting to know.
Reveal Yourself to me, Abba. I love You. Amen.

Proverbs 3 1-3-22

Bartimaeus recognized that he was blind. How could he not? So, what’s our excuse?

21 My child, do not lose sight of these–keep sound wisdom and discretion, 22 and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.

Bartimaeus understood that he was physically blind. He and his friend recognized that Jesus could heal them. They were, therefore, invested in Jesus. They probably had no qualms accepting Him as Messiah–even in the face of His torture and crucifixion. To hear that Jesus was back from the dead would seem quite plausible to one whose eyes had been healed, or legs had been strengthened, or had been dead and was raised from the dead by Him. These folks would be the ones who had experiential faith, which would be even stronger than the faith of the apostles (Mark 16:14), who saw these healings, but didn’t experience them personally.

Spiritual blindness goes back a long way. Look at the message given to Isaiah in 6:9-10 to deliver to the Israelites,

And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not understand;
And keep on looking, but do not gain knowledge.’
10 Make the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes blind,
So that they will not see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

Jesus quoted this exact passage in Matthew 13:14-15. His point was that the people of Israel were looking for a certain kind of Messiah and were not open to the True Messiah, a Suffering One. It was in this way that their hearts were insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes blind. Those who were willing to accept a different kind of Messiah were the ones to whom Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:16).

Let’s not put limits on God with predetermined expectations. He is God, you know! Let’s give Him our lives and watch Him do amazing things in and with them.

Abba, I trust You enough to give You all I know of myself today. Tomorrow, I will do it again. I know that the key to understanding is wisdom, which is seeing from Your perspective. Jesus, I want Your perspective. Call me to Your classroom, O Lord. I want to know You in ever-increasing measure. Please, make it so. Amen.

Proverbs 2 1-2-22

We all need Jesus to heal our eyes and to help us to see. But first, we must admit we are blind spiritually.

20 So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.

There is a storybook that I used to read to my children that always touched me. Here it is (less the pictures):

Poor blind Bartimaeus. His eyes were sick. He couldn’t see the sun. He couldn’t see the trees. He couldn’t see the houses. He couldn’t see people. But Bartimaeus could hear. and one day–
He heard lots of people walking. Step. Step. Step. He heard lots of people talking. Talk. Talk. Talk.
“What is happening?” asked Bartimaeus. “What is happening?”
“It’s Jesus,” somebody said. “Jesus is coming down the road. We’re all walking with Him.”
It’s Jesus, Bartimaeus said to himself. Jesus can make my eyes well.
“Jesus,” he called. “Help me! Jesus, help me!”
Now, lots of people were making noise walking. Lots of people were making noise talking, BUT–
Jesus heard Bartimaeus anyway, and Jesus stood still. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked kindly. “Lord,” said Bartimaeus, “I want to see again.” What do you think Jesus said?
I’ll tell you what Jesus said. He said yes. “You may see.” He told Bartimaeus. And all at once–
Bartimaeus saw the sun. Bartimaeus saw the trees. Bartimaeus saw the houses. Bartimaeus saw the people. But best of all–Bartimaeus saw Jesus.
From “Read-Aloud Bible Stories vol. 1

Bartimaeus is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. It illustrates our own need for Jesus to heal our eyes. Here are some fun facts about this real account:

  1. It’s in Matthew (20:29-34), Mark (10:46-52) and Luke (18:35-43).
  2. In Luke, it is a man; in Mark, the man is called Bartimaeus; in Matthew, it is two men, a man and (assumed,) Bartimaeus.
  3. They were on the side of the road outside of Jericho that leads to Jerusalem. Jesus was headed there for His triumphal entry.
  4. They may have heard that Jesus had gone to Zacchaeus’ house, which would give them hope.
  5. They cried out for mercy, which is exactly what Jesus came to give mankind, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mathew 9:13
  6. Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you.” We know faith to mean that we trust enough to act on what we believe. Bartimaeus and his friend believed that Jesus could heal them, so they cried out, and Jesus gave them their sight.
  7. They received their sight and followed Jesus along the road. They probably went all the way to Jerusalem (only a few miles) and possibly laid their coats down in front of His donkey as Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day. They could have cried, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9).

