Proverbs 18 6-18-21

Giving up our “rights” is one of the hardest things we do. “Fair” is not in the vocabulary of Christians.

12 Before a downfall the heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Christ calls us to give up our lives to Him, which means that we perceive everything that happens to us as coming from His hand, or at least being filtered through Him. God is working with the free will of every person on earth, yet somehow draws everything together for our good and His glory. On this side of heaven? Sometimes, yes, but most of the time, probably not. He is working from an eternal perspective. How He works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) looks something like this:

  1. He lets us fall–only to raise us up miraculously and victory and/or in vindication as a testimony of God’s great love and power.
  2. We struggle with the consequences of other people’s bad choices, but He gives mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
  3. We die from sickness, accidents, because of someone else’s bad choice, in disgrace (not of our doing), and/or unjustly judged, and pass on to the great reward that He has in store for us.

Lest you think that I came up with these on my own, here is what Beth Moore wrote in her study on Daniel:

Daniel 3 is the account of the Fiery Furnace, from which we learn that deliverance comes:

  1. From the fire – our faith is built.
  2. Through the fire – our faith is refined.
  3. By the fire (straight into the arms of Jesus) – our faith is perfected.

Here’s what Paul wrote the Corinthian church about fairness:

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:7

He goes on to say, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” v.11. We have nothing to lose (that we won’t already lose when we die) and everything to gain (heaven and all of God’s promises), so why worry about life being fair? In fact, James tells us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete [the definition of “perfect”-Matthew 5:48], not lacking anything” James 1:3-4.

The mark of a mature believer is when he is dealt an unfair hand, and yet he chooses to bless and pray for the guilty party. Want to be considered mature in your faith? Learn to bless and pray for those who take advantage of you (Romans 12:14), who persecute you and cheat you, and who say all manner of lies about you because of your faith. Jesus said,

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

“If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:20

Remember, our joy comes not from our circumstances, but from our Savior.

Abba, may we grasp this difficult concept as we look to You for mercy and grace. Help us to be “little Christs” to the world around us. Call us to be different; call us to be peculiar, even considered weird by the world. Then, tweak the interest of those who are looking for You (even if they don’t know it yet). Help us to grasp the concept of Eternal Perspective: “Your kingdom over my country, Lord.” Your will over my rights. May we consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to You, O Lord. I know: it’s important. Amen.

Proverbs 17 6-17-21

How we talk and what we say reveals our heart. It’s kind of like squeezing a tube of toothpaste…

9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.

27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. 28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Taking a more positive approach, Paul addressed the matter this way, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” Colossians 4:6.

This is a verse I read every morning. It helps me to put on gracious speech: Words that build up rather than tear down, tone that disarms rather than putting people on the defensive, and spiritual nuggets that draw people’s attention to the Lord.

Jesus is my hero. He used gracious speech, “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.” What had He just finished saying? He was inaugurating His ministry by reading Isaiah 61 and pronouncing that it was the year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25:10 and Jesus, True Jubilee). If we take our cue from Jesus, we will use our conversations to impart spiritual knowledge, nuggets of wisdom, and seeds of the Gospel.

The people with whom we converse are usually within our sphere of influence. These people see us often and know us on a moderate to intimate level. Occasionally, we get outside this sphere, but the sphere is where we are to minister routinely. In the Great Commission, most translations read, “Go ye therefore…” when the actual interpretation should read, “As you go…” The difference is profound. If we share with those who are in our sphere of influence, then our words take on the weight of our testimony, our witness, and our moral authority. We must begin to see the people around us in our lives as being placed there by God Himself. He has connected us. Let’s be participants in the Great Commission by reaching out to those around us with gracious words and speech.

Abba, may You be honored and glorified by our speech. The only way I know how to control my tongue is for You to control my heart. When I am tired is when I usually fail, so I am going to lean on You all the more in those times. Rather than excusing myself, I want to “shine like stars in the universe” because when I am weak, then I am strong according to Your Spirit. Thank You, Abba, for Your abiding Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 16 6-16-21

God is never disappointed with us. How can He? He knows everything! He paid for every rebellion, mistake, and failure.

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD [God knows everything].

15:11 Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD–how much more do human hearts.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25a

Therefore, (there is) now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

As we can see, God knows everything about us: our past, our present, and our future. Instead of seeing our sin, though, He sees us through the filter of the blood of Christ. We have been declared BLAMELESS. Not only that, we have been adopted into God’s family! Our sins are forgiven, past, present and future. So, what happens when we sin now that we are His? Our sin carries a different consequence. It still destroys, but now God uses it to “teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness.”

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and [when applied to our lives] 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

There’s a reason He calls us “little children.” Spiritually, we are! It takes “teaching moments” and lots of them before we catch on. God is the Source of all patience; He doesn’t lose His temper, He doesn’t have unrealistic expectations or even unspoken expectations. Granted, many of His promises and warnings are stated in His Word and He urges us to learn them; when we don’t, then there are consequences–brought on not by God, but by our willful disobedience. And, just so you know,

“Delayed obedience is disobedience.”

But, He gently brings us back to the right path; He doesn’t yell at us, nor does He accuse us. Instead, He offers instant fellowship and reinstatement. He is the essence of gentleness, kindness and goodness. His love makes us want to please Him.

Want to know what God wants? What He likes? “And find out what pleases the LORD” Ephesians 5:10. Ask Him and He will show you personally in His Word, in a sermon, in a song, in the conversation with a friend–in any number of ways as you and He walk together.

Abba, may my readers walk with You today. I know that You will show them what is pleasing to You. I also know that You are pleased with them because they have believed (and trusted in) Your Son, Jesus. Now, with Your Spirit in us, we WANT to please You! It’s our new nature. Grow us, O Lord, until we are just like Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 15 6-15-21

We are never stronger than when we can’t do anything about a situation. Not our will; His will. Not our strength; His strength.

3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

God knows all that is going on and He makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The problem is that He thinks in eternal terms and we don’t. We expect Him to work things out on this side of eternity–during our lifetime, even in the next 24 hours! What we fail to take into consideration is that God has much bigger and greater plans than the things that happen to us in this life. In fact, all the bad stuff that happens to us, He uses to increase our godly character. I don’t exactly know what the payoff is on the other side, but I figure that it’s pretty big. Learning through suffering is not for the faint of heart. Come to think of it, neither is growing old!

Paul had more than his fair share of suffering. Here’s a list:

23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? 2 Corinthians 11:23-29

Not only that, he had chronic eye problems. We know this because of his ailment at the church in Galatia and by his signature at the end of his letters.

13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to meGalatians 4:13-15

11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand! Galatians 6:11

There is speculation that Paul had problems stemming from the scales that fell from his eyes when he was saved (Acts 9:18). It has also been speculated that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was his poor eyesight and chronic eye problems (2 Corinthians 12:7). Whatever the case, Paul had problems. How did Paul deal with these problems? Let’s read the next verses:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Paul had learned from the Lord that as long as Paul stayed in the center of His will, he would receive everything he needed to accomplish that will. Eventually, Paul testified to Caesar (Nero) and was then beheaded by him. Paul was willing to do God’s will in testifying even at the cost of his own life. Read it for yourself:

2Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ Acts 27:23-24

We know from history that Nero had Paul beheaded. Paul understood that God’s Plan is much larger than just this life. He was confident that the Lord would provide everything he needed when he needed it. When we act out of our own strength, how is God glorified in that? It’s when we reach the end of our strength that God finally gets the glory. How about we go there first and not try to do things in our own strength and understanding? If we can learn to not act out of our own knowledge, then we will finally understand Paul’s position:

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength [when I need it, to accomplish His will]. Philippians 4:12-13

Abba, May we all learn this valuable lesson. Rather than doing 90% and leaving You 10% for Your glory, I want to learn at 10% to let You have it so that You will receive the 90%. Not only will You receive much more glory, but You will do things in ways that I can’t even imagine! Keep teaching us, Lord. Keep giving us opportunities to practice and hone our faith. You have not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). May we learn to trust You in all things. Amen.

Proverbs 14 6-14-21

Trusting the Lord with our lives happens when we believe His promises. But, we must first know His promises!

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways [not believing in God’s one and only Son], and the good rewarded for theirs [believing in the promises of God].

Who we trust reveals in whom we believe. If we only trust our own decisions, then we don’t really believe in Jesus Christ. He either knows the best for us or He doesn’t. Trusting Him requires walking with Him and listening to what He tells us. It’s usually much more than just commands; He tells us He loves us and gives us hints of what He has in store for us.

