Proverbs 1-30-23

Freedom of religion is a relatively new thing. Through the ages, the powerful set what religion the masses followed.

15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:15-18

As we study the “fuse” of history concerning the coming of Jesus to earth, we look at how the Romans used a different technique on the nations they conquered. From, “Person of Interest, by J. Warner Wallace, pages 20-22,

As they annexed another culture, they would also annex their languages, traditions, and gods. Rome’s early strategy was simple: allow each people group to retain its gods and traditions and embrace these deities as part of the larger Roman pantheon. Rome had done this earlier with the gods of Greece and had, in fact, adopted the Greek gods as their own, “Romanizing” the Greek pantheon.
All they expected in return was for the annexed groups to submit to Roman authority and to make offerings (however nominal) to the Roman gods.

There was an exception: The Jews. “The Romans allowed them to retain their monotheism, recognizing Judaism as a legal religion. The Romans allowed the Jews to coexist among the conquered people groups, even though they would not worship the Roman gods. Rome tolerated Judaism, even if it didn’t trust it.”

During the first years of Christianity, Rome considered it a branch of Judaism and did little or nothing to stop its growth.

“A thirty-year window of opportunity opened to spread the message of Jesus (prior to Emperor Nero’s maltreatment of Christians in AD 64). And even though some Roman emperors in the years ahead would persecute Christians, others returned to a version of Roman tolerance, allowing Christianity to flourish in every region under Rome’s control.”

Jesus arrived at this point in human history, when the Roman Empire embraced a version of religious tolerance unique to the history of the ancient world, providing a small window of opportunity. This window allowed Jesus to preach a message his followers could communicate to the world.

Tomorrow, we will look at Jesus Himself–and the major gods who came before Him.

Abba, You have always have the bigger picture in mind. Even though Your chosen people, the Israelites, were under the control of the Romans, You worked everything together to bring about the perfect conditions for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be spread quickly and efficiently. You are amazing! The more I learn, the more I am in awe of You, Abba. Praise Your name! Amen.

Proverbs 1-29-23

An ancient Pony Express? Absolutely! 1,677 miles in nine days is quite a feat–on horseback.

‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.’ Exodus 19:4

We have been studying the “fuse” leading up to the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. On the world stage, God was working events to ready the world for His Coming. Even though most world leaders were not worshipers of YAHWEH, God still worked through world events to “prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God (Isaiah 40:3).

An interesting aspect to the spreading of the Gospel is the building of roads. There were three main roads across Europe and Asia: The Royal Road, the Appian Way, and the Silk Road. From “Person of Interest,” pages 17-19,

  • The Royal Road- The Persians were among the first to build significant roads. Darius the Great refurbished an existing roadway and created the “Royal Road” in 500 BC, connecting regions as far apart as Susa to Sardis (1,677 miles). This reduced travel from ninety days on foot to nine days on horseback.
  • Construction of probably the most famous of Roman roads, the Appian Way, was started in 312 BC. Called by Romans the “Queen of Roads,” it set the standard for the many famous roads Romans would build leading up to the lifetime of Jesus. From Wikipedia: The Appian Way (Latin and Italian: Via Appia) was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of ancient Rome. It connected Rome to Brindisi in southeast Italy (400 miles).
  • By 130 BC, the Silk Road was formally opened for travel by the Han dynasty of China. This ancient network of connected trade routes would be used to facilitate trade between the East and the West for many centuries.

As the Romans built the infrastructure of secondary roads and perfected the engineering of bridges and tunnels by 100 BC, the stage was set for the peacetime expansion of the Roman highway system that occurred as Jesus’ followers began to share his message and ministry. As this point in history, early in the first century, the Roman Empire had unified and refurbished the road systems of conquered nations, connecting the various systems into a network of roads that spanned the empire from Britain to Syria. This network provided a new opportunity to trade and share ideas, even ideas about Jesus.

The Egyptians had a postal service (of sorts) as early as 2000 BC, but the Persians are typically credited with the first true mail carriers. China had a system for delivering mail as early as 1122 BC, and the Greeks had a system, although they relied heavily on private couriers. The Romans advanced the concept greatly. 47,000 miles of new roads were built by Augustus and his successors. “Using the Persian system of ‘relays,’ the Romans built forts and stations on their exceptional roads, each positioned about one day’s ride apart.” The Pony Express was built on this very model.

As we can see, the stage was being set for the spread of the Gospel. An integral part of its success was the toleration of the Romans and even encouragement concerning the religions of the nations. We will look at that aspect tomorrow.

Abba, the forethought and planning on Your part for the success of the Gospel is amazing. I marvel at the wonder of it all. As I look at all that transpired to make the world ready for Your coming, I see Your loving hand in everything. You truly do love the world–You love us! Thank You!!! Amen.

Proverbs 1-28-23

Rome wasn’t built in a day–but it was founded in 753 BC. What did it take to build an empire and unite the “world?”

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44

The kingdom to which Daniel is referring is the kingdom of God established by Jesus Christ. In the book, “Person of Interest,” by J. Warner Wallace, evidence is presented as in a cold-case file for the authenticity of Jesus as Messiah and Savior of the World. We continue our study of ancient times and how God directed nations–in spite of their unbelief and wickedness–to assist Him in preparing the world for the Coming of His Son and His kingdom. On pages 13-15, we find pertinent information about the Roman Empire:

  • Rome was founded in 753 BC as a monarchy.
  • Rome became a republic in 509 BC.
  • Rome gained control of the entire Italian peninsula in 264 BC.

“Had Jesus appeared at this point in history, his life and message (as he lived and traveled in what is now called Israel) would have been confined to the obscure language [Hebrew] and government of the Jewish region. But the growth of the Roman Empire would soon change that.”

  • By 149 BC, Rome controlled Sicily, the western Mediterranean, and a large portion of Spain.
  • By 146 BC, Rome conquered Carthage and as a result, controlled a portion of northern Africa.
  • Rome also conquered Macedonia, which was made up of today’s countries of Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo.
  • In 27 BC, Gaius Octavius, later known as Caesar Augustus, became the sole leader (and first emperor) of Rome, and ruled until AD 14 (we read His name in Luke 2:1).

“At the pinnacle of Roman rule, most of Europe, Asia Minor, the Balkans, the Middle East, the coast of North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea were unified under the same economic, military, and linguistic systems. Had Jesus arrived on the scene prior to 27 BC, his impact on the “known world” would have been much smaller and more difficult to advance, especially beyond the boundaries of the empires that preceded Rome.”

We are reminded once again of Paul’s statement, “In the fullness of time, Jesus came…” Galatians 4:4. Tomorrow, we will continue our look at the events leading up to the “great explosion”, Jesus’ Arrival from Heaven to earth. Today, let’s stand in awe of Jesus, our King of kings and Lord of lords, and then kneel and worship Him.

Abba, You were making all things ready for the Advent. I should have been teaching this information in December! I believe I will next year. Thank You, Lord, for all the information that is now at our fingertips. May we use our knowledge wisely. Amen.

Proverbs 1-27-23

How do we know the Bible is true? Evidence. A good researcher would tell you to follow the evidence.

15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Deuteronomy 19:15

I found a good book a few weeks ago. It is “Person of Interest” by J. Warner Wallace, a detective specializing in cold cases who investigated Jesus and found Him to be who He claimed to be! Over the next several days, I would like for us to walk through his investigation and look at all the amazing discoveries he found. The book follows an actual cold-case investigation and how he and his partner solved it while applying the same principles and methods to Jesus.