Tomorrow, we will look at more Scriptures that deal with spiritual blindness. Until then, let us continue to look to Jesus for spiritual wisdom and insight.

Abba, may we worship You today with a clear understanding of You as our Lord and Savior, the Son of God, who is the Second member of the Trinity, God the Son. You alone are worthy to be praised. Amen and amen.

Proverbs 1 1-1-22

A new year, a new way of thinking. It’s what Jesus called us to do. “Repent,” which means, “Change the way you think.”

33 “Whoever listens to me will dwell secure [in Christ] and will be at ease, without fear of [bodily] harm or dread of disaster.”

As we enter this new year, I am praying that the Lord will speak to me as He did to the people of His days on earth. Three times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said these words,

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told… 22 But I say to you… Matthew 5:21-22
38 “You have heard that it was said… 39 But I say to you… Matthew 5:38-39
43 “You have heard that it was said… 44 But I say to you… Matthew 5:43-44

What I want to do is put everything I have ever learned about God, about Jesus, about the Bible, church, traditions, music, worship–everything on the altar and ask the Lord Jesus to confirm, adjust, tweak, modify–and even delete–anything and everything and tell me what He wants me to know. I know that sounds a bit extreme, but isn’t that what we need to do each day in order to follow the Lord wholeheartedly? Yesterday has passed; tomorrow is unknowable (for us); today is where we live, moment-by-moment. We must trust in Jesus for everything: Our breath, our lives, our perceptions, and truth, which sometimes runs crossways with our perceptions. We are finite beings and therefore cannot know or see everything that is happening, so we trust in the One who can and does: Jesus.

So, today, I pray this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I trade my life for Your life,
my ways for Your ways,
my thoughts for Your thoughts,
my will for Your will.
May we walk together and fellowship together as I will follow Your lead.
I bring nothing to the table except my willingness to listen and obey.
Thank You for wanting to spend life with me. Amen.

Proverbs 31 12-31-21

From kidnapping to burglary–Jesus used some extreme illustrations. They all form one great, big picture of salvation.

17 She dresses herself with strength [metaphor] and makes her arms strong.

Yesterday, we saw how we are to become slaves to each other and how Jesus set the bar high for us. He also used the word picture of a ransom, which was what they called the purchase of slaves. That picture was to teach us that Christ bought us out of slavery. This transaction is a good illustration, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Let’s read the next word picture of Christ’s work on the cross:

27 But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. Mark 3:27

Here is another use of imagery describing what Jesus did on the cross. He bound Satan and then took us as plunder! Here it is again in Matthew 12:29,

28 But if I cast out the demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or, how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

The book of Revelation gives us a good illustration of Christ’s work on the cross. We get a good idea of what really happened from Revelation 1:17-18,

17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Jesus now owns death and Hades. He has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18). He has bound the strong man, and He has purchased us from slavery to sin (Romans 6:6) and the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). We are now seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Each of these word pictures could be taken literally, but since some of them seem to oppose each other, we must step back and see them from a larger perspective. Taken as a whole, we begin to see salvation as a diamond with many facets, each facet showing us a part of salvation that makes up the whole. (Another word picture!)

What a wondrous thing the Father has done for us through His Son, Jesus!

Abba, may You continue to open our eyes that we may see wonderful things in Your Word. May we remember that Jesus is the Word incarnate and that we are to run everything through the viewpoint of Jesus. May we seek Your face even as we seek Your truth. Amen.

Proverbs 30 12-30-21

Metaphors are word pictures. They are man’s attempts to describe the indescribable. Don’t build your theology on them.

4 …Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
14 There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth…
33 For pressing milk produces curds, twisting the nose produces blood, and stirring up anger produces strife.

These are examples of similes and metaphors, word pictures and illustrations, and they all help us get a more specific idea of what the writer wants us to know. Jesus used these types of descriptions along with parables (short, allegorical stories to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson) because ALL of His concepts were bigger than the people’s–and our–brains could handle.

In Mark 10:35-40, James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands when He came into His glory. Verses 41-45 describe the other disciples’ indignation and Jesus’ instruction. Let’s read it:

41 Hearing this, the other ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

I understand being a servant, but not a slave, so I looked up slave, and the word means, “bond-servant,” which was a person who was a technically a slave.