Let’s look at some of the promises that He gives us:

16 For God so loved the world [us] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes [and trusts] in him shall not perish [self-destruct] but have eternal life. John 3:16

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

27 Christ in us, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 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

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for youAnd if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2-3

These are but a few of the many promises that Jesus gave us on which to build our lives. With His Spirit in us, we have the desire to please Him, to get to know Him, and to commune with Him continuously. It’s what God wanted all along! Along with that desire is the power to resist the urges and the draw of our old nature. Praise the Lord that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Today, let’s determine to trust the Lord like we never have before. Let’s take Him at His word that He knows what is best for us. He also wants to include us in His plan to reach the world–often, one person at a time. Let’s join Him in His work!

Abba, I want to join You in Your work. I want to feel Your Holy Spirit and know Your love, joy and peace that emanates from You. I want them to spill out onto others! Use me for Your glory, Lord Jesus. I am Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 13 6-13-21

Our temper, which includes explosive anger and simmering malice, is the dark side of our flesh. The Spirit wants to help us with it.

3 Those who guard their lips [filter what they say] preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly [out of anger] will come to ruin.

10 Where there is strife, there is pride [our pride causes us to cause strife], but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

18 Whoever disregards discipline [refuses to listen to the Spirit and put into practice what they know] comes to [relational] poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored [over time].

The key for me was the eighth fruit of the Spirit: Gentleness. The fruit are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control. God brought my daughter to me from a local VBS one summer day; she had memorized Philippians 4:4-5 as a project. It says,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

The Lord stabbed me through the heart with that verse! He showed me in a flash that I was not gentle relationally with my girls and He wanted me to change that. I began to search for Scriptures that have to do with gentleness, patience, kindness, forbearance–anything that would help me focus on what I need rather than just my problem. I asked the Spirit to begin teaching me how to be gentle. It was a long process…!

The first thing I noticed as I watched to see what triggered my anger was that I had expectations. There are three types of bad expectations: Unspoken, Unmet, and Unrealistic. I had all three. The first thing I did was apologize to my kids for not being gentle with them; my wife, too. I began to watch my tone, the look in my eyes, and to allow for error, interpretation, personality, and circumstances. My goal was to be the gentlest person I could be. It took two years! Do I still fail? Sure, but God understands. Why? Because He is the Essence of Gentleness. He’s the One who taught me!

It is interesting that as I worked on gentleness, I also learned patience, kindness and goodness. I was faithful in my efforts and learned self-control. When I was successful, the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit washed over me. I became a more joyful, peaceful, and loving person! It’s certainly worth the effort.

Today, try stepping back from a frustrating situation with your family and allowing the Spirit to control your mouth and your eyes, and even your body language. Try to infuse a loving and peaceful flavor to the conversation (humor helps, but nothing with a barb). Being late to church because your daughter had to change her outfit three times is NOT the end of the world. Figure out for next week what will circumvent the situation (have her pick out her outfit the night before; get dressed BEFORE your kids get up; ask the Lord and He will help). Knowing that worship begins before we leave the house should help us to explain to our children the goal of keeping a Christ-honoring attitude as we prepare for church.

Abba, I hope my readers get an opportunity this morning to put some of these spiritual techniques into practice. If not this week, then next week for sure! Remind them of the importance of working on growing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Help them hear Your voice and feel Your nudges as You work with us. Your voice is so subtle–it sounds like mine. The only way I can tell the difference is that I know that what You are saying is right; it’s what is needed at that moment for the moment. You reveal the right thing to do, and when we submit to Your voice, You empower us to do it–or not do it (like thinking about what I’m going to say and then not saying it). Make us a gentle people, O Lord. Make us like You. Amen.

Proverbs 12 6-12-21

If our lives are short and eternity is long, why not live for the sake of eternity?

12 The wicked desire the plunder of evildoers [temporal goals and security],
but the root [God’s plan and reward] of the righteous endures.

28 In the way of righteousness there is [eternal] life; along that path is immortality.

We all have a calling from God. In fact, it is how we came to Christ in the first place. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them” John 6:44. This calling is “to believe in [trust in and rely on] the one [Jesus] He has sent” John 6:29. If the Spirit has His way in our lives, our desires will become His desires; we will want what God wants, which is, for “everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.

The apostle Paul felt very strongly for his flock at Galatia. He told them, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” Galatians 4:19. The NLT says it this way,

19 Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.

It boils down to this: Do we know Christ personally? Is His Spirit living in us? If so, then we need to contemplate the next questions very deeply:

  • Do we really want God’s will to be accomplished regardless of how it affects us?
  • Are we really committed to the growth of the Church, “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” Ephesians 1:22?
  • Are we willing to be used however God deems is the best way to reach the lost people of this world, to strengthen those who are weary, to give hope to the hopeless, and to lead them to Jesus?
  • Are we willing to commit to do anything, go through anything, go anywhere, and be available anytime for Him?
  • Will we prepare, train, and practice for the next thing that our Lord has for us to do on our way to glory?

God has promised to keep working on us and in us until we are “fully developed” spiritually. In other words, He wants us to be just like Jesus (1 John 4:17). Let’s commit our lives to Him today.

Abba, I commit my life to You today. I pledge my time, my talents, my resources, my money, and even my life for the sake of doing Your will. I promise to listen to You and obey You today beginning with opening Your Word and reading about You and Your mission. Your mission is my mission. When I get up tomorrow, I intend to commit my life to You again–built on my experience of walking with You yet another day. You lead; I will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 11 6-11-21

How can a person tell if he is a Christian, which is a follower of Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and His teachings? #4

2 0 The LORD detests those whose hearts are perverse [do not know Christ], but He delights in those who ways are blameless [Christ makes us blameless].

Here’s what we now know about how we can tell who the people of God are from an individual perspective.

  1. You had a starting point. There was a point in time when Jesus came to you and prompted you to give Him your heart and life–and you did, holding nothing back.
  2. Your desires began to change:
    1. You desire the love, joy and peace that come from being in fellowship with Jesus;
    2. You begin to sense the nudges and the restraining pull of the Spirit as you walk through the day helping you become patient, kind, and good;
    3. You realize over time that God is conforming you more and more into the likeness of His Son as you become faithful in walking with Him, gentle and spirit with everyone, and having self-control in all areas of your life.
  3. Your habits change. As you desire to walk with Christ and obey Him, He calls you to learn of Him. 
    1. Prayer becomes vital to you. 
    2. You begin to desire to meet with the family of God.

Being like Christ is a process that is initiated by the Holy Spirit. We don’t generate the desire; He IS our Desire. Any desire to please God comes from Him; any power we have to overcome sinful habits and desires comes from Him; any praise we want to give, any glory and blessing and honor and riches, comes from Him and goes to Him (Romans 11:36).

We are most like Christ when we are surrounded,
filled, enveloped and consumed by the Spirit of Christ.

We don’t lose ourselves–we become who we were meant to be! We become holy, righteous, blameless, upright, faithful, loving, and filled with all the love that comes from Him.

Do you want to be this kind of person? If so, then you definitely have the Holy Spirit working in you because lost people sure don’t want it! Let’s kindle the flame of passion in our hearts for God. Let’s praise our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Let’s be obedient to the Spirit as He communes with us, leads us, encourages us, protects us, and empowers us. We have work to do, folks. Let’s be about the Father’s business!

Abba, You have great plans for us, for our churches, for America, for Israel (see Romans 11:12, 15, 23-24), and for the world! Revival is coming! May we be ready to be part of the process, whether it’s witnessing, discipling, being light in dark places, rescuing, comforting, or any combination of all of these, we want to be ready, Lord. Help us to focus, to prepare, and to fix our eyes on You. Amen.

Proverbs 10 6-10-21

How can a person tell if he is a Christian, which is a follower of Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and His teachings? #3

9 Whoever walks in integrity [according to God’s commands even when it’s just him and God] walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths [short cuts, hidden sins, old habits] will be found out [revealed to all].

How can we tell who the people of God are? Let’s look at it from an individual perspective. The first two points were:

  1. There was a point in time when Jesus came to you and prompted you to give Him your heart and life–and you did, holding nothing back.
  2. Your desires began to change:
    1. You desire the love, joy and peace that come from being in fellowship with Jesus;
    2. You begin to sense the nudges and the restraining pull of the Spirit as you walk through the day helping you become patient, kind, and good;
    3. You realize over time that God is conforming you more and more into the likeness of His Son as you become faithful in walking with Him, gentle and spirit with everyone, and having self-control in all areas of your life.

Today, we will discuss how our habits change.

3. Your habits change. As you desire to walk with Christ and obey Him, He calls you to learn of Him. The best and most convenient way is by studying your Bible. He made sure you had a copy by speaking the words, overseeing them written down by a faithful follower, preserving those words for two millennia, having them painstakingly translated into your language, and faithfully copied and produced as the Bible you now have. Don’t take it for granted.