The first thing we need to know is FUSE AND FALLOUT. Every crime/investigation has a fuse, the events leading up to the “explosion,” and then the fallout, the events and evidence left by that explosion. Let’s take a look at his summary of the results, and then we will look at all the evidence.

“But the evidence from the fuse and the fallout alone exposed two important truths: First, no person had the kind of impact Jesus had on history. Second, every reconstruction of the Jesus story from the literature, art, music, education, and science fallout describes Jesus as God incarnate.” pg 252

J. Warner Wallace is a man of details. In order to study Jesus, he went back in history to see what had to happen in order for Jesus to have the impact He did on the world. He covers:

  • Pictographs (3500 BC) – (proto-cuneiform) Symbols representing objects were pressed into wet clay with primitive writing tools. When dried, these clay tablets were used to retell events and to serve as trading documents between merchants. pg 11
  • Cuneiform (3000 BC) – the development of simplified cuneiforms allowed writers to communicate concepts by adding phonograms (symbols for vowels and syllables) to the communication palette. This allowed writers to better express themselves, but their surfaces (clay tablets) were still fragile and temporary. pg 11
  • Papyrus (3000 BC) – (a writing material made from a reed that grows around the Nile River) Around the same time that cuneiform writing emerged, Egyptians began pressing strips of papyrus at right angles, and this naturally bonding material, once it was exported, became the most popular writing material of the ancient Greek and Roman world. Papyrus, unlike clay tablets, could travel safely. pg 12
  • Early Alphabet (1000 BC) – The Phoenician alphabet is an excellent example of early efforts in this regard. Their alphabet is seen consistently in writings dated to approximately 1050 BC. pg 12
  • Greek Alphabet (800 BC) – By 800 BC, the Greeks, for example, added vowels to make their twenty0seven letter version of the alphabet, and for the first time, differences between words like sad, said, and sod were clearly understood. pg 12
  • Etruscan Alphabet (700 BC) – When the Romans conquered the Etruscans, they embraced the Etruscan alphabet…(the Latin alphabet is a direct descendant of the Etruscan). As the Roman Empire conquered the most expansive region of civilization, it also taught the world how to read and write using this alphabet. pg 12

The evolution of language culminated in “the Roman Empire adopting the Etruscan-modified Greek alphabet, embracing Koine Greek as a common language, and adopting the use of papyrus, thus allowing the message of Jesus to be effectively communicated with a shared language and letters. Had Jesus arrived prior to 100 BC, this would not have been possible” (adapted). pg 13

What is really interesting is the way he explains the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires extra-biblically, and yet provides the necessary groundwork for Jesus’ Advent. We will look at Rome tomorrow. For today, let’s ponder this verse:

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4

As we look at “Person of Interest,” I believe that you will be encouraged, that the Scriptures will be exonerated, and our hope built up.

Abba, You are truly the Lord God, King of the universe. You really do rule the nations, setting up kingdoms and bringing down empires. Thank You that “in the fullness of time, Jesus came” (Galatians 4:4). Amen.

Proverbs 1-26-23

Jesus proclaimed He was the divine Son of God. He was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord of heaven and earth.

11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.
18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Hebrews 10:11-13, 18

If Jesus was a liar or a lunatic, then “we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19b). But, if Jesus is Lord, then what we read above is true and we have a great high priest in the heavens, and His name is Jesus Christ!

From, “A Grand Illusion,” pages 90-91

John explains it to us: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). Jesus was not killed as a mere human martyr for social causes. He was killed as part of a divine plan: he came as God among us to take upon himself the price of our sins.
Thus, even though the Scriptures don’t work out all the implications for calling Jesus God, there are biblical texts that make it clear that both Jesus and the first Christians understood Jesus to be divine. Consider a few:

  • Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • John 8:58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”
  • John 10:33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
  • John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
  • Hebrews 1:3-10 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heavenSo he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”? And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire. But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. 10 He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands...”
  • Colossians 1:15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
  • 2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:
  • Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
  • Romans 9:5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is non-negotiable for the Christian faith. To deny that Jesus is divine is to deny that he is the Son of God.

Some things we can leave open to interpretation; this is not one of them. The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus is fact; it is reality. Jesus Himself said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). So, is He a liar? Everything He promised He would do He did: He healed the sick, raised the dead–and even rose from the dead Himself! Is He a lunatic? His speeches clearly indicate that He was in His right mind. Is He Lord? You bet He is! If someone is still doubting, consider what Jesus told the doubters in His day,

37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” John 10:37-38

Is that the talk of a crazy person? I think not!

Abba, it never ceases to amaze me that You would want to come down here to earth and be one of us in order to make us one of Yours. We have always been Your creations, but we wandered off, believed lies, deceived ourselves, and allowed the enemy to put chains on our hands and feet, blinders on our eyes, and mufflers on our ears. You came to strip us of our encumbrances so we can respond to You. May we trust You as our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 1-25-23

Was Jesus God? Was He human? Both??

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:34-35

“God became man so that man might become god.” Athanasius

This brilliant summary of the Gospel was written in the fourth century. The idea is that God cannot die, so He became a man in order to conquer sin and death by dying and rising again. If God only assumed a human body, then He is still God and could not die. If He chose a human, then he would not be able to beat the curse of death. God used His and Mary’s DNA to form a human body in which deity dwelled. It was the perfect synthesis! Jesus is both human and divine at the same time. Now, the passage in Hebrews 4 makes great sense:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

From, “A Grand Illusion,” page 90,

Scripture is filled with references to Jesus’ divinity. Even if we didn’t have the Nicene or Chalcedonian Creeds stating the orthodox view on this point, Scripture is still sufficiently clear here. Every time Scripture calls Jesus “the Son of God,” it’s making a divine claim, for this is what the term meant in Greek. Herakles was “son of a god.” Various Semitic and Hellenistic kings referred to themselves as “the son of a god.” The Caesars took to calling themselves “sons of god.” Such titles did not simply mean “my daddy is a god.” Rather, one used the tile “son of God” to claim actual divine status.

Tomorrow, we will look at Scriptures that speak to Jesus’ divinity. Today, let us rejoice in Jesus’ humanity even as we rejoice in His divinity!

Abba, thank You for coming in Jesus. You became one of us so that we could become one with You. You are amazing! Amen.

Proverbs 1-24-23

The apostle Paul had a unique relationship with Jesus Christ. We have our own unique relationship. Are we cultivating it?

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3-5

Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). From his testimony before the crowd in Jerusalem many years into his ministry, we learn that Jesus appeared to Paul in a trance telling him to leave Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-18, his first time back as a follower of Jesus). As Paul was taken into custody by the Romans, he had a visitation by the Lord who told him to “take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” (Acts 23:11). Paul understood that the Lord and the Spirit are synonymous. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit,” and in verse 18, “which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Luke mentions the Holy Spirit’s leading Paul on several occasions: Acts 13:2, 16:6-7, 19:1-7, 20:22-23, 21:4, and 11.

Paul met with the Lord on several occasions. In fact, Jesus told him, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). We also know from Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 that he “was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”

What did Paul think about his interaction with Jesus? “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 3:7-8a).

How are we in this department? Do we crave knowing Christ? Are we interested enough in His opinion to make it our own? Paul continues,

I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

May we begin today to seek Christ, to know Him in His power, His suffering, in His death, and ultimately, in His resurrection.

Abba, knowing Jesus better is my goal in life. The only way I know to achieve this goal is to spend time with Him: reading Your Word, consulting Him on every decision, seeking direction, obeying instructions, receiving guidance, and basking in His presence and participation in my life. Thank You, Jesus, for wanting to live in and with me. Amen.