A bondservant is a slave. In some Bibles the word bondservant is the translation of the Greek word doulos, which means “one who is subservient to, and entirely at the disposal of, his master; a slave.” Other translations use the word slave or servant.
In Roman times, the term bondservant or slave could refer to someone who voluntarily served others. But it usually referred to one who was held in a permanent position of servitude. Under Roman law, a bondservant was considered the owner’s personal property. Slaves essentially had no rights and could even be killed with impunity by their owners.
The Hebrew word for “bondservant,” ‘ebed,’ had a similar connotation. However, the Mosaic Law allowed an indentured servant to become a bondservant voluntarily: “If the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:5-6).
From GotQuestions.org

Jesus used the term with the intention for His disciples to voluntarily make themselves slaves to each other. Jesus Himself took this role voluntarily, but He also “gave His life as a ransom for many” (v.45). I looked up the word, “ransom,” and it means, “ransom,” but not like we Westerners think of it. Our first thought is to pay off a kidnapper who takes a loved one and demands payment to get the loved one back. In Jesus’ day, a ransom was what a person used to purchase a slave. Jesus not only became a “slave” for our sakes, he also bought us all out of slavery.

This description of Jesus’ work on the cross is true, but His work was much more than just a payment. Jesus gives us another word picture that denotes more of a hostile takeover than a simple transaction. We’ll look at it tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for being patient with us and for helping us grasp spiritual concepts and realities with our finite minds. Keep stretching and growing us, Lord. We’ll get it someday–when we stand at Your throne in Your presence! I can hardly wait. Amen.

Proverbs 29 12-29-21

One of my favorite verses is, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13. We get to see that in action today!

[25] The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.

Yesterday, we talked about being ready when Jesus changes our direction. Today, we will look at Romans 1:18 in light of Romans 11:32.

32 For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

We all have sinned. How much we sin and in what areas matters not. The question is not how much or what kind, but if we have turned to Jesus and received His mercy. What happens is that, somehow, our turning to Him opens a door to our inner selves and the Spirit of Jesus comes to live in us. Our relationship with Jesus becomes the most important thing in our lives. The love and peace we experience as well as the joy that is in our hearts are quite enough motivation to turn our lives over to Him. This kind of certitude (freedom from doubt) is exactly what makes us trust Him. We know that we are right with God and we enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity. This fellowship is eternal, so we don’t have to worry about dying. Removing the fear of death is what Jesus did on the cross,

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

The mercy and forgiveness of Christ on the cross are for everyone. Let’s spread the Good Great News!

Abba, thank You for caring so much for Your creation. I trust You to take care of every part of Your creation, from grass to sparrows to humans. Your love for us goes beyond even our imagination. May Your mercy grow to fill the whole earth, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 12-28-21

The concept of separation is from the devil and is lit with the fires of hell (Gehenna). Jesus came to unite us in Him.

9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is [becomes] an abomination [the question is, to whom?].

Jesus called everyone to rally around Him. He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He said that all who believes His message does not come into judgment, but has already passed from death to life (John 5:24). He is the Center for all humanity. The Pharisees and scribes didn’t see it that way. They had all kinds of rules and traditions that kept them separated from the common folk. One day, they asked why the disciples did not walk according to their traditions. Look at Jesus’ response:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’ (Isaiah 29:13)
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ (Exodus 20:12) and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ (Exodus 21:1711 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Mark had written earlier that “there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots” (Mark 7:4).

What we have to be willing to do is set aside any of our own traditions and even beliefs when we find that Jesus teaches another way. Jesus went on to teach that it’s not what a person puts in his mouth that defiles him, but rather what comes out of his mouth in the way of words and out of his heart in the way of “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:14-23).