  • Prayer becomes vital to you. It’s a conversation that begins as you get up and continues all day until you go to sleep. Things that make you ignore the Spirit, like explicit movies, graphic video games, risqué books, and pornographic material, no longer have the hold on you they once did. You now see them as fellowship-breakers, and your communion with the Lord holds a higher value. Christ means more to you than any of these things. Being a pure and clean vessel (conduit) in order for Christ to flow through you to others becomes your highest priority. Being in constant conversation with Jesus is your new way of life.
  • We begin to desire to meet with the family of God. We meet with other Christians and share experiences, what we are learning, and talk about Him. We meet for worship, prayer, fellowship, and learning (discipleship). We read the Word together, we sing songs together, we eat together, and we pray together and for each other. This fellowship goes beyond the color of our skin, our heritage, gender, politics, preferences and social status. We become a new race (Galatians 3:28, Ephesians 2:15, 1 Peter 2:10, 9).

Habits take about three weeks to become ingrained. If this process of changing your habits seems intimidating or overwhelming, just commit for 21 days. We can endure anything for three weeks, right? Let’s read His Word every day. Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), and, “People don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Let’s pray by opening up that conversation first thing in the morning and not closing it until we go to sleep that night, and let’s commit to meeting with the family of God on a regular basis. It’s worth it!

Abba, may my readers come to a full and complete knowledge of what it means to walk with You daily in step with the Spirit. The fellowship we share, the insights You bring to our awareness, and the opportunities to join You where You are working are what Christianity is all about! Keep growing us, Lord. We want to be like Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 9 6-9-21

How can a person tell if he is a Christian, which is a follower of Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and His teachings? #2

16 To those who have no sense [to keep their desires under control] she says, “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” 17 But little do they know that the [spiritually] dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm in the [already spiritually] dead.

How can we tell who the people of God are? Let’s look at it from an individual perspective. Yesterday, we looked at meeting Jesus. Today, we look at our desires.

2. Once you met Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, your desires began to change: The Spirit begins to grow spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) in your life.

  • You desire the love, joy and peace that come from being in fellowship with Jesus;
  • You begin to sense the nudges and the restraining pull of the Spirit as you walk through the day helping you become patient, kind, and good;
  • You realize over time that God is conforming you more and more into the likeness of His Son as you become faithful in walking with Him, gentle in spirit with everyone, and having self-control in all areas of your life.

I’m not saying that your old desires won’t rear their ugly heads, because they will. But, the Spirit in us causes us to realize that when we lean toward those old desires, there is a tension between us and Him. It’s like a wheel that gets out of balance, or a string on a piano (each key has two or three strings) gets out of tune with the others. We crave harmony, so we begin to adjust our desires to match His desires. In fact, if we make our desire to make His desires our desires, then we know that He will make it so. Psalm 37:4 says, “Commit your way to the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Committing your way to Him is making His desires your desires.

This process is called, “sanctification.” It’s a churchy term that means that we are being remade into the image of His Son, Jesus. It’s His process and His doing; we simply do as we are led by the Spirit. We “pay attention to the tension” and get rid of it so that we can make beautiful music together with the Spirit!

How can we have victory over our sinful desires? We don’t have to! Christ already has. In fact, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have [through Him] nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there” Galatians 5:24. We already have the victory in Christ Jesus! The next verse tells us how to live,

25 If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit as He leads us in every part of our lives.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Abba, please plant deep within us the experiential knowledge that we have been crucified with Christ. We can die to our passions and sinful nature and live for You because Your Spirit empowers us to do just that! It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Just experiencing Your love, joy, peace, hope and grace when we are in tune with You and walking in step with You makes it all worthwhile. Thank You, Abba. You’re awesome. Amen.

Proverbs 8 6-8-21

How can a person tell if he is a Christian, which is a follower of Jesus Christ, His Spirit, and His teachings? #1

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

The first thing we need to know is that Christians are different. We are new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In fact, “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 2:10. We are the people of God! How can we tell who the people of God are? Let’s look at it from an individual perspective:

Number 1:
There was a point in time when Jesus came to you
and prompted you to give Him your heart and life
–and you did, holding nothing back.

The passage that us usually used for this process is Romans 10:9-13,

9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

We must view this passage from a Jewish perspective. Their sin was covered by an animal sacrifice, which they had to do again and again. Jesus is our Final Sacrifice. Believing that God raised Him from the dead is the same as declaring that Jesus is Ha’Mashiach, the Messiah. To be Messiah is to be Lord, King, even God! He is not Someone we receive and then go, “Okay, now I can get on with my life knowing that I have eternal security.” NO! As Lord and God, King and Messiah, He commands our loyalty, our devotion, even our lives. Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, is who we believe in, trust in, and follow. We are promised that everyone who calls on Him as his Final Sacrifice will be saved, made whole, be complete, and be eternally secure.

From now on, when we get up in the morning, the very first thought and words from our mouths should be, “Jesus is Lord.” He is our Lord, our Master, our Savior. This thought and prayer will bring you great joy and assurance as you go through your day engaging Your Lord in conversation throughout the day.

Remember this: We are no longer under the sacrificial system; We ARE forgiven (we live in forgiveness). When we struggle to obey, we no longer plea for forgiveness, but for correction and the restoration of fellowship with the Spirit. Our confession daily is: We Need Jesus!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would understand that they are forgiven and are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. May we take great pleasure in this process even though it can be rigorous and sometimes painful. We look forward to the goal, which is to be like Christ and, ultimately, with Christ and You in glory. Amen.

Proverbs 7 6-7-21

Christianity is forever. It begins when Christ Jesus enters your heart and life. He places eternity in our hearts!

2 Keep my commands and you will live [forever]; guard my teachings [and my promises] as the apple of your eye.

Paul said in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In verse 38, he says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life…” God’s perspective is a heavenly one in that He sees this world as a very temporary assignment. When life here is done, we go to be with Him, which is our permanent assignment.

Therefore, death cannot be looked at as losing. In fact, our eternal reward begins when we die (2 Timothy 4:8). We can never be separated from the love of Christ! Let’s read it:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul uses Christ and God interchangeably. Why? Because the Holy Spirit = Jesus Christ = God. We know them as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three-in-one.

How can Paul be so sure? Jesus told us. It’s one of His promises. It’s in John 10:28-30,

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

That’s a double-fisted grip. No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth can break that grip! We Baptists call that the security of the believer. We can’t even wiggle out–why would we try?!!!

Let’s praise the Lord for His amazing love and the security we have in Him!

Abba, I praise You for who You are–God! You are my Lord and Savior. You are my King. May I love You and fear You at the same time; may I enjoy Your sweet fellowship all the while being aware that You are King of the Universe. You are God (and I am not). May Your will be done in my life and on earth even as it is in heaven. Amen.

Proverbs 5 6-5-21

Christians don’t get in tune with the universe; we get in tune with the God the Holy Spirit, the Creator of the universe!

7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.
21 For you ways are in full view of the LORD, and He examines all your paths [to keep you free from the cords of sin–see verse 22].

The Spirit of God is in us. Emmanuel means, “God with us.” Upon Jesus’ death when the temple veil split down the middle, it signaled the end of temple worship. At Pentecost, the tongues of fire signaled the moving of God’s temple from the temple building to the believers, who became living temples. So are we! God is with us–Emmanuel in our hearts! Consider these verses:

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) 10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

12 Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 13 For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Romans 8:5-14

IF we live according to the Spirit, and

IF we live to please God, and

IF we are led by the Spirit of God,

THEN we will have a mind that is governed by life and peace that comes from the Spirit, and

THEN we will have eternal life (beginning RIGHT NOW) because we are made righteous and ARE pleasing to God, and

THEN we are children of God.

Everyone is raised to sonship in Christ (see Galatians 3:28). Sons can inherit, which is what Paul says we will do with Christ in eternity (see Romans 8:17). But, I think there is more to it than that. Eve got her instructions from Adam (Genesis 3:2; the instructions were elaborated upon, which indicates that they were probably from Adam rather than God Himself. In fact, God gave Adam His instructions about the tree in 2:16-17 BEFORE Eve was made) whereas Adam got his from God Himself. Being a son means that we can speak to God personally and no longer need a mediator (John 16:26-27). Jesus is our Mediator for sin since His sacrifice was eternal (Hebrews 7:24-25 and Revelation 13:8), but we get to walk and talk with God Himself through His Spirit (which is also Jesus).