Proverbs 1-23-23

Jesus is coming back to earth. He kept His promise to rise from the dead, so we can trust Him on coming back, too.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

This passage convinces me that Jesus is literally returning to earth. Zechariah (John the Baptist’s dad) doubted Gabriel’s words and wound up mute for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:18-20). I will not make the same mistake.

Concerning End Times, the Baptist Faith and Messages says this:

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

Its eschatology is pretty straightforward; it doesn’t include any details about when or how Jesus will return except that He will come personally and visibly. My eschatology is straightforward, too. I believe:

  • Jesus is coming back literally to earth.
  • He will pick us up along the way (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
  • God will judge everyone according to their relationship with His Son, Jesus (John 5:28-29).

There are a great many Christian brothers and sisters who read many Scripture passages as historical while many other Christian brothers and sisters interpret these same passages as future events. While it may seem that one must choose between the two, that is not the case. In 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Paul calls Christ’s Coming a mystery. As I said in Proverbs 1-19-23, we need to be like the flat nails about core beliefs that cannot bend and are the driving force of the Gospel, but also like steel nails, which bend when needed, concerning beliefs and interpretations that go beyond the basic tenets of the truths stated in the Bible. We need to respect each other’s opinion over End Times and not present our opinions in a way that becomes divisive. This discussion has been going on for nearly two millennia, so there’s no reason to think that anyone has the corner on the market. In the words of my pastor, “It’s not a fellowship-breaker.”

Let us pray that as the time for Jesus’ Return draws ever closer, more and more people will turn to Him for salvation, healing, and freedom.

Abba, as I get older, the more I realize that I know far less than I thought I did. The more I study Your Word, the deeper are its depths. Take me deeper, Lord, until the Day that You take me home. Amen.

Proverbs 1-22-23

The New Testament is founded upon the Old Testament. One helps us to understand the other.

16 All Scripture [Old Testament-the new hadn’t been written yet] is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

When Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, he cited the Old Testament regularly (check the bottom of each page of his letter for an OT reference). There are several passages that have numerous OT verses quoted, such as:

Little did Paul know that he was in the process of writing more than half the New Testament! The mistake people make is receiving the righteousness of Christ, but then using the OT to “achieve” righteousness on our own. We are trying to obtain that which we have already been given! The Galatians had done exactly that, and Paul wrote in his letter to them,

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heardAre you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?

We know that Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets. We read about it in Matthew 5:17-18,

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

The phrase, “until everything is accomplished” leaves us with a progressive fulfillment. Jesus fulfilled much of the law and prophets, i.e. the sacrifices, the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, the Passover Seder, but there are still prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled. These prophecies have to do with His return to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords,

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew 19:28

We have these prophecies to which to look forward,

The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.”
Psalm 110:1

The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name. Zechariah 14:9

23 By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
Isaiah 45:23

The Bible: 66 books, written over 1500 years by 35 authors from various walks of life, written in three languages with 1,817 prophecies, of which Jesus fulfilled over 300 during His earthly life, death and resurrection, with one clear message, “For God so loved the world…”

Abba, as we worship today, may we give thanks for the written testimony of Your love, mercy, and grace. Amen.

Proverbs 1-21-23

When Jesus talked about hell, He used the most disgusting word picture available: The city garbage dump.

47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where ‘”the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:47-48

Early Christians believed in hell. Their creed included it. Here is the Apostle’s Creed, the oldest that we have recorded:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell;
The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; The Holy catholic Church, the Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen.

There are two things to notice:

  1. “He descended into hell;” the Greek word used is Hades, which was considered to be the waiting place of the dead.
  2. “From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” This judgment is about eternal destination: Heaven and Hell.

The Nicene Creed includes this same phrase, “the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead;”

The Baptist Faith and Message reiterates this truth, “the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.”

Because of sin, mankind is perishing. Jesus came to save us from this wretched fate. John told us,

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18

Jesus came to give us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Those who receive His gift of righteousness do not fear death, but look forward to enjoying God’s presence forever. Those who refuse to receive His gift and persist in unbelief, He will honor their choice to not be in His presence. Thus, hell.

Aren’t we glad that we came to trust in Jesus and received His gift of righteousness? We have so much waiting for us, especially our heavenly Father who loves us!

Abba, thank You for Your great Rescue. You did not abandon us to the grave, but sent Your Son to save us from ourselves and what awaited us. We rejoice in Your great salvation! Amen.

Proverbs 1-20-23

Jesus spoke in word pictures. He used them to describe heaven, hell, God, and our relationship with each other.

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.

When Jesus described hell, He used the word, “Gehenna,” a Greek word that is derived from the Hebrew, “Ge Hinnom,” which is the valley of Hinnom just outside Jerusalem. It was used in Jesus’ day as the garbage dump. There was always a fire burning and there were maggots everywhere. In Jeremiah’s day, this valley was used for child sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:30-32). There was nothing “redeemable” about Gehenna in the Jewish person’s mind. A word picture.

Matthew includes seven times that the Lord referred to hell. Let’s look at them:

5:22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

5:29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

5:30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

18:9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?

What can we conclude from these verses?

  1. Hell is a real place.
  2. It is a place of judgment.
  3. Hell is a place that is “chosen” by our actions.

Jesus used these word pictures to describe what life is like outside of Him. He used them to reveal where people were headed. Jesus came to give life, to proclaim freedom, release for the captives, ointment for the blind and healing for the sick. He came to save us from hell by giving us Himself through the Holy Spirit.

Folks, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Abba, before I met You, it was like walking in the dark. You shined Your light on me and now I see You! I see the world around me, the people in my life, and I praise You for such a wonderful salvation. Amen.

Proverbs 1-19-23

Coming together in Christ doesn’t mean that we all believe everything the same way, but there are core beliefs that unify us.

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31

John goes on to say, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25). If John were including everything that Jesus accomplished in heaven as well as earth, then those books would extend into heaven! What I hear in John’s statement is that he could not tell us everything about Christ and His ministry, but he included all we need to know for life in His name. Jesus Himself teaches us what we need to know to have abundant life in Him.

I watched a man drive a nail through a 2×4 and into concrete. The nail was flat and had a wedge shape. I asked him how the nail could penetrate concrete, and he told me that the nail was made mostly of iron, which has great strength for driving, but if the nail bends, it breaks because the iron makes it brittle. The man had other nails, too. They are made of steel. They can bend without breaking, but cannot penetrate concrete. He needed both.

We need to be like the flat nails about core beliefs that cannot bend, but are the driving force of the Gospel. These beliefs have been held though the ages and are encompassed in the Apostle’s Creed and in even more detail in the Nicene Creed. We can unify around these truths of Scripture.

When it comes to beliefs and interpretations that go beyond the basic tenets of these truths, we need to be more like the regular steel nails that bend when needed. What we must realize is that we all have filters: where we were born, when we were born, to whom we were born, how we were raised by family, how we were raised by community, our experiences (both good and bad), our temperaments, etc. Each of us is part of the family of God, but we all have own unique relationship with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. We all see things a little differently. Learning what is TRUTH and what is INTERPRETATION is what church is all about. We come together to hear, to discuss, to read, to sing, to pray, and to fellowship. We then go out to preach, to teach, to listen, to explain, and to draw in those who are resistant to the Gospel.