Here’s another example: Read Romans 1:18 in light of Romans 11:32. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Abba, Peter was right: You are the one with the words of life. May we always be ready and willing to change the way we think when You show us something new. There is so much to reading the Bible that obscures and/or colors our view: Our age, gender, experiences, previous teaching, temperament, etc. Much has been passed down to us from others. The problem is that it’s been 2,000 years since You were here in the flesh. We haven’t always perceived correctly what the Spirit has been saying to the churches. Help us to renounce ways that lead to shame, to refuse to practice cunning or to distort the word of God. May we learn all we can from Christians throughout the timeline of Christianity who have walked with You. May we be open to reading Your words in historical context, of which I am sadly lacking. From Your mouth to our ears, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 27 12-27-21

“Perfect love casts out fear.” What does that even mean? Let’s look…

19 As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.

What is God’s heart? It is expressed in two verses,

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten [one and only] Son, that whoever believes [entrusts] in Him shall not perish [be lost, be destroyed, wander away to his detriment, be annihilated], but have eternal life [life with no end]. John 3:16

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect [mature, complete] love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

The type of relationship that Jesus wants with us is one that is complete and mature; it’s a perfect love the is tied up in unity and oneness. “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). I know that there are verses that tell us to fear God. I can only say that my Western ideological mind cannot separate fear and God, but the verses I quoted previously demand that I do so. Fear causes us to keep our distance, and that is the LAST thing that Jesus wants.

So, based upon this “new” concept, I am going to “forget” going to heaven or going to hell and focus on my current relationship with Jesus. I feel that when I am concerned about the future, it creates a tension in me that leads to fear. When I think about all the people who might be dying and going to hell, I know it creates tension in me that leads to fear. So, I have decided that I don’t know enough about either one to make an educated decision. In fact, I don’t know anyone who does. It’s funny that Jesus invited people to be a part of His kingdom, and He promised them that “whoever hears His word and believes him [God] who sent Him has eternal life He does not come into judgment, but has [already] passed from death to life” (John 5:24), but when He talked about the afterlife, it was with the present life in mind (see Matthew 25:45-46). Jesus was much more interested in their state of mind and their actions in this life. I believe that we should be the same. It’s a matter of trust. If we trust Jesus, then we will not worry about our future. I also trust that Jesus will reveal Himself to everyone at one time or another so that they have a decision just like us, but that’s His business; we only get involved if He asks us to.

I’m not copping out on evangelism; I’m just leaving it up to Jesus. According to Experiencing God,

the-7-realities

We can trust the heavenly Father. In trusting Him, He casts fear out of us as if it were a demon so that we can know Him on a level of intimacy that goes beyond this world. We experience the Fellowship of the Trinity. I don’t understand it all, but I’m learning to trust Him. I pray you are, too.

Abba, I am learning to not fear You, but to trust You. It’s hard because I grew up fearing hell and an angry picture of You. But, Jesus shows me that You are a loving God, full of mercy and grace, and that You pour out both on everyone who trusts You. I am truly grateful! Teach me, O Lord, to “unlearn what I have learned,” and to trust in what the Spirit is saying to me through Jesus’ words. Amen.

Proverbs 26 12-26-21

Being a disciple is being a follower, a close follower. Jesus asks us to follow Him–closely!

14 As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer discreetly.

Jesus had more than 12 disciples. Luke 10:1 tells us that He sent out 70+ ahead of Him; in Matthew 8:22, He called a would-be disciple to follow Him; In Matthew 19:21, Jesus asked a young ruler to follow him. There is evidence that many women were disciples, too. Mark 15:41 speaks of them. In John 6:66, many would-be disciples turned away from Him because of His “extreme” requirements. In the end, Judas betrayed Him, and the other 11 ran away.

Jesus loved them all. Even when they didn’t follow, He loved them. He knew something that they didn’t, which was that He was going to die for their sin so that they would become holy vessels prepared and ready to receive the Holy Spirit of Christ! Then, at Pentecost, He filled them up. The best part is that as soon as we believe Him, He fills us up, too! The cross was our purification; it’s one of the things His sacrifice did. One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:18,

18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,

We have much for which to be grateful today. May we bless His name and enjoy sweet fellowship with the Father/Son/Spirit.

Abba, thank You for making me a clean vessel to hold Your Spirit. Having You in my life has given me new life, real life, eternal life! May I experience the Fellowship of the Trinity with every breath I take. Today, I sing Your praises and worship You, Almighty God; there is none like You. Amen.

Proverbs 25 12-25-21

Merry Christmas! I can’t think of a better topic today than modeling Jesus. Christ came into our world–and our hearts.