Since we are sons, let’s act like sons of God with true reverence, devotion, and great joy. Let’s be lavish with our money and resources, with our time and with our lives as we pour out God’s love on others. If we do it to other Christians, then others will be drawn to the fellowship we have in Christ. If we do it to unbelievers according to the leading of the Spirit, then they will be drawn to the same Spirit who guides us. It’s a win/win situation!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would know their position in You (as sons) and sense Your presence and participation in their lives. May they live out their faith which is founded on Your promises to always be with us and to never forsake us, and to bless us beyond our wildest imagination. Use us to bless others, Lord. We are Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 6 6-6-21

Paul acted out of ignorance until He met Jesus. How about you? Has Jesus called you to be His? I pray your answer was, “Yes!”

5 Free yourself [by taking Christ’s offer of complete forgiveness and freedom], like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

The apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul (Saul was his Hebrew name and Paul was his Greek name–see Acts 13:9), thought he was doing the LORD a favor by ridding the world of that sect of the followers of the Way (Acts 19:9). When he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (see chapter 9), he became an devoted follower of Jesus. In fact, Jesus had plans for Paul to take the message of salvation to the Gentiles. We learn a little about Paul’s thoughts on the matter in 1 Timothy 1:13-14,

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.

Paul acted out of ignorance. He had not met Christ up until that point on the road. But, what about those who turn down Christ’s invitation? I’m not talking about hearing the Gospel, but about the Holy Spirit urging a person to respond to Him, but he turns Him down? I know that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God,” (Romans 10:17), but the Spirit must move in a person’s heart before that person can even respond. He is dead spiritually. The Spirit must invite a person to receive Him before he can even know what he’s missing (John 6:44).

John 3:16 tells us that God loves the world so much that He gave His Son as the ultimate sin sacrifice. Verse 17 tells us that a person who believes will not be condemned, but verse 18 says that a person who doesn’t believe stands condemned already, for he hasn’t believed in the one and only Son. This person has committed the one sin that cannot be pardoned, the sin of unbelief, which is saying, “No!” to the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32).

We who have Christ are buried with Him in death and are raised to walk in newness of life in Him (Romans 6:2-4). We have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Therefore, we are commanded, “Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” Romans 6:13-14.

As we enter into worship this morning, may we all remember that we have died with Christ and no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and was raised to life (2 Corinthians 5:15) and us in Him.

Abba, Your love compels us to worship You today. We exalt Your name and praise You for who You are and for all You have done for us. You truly love us, don’t You?! That, right there, is worth shouting! May we lavish our love on You today, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 4 6-4-21

To have the Spirit of Christ is to have new life. How can we continue to live as though we don’t have Him inside us?

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter [in our hearts] till the full light of day [when we stand complete in His presence].

Sometimes, I think we take our relationship with Christ for granted. We tend to forget that the Spirit of the living Christ now lives in us. Doing things our way should be a thing of the past, or at least, as a way of life. Walking with the Spirit means that we rest in Him, listen for His voice, and follow His lead. The First Century Christians had only the spoken words of the apostles and teachers for the most part. They certainly didn’t have the New Testament right away, and then only circulated letters. What good was the Old Testament to them? Much! It told them who God is (Exodus 3:6, Numbers 14:18-19) and His plan for mankind (Ezekiel 36:25-27, Zechariah 3:9). The Psalms and Proverbs give instruction for daily living. There was PLENTY there for the new Christians to learn about serving the Lord.

But, the most important factor was the receiving of the Holy Spirit. With Jesus in them, they were taught first-hand about God and His plan for them. Add to that His continuous presence: the love, joy and peace that flow from Him to us, the hope that comes through His mercy and grace that are available to us at His throne anytime we need them (Hebrews 4:16), and the security of His Plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11) and the whole world (2 Peter 3:9, John 1:16).

Why is it such a big deal to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh? Let’s look at the flesh first. When Paul uses the term, “the flesh,” he is referring to our physical bodies, our natural person, the part of us that is not transformed by God, but is part of the original covenant and has been infected by sin. It represents us before we came to know Christ; we lived for ourselves and were slaves to sin and the one who deceived us into rebelling (Ephesians 2:1-3). To depend on our flesh, our own intellect and desires, is to deny the Spirit within us. Doing so leads to consequences, both natural and spiritual; let’s be wise and listen to the Spirit.

Speaking of which, let’s read what Paul says we should focus on:

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:4-5

More on this tomorrow. For today, let’s focus on what the Spirit desires. Let’s turn to Him in our minds and ask Him to lead us–we will have to set aside our own plans and allow Him to reshape them; are we willing to do that? If we are not, then we are living according to “sarka,” which means “the flesh: apart from the Spirit.” To do so leads to destruction. Let’s not go there!

Abba, speak to us; convict our hearts. Let us feel Your presence in our lives and know Your love, joy and peace as we commit our way to You. Lead us and we will follow; direct us and we will obey. “Where else would we go? You have the words of life (John 6:68).” You are our Lord; be Lord of our lives. Amen.

Proverbs 3 6-3-21

News Flash: God has poured out His love into our hearts; we have the Holy Spirit!

1 My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart…

This news flash comes from Romans 5:5, which says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” The fact that He gave us His Spirit is amazing; for Him to pour out His love into our hearts is unimaginable! What is this hope to which he refers? For the answer to that question, we must begin four verses back:

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop enduranceAnd endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. Romans 5:1-4

So, our hope is in our salvation, which is based on character, which is strengthened by endurance, which comes from problems and trials. I’ll be you didn’t see THAT coming, did you? Rather than complaining about the “unfair” shakes we get in life, we should be rejoicing that God is building endurance and character in us. If we couple this idea with 1 John 4:17, we get a really good picture of God’s goal for us in this life, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus.”

God’s goal is for us to be just like Jesus in character. How do we get that way? Through suffering. Jesus suffered, and He’s our Lord and Master. Why would we think that we would be different from Him? Why would we WANT to be different from Him? Jesus said in John 15:20-21, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” I can’t help but think of Peter and the other apostles as they left the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:41) “rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Jesus].”

Afraid of being embarrassed? Made fun of? losing a valuable association? When the Holy Spirit prompts us, we MUST SPEAK! I am much more concerned about what He thinks of me than anyone else; how about you?

Abba, give us the courage to speak up when You prompt us. May we have the strength to withstand any onslaught by the enemies of the cross. We pray for them because we know that they are potential brothers and sisters in Christ. All it takes is for You to move in their lives, so that’s what we pray: Move in their lives, O Lord! Thank You. Amen.

Proverbs 2 6-2-21

“We need God to obey God.” Jackie Hill-Perry

10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

Robin and I listened to a podcast from Focus on the Family the other day and heard the testimony of Jackie Hill-Perry, who came out of the lesbian lifestyle into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Her statement brings a fresh perspective to how people come to Christ.

44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them…” John 6:44

People tend to look on the outside of people and make judgements as to whether they can/will be saved–or not. The problem is that we simply do not have the spiritual discernment to know whether they will or they won’t. When the prophet Samuel was searching for the next king of Israel, he looked at the first six of Jesse’s sons thinking that one of them would be king because of how they looked as men, but God told Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him [them]. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7. God had chosen a man after His own heart: David (1 Samuel 13:14).”

The truth is that we don’t know what God will use to spark a desire in the heart of a person that turns his/her heart to Him. We are called to plant seeds. The sower in the parable (Matthew 13) did not prepare the soil; he simply cast the seed as he walked. We are to do the same. How? By being witnesses to the truth. The truth of what? Of what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ. To quote Mary Magdalene on The Chosen, “I was one way, and now I am another, and the only thing in between is Him (Jesus).”

Let’s be about the Father’s business of being witnesses to the miracle that God hath wrought in our hearts and lives. As we do, let’s rejoice with Him that our names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Abba, thank You that everyone begins as sinners and that everyone can come to a saving knowledge of You. The sin doesn’t matter; it’s You rising in their hearts that does. Move mightily, O Lord, and move us to reach out to any and every one You point out–no matter what the sin. They are all potential brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.

Proverbs 1 6-1-21

Regardless of how we were before we met Christ, we all begin washed, sanctified and justified in Him.

19 Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it. 33 “but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Yesterday, we answered the question of why Christ had to die. He died so that God could pour His amazing grace on us as Christ comes to live in our hearts! Today, let’s discuss what comes next. Let’s find out where we came from:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

As I look at this list, I think we all fit into the “idolaters” category, don’t you? So, we all begin at the same place with Christ: We are all sinners. Now, the blood of Jesus washes everyone clean and puts everyone on the same plane as sons of God (see Romans 8:16).

But, we all have been created to serve. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve two masters.” Paul puts it this way,

Romans 6:17-18 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

He then goes on to say, “So now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” We know that holiness means being like God as we are transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). So, then, we are headed to Christlikeness as we serve in righteousness.

Today, let’s not let sin reign in our mortal bodies so that we obey its evil desires (Romans 6:12), but let’s offer ourselves as instruments of righteousness (v13). “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” (v14).