One of the truths that has been interpreted differently and argued about through the centuries is HELL. Tomorrow, we will delve into the truth about hell and the interpretations of it. We will look at the Bible, the creeds and at the Baptist Faith and Message. Will it be a complete dissertation? Hardly, but it will be a start.

Abba, You have provided Your truths in written form by Your apostles in the Bible, but You have left the interpretation and application of those truths to us. May we lean solely and heavily upon Your Spirit for knowledge, discernment, understanding, and wisdom of these truths. Lead on, O King Eternal. Amen.

Proverbs 1-18-23

Have you heard the phrase, “In a nutshell?” Well, here is Christianity in a nutshell.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

“The only Jesus worth knowing is the Son of God who lived a perfect life, died an atoning death, was raised as Lord over creation, offers to save those who trust him, and will return with a new creation in final judgment. This is the Jesus of orthodox, biblical, and historic Christianity.” From, “A Grand Illusion,” page 75.

It all boils down to these facts (dogma) being the foundation of Christianity. There’s not much to argue about here. David Young makes another statement that sums up the essential character of the Christian religion,

“Orthodox biblical Christianity unambiguously states that humans are fallen in sin and incapable of saving themselves. Because of our sin, each of us is separated from God and deserves to be punished. But in his great mercy, God became human in the person of Jesus, took our sins upon himself, and bore our punishment on the cross. Rising from the dead, Jesus is now the King of kings, and he calls people everywhere to repent of their personal sin, take up their cross, and follow him. And he is going to return, raise the dead, judge humanity, banish the unrepentant, and establish a new creation.” From, “A Grand Illusion,” page 78.

This statement is David Young’s attempt to sum up the Bible’s message to us. Throughout the history of the church, we have the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Chalcedonian Definition, and others. The Old Testament pointed to Christ, and the New Testament reveals Christ. These statements help us to grasp how much God loves us and what He has done for us through Jesus. Granted, all we have is a pencil drawing of a beautiful tapestry of masterpiece painting, but we have the Holy Spirit in us guiding us, explaining to us, and revealing more and more of it all as we walk with Him.

Live truth; breathe truth; walk in truth.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

Abba, I pray this prayer for all my brothers and sisters in Christ. May You flood their lives with Your light and Your truth. May they experience Your presence and participation in their lives. Overwhelm them, Abba. When You speak to us, it’s not audible; it’s louder than that (thank you, Jimmy Cox). Speak to our hearts, Lord Jesus, speak that our souls may hear. Amen.

Proverbs 1-17-22

Who doesn’t love a good story? We usually call a true story an “account,” but it’s still a story, just a true one.

63 The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. John 6:63

Jesus loved telling stories. They are the best way for us to get our minds around concepts. When Jesus described salvation, it was always with a metaphor or analogy. When He spoke to Nicodemus, He said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Jesus was telling Nicodemus to start over with his ideas of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus needed spiritual eyes to see the kingdom about which Jesus was talking.

Here is another one:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44

We might word His analogy this way: Inside each man and woman, boy and girl is a treasure chest, in which resides a wondrous treasure. If we dare to open the chest, we will find all of God’s treasures awaiting us.

This treasure is the Holy Spirit. He awaits every person to open the chest and allow Him to fill every nook and cranny.  In the words of Trevin Wax, we are “a wretch and a masterpiece bundled into one.” We describe Jesus as on the outside looking in, waiting for us to open the door so He can come in (Revelation 3:20–another analogy), but the kingdom of God is within us,

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, [21] nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Again, the Gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) is like a seed planted. With a little water, it germinates and grows into a beautiful life (John 12:24). Paul also uses the illustration of the seed:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Notice the last two metaphors: God’s field and God’s building. Everyone in Paul’s day knew about fields and buildings. His descriptions helped them understand what he was saying.

The best description to me for salvation is this: We are held in chains, but we unknowingly hold these chains around our own hearts (our hearts are the treasure chest of which we spoke before). If we would let go of the chains that bind our hearts, His Spirit would be free to join us in the dance/journey/adventure of life (metaphors). We were never meant to live life alone; we are only complete when the Spirit is walking with us and we are in full cooperation with Him.

May I remind us that it is not how we tell the story of the Gospel; it’s about Him speaking to those with whom we share. Pray that they would hear His voice when He speaks to them.

Abba, thank You for speaking to me. We have had great conversations along the way. Your presence and participation in my life is what makes life worth living. It truly is like coming to life, or being born again! Teach me to tell stories like You, Lord. I want to share Your story. Amen.

Proverbs 16 1-16-23

Are we righteous because of our righteous acts, or do we do righteous acts because we are righteous?

11 Since everything will be destroyed [torn down and remade] in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 2 Peter 3:11-12

How righteous is Jesus Christ on a scale of one to a hundred? Wouldn’t we all agree that Jesus is 100% righteous? Jesus was tempted in every way, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:14-15). These verses also answer the question of whether or not temptation is sin. That answer would be no.

How righteous are you on a scale of one to a hundred? Before you answer, consider this passage:

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. Ephesians 5:26-27

  • Have you noticed that Christ loved the church even before Pentecost? That’s because the church is the ekklesia, the assembly of His people, which has always included His followers beginning with Adam and progressing through Abraham to Moses, to David, to Jesus, to Pentecost. The first “assembly” was at Mount Sinai by Moses when he went up to receive the commandments (Exodus 35:1). Jesus has always loved His people (even before the law was given to them).
  • The reason for Christ’s sacrifice was to make mankind holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word, who is Jesus (John 1:1-5). God has always been about redeeming His creation, His children.
  • We will be presented to Christ by Christ; we are His Bride and He is our Bridegroom. Don’t ask me how that works!
  • Look at the description of the Bride: glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, holy and without fault. We find a similar description in Jude 24 (“great joy” is added to the list).

Add to the pot this verse:

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin [a sin offering] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

If Jesus was 100% righteous, and we have become His righteousness, then we have 100% of His righteousness. So, let me ask again, how righteous are we on a scale of one to a hundred? We are 100’s! Because of His indwelling Spirit of righteousness, we don’t have to sin (willingly rebel). We can live the victorious Christian life! All we have to do is listen to and obey His Spirit. We will spend our whole lives learning to do just that.

Abba, You are amazing. To become Your righteousness is inconceivable. I don’t feel righteous–but that doesn’t discount the fact that You say that I am. May we realize that we live in your righteousness every day, all the time. Amen.

Proverbs 15 1-15-23

Ever had a thought pop into your head out of nowhere? Be careful! What we do with that thought is very important.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you entertain such evil thoughts in your hearts? Matthew 9:4
19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” Matthew 15:19-20

Here’s a good topic to discuss: A bad thought is a sin.

Let’s begin with a question: When did Eve sin, when she saw that the fruit was good for eating or when she actually ate of it? How about adultery or murder: When did the look turn to lust or the hate turn into a hit? Could it be that the Spirit convicts us of righteousness before He convicts us of sin?

Take Cain, for example,

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

The Lord convicted Cain of righteousness by reminding him of what the right thing to do was. After he killed Abel, the Lord convicted Cain of sin.