27 It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.

We don’t have to try to look like Jesus.
When we spend time with Him, we become like Him.

Most people think that modeling Jesus is to follow all the commands in the New Testament given by Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John, Jude and the writer of Hebrews (Whew!). Actually, the reason they wrote what they wrote is because they spent time with Jesus. Spending time with Jesus changes a person. His values become our values; His love becomes our love. It shows up in the form of compassion. We cannot manufacture compassion; it comes from the heart, and that’s Jesus’ domain. When He rules our hearts, then we will see people as He sees them and we will have compassion on them.

To me, the Gospel is connecting people with Jesus. When we act like Christ to a person, a server at a restaurant for example, the Spirit uses our actions as an avenue to speak to that server. It may be that the person begins to warm to the urging of the Spirit. When enough Christians model Jesus to him/her, then the server will begin to seek people who know Jesus and begin asking questions. That’s the time when we share Christ with them. In this entire scenario, we must remember that the Spirit is the One working in us and through us, and thus, all glory goes to the Father. It is also the Spirit who is working in the server’s life drawing him to Christ. Jesus said,

32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32

Jesus came to initiate the plan to be with us and in us. We have been invited to join in the Fellowship of the Trinity. Trust me, when we actively spend time with the Father/Son/Spirit, we will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus! People are drawn to Jesus, so let’s model Him. Let’s be like Jesus with the people around Him,

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless [spiritually], like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

We don’t have to share the Roman Road or go into a full-blown presentation of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. All we need to do is spend enough time with the Trinity to be Christ to those around us. He will draw them to Himself. We, indeed, must be ready to give an explanation about why we act and believe the way we do, but we don’t have to start with it. Building bridges (trust) and relationships is our first and foremost goal.

I pray you have a great Christmas today as we celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God.

Abba, I lift up my readers that You would reveal Yourself to them as they seek Your face in prayer, Bible study, fellowship and discussion, and in whatever they do today. Just experiencing and enjoying Your presence is enough. Thank You for coming to save us, Lord Jesus. We are forever grateful. Amen.

Proverbs 24 12-24-21

Jesus’ heart was never to condemn, but to show mercy. One of His favorite quotes was, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13, 12:7).

11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

As we continue in Matthew 23, there are actually a couple of verses in 22 that need mentioning. they are Matthew 22:23 and 41,

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him…

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together…

The Sadducees and Pharisees made up the ruling class of priests, of which were the scribes and teachers of the law. They were all there that day in the temple area (26:55) when Jesus gave His stern reprimand to them. Jesus gave this reason right up front,

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

It’s one thing to personally choose not to trust Jesus, but it’s quite another to deliberately fight against other people coming to Him. It looks like Jesus was angry and was lashing out, but we cannot impose human character upon God,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts… Isaiah 55:8-9

For one thing, after this rebuke, we know that Jesus included them in His lament for Jerusalem and in His prayer of forgiveness on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:32). How do I know this to be true? It’s in verse 7 of Isaiah 55,

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Jesus lists many abuses and false teachings in verses 13-36, but He still seeks their repentance, and forgives their sin of killing Him even as He forgave our sin–two millennia before we were born! Jesus’ heart showed through that day as He lamented over Jerusalem in verses 37-39. We can hear the heartbreak in Jesus’ voice as He said, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.” Jesus didn’t cause His own death, nor did He cause the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Yet, they both happened just like Scripture and Jesus said they would.

What is evident in this chapter is the heart of Jesus. He came to reveal the Father to us and to establish a new way of looking at things–more than that, He came to establish a kingdom and to fill it with followers! Our primary job is to follow Jesus and love the Father/Son/Spirit with all our heart, soul, mind, and with all our strength. Our secondary job is to love our neighbor by modeling Christ and introducing our neighbors to Jesus as they become interested in the fellowship we have with the Trinity.

Tomorrow, we will discuss what modeling Christ looks like.

Abba, thank You for Your forgiveness. Your mercy and grace are as high as the heavens above. You have separated me from my sin as far as the east is from the west. What You have done for me You have done for everyone. May I share this great news with those whom You point out to me. Amen.