Abba, May we all live according to Your grace. Make it plain to us as we read Your Word, listen for Your voice, and follow You as we go about our day. We are Your humble servants. Amen.

Proverbs 31 5-31-21

Jesus died on the cross because He wanted to. It was the only way to save us and win us back!

8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…speak up and judge fairly…

Why did Jesus have to die? Why wasn’t there some other way to save mankind?

There are two things that we need to keep in mind as we ponder these questions. One is that God is holy by nature. He just is. Everything about Him is holy. In fact, we could easily say that He is the definition of holiness. The other thing is that He has given mankind free will, which is a game-changer.

When put together, these two give us the nature of how things work between God and man. God interacts with us, but He doesn’t interfere, which means that He guides our steps, but He doesn’t make us take them. We either enjoy the benefits of our good choices or we experience the consequences of our bad choices.

Lest we think that our salvation is up to us, we must consider things from God’s perspective: He is holy and Adam and Eve chose to disobey. Their rebellion and subsequent blame-game was unholy. In His omniscience, God knew that we would rebel and make the same poor choice, so in His omnipotence, God built in a fail-safe so that when Adam fell, he became mankind’s representative and all mankind would fall with him. In this way, God knew that another Representative could then pay the price for Adam’s sin and therefore all of mankind. Let’s look at the Scriptures:

17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:17 Even in the NIV, it’s a little difficult to understand. Let’s try the NLT:

17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

This grace that God provided for us is His undeserved favor. He chose us to be His (Ephesians 1:4). He has poured over us His blessings rather than His wrath (John 3:18 and 1 John 3:1).

The gift of righteousness is Jesus Himself. Jesus paid the price for us and bought us back! Since Jesus is God in the flesh, we can say that God became flesh and paid for us Himself (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23, John 1:14). Jesus now lives in us and gives us all we need for righteous living (2 Peter 1:3). We are clothed in His righteousness (Romans 13:14).

So, why did Jesus have to die? So that God, in His great love, could remain holy and just by making it so that we could be redeemed by One Representative, Jesus. Simple, right? Hardly! We will be pondering the depths of this question and God’s amazing love throughout eternity. In the meantime, let’s praise Him and thank Him for His amazing grace, His tender mercies, and His love that He lavishes on us each day.

Abba, You are wonderful! To think that You love us so much to send Your Son to die for us so that we could be reunited with You is too much to grasp. May You continue to open up our minds to all that You have done for us and all that You are going to do for us when You return or we go to You. I can hardly wait! Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 30 5-30-21

Get up! We get to go to church! The people of God love to get together and praise our heavenly Father and His Son.

5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him [and His word].” from Psalm 12:6, And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.

Today is about the sermon: Acquiring Knowledge [for Praising God (Instruction from God’s Word). We have discussed Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration), Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession), and Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance), Expression of Devotion (Thanksgiving), and Desire for Aid in Living for God (Petition and Intercession).

If someone asks you why you believe the Bible, here’s a good answer:

The Bible is God’s revealed word to mankind [truth].
God speaks His word to me in my heart [personal experience].
I have experienced Him through the Bible because I have taken Him at His word,

tested His promises,
and found Him to be Faithful and True [Jesus’ title from Revelation 19:11).

When the pastor speaks to us, we assume that he has spent time in prayer and then in the Bible and has heard from the Spirit a message for us. Concerning my pastor, I can speak of first-hand experience that he does, indeed, spend time in prayer and then in the Bible. He works long and hard on his messages. Sometimes, I even get a preview! I trust him to give us the message that the Spirit has given him.

When we listen, let’s make the most of our opportunity to learn:

  1. Pray for your pastor before he gets up to preach that he would be bold and filled with the Holy Spirit.
  2. Know beforehand what the topic is. Our church has notes; read through them early and know what’s coming.
  3. Listen with an open mind. Allow the Spirit to interpret what you hear.
  4. Have something on which to take notes. Don’t let those nuggets of wisdom and revelation get away from you. Many people have a problem with having phones in church; I don’t. I use mine for my on-the-go Bible and for note-taking. I just have to be careful to keep myself “in the moment” and not let other things on my phone distract me from the sermon.
  5. Write down any questions and look them up later. Ask someone for clarification if necessary.
  6. Talk about the sermon with others at dinner–just be careful not to have “roast pastor” for the main course! We are to “let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6); also, we are charged with this command, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.
  7. Apply what you have heard as the Spirit confirms the message in your heart. If we don’t apply the lesson, then we will have wasted the opportunity to learn and to grow.

The last element is Living unto God with His Blessing (Charge and Benediction). It is best summed up in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The charge is the benediction of the service. A good slogan is, “As you go out those doors, you are entering the mission field.” Both of these charges point our minds and hearts to live with God and for others.

As we go to church this morning, let’s get the most out of our worship today by remembering that God is calling us to assemble, we acknowledge Him as God, we confess that we need Him, we tell Him how much we love Him, we listen to the word of God, we pray to the Father, we sing with glad hearts, we listen to the message that God has for us through our pastor, and then we go out in Jesus’ name and power.

Abba, may You be lifted up and magnified today. Enlarge our knowledge base so that we can grow in wisdom. May we experience You in a whole new way. We love You. Amen.

Proverbs 29 5-29-21

Becoming like Jesus means that we begin to think like Jesus and to want what He wants. Is being like Jesus your goal?

26 Many seek an audience with a ruler [us with God the Father], but it from the LORD that one gets justice [Petition].
7 The righteous care about justice for the poor [Intercession], but the wicked have no such concern.

To date: Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration), Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession), and Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance), Expression of Devotion (Thanksgiving). Desire for Aid in Living for God (Petition and Intercession) is next.

Petition is asking God for what we think we want. The good thing is that He already knows what we need and will meet those needs according to His riches in glory. Two verses that confirm this truth are:

Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Matthew 6:8

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

God is in the business of changing our desires to become like His desires, which is for all people to come to the knowledge of the truth about Him (1 Timothy 2:1-4). If we commit our way to Him and enjoy His company, we are promised that He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). If our desires have become His desires, then we will want what He wants, which is for all to com to the knowledge of the truth about Him. We will become disciplers. In fact, nothing else in life will take precedence over this desire. Our prayers, our conversations, and our actions will all point to this truth.

Intersession, also known as supplication, is asking God to help someone else. This kind of compassion is exactly what Christ has and what He wants us to have. In our journey to be like Him, we learn to have compassion for others. One of the best ways to learn is to do. Asking God to bless others, even if we don’t think they deserve it, and especially if we don’t like them (even justifiably so). Anyone can be transformed, so we treat everyone as potential brothers and sisters in Christ.

Individual prayer is super; corporate prayer has the added factor of being multiplied by how many people are in the service (and participating). When someone is praying for someone else, let’s join in that prayer and add ours to it. It’s important to God and for us. Begin today getting ready for tomorrow and corporate worship.

Abba, I intercede for my readers right now that You would bless them today with a sense of Your presence, participation, power, and protection, and give them progress in their struggle to become just like Jesus. Me, too! Amen.

Proverbs 28 5-28-21

Praising Jesus comes from a heart that is right with Him. The Spirit makes us ready for worship. What’s in your heart?

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully [The Spirit opens our minds to spiritual things, especially what is right and wrong].

So far we have covered Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration), Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession), and Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance). Today, we look at Expression of Devotion (Thanksgiving).

This is the fun part of the service for me. It’s when we get to tell Jesus how much He means to us, how much we love Him, and pledge our lives to Him. Only Christians enjoy this part because we have a personal and growing relationship with Him. In fact, it’s during this portion of the service that many Christians renew their relationship with Christ. When the songs, prayers, and Scriptures are speaking directly to Him, we can’t help but get caught up in them. They express our hearts. Indeed, it’s what/Who is in our hearts that is the very thing that separates us from the world:

The world loves sin and hates anything and anyone that keeps them from their sin;
Christians hate sin and oppose anything and anyone that keeps us from our Savior.

The key to devotion is gratitude. When we recite what Christ has done for us through His birth, death, and resurrection, we are grateful! When we realize that He is in us and loves us unconditionally and completely, we are grateful! When we remember His promise to return and we get to live with Him forever, we are grateful! In the words of Paul (probably),

25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

I’m looking forward to Sunday as we meet together to express our devotion to our Savior, how about you?

Abba, I am reminded once again as I typed that last line that You are the One who calls us to assemble. Even as I turn my thoughts to worship on Sunday, it is You who is doing the turning. I know that You will be doing the same for all of us regardless of where we attend. May we worship You in spirit and in truth; may we exalt Your name, heavenly Father, confess our need for you, remind each other of Your sacrifice to make us Yours, and then devote ourselves to You for this hour, this day, and this week. May we encourage each other and exhort each other and spur each other on to good works until we meet again. Thank You, Abba. You’re wonderful. Amen.

