Proverbs1 10-1-20

I am a firm believer in the power of the Holy Spirit in each person’s life. I write Proverbs because I feel called to do so. You read them because YOU feel called to do so. Otherwise, it’s out of duty or misplaced loyalty, neither of which are eternal.

5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance–

This chapter is the epitome of our daily walk in this world. We either listen to the Spirit or ignore the Spirit–sometimes both throughout the day! It boils down to desire: Do we WANT the Spirit to conform us to the image of Christ? The LORD Jesus was all about what God was doing in the world concerning the souls of men. He was NOT concerned with the things of this world that pull on us so hard, things like pleasure, comfort, security, power, influence, thrill, and self-satisfaction. In fact, to follow Christ, we must give up these things.

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
    How long will mockers delight in mockery
    and fools hate knowledge?

Simple people live their lives without any moral direction and are inclined to evil. It’s natural. If we don’t take on Christ’s moral direction every day, we will incline to evil. It’s that simple.
Fools hate being told that what they want to do is not pleasing to God. They don’t care. Beware of this feeling! It leads to mockery.
Mockers take delight in sin. They get a charge out of it. If we are wise, we will recognize this tendency in ourselves and repent!

23 Repent at my rebuke!
    Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
    I will make known to you my teachings [and my heart].

God calls to us each morning and all day to come to Him for cleansing and intimate fellowship. It’s what salvation is all about! We come through Jesus as the Spirit empowers us (He is our connection).

24 But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I
stretch out my hand,
25 since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,

We have a CHOICE. FREE WILL is all over this passage. God doesn’t want robots. He wants children who love Him and want to fellowship with Him. Recognize the signs of His interaction with You. Listen, pay attention, heed, and accept!

30 Since they would not accept my advice
    and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways
    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

Be not deceivedGod is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7 Here again, free will.

32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
    and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

Verses 30-32 are some of the saddest verses in the Scriptures because it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s our choice to heed His voice and follow Him. Daily. Continuously.

33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety
    and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Best verse! Of course, we’re not talking so much about physical safety, but safety of the soul. Those who are in Christ Jesus, walking with Him and enjoying intimate fellowship with Him are not concerned with physical safety or harm. We trust that everything that happens to us is for the good of the kingdom and for us. How can physical danger and harm be good for us? We all ultimately die, and when we do, we get to go be with Him. Why not die for the sake of the Gospel? The intimate fellowship that comes during hardship and pain is the BIG MYSTERY of Christianity. Need more information? Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 and 12:1-10.

Let’s live for Christ today. He did so much for us. We should be grateful.

Abba, I know I am! Thank You for so great a salvation. Thank You for wanting to have a personal, intimate relationship with me. I am honored and humbled. I want to be like You, LORD, for I know that the more I am like You, the sweeter the fellowship we have! It is the desire of my heart; please grant it according to Psalm 37:4. Thank You! Amen.

 

Proverbs 30 9-30-20

The desire for godly wisdom is the first sign of Christian growth. A lack of desire reveals a conflict of interest.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

Do you see the balance in these verses? There are those who would lie to us and tell us that riches will solve everything or that to not have anything means no responsibility. We may even be lying to ourselves! God knows how much of anything that we need, so we learn to trust Him.

Do we have a desire to know God? to obey the Spirit? to fellowship with the LORD Jesus?  You probably set an alarm to get up, made coffee, and may have even set down to breakfast. Then, you had the desire to read this post, which means that you have desire. This desire is from the Holy Spirit within you.

Which would you rather have:

  1. Someone telling you what you should be doing, or
  2. Someone who gives you the desire to do what God wants you to do for and with Him?

Notice that the first option is Old Testament and the second option is New Testament. The difference is in RELATIONSHIP. God wants to have an ongoing and intimate relationship with us through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Our struggle comes in recognizing that desire as Him in us. We must learn to discern His voice from our own voice. Proverbs 24:3-4 gives a beautiful description of how:

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

Wisdom is how the house is built;
Understanding is how it is established (how it works);
Knowledge is how the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

All of these traits can be found in the Word of God. We just have to dig for them.

Consider yourselves disciples of Christ. Study to show yourselves approved by Him. Learn to rightly divide/decipher/parse the word of truth. Be good workers who need not be ashamed (based on 2 Timothy 2:15). Is this desire in you? OBEY IT! OBEY HIM!!!