Another good question is, When does Satan lie to us? Is it not in our minds? Does he not try to deceive us and capture us mentally? He knows that our thoughts lead to actions (James 1:14-15). James says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters” (James 1:16). Paul tells us what to do with these run-away thoughts,

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Our war is fought on the battlefield of our minds. We demolish arguments with truth and shine light on every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. Notice how much Scripture is used to debunk the lie that a bad thought is a sin. Instead, we recognize it for what it is, a temptation, and take it captive by being obedient to Christ. We can’t do it on our own. We need the guidance, training and encouragement of the Holy Spirit. We need to BRACE,

B-breathe: four counts inhale, four counts hold, eight counts controlled exhale. Repeat.
R-recall Scripture that helps to refocus our thoughts, like Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
A-ask the Lord for help. Talk to Him about what you’re thinking and how to beat the “feels.”
C-call or text someone for accountability. Just focusing on someone safe helps.
E-escape the situation. Remember this, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Is a bad thought a sin? No. We recognize it because the Spirit convicts us of righteousness (we know what is right). It becomes a sin when we allow it to take root in our hearts through deceitful desires (Eph. 4:22) and gives birth to sin (James 1:15). Jesus wants us to be “blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then we will shine among them like stars in the sky as we hold firmly to the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16).

Abba, You have called us to be like You. In order to be like You, we must think like You. Change the way we think by transforming our minds (Romans 12:2). It’s a good thing You’re helping us! Amen.

Proverbs 14 1-14-23

Salvation is only a starting point. We move upward from there with the presence of God Himself in our lives.

We proclaim Him, teaching and admonishing everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. Colossians 1:28

It is true. We were sinners saved by grace. Paul’s own testimony to Timothy attests to this fact,

13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:13-14

But, the question is, is this description still accurate for those who walk with Jesus daily? Here is what Peter said about who we are now that we have His Spirit in us,

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

In Ephesians 1:1 and 4:12, Paul calls us saints (holy ones). In 2 Corinthians 5:20, he calls us ambassadors of Christ. In Romans 8:14-17, he calls us children of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. In Revelation 5:10, John calls us “priests to serve our God.” We have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 13:14, Ephesians 4:24). When the prodigal son came back in Luke 15:22-24, the father reinstated him as his son. Sinners are what we were; now we are righteous children of God!

We must learn to see ourselves as what we are now: Children, ambassadors, priests, chosen, God’s special possession. May we never forget that we are chosen by God “that we may declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.” “To this end we strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in us.” Colossians 1:29

Abba, thank You for calling me out of my darkness and into Your marvelous light. May I live my life in accordance to all I am now in You. Amen.

Proverbs 13 1-13-23

Yesterday: Can Christians sin unknowingly? No. Today: Is it normal for Christians to sin everyday? Let’s look.

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.

Psalm 73:23-24

There are some foundational statements that we can make concerning sin and our relationship to it.

  1. Sin is willful rebellion against God. It’s a conscious act.
  2. Christians live with the presence of the Holy Spirit in them. This relationship is what makes us Christians.
  3. Sin used to define us; now, it shapes us.

Let me explain. Everyone is born with a sin nature, i.e. we all have the poison of rebelliousness in us. We all need to come to the cross for healing and life. Once we do, Christ’s blood cleanses us from all of the poison in us. We are given Christ’s righteousness and will never have to worry about being poisoned in that way again. Our relationship with sin has changed. It used to kill us and keep us from running to God, but now God uses it to train us to be holy. Because our desires have changed and have become His desires, our sin drives us to His throne for mercy and grace,

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

We all have weak areas in our lives that we fight daily. We have expectations of ourselves that are difficult–if not impossible–to meet. When do our “failures” become sin? When we deliberately turn away from the Spirit’s direction. We ignore His warning and continue anyway. But, what if we don’t actually receive a warning from the Spirit? It could be that our expectations are not His expectations. When we fail at our own expectations, it’s not necessarily sin. We would do well to go to Him with these expectations and see if He even wants us to have them! When we do deliberately turn and sin, the conviction of the Spirit is immediate and specific with instructions for what to do next. We then go to our heavenly Father for an attitude adjustment. The Spirit corrects our thinking and we grow. It’s known as the victorious Christian life.

If we go through the day and do not deliberately turn away from the Lord in rebellion, we can honestly say that we have not sinned that day. Jesus told us that we need only be concerned with one day at a time. When we do sin, we have this promise:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 1 John 2:1

Notice the word, “if.” Not, “when,” but, “if.” The expectation is that we live for Jesus Christ by dying to self and following Him closely. A great memory verse is,

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Tomorrow: Sinners saved by grace; an apt description of Christians?

Abba, You are so wise! You took what once killed us and have made it the very tool that You use to make us holy. May I live in the knowledge that I am righteous to You because You have made me so, and that I can be holy even as You are–with a lot of help from You! It is my goal, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 12 1-12-23

The question has been asked, “Can a Christian sin and not know it?” What do you think? What does Scripture say? Do they match?

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

Before we look for the answer to this question, let me ask another one: Why do we have a sin nature?

When Adam and Eve sinned, they turned away from God and followed a new “master.” In doing so, they estranged themselves from God. They were not designed to be “separated” from God in this manner. Without the partnership of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they became blind; they were poisoned by their rebellion, shackled to their new-found desire for not only the forbidden fruit, but for all kinds of things. Living life without the interaction of the Holy Spirit (God) is what it means to have a sin nature. We cannot see ourselves as we truly are: His children.

Once we turn back to God for life and healing, we are once again united with the Holy Spirit. In our partnership with Him, we begin to learn how to see ourselves as 100% righteous (we have the righteousness of Christ imbued to us, 2 Corinthians 5:21) and holy (set apart as His very own), and then to act accordingly. It’s a lifelong process, one that gets more glorious with each step! We learn to trust Him and to count on Him to tell us the truth quickly and simply.

As for the question, “Can a Christian sin and not know it?” the answer is No. Sin is the willful turning away from the Lord; it is rebellion, a deliberate thought process that leads to action. James describes this process,

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-16

There’s nothing unknowing about this evil desire that drags us away. As Christians, we face the Lord and reflect the Lord’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18); to sin means that we deliberately turn away from looking at Him. The word, “sin,” is used to describe a person’s arrow when he misses the mark; I personally don’t think that this analogy fits very well. The assumption is that the person shooting the arrow is trying to hit the target of God’s will. I believe a better picture is a person deliberately turning away from the target and shooting at something else.

One more thing: Christians have the Holy Spirit interacting with them, so when they sin, the Holy Spirit immediately, lovingly, and specifically calls it to their attention. His warning may come at the outset of our temptation, somewhere in the process, or even after our commission of that sin–or all three. The idea is that we cannot sin without Him revealing our sin to us. We cannot sin without knowing it. We know when we are ignoring the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The subsequent question is, “Is it normal for Christians to sin everyday?” We will look at this one tomorrow.

Abba, coming back to You is the smartest, wisest and greatest thing we ever did! Thank You for coming after us, seeking us until You found us and then carrying us home. Thank You for helping us come to our senses and then throwing us a party when we made it home. You are truly a remarkable God. May we keep our eyes fixed on You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 11 1-11-23

Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord” (taken from C.S. Lewis). There’s no way around it; we must choose.

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed!John 8:52
21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him [Jesus], for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:21

As we finish in John 12 about what Jesus had to reveal about Himself, the last four verses seem to be a summary of all He has said to date,

47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

  • Jesus did not come to judge us. He came to save us (John 3:17).
  • Jesus said that Moses would be the judge of the Jews who insisted in following the Law instead of Him, “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set” John 5:45).
  • “The last day” seems to be a reference to John 5:28 when “all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” The highest form of love is for God to honor a person’s ability to choose.
  • Jesus spoke the Father’s heart. Why? Because He is God in the flesh. They cannot be separated. Jesus was in complete and full agreement with all the Father had Him say and do. Verse 49 is very similar to 5:30, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” But, we just read that Jesus wouldn’t judge. How can we reconcile this contradiction? Jesus wasn’t judging, but was relaying what the Father told Him. Even then, the Father still leaves the doors of heaven open for all who would repent and come in (Jesus is that Door, John 10:9).
  • Jesus had full confidence in all the Father told Him. Just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, eternal life comes to us from the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit.