Proverbs 27 5-27-21

“Grace so amazing is with us each day; for this great love I could never repay…” We are free to love God because of His grace.

19 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart [Jesus’ life reflects God’s love for us].

Continuing our journey into worship, we have looked at Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration), Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession) and today we delve into Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance).

Lee Strobel wrote, “Justice is getting what you deserve (punishment). Mercy is not getting what you deserve (no punishment). Grace is getting what you don’t deserve (salvation).” It may not be original with him, but he pegged it with the added definitions. The grace of God is giving us Jesus Christ as the propitiation (substitute) for our sin debt. There’s a song that was popular in the 80’s that goes,

He paid a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay,
I needed someone to wash my sins away;
And now I sing a brand new song, “Amazing Grace,” all day long,
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

When we sing Christmas carols about His birth, we celebrate His sacrifice of the glory of heaven for us. When we sing about the blood of Jesus, we celebrate the sacrifice of His life for us. When we sing about His resurrection, we celebrate the new life we have in Christ. When we sing of heaven, we celebrate our future with Him in glory. When we read any of these passages in Scripture, call them in prayer, and allow them to be the foundation of our lives, we celebrate Christ in us. When we do it together, we call it “church.”

The message of grace is summed up very succinctly in the song, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High,”

You came from heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross my debt to pay,
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord, I lift Your name on high.

May we never forget His great sacrifice so that we could be born again AND adopted in the family of God. Bill and Gloria (Gaither) got it right:

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God,
I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood;
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family, the family of God.

I pray that one of these songs will come to mind today as we ponder and meditate on the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Abba, thank You that people take scriptural truths and put them to music. They become ingrained in our minds and hearts, which is a good thing. Drive deep within us Your message of grace, O Lord. You don’t need us, but You want us. Why? Because You love us. May we love You with all our hearts, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 26 5-26-21

Ever feel like your signal between you and the LORD is fuzzy? It’s because “life” gets in the way. Confess it to Him.

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts,
    and a flattering mouth works ruin.

28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

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

In a book on corporate worship (our staff is going through it), there are seven essential elements that need to be present in a worship service. We looked at Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration) yesterday. Today, we will look at Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession).

Our sins have not been covered as they were under the Law, but they have been washed away by the blood of Jesus (Zechariah 3:9 and 1 Corinthians 6:11). We have been cleansed and are now blameless in God’s eyes (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Positionally, we have been made sons of God (women, too, have been raised to the position of sonship; see Romans 8:14-17 and the note at the end of this post*). Relationally, though, we can allow sin to come between us and our Lord. It won’t condemn us anymore, but it does cloud our vision of Him and plug up our ears so that we cannot hear His gentle voice. He knows it’s there; we are simply agreeing with Him that it IS there, which is called, “confession.”

The best illustration is in John 13 when Jesus and His disciples were celebrating the Last Supper together. Let’s read it:

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” John 13:2-1

In Christ, we are clean positionally. We simply need the dust washed off our feet. Confession is what allows the Holy Spirit to remove everything that stands between us and hearing Jesus’ voice and seeing Jesus’ face. It’s our recognition of who we are and who He is; it’s proclaiming what we need Him to do for us. We need Him!

I pray that you will practice confession today. It seems like there’s always something that is in the way of our communion with the Lord. Let’s keep the lines of communication as clean as possible.

Abba, it seems that I am constantly having to come to You to help me clear out stuff that gets in the way of hearing You, loving You, and serving You. King David said it best, “Search my heart, O God. Try me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24. Lord, You know this is my prayer every morning. I confess my need of You. Amen.

For your continued reading pleasure:

*From Ray Stedman’s “The Sons of God Among Men”

For the first time in this letter Paul uses the phrase “the sons of God.” Now, I want to make something clear. This is a generic term that includes both sexes. There is no necessity now of referring to a female person as something different than the male. All believers in Christ who really trust him and have received the gift of righteousness by faith are sons of God — regardless of whether they are male or female. There is no need for any differentiation of the sexes here. That is why the Scriptures speak of us — all of us — freely as the “sons of the living God,” (Hos 1:10, Romans 9:26). You see, this speaks of something that is true of our spirit, and our spirit is sexless. Spirit is not identifiable by male or female, so what is true of the human spirit is quite apart from what is true of the body.

It is important in understanding this to recognize right off that not everybody is a son of God. According to Galatians 5, you are sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ. That is what makes you a son of God, nothing else. It is true that we are all creatures of God by natural birth. When Paul was preaching in Athens, that great intellectual center, he mentioned to the Athenians that even their own poets recognized that men came from God. We are the offspring of God, and in him “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), he said. That is true of all human beings everywhere in the world at all times. We are creatures of God. We are the offspring of God.

But Paul is careful to use quite a different word in Romans. Here the word is “sons of God.” We are in the family of God, and this is a very distinctive term. I want to underscore how important this is for us to understand, because it is something that God intends for us to return to when we are in trouble. If you are having difficulty handling your behavior — whether you are not doing what you want to do, or doing what you don’t want to do — the way to handle it is to remind yourself of what God has made you to be. This terminology is tremendously helpful.

In other words, in the struggle that you have with sin within you, you are not a slave, helplessly struggling against a cruel and powerful master; you are a son, a son of the living God, with power to overcome the evil — even though it is a struggle to do so. And though you may be temporarily overcome, you are never ultimately defeated. It cannot be, because you are already constituted children of God. That is why Paul could say in Romans 6, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace,” (Romans 6:14 KJV). And in this gracious relationship, we are made and constituted sons of the living God. No matter what happens to us, that is what we are. Nothing can change that. That is the place from which we start.

It is important also for us to see how we become sons of God. Paul says, “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear.” When the Spirit of God came into your heart, he did not make you a slave to fear. Remember how Paul puts that again in Second Timothy 1:7: “You have not received a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV). That is the nature of the Holy Spirit. What did the Spirit do? Paul says, “You received the Spirit who makes you sons,” or, literally, “the Spirit of adoption, who adopted you as sons.” How did you become a son of God? Well, the Spirit of God found you, and found me, and he adopted us into God’s family.

I was with a family the other night where there were two adopted children and two natural-born children. I watched all evening long to see if I could tell which were the adopted ones and which were the natural ones. I finally had to ask the parents because I couldn’t tell any difference — even with their looks. Two were adopted into the family and two were natural-born children, but they were all treated so beautifully and so naturally that I couldn’t tell the difference.

Some of you may be saying at this point, “Look, you are confusing me. What do you mean when you say we are adopted into the family of God? I have been taught from the Scriptures that I was born into the family of God. I have been born again.” That is the term that is being bandied about these days. Even politicians are boasting, “I’ve been born again!” Thank God, some of them are. “But,” you say, “some passages talk about the new birth, about being born into the family of God. I thought we were born, not adopted. What do you mean by adopted?” I am glad you asked that question. You see, the truth is that both of these are true. You are both adopted and born into the family of God. As Jesus said on another occasion, “With man that is impossible, but with God, all things are possible,” (Matthew 19:26). You can’t be both adopted and born into a human family, but you can in God’s family. God uses both of these terms because he wants to highlight two different aspects of our belonging to the family of God. You are said to be adopted because God wants you to remember always that you are not naturally part of the family of God. We have been seeing all along in this letter that we are born into Adam’s family, and we are all children of Adam by natural birth. We belong to the human family, and we inherit Adam’s nature. All his defects, all his problems, all the evil that came into his life by his acts of disobedience — all these were passed along to us by natural birth. So by nature we are not part of God’s family. This is just like some of you, who were born into one family, and, then, by a legal process, were taken out of that family and were adopted into another family. From then on you became part of the family that adopted you.

This is what has happened to us. God has taken us out of our natural state in Adam, and, by the process of the Spirit, has made us legally sons of God, and we are part of his family. But he reminds us that we are in his family by adoption so that we might never take it for granted, or forget that if we were left in our natural state we would not have a part in the family of God. It is only by the grace of God that we come into his family. But it is also true that we are born into God’s family. Once we have been adopted, it is also true that, because God is God, he not only makes us legally his sons but he makes us actually partake of the divine nature and we are born into his family. We actually share the nature of God! It is an amazing statement! This tie with Jesus is so real that we are seen to be actually one with him, and we share the divine nature. Peter puts it this way: “We have been made partakers of the divine nature,” (2  Peter 1:4 KJV). So we are as much a part of God’s family as if we had originally been born into it, and we are born into it by the grace of God.