I mentioned a conflict of interest. If our interest is divided between what Christ wants for us and what we want to do, then we will always be at a standstill with Him. We can’t build our house; we can’t establish our walk with Him; we can’t fill our lives with the rare and beautiful treasures that He has for us. Let’s decide today to give our whole lives to the LORD Jesus. It will feel a whole lot like salvation, but know that it’s really just moving up to level 2 in our relationship with Him.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would take seriously this call to commit all to You. You have SO MUCH in store for us if we will only believe You. May we be like the man in Mark 9:24 when he says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” May we place our lives in Your capable hands. Make us, melt us, mold us, and fill us, LORD. We are Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 29 9-29-20

We are told to confess our sins to God and to one another. Why? What good does it do to admit wrongs? Plenty!

6 Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but the righteous sing/shout for joy and are glad.

16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

“Confession is good for the soul.” In what way? There’s something concrete about saying things out loud. In fact, it’s why we are not to just spout out whatever comes into our minds. We are to filter those thoughts, taking them captive to Christ Jesus. “Discretion is the better part of valor.” Also, knowing that we will have to give an account to someone is a pretty big deterrent. We COULD lie, but the Holy Spirit inside us turns on some pretty hot conviction if we do that; besides, then we would have to confess THAT sin, as well, plus live with whatever consequences it causes.

When confessing to God, understand that we’re not telling Him anything that He doesn’t already know. We are simply agreeing with Him that what we did was sin. We have missed the mark of righteousness, holiness, and perfection. Now, when you read “perfection,” did you snort? Think about it: If we truly lived by the Spirit, walking closely with the LORD, believing everything He told us, and doing exactly what He said how He said to do it exactly when He told us to do it, then we would be perfect (whole, well-rounded, complete, mature), too. Christ was. We, also, have that possibility. In fact, it’s what Christ is teaching us day by day. In the meantime, how does God see us?

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

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling/falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault [blameless] and with great joy—Jude 1:24

10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11

So, to sum up, God sees us as righteous, holy and faultless, upright (not stumbling), blameless and joyful, with no condemnation. I like that, NO CONDEMNATION! Want to read it? Here it is:

Therefore, 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. Romans 8:1-2

Wow! When we confess to God, it’s really for US to see where we went wrong and to allow Him to fix us. Remember that sin destroys us, but He wants to give us life, abundant life [John 10:10]. All we have to do is come to Him and He will give it–pressed down, shaken together, running over [Luke 6:38-the principle is actually in giving, but when we give Him our hearts and lives, He gives us His heart, and life more abundantly]! So, let’s start confessing and receive His heart and His life!!!

Abba, You’re the only Person I know that makes confessing “fun.” I give You the bad, ugly, distasteful things in my life and You give me love, joy, peace, and then bless me with all kinds of blessings. I know that as long as I am honest with You and work at being like You that I am “bless-able,” and I don’t have to dread Your discipline. But when You do have to discipline me, I thank You for disciplining me because it lets me know You love me (Hebrews 12:5-8). I love You. Amen.

Proverbs 28 9-28-20

Knowing God’s plan of salvation helps us know what He’s done for us and helps us share it. It’s more than just forgiveness.

13b The one who confesses and renounces their sins finds mercy.

Yesterday morning in the service, I mentioned the fact that God created the framework of salvation before He created anything pertaining to this world. There were two verses on which I based my statement. They were:

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Revelation 13:8

I would like to add another, but I want to use the New Living Translation because it comes the closest to the Greek:

16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The difference is in emphasis. “For God so loved the world” places the emphasis on God’s immense love for us, which He has! But, that is not the main emphasis of the verse. The emphasis is on HOW He loved us, which is through Christ and His substitutionary death on the cross for us. As was pointed out to me this morning in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Notice the bolded parts. They all are in past tense. Why? Because the deed has already been done! So, when Isaiah had his sins forgiven (Isaiah 6:6-7), it was with the already-shed blood of Jesus Christ.

What does this knowledge do for us? Well, IT MAKES ME GRATEFUL! It also means that the framework for salvation is there for anyone who believes, who places their faith and trust in Christ and His atoning work on the cross. We Westerners tend to stop right there, but Easterners know better. They know that faith and trust are a “buying in” to the Plan, which requires an adoption on our part of Christ’s life, ways, and commands even as He signs our adoption papers.

If a person is not willing to serve Christ,
then He doesn’t really believe Christ.