The next big event is the Lord’s Supper. Much of what Jesus was telling them was fulfilled in the next three days. We tend to read the Scriptures with ourselves in mind, but we must always ask ourselves, “What is the next big thing to happen?” The CROSS, GRAVE and RESURRECTION was the greatest series of events to ever happen! May we praise the Lord Jesus for fulfilling His task. He is neither a liar nor a lunatic; He is LORD!

Abba, as I read about Jesus and His revelations about who He is, I realize that Jesus was decidedly clear about who He is, what His mission was, and even how He was going to accomplish it. Thank You for being so clear about Your love and the depths You endured to get us back. Amen.

Proverbs 10 1-10-23

Listening to Jesus without the aid of the Holy Spirit must have been frustrating. Aren’t we glad we have the Spirit in our lives?!

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

As we continue to look at what Jesus revealed about Himself, He will try two more times in chapter 12 by exhorting the people to believe in Him,

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going. 36 Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

Who is the light about which He is talking? Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Jesus encouraged them to walk with Him and to believe in Him. Look at the promise: “so that you may become children of light.” They could become His children!

In Jesus’ last attempt to persuade the crowd, Jesus identified Himself with God once again and as the light once again.

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.

A little later, in the upper room, Jesus said this to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father…Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10). It wasn’t like Jesus was talking in riddles; He was using the metaphor of light based upon their knowledge of OT Scripture, namely Isaiah 9:2. Light can stand for illumination of thought, for knowledge, and for understanding. Jesus is all of these and gives all of these to those who look away from the darkness and come to the light, who is Jesus.

Jesus was speaking plainly, but the people still had a veil over their minds and hearts (John 12:40 and 2 Corinthians 3:14). It wouldn’t be until Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit that people’s minds would be opened to the truth He had been sharing with them–even the disciples (John 2:22, Luke 24:45)!

We have the Holy Spirit available to us to explain the Scriptures to us just like He did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27). May we take full advantage of so great a Resource!

Abba, we need our hearts enlightened with Your truth, Your illumination of thought, Your knowledge and Your understanding. May You be our Guide even as You light our path. Amen.

Proverbs 9 1-9-23

Hearing God’s audible voice must have been incredible! Once was in our John 12 passage. Can you name the other two?

We left off after reading John 12:27, so let’s pick up there:

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 

The crowd was confused at this point, but Jesus set them straight,

29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.
30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 

The three times in Jesus’ life that God spoke out loud publicly were times when Jesus was entering into a new stage of ministry.

  1. The first time was at Jesus’ baptism, “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” Matthew 3:17.
  2. The second time was on the mount of Transfiguration, “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
  3. The third time was when Jesus was entering into His final stage of ministry, Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again” John 12:27.

Jesus then announced this final stage,

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

  1. Jesus wanted them to hear His exchange with the Father.
  2. Judgment was now coming on this world. Judgment of what? To “break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil,” the prince of this world (Hebrews 2:14).
  3. “Lifted up” means, “exalted.” I believe that Jesus is referring to the raising of the snake on a pole (see Numbers 21:1-9) because of His statement to Nicodemus in John 3:14-15, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

The other word in verse 32 that gives us trouble is, “draw.” The Greek is helskyso, which means, “to drag or pull,” as with a fishing net. Examples are: the disciples’ nets were so full that they dragged (helskyso) the fish ashore (John 21:11); Paul and Silas were dragged (helskyso) before the magistrates (Acts 16:19). Are people dragged into salvation with God? Absolutely not! That would nullify their ability to choose. Here is another metaphor: Jesus was on one side of the Grand Canyon and we were on another side with a half mile down and half mile across separating us, then Jesus reached over and pulled our side up next to His. Now there is NO SEPARATION between us and God. All a person has to do is turn and be saved (Isaiah 45:22). This illustration is by no means a complete picture of what Christ did for us. In fact, we could spend the next 1000 years discovering all that went into the Passion week of Christ, i.e. His entry in Jerusalem, His teaching on the temple grounds, His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, and His resurrection. The assuring thing is that we know it’s all true!

Let’s thank Jesus for all He went through to get us back. He is our Great Rescuer, the Victorious Christ (Christus Victor).

Abba, Your salvation is so big that there is no way for us to get our arms around it. What stands out to me is Your great love for us. May we bask in the waterfall of Your love, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 8 1-8-23

Today we look at my favorite passage concerning Jesus’ revelation about Himself. Read on!

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51

The passage begins with Philip and Andrew bringing some Greeks to see Jesus. Because of the crowd (verse 29), we assume that Jesus met with them in a public place.

20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

23 Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

His “Son of Man” reference in v. 23 is to Daniel 7:13-14 and refers to God the Son, speaking of Himself. He then gives an illustration about a seed that must die in order to sprout (v.24), which is a reference to Himself and the kingdom of God. Jesus then gives the crux of the ideology of His kingdom,

25 Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

He then goes another step further and states the prerequisite to being a follower of His,

26 Whoever serves me must follow me;

And likewise, whoever wants to follow Jesus must be willing to serve Him (see Luke 9:23). Jesus gives two promises in that same verse,

and (1) where I am, my servant also will be. (2) My Father will honor the one who serves me.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea of why Jesus came from heaven to earth, Jesus spells it out in verse 27,

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 

Jesus turns His–and our–attention to the Father and says, 28 Father, glorify your name!”

God answers audibly, Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 

I hate to stop here, but it IS Sunday. We will pick it up here tomorrow. For today, let’s consider the ideology and prerequisite of being a Christ follower.

Abba, each day we are to turn our lives over to You–sometimes hourly, sometimes moment-by-moment. When we die to ourselves and live for Jesus, we honor You. His Spirit, which is Your Spirit, delights in us. May we die to the things of this world and live for You as we follow You through this maze called life. Amen.

Proverbs 7 1-7-23

As Jesus headed to Jerusalem, He spoke to many people. He used analogies from everyday life to describe Himself.

23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. John 2:23-24

In John 10, Jesus uses several analogies to define who He is:

  1. Jesus is the Gate for the sheep (John 10:7).
  2. Jesus is the Door for salvation (John 10:9).
  3. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14).
  4. Jesus told them that as the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for his sheep, and will take it up again by the authority given to Him by His Father (John 10:17-18).
  5. Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30).
  6. Jesus is God’s Son (John 10:36).
  7. Jesus told them to believe His works even if they didn’t believe His words (10:37-38).

Jesus’ greatest public miracle happened in Bethany when He raised Lazarus from the dead. In His conversation with Martha, Jesus declared:

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha spoke the same confession that Simon Peter did when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was (Matthew 16:16),
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

We now come to the final public address that Jesus gives. In it, He reveals His mission, how He will fulfill it, and what He will accomplish in doing it–and we will pick up here tomorrow. If you want to read ahead, it begins in 12:20 and runs through the end of the chapter.

In the meantime, read through again the list of analogies Jesus gave us and ponder what they mean to us. How do we relate to each one?

Abba, as I look at these analogies, I see myself as one of Your sheep. I put my full trust in You because You laid down Your life for me and then took it up again so that I might not fear death (Hebrews 2:14-15). I know that You hold me in a double-fisted grip (John 10:28-29), and I believe You are God and Son at the same time. You have worked a miracle in my heart and life, and I praise You and thank You. Amen.