So both of these statements are true. There is nothing more wonderful to remind yourself of, morning by morning, and day by day, than this great fact: If you are a Christian, you are a son of the living God, adopted and born into his family. Because you are his son, God loves you, God protects you, God provides for you, God plans for you, God hears you, God claims you and openly acknowledges you, God chastens and corrects you, and God honors you. All of that is true because you are his son.

We know how we treat our natural children. There is a difference between them and the neighbors’ children. Our children are considerably superior, of course. We may love the neighbors’ children, they may be delightful children. We have some wonderful children in our neighborhood whom we love and admire, but they are not our children. We have a special relationship with our children. We care for them, we hurt for them, we love and protect them, we plan for them, we watch out for them. We are specially tied with them. That is what this is saying to us. God has a special relationship to us. We are the sons of God turned loose among the sons of men.

It would be helpful, I know, if God would put a little mark on us that would indicate that we are his sons. If we had a little red star on our foreheads, then we could tell all the other sons of God. Or perhaps if we had a special glow. (Sometimes that does show, anyway.) But there is no special mark. Outwardly, there is no distinction; but inwardly, there is a tremendous distinction, and that is what we need to understand. We can’t tell by looking at anyone whether he is a son of God or not, though often there is an underlying sense that reveals itself and identifies brothers and sisters in Christ. But there is a vast difference within, and because of that difference, there is a special relationship that God has with us.

Proverbs 25 5-25-21

Corporate worship is designed for us to be refreshed by being with others who follow Christ.

4 Remove the dross from the silver [in this case, we are removing the silver from the dross by leaving the world behind and entering into worship with the body of Christ, the Church], and the silversmith [the LORD] can produce a [willing and useful] vessel [us];

In a book on corporate worship (our staff is going through it), there are seven essential elements that need to be present in a worship service:

  1. Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration)
  2. Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession)
  3. Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance)
  4. Expression of Devotion (Thanksgiving)
  5. Desire for Aid in Living for God (Petition and Intercession)
  6. Acquiring Knowledge for Phrasing God (Instruction from God’s Word)
  7. Living unto God with His Blessing (Charge and Benediction)

Sometimes they are combined and other times there is more than just one of the elements, but they are all there. In a worship service, these elements are covered in the music, in prayer, in the preaching of the Word, and in the invitation time. There is no set standard; they simply all need to be there. Also, there is no particular order (except for the benediction).They can be arranged as needed.

Let’s look at #1, Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration). Praising God for who He is and for What He has done exalts God. His name is the highest name (Luke 2:14). He has given His name to His Son, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Philippians 2:9-11). When we start our prayers with Father God, Heavenly Father, Abba, etc. we are exalting His Name and who He is to us. When we sing songs like, “Mighty is our God, mighty is our King, mighty is our Lord, Ruler of everything,” we exalt God the Father. When we read verses like, “and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6, we exalt God the Son, of Whom Isaiah is prophesying. When we acknowledge the Holy Spirit and ask Him to come and take control, to fill us and to teach us, we exalt God the Holy Spirit. We owe everything to God; why wouldn’t we exalt Him?

Tomorrow, we will look at the next element of corporate worship. Just remember that the best way to prepare for next Sunday is to read His Word today and to spend time with the Savior in conversation. Give Him your life for today, for this hour, for right now. You will find His fellowship sweet and His love, joy and peace washing over you.

Abba, You are wonderful. You are amazing. You are certainly beyond comprehending! Why You would want us as Your children, especially at such great cost, is beyond me–but I’m glad You do! Thank You for loving us and rescuing us. We love being Your children! “You are exalted, Lord, You are exalted on high, and I will praise You!” Amen.

Proverbs 24 5-24-21

Being teachable is important for Christians. Making ourselves available to Him is vital for growth and the avoidance of evil.

3 By wisdom a house [life] is built, and through understanding it is established; 4 through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
5 A wise man has great power and a man of knowledge increases strength; 6 for waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers.

For daily living, we need:

  1. The wisdom of God;
  2. The understanding of His will and His ways;
  3. The knowledge from Scripture and experience.

The experience I’m talking about is that which comes from walking in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Our knowledge base increases as we go along (mostly good, sometimes bad; all experiences learning ones). The more we know, the better we understand of God’s will and what He is doing in and with the world. We begin to get a godly perspective, which is what wisdom is:

Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective.

The strength talked about in verse 5 is what we gain through wisdom. Our faith is based upon what Jesus reveals to us. He reveals Himself to us in His Word. The more we know, the better we can know Him. But, it’s more than just knowledge. We must ask Him what He means as we read. We must talk with other Christians about what He has revealed to them and what they have learned through the years (experience). We must strive to see from His perspective.

Much of our war is against our own flesh. Satan has influence (fiery darts), but he cannot touch us. The helmet of salvation is basically our knowledge of God’s Plan, His promises according to His Word, and our experience; the breastplate of righteousness is our understanding of what righteousness is and living by it; the other pieces of armor fall under these two categories see (Ephesians 6:10-18).

The wisdom of God is available to us on a personal basis. Consider Him your Personal Trainer in righteousness.

Abba, I need You to teach me righteousness. I want to be an empty vessel that You fill with wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. May I stay teachable. Amen.

Proverbs 23 5-23-21

Worship is a big deal. It’s a big deal to God and it should be a big deal to us.

35 “…When will wake up so I can find another drink?” Whatever a person enjoys the most and pursues it “religiously” is what a person worships.

The first time of worship mentioned in the Bible is Genesis 3:8 when the Lord God came to walk with Adam and Eve in the garden. The second time is Abel’s sacrifice in Genesis 4:4. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshipped the Lord with their families, as did Joseph, his brothers, and their offspring.

The next time God gathers His children together is in Exodus 25:8 when the Lord plops Himself down right in the middle of the Israelites. God has always been about being with His children. In fact, the second greatest worship event happened in Luke 2:7 when Mary gave birth to the Savior, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, because God once again plopped Himself down in the middle of humanity. The greatest worship event to date is the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. In fact, TODAY is Pentecost! We have one more worship event, the greatest there ever will be, when we all stand before the Father in the presence of the Son and worship them forever. We will have other things to do, but being in His presence is the main attraction for me.

Today, I pray that you will be attracted to Him by attending church somewhere. Being with the body of Christ is the closest thing to heaven this side of heaven. Your church experiences may not have been the best, but God calls you to come and try again. When we come for Him and make Him our main focus, we learn a beautiful truth:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim
in the light of His glory and grace

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will seek you even as you call them. You are seeking them right now and readying their hearts for an encounter with You! Speak to our hearts, Lord Jesus. We want to hear You, to see You, and to feel Your presence. We worship You Almighty God; there is none like You.

Reiteration from the other day: As a worship leader, I need you there a few minutes early to greet the people around you and to mentally prepare for the service. I need you there early in order for you to be available for any last-minute needs that arise. I need you there early to pray for me, for my pastor, for the service, for those around you, and for those who will be attending who don’t know Jesus. I will be asking the Holy Spirit to “inspire” you to be early from now on.

Proverbs 22 5-22-21

To not walk with Jesus everyday is to miss the best part of our salvation. He wants us to trust Him for more than heaven; He wants us to trust Him with our lives.

3 The prudent see danger [in taking control and doing things our way] and take refuge [in the LORD by calling on Him to protect us and lead us], but the simple [those who don’t know any better] keep going and pay the penalty.

Zechariah 4:6 tells us, “‘Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD.” Let’s rephrase it for clarity, “Not by our might or power, but quite the opposite; it’s either by His Spirit or it’s of our flesh–or worse, the evil one! We respond to the prompting and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Period.

What does His empowering look like?

  1. He will always build us up; He will never tear us down;
  2. He is always specific and never vague;
  3. He convicts but never condemns or shames;
  4. His conviction always includes solutions and encouragement;
  5. He NEVER contradicts His Word (although people take it out of context in order to make it say what they want it to say).

Everything–all of our thoughts and every action we are about to take–must be run through the filter of the Holy Spirit. Before we do anything, even while we are considering something, we must be asking the Holy Spirit (Jesus) about it. He will guide us through every decision, every thought process, and every action if we will only allow Him to guide us. It’s not that Jesus is a control freak; it’s because He loves us. WE are the simple ones in verse 3! He is the wise One who knows the best route through the mine field of life. We must learn to trust Him. The good thing is that the more we do, the more trustworthy He is.

We owe Him everything. Without Him, we would still be dead in our sins, lost and going to hell. Now, we have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father and a continuing relationship with the Son who has taken up residence in our hearts–can you believe it?! He is worthy. He is trustworthy. He is deserving of our worship, our very lives. Let’s give them to Him!