His plan has always been PLAN A. There’s never been a PLAN B. That’s the kind of love God has for us in Jesus Christ! He Has loved us from the Beginning. As Beth Moore said, “She didn’t need to make promises to God in order to be free. She needed to believe the promises God had made to her.” Chasing Vines pg. 171. True freedom comes when we believe that God has already paid the price for our sin and is waiting on us to come to Him. What are we waiting for?! Let’s run to His arms! As we sang yesterday morning,

Oh, I’m running to Your arms, I’m running to Your arms!
The riches of Your love will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace;
Light of the world, FOREVER REIGN!

Abba, may we run to Your arms every morning. You offer love and joy and peace; You give us Your security and Your presence. You speak to us in the quiet times and through Your Word. You prepare us for the day, and give us rest at night. You relieve the weight of today’s burdens and remove the worry about the future. I don’t need to know what You are going to do; I just know that You’re in control. I TRUST YOU. Have Your way in me today, LORD. Amen.

 

 

Proverbs 27 9-27-20

I am convinced that the going and making disciples is about involving ourselves with people in their lives. We earn the right to speak to them about Christ by the lives we live.

2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; another, and not your own lips. In other words, we cannot speak our own moral authority; it must be granted by the people around us.

6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. A person has to know he can trust you before he will trust your message.

Our commission is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Here it is in the Amplified Version for clarity:

18 Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore [as you go,] and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words]baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”

I recommend the following:

  1. Learn the names of your neighbors and their families. Call them by name as you see them.
  2. When you talk to them, ask questions and listen to their stories. Usually, they will ask questions of you, but not always. Some people learn by watching our facial expressions and body responses to what they are saying or while they are talking. For instance, they are watching to see if we are just listening until we get a chance to talk or if we’re really interested. They can tell by our fidgeting when we are ready to go.
  3. Try not to listen to any gossip (conversation that is none of our business); if you do, try to turn it with a reasonable excuse. At the least, mention that you will pray for that person that things will turn around for the subject of the gossip.
  4. Don’t let too long go between visits (my dilemma). People enter and exit seasons of their lives; they associate us with those seasons. If they associate us with a past season, then we must begin again building trust.
  5. Share the Gospel in chunks. Pick a relevant topic and share what Jesus has done for you in that area. Leave the whole package for a Divine Appointment: When they come asking.

Jesus did this again and again in people’s lives: Nicodemus, Nathaniel, Bartimaeus, to name a few. Let’s be diligent to pray for our neighbors and look for opportunities to share what Christ is doing in our lives. The Holy Spirit will move when the time is right. Trust Him even as you are earning the trust of your neighbors.

Abba, You have called us to be salt and light in this world. We are Your ambassadors. Are we doing a good job? Do we even care? What about calling us to places where people need the Gospel–wait, that would mean that we are missionaries…we ARE! We’ve even been commissioned! LORD, call us out of our comfort and into Your ministry. I will look for You to do it in my life this week. Amen.

 

Proverbs 26 9-26-20

Two things that a person needs to be saved: Awareness and willingness. Christians need them every day!

12 Do you see a person wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

CBN (Christian Broadcast Network) aired last night the first part of The Return, a weekend of repentance and intercession for our nation. It resumes this morning at 8am Central time and will include the Prayer March with Franklin Graham at 11:00 our time. If you can’t get the app or tune in online, it’s also showing on YouTube.

I listened to Nikki Cruz, the gang leader in New York who was led to the LORD by Bruce Wilkerson in 1970 and became a world-renowned evangelist. He gave his testimony, and in it he used this phrase, “Ask Jesus to change your life!” It was one of the things that Bruce told him. I would like to expound on that statement.

There are two things that a person needs in order to be saved:

  1. An awareness of his personal sin against God and the consequences of that sin to his soul.
  2. A willingness to change his life, but realizing that he cannot; he must have Christ change him.

A person who realizes these two things WILL
cry out to the LORD Jesus to change his life!

It’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit that makes us aware and woos us to Himself. Jesus calls us and we answer.

There is a third thing I would like to say: Followers of Christ live in an awareness of sin (and our forgiveness) and want Christ to change their lives every day. We begin with a confession of our awareness and our willingness to Him and then look for Him in the Scriptures. We trust that He will reveal Himself to us in them–every time we read them.

Are you there, yet? Have you cried out to the LORD Jesus to change your life? Asking for forgiveness of sin is good and needed, but it only works if we are truly repentant, if we really want to give up our sin and live in His righteousness. It’s what a true follower of the LORD Jesus does every time he/she is tempted to sin.

The next time you are tempted, cry out to the LORD Jesus to change your life by rescuing you from your temptation. He will offer you a better option: His mercy and His grace–along with a way out:

13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Let’s