Proverbs 6 1-6-23

I knew a guy who claimed to be God. He set his watch 5 minutes ahead and said his time was correct.

25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” Luke 4:25-26

The last exchange in Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees in John 8 is the most revealing of all as Jesus reveals who His Father is,

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

Three times in this conversation, Jesus claimed to come from God or to be God Himself.

  1. “My Father, whom you claim as your God”– Jesus finally told them who His Father is. This by itself was enough to be considered a blasphemer. In verse 52, they called Him demon-possessed. To claim that God glorifies Him just adds fuel to the fire. To top it off, Jesus told them that they really didn’t know God. He had already told them that their father was the one they served, which was the devil (v.44).
  2. “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad”- The first thing we notice is that Jesus called Abraham their father, which is what they claimed in verse 39. It was true: Abraham was their physical forefather. Jesus was being illustrative when He called them children of the devil. Calling Abraham their father connected them to His declaration of Abraham seeing His day. What day was that? I believe it can be found in Genesis 18 when the LORD appeared to Abraham on His way to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, which is impossible by human standards. The Pharisees said as much, “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” It is Jesus’ reply that really made them angry!
  3. “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I AM!”– “I AM” is God’s name for Himself. In Exodus 3:14, God told Moses, “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” The footnote says, “The Hebrew for LORD sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for I AM.” Jesus was claiming that He is God, the LORD.

Although they tried to stone Him, Jesus continued to reach them through words and deeds. In the next chapter, Jesus heals a man born blind (on the Sabbath!), then He asks them to believe His works if not His words (10:37-38), and then raises Lazarus from the dead, all the while telling them that He will voluntarily lay down His life for them, which He did on the cross.

Tomorrow, we will look at what Jesus said to Martha on that fateful day. For today, let’s be grateful that Jesus rose from the dead and continues to show the Father’s love to us!

Abba, thank You for coming to show us who You are. Jesus, You are the exact representation of God the Father. When I look at You, I see the Father. And, what do I see? LOVE! Love that is so wide and long and high and deep that I will never fathom it (according to Ephesians 3:18-19). Reading about You thrills my soul. Keep opening up our minds and hearts, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 5 1-5-23

Jesus gives life to this life. Without His Spirit in our lives, we are the walking dead.

24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” John 8:24

As Jesus wraps up his conversation in John 8 with the Pharisees (they try to stone Him), He hits them with this statement about who He is:

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

Jesus is pointing to His Father, who is God, and then claims the ability to give life, which He has claimed before. John told us in chapter one that In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind” (1:4). Jesus said in 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” He will tell us again in His conversation with Martha in 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.” Jesus makes it all about receiving Him and His life. If we were to teach that people go from dying to living through Jesus immediately, I believe we would see a lot more people come to Him for life.

If we want to live the best life we can live, is it according to God or according to us? We don’t know what tomorrow holds, much less the distant future; how can we know what the best life is? Trusting Jesus means that we trust Him to know what is best for us and how we can make the most impact for His gospel. Following Him means that we will live the best life possible for us. Let’s trust Him today with the rest of our lives.

Abba, following You daily means connecting with the past and the future; we connect with the past by joining the battle of those who have gone before us, and we join the future by making disciples that will carry on the advancement of the Gospel. As I become one of those who have gone on before, I pray that my life has brought You glory. “The seed of the Gospel is watered by the blood of the martyrs.” My life is Yours, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 4 1-4-23

Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is futile. Works prove faith, but faith comes before works.

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. James 2:26

We continue with the conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees in John 8,

37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

James said that we show our faith by our deeds (James 2:18). Jesus pretty much said the same thing. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3). The Pharisees did not believe and were trying to kill Jesus, something that Abraham would never do. Jesus used the term, “father,” to mean who they were following, which was the devil. They certainly didn’t believe they were, but their actions proved who truly was their god. Jesus says as much,

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

The Pharisees had stopped up their ears and could not hear God. Why would they do this? Because they didn’t want to hear. They did not want the system to change; they had it just like they wanted it. Had they truly been seeking God’s instruction, they would have recognized Jesus as God. Instead, they believed a lie and followed the father of lies. They were children of the father of lies.

As followers of Jesus, we want to hear God’s instruction. We want to hear the Spirit’s voice. In order to hear, we must silence the other voices that vie for our attention. Learning to tune out these other voices takes patient practice with His guidance. It’s a daily thing.

I may listen to a thousand tongues
But I only hear one whisper*

Abba, it is Your voice that we seek to hear. You speak to us through Your Word, through others, and through circumstances, but it is in prayer that we hear You the most clearly. When we silence all other sources and focus on You, we sense You, we feel You, we hear You. Teach us to pray, O Lord, so that we can enjoy Your Presence in our daily lives. Amen.

First Call (group), Undivided (album), The Future (song)

Proverbs 3 1-3-23

Have you seen The Chosen*, yet? We are in season 3 and really enjoying the mind blowing efforts of this talented team!

As we watched Episode 3, Jesus was reading the Scripture in His hometown of Nazareth,

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [Jubilee].”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4:16-20

Our passage in John 8 is very similar,

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed

When Jesus announced Himself to be Messiah (which is what He did in Luke 4:21), He was calling everyone to believe in Him. In believing in Him, He would set them free from spiritual bondage. It sounds a lot like what He read in Isaiah 61, doesn’t it? I find it interesting that the Jews answered Him that they have never been slaves of anyone. Were their ancestors not slaves in Egypt? Were they not slaves in Assyria and Babylon? Were they not currently under the governorship of Rome? But, Jesus was speaking of spiritual bondage,

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor [Jubilee**]
Luke 4:18-19

The first confession for all of us is to confess our spiritual bondage and our need for a Savior, namely Jesus. Unless and until we are willing to make this confession, we cannot turn from our darkness to the Light (John 3:21), nor can we break the chains of sin that bind us (Romans 11:30-32). We need the Son to set us free. He will set us free from our known chains, but He will also set us free from the chains that are hidden from us. These chains must be revealed before they can be dealt with, which is really hard on Christians, especially if they have been followers for any length of time. Yet, our vulnerability is the very thing that we need in order for Christ to deal with hidden sin, secret sin, and besetting sin. Church is not designed to be a museum, but a hospital where people go for help. May we be willing to accept broken and chained people–for that is what we all are!

Tomorrow we will discuss being sons (and daughters) of the heavenly Father.

Abba, how do we move back into alignment with You? Church tends to be a place where people come to hide (the truth about themselves from others) rather than a place to heal and be healed. Helping others break out of bondage requires that we confess our own bondage and seek help, too. Having victory is a daily thing, just like Your daily bread (grace). It is why You renew us daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). Thank You, Jesus, for your mercies; they are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:20-21) Amen.

*The Chosen- “The first-ever multi-season series about the life of Jesus (and His disciples)”
Watch for free at

**Jubilee- Every 50th year, every indentured servant was set free, all land bought and sold went back to its original families, debts were forgiven, and land was “set free” (it wasn’t sown that year). See Leviticus 25.

Proverbs 2 1-2-23

Jesus scoped out His whole plan, but the leaders missed it. Do you know what it is?

37 Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

40 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
    nor understand with their hearts,
    nor turn—and I would heal them.” [Isaiah 6:10]

As we continue our study of John 8, we find Jesus in a conversation with the Pharisees. It’s not going well because they do not understand what Jesus is talking about. In a few verses, Jesus will reveal why they don’t understand. Spoiler alert: It’s in verse 37, “you are looking for a way to kill me because you have no room for my word.” Their minds are already made up and they are not interested in hearing a different truth than the one they have chosen to believe. Never mind that they are talking to God in the flesh! Jesus confuses them some more,

21 So Jesus spoke to them once more.
‘I am going away,’ he said. ‘You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I’m going.’
22 ‘Is he going to kill himself?’ asked the Judaeans. ‘Is that what he means when he says we can’t come where he’s going?’
23 ‘You come from below,’ Jesus said to them, ‘but I come from above. You are from this world, I am not from this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; you see, that’s what will happen to you if you don’t believe that I am the one.’
25 ‘Who are you?’ they asked.
‘What I’ve been telling you from the beginning,’ replied Jesus. 26 ‘There are plenty of things I could say about you, yes, and against you too! But the one who sent me is true, and I tell the world what I heard from him.’
27 They didn’t understand that he was talking about the father.
28 So Jesus said to them, ‘When you’ve lifted up the son of man, then you will know that I’m the one, and that I never act on my own initiative; I say exactly what the father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me. He hasn’t left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.”
30 As Jesus said all this, several people believed in him.

In a round-about way, Jesus is revealing to them how He will save mankind.

  • Verse 21- Jesus is going through death to the grave and out the other side. The reason He is doing it is because no human can because of sin. He can because He is sinless and He is God in the flesh. He told them that, too, “I come from above.”
  • Verse 24- Jesus isn’t telling them anything new. One only has to read Deuteronomy 11 and 27 to see what will happen if they don’t believe what God tells them. But, since Jesus is God in the flesh, they must listen to Him or their sins will destroy them–which they did in 70 AD.
  • Verse 25- Jesus hasn’t changed His story. He’s been dropping hints and telling parables His entire ministry. Proclaiming Himself as the Light of the world (verse 12) was a big enough clue.
  • Verse 26- Jesus could have judged them right then for their unbelief, but He was all about doing what the Father had Him there to do, which was to defeat sin, death and the grave.
  • Verse 28- Jesus even tells them how He will die. “Lifted up” means, “exalted,” which seems contrary to a cross. But, if we were to go back to the original “lifting up,” we would see a great correlation (see Numbers 21:4-9 for the whole story).
  • Verses 28-29 give us great insight into the relationship between God, Jesus and the Spirit. I include the Spirit because of what He says in John 16:15, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
  • I love verse 30! It explains what happens when we listen to Jesus with open ears and open hearts. He has great news for us if we are willing to turn from the lies and deceit that cover our eyes and understanding.

Tomorrow, we will talk about the truth that sets us free. Until then, let’s take great comfort in what Jesus did for us that we could not do for ourselves: Defeat sin, death and the grave!

Abba, You are wonderful! I want to know more about the relationship that You shared with Jesus through the Spirit while He was here on earth. I WANT THAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU! Please help me to watch you intently, listen closely, and obey immediately and fully. Holy Spirit, have Your way in me. Amen.

Proverbs 1 1-1-23

Resolutions…who needs them? We do!

24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

Paul had a resolution; it was to complete the task the Lord Jesus had given him. From the time that Paul made this statement, he testified in courts, in Jerusalem, on a ship, on an island, in Rome, and finally before Nero Caesar, who, according to tradition, had him beheaded.

Jesus had a resolution, too. The writer of Hebrews tells us about it,

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
    but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
    I have come to do your will, my God.’”

Interesting note: The writer attributes these verses to Jesus, but they were originally penned by David in Psalm 40:6-8–from the Septuagint (LXX). The resolution is in verse 7, “I have come to do your will, my God.” The LXX has this as the next line in that verse, “And Your law in the midst of my heart.” Jesus kept His resolution all the way to the cross. The LXX has a footnote concerning this psalm (which is Psalm 39 according to its count),

Psalm 39 is a prophecy of the Incarnation (vv. 7-9 [6-8 in MAS*]; see also Hebrews 10:5-7). In His Incarnation, the Lord assumed a mortal body (v.7 [6]) and a rational soul. But here the body is emphasized, because man’s body is mortal and subject to death and decay in the grave (a miserable pit, v.3 [2]). So by His death in the body, Christ destroyed death, and by His Resurrection (brought me up and a rock, v.3 [2]), He overcame the decay that held man’s body in the grave. He was able to do all this because of the two wills in His one Person. For He willed (v.9 [8]) by His human will and energy. And the phrase Your will (v.9 [8]) shows that He possessed within Himself the same will and energy as God the Father, because He is “one in essence” with Him (Creed). Therefore, by means of His two wills and energies, He destroyed death and decay, and put a new song in the mouth of the Church (v.4 [3]).

What is our resolution? Ted Shimer, in his book, “The Freedom Fight,” page 277, says,

“According to the Bible, the follower of Christ is to have a threefold vision:

  1. to know Christ (Matthew 22:37-38),
  2. to be like Christ (Romans 8:29),
  3. and to make Christ known (Matthew 28:19-20).”

May we all take this vision and make it our resolution for the new year.

Abba, I hereby officially make this vision my resolution for this year. I want to know You closer and better, I want to be like You in thought as well as deed, and I want to make You known to anyone and everyone in my sphere of influence. May it be so, O Lord. Amen.

*MAS-Masoretic Text; it’s what most of our Bibles have. For more information on the LXX and the MAS, go to Proverbs 4 12-4-22 and Proverbs 18 12-18-22.

Proverbs 31 12-31-22

We live according to God’s standards out of gratitude for all that He has given us in Christ.

20 Now may the God of peace 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

As we continue to look at John 8 and what Jesus had to say about Himself, we look again at verses 15-16,

15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.

A better phrase for 16 might be, “But if I were to judge…” The concept of judgment can be determined by what Jesus has previously said about judgment,

27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

When we put these two passages together, we find that although Jesus has the authority of God, He chooses not to judge, but to render unto people that which they have chosen, “those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” His judgment is just because it is based upon the decisions of those being judged. If we want to know how Jesus feels about folks, let’s go to John 8:8-11,

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Sin causes us to self-destruct. Jesus was basically telling her to, “go and self-destruct no more.” He wants us to see that what we do only shows what we believe. If we turn to Him and believe what He says about us, then we will begin to act accordingly. Taken from, “The Freedom Fight” by Ted Shimer, page 224,

  • I am holy and blameless before God (Ephesians 1:4)
  • I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • I am a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)
  • I am beloved by God (Colossians 3:12)
  • I have obtained an inheritance (Ephesians 1:11)
  • I have bold access to God (Ephesians 3:12 and Hebrews 4:16)
  • I have everlasting life (John 5:24)
  • I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
  • I have no condemnation before God (Romans 8:1)
  • I have victory over sin (Romans 6:10-13)

In Christ, we have a new identity; we are the children of God!

If the religious leaders had just listened and believed, they, too, would have been saved from their destructive way of thinking. Alas, they did not, and less than 40 years later, their whole world came crashing down on them. In being smart, they were not wise, because smart people may learn from experience, but wise people learn from observation and knowledge. Jesus is sharing with us knowledge of Himself and what He thinks of us (He’s crazy about us!). Let’s believe it and, with grateful hearts, act accordingly.

Abba, if I could get my mind around the fact that You are much more concerned about what I think of myself in light of what I believe about You than about my living up to some standard, then I would be free to live according to Your guidance and leadership. I could learn to be just like You, Jesus! That is my goal. Amen.