Abba, I give You my life today. You are my All in All. I cannot trust anything in this world to make me happy, keep me safe, give me health, or guarantees me eternal security. All I have is You–and You are all I need! Much more than I deserve. Thank You for loving me and for going to such extremes for me to be Yours. I love You. Let’s do life together. Amen.

P.S. I am looking forward to the day when You turn to me as You did Enoch and say, “Hey, it’s closer to My house than yours; let’s go to Mine.”

Proverbs 21 5-21-21

Christianity is not, “Jesus and,” but, “Jesus or.” FAITH is, “Forsaking All, I Trust Him.”

17 He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

The topic for today is:

Cultural Christianity vs. Authentic Christianity

Rather than seeing the decline of the numbers in America concerning Christianity as a bad thing, let’s assume that God is up to something NEW and BIG. We have lived in a society that has allowed people to be culturally good (obeying the laws of the land and living sociably with their neighbors) and to be considered as Christians. Many people even call America a Christian nation. Actually, there is no such thing; the only collective name for a bunch of Christians is the Church. America is not a church. It is simply where we live physically.

What could God be up to in America? If God is weeding out the tares from the wheat by making it unpopular to be a Christian, I see this as a good thing. Over the past two millennia, Christianity has thrived best in societies that are inclusive in their view of religion, and hostility keeps the Church pruned. It makes our relationship with the Lord vital. He becomes our sole sufficiency.

What is vital to you? Is conversing with Jesus–on His terms–a continuous process? What I mean by “His terms” is that He speaks to us in four general ways:

  1. Prayer-His spoken word
  2. The Bible-His written word
  3. Other people- His shared word
  4. Circumstances- His revealed word

We must avail ourselves to each of these on a routine basis and not just when it’s convenient or we feel like it. Discipline, folks!

Jesus is pruning His Church. What is Jesus calling you to “cut?” In what activities are you involved that are in the “Jesus and” category? By the way, those are called idols. For instance, Jesus calls us each week to assemble together as His body in His name. Jesus Himself led by example (from The Chosen Interactive Bible Study):

The Sabbath was not just for the OT Israelite nation, but for all who would put their trust in the Lord. Read Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-19. Saturday, the seventh day of the week and the Jewish day of worship practiced by Jesus and His followers, is still the day of worship for Judaism and for a few branches of Christianity. Yet most Christians set aside Sunday, the first day of the week, as the primary day to rest from work and gather for corporate worship. Which means that something very significant must’ve happened in order to get a bunch of religiously concerned Jews to change how they observed one of the most important commandments in their whole belief system. #resurrectionsunday. Betcha didn’t know that by worshipping together on Sundays, Christians celebrate Easter every week. #heisrisenindeed

Let’s choose to be part of the authentic Christianity that God is bringing about in America.

Abba, I choose it! May we see our day as one of light as You prune Your Church so that we can bear much fruit (John 15:5). Grow Your Church, Lord, and may we join You in Your work. Amen.

Proverbs 20 5-20-21

Worship is intentional. We need to be intentional about how and when we come together as the body of Christ.

18 Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance. If we want to experience the Lord on an ever-higher level, we seek advice. When we come to worship, we “wage war” on our flesh and the spirits of this world; we need guidance from the Holy Spirit and from our leaders.

Yesterday, we talked about God calling us together as His Body, the Church, and about why we need each other. Today, we are going to talk about our personal and corporate responsibility.

26 …Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 1 Corinthians 14:26b
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

A worship service is designed for just that: Worship. It’s the time when the body of Christ comes together to exalt the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to edify each other through psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, through prayer, through the reading of the Scriptures, and through exhortation; we examine ourselves even as we agree upon all that the Lord has done and has promised us in His Word; we minister to each other as the Lord ministers to us; we minister to Him as He binds our hearts together in unity. It’s reciprocal.

We have for so long had the mistaken idea that the music is the worship part of a service. WRONG. Worship begins when God beckons us to come and we come. So, as soon as we make the decision to attend church that morning, afternoon, or evening, we begin to worship Him through obedience and dedication. We continue that worship as we travel to the place of worship; we worship as we go in and greet people and get ready for the service to begin. Our worship continues throughout the entire service. When we leave, we should be able to affirmatively answer this question:

Was God exalted in my life and by my efforts today?

There is one more thing. In high school band, we had a rule that if a person was on time, then he was late. The same should go for worship services. As a worship leader, I need you there a few minutes early to greet the people around you and to mentally prepare for the service. I need you there early in order for you to be available for any last-minute needs that arise. I need you there early to pray for me, for my pastor, for the service, for those around you, and for those who will be attending who don’t know Jesus. I will be asking the Holy Spirit to “inspire” you to be early from now on.

Let’s be intentional about our worship of our Creator, Redeemer, Lord and King. “Blessed are You, El Shaddai, King of the Universe; You bless us with the opportunity to meet together as Your family.”

Abba, I thank You for the distinct honor and privilege it is to lead in worship and praise each week. May You expand our minds as You expand our definition of worship. May we learn new ways to honor You, to exalt You, to lift You up, and to make Your name great. We love You; may we worship You in Spirit and in truth, Your truth. Amen.

Three Truths

Listen along!

There are three TRUTHS that all people need to know:

  1. God is real and in control of all things;
  2. God loves every person and desires a personal, ongoing relationship with us;
  3. We can have a loving and intimate relationship with Him through Jesus.

What is it that keeps us from knowing God, from being aware of His presence, and from hearing His voice? The quick answer is that we are physical beings living in a physical, three-dimensional world and God is not limited to our three dimensions. He is beyond our capacity to perceive Him unless He reveals Himself to us. So, don’t worry if you’ve never noticed God before. Hopefully, you will soon.

In case you’re in a hurry, here’s the skinny of the problem:  We have two enemies. One is our sin nature, which when followed leads to self-destruction; the second one is Satan, and he has deceived all mankind into believing that we don’t have a sin nature and that this physical world is all there is because “if there was a God, He wouldn’t let bad things happen to good people.” That’s the lie; the truth is that there are NO good people; we all have chosen to follow our sin nature, and the “bad things” that happen to us are the result of the consequences of our own bad choices. We live our lives without any regard to our Creator and His plans for us. It’s called REBELLION, which is the very definition of sin. We choose to do what we want to do, and that attitude has led us to the dark side of self-destruction and separation from God. The good news is that we all begin in the same boat; the bad news is that eventually that boat will sink with us in it! All who are bent on refusing to obey God and living according to their sin nature are on the road to self-destruction. It’s not God’s doing; it’s OUR doing! But, we can’t help ourselves. We need Someone to save us. Enter Jesus Christ. God loved the world–that’s us–so much that He came to earth in Jesus to save us. How? Well, if you’ve ever watched an epic movie, there is always someone who gives his life so that others can live. That’s what Jesus did. We had a sin debt that was destroying us, so He came and died for us so that we could live free of that debt. The difference in Jesus is that since He is God, He had the power to take up His life again. In other words, He rose from the dead! 

So, if we believe that Jesus is God in human form, that He paid our sin debt, dying in our place and then rose again, we know what we need to know to be saved. But, head knowledge isn’t enough. We must trust in Him. For example, we believe that a chair will hold our weight, but we only trust in the chair when we actually sit in it. Do you believe that Jesus has a plan for your life? Do you believe that He wants to enter your heart (that part of you that is your essence, your consciousness) and lead you, love you, and transform you into the person He has always wanted you to be? That’s what we are saved TO. But, what are we saved from? We are saved from self-destruction in hell, which is where people go who have chosen to remain separated from God and are not prepared spiritually to stand in His presence. When a person trusts Jesus Christ, he is made ready spiritually to be in the presence of God forever! In fact, Jesus comes to live in us until we die, and then we get to see God face to face. We are already either living with God or living separated from God. It’s our choice.

There is a passage that describes our relationship with Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:6-10 says,

 [6] For he raises us from the dead along with Christ…God saves you by his special favor when you trust in Him. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. [9] Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. [10] For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things and become the people he planned for us to be long ago. 

So far, all you have is information, but it’s much more than that! God wants a personal, thriving relationship with you, so let’s wait for Him to call you to Himself. What does that look like? First, you will believe that what you now know about Jesus and His offer of salvation is true. Next, you will see yourself from His perspective as He reveals it to you. That perspective is that He loves and does not want you to be destroyed by your sin and be unprepared to be with Him and enjoy His presence. You will want to cry out to Him for His salvation. Once you do, wait. When your heart is fully ready and sincere, He will come in and do all the work. He will give you a new nature, one that is like His, when He comes to live in your heart! You will recognize Him by His peace, His joy, and His overwhelming love. 

The Bible says that God adopts us as His children! Wow! I will ask God my Father to reveal Himself to you and that you will respond to His invitation to be His child. When you do, please let me know. I will rejoice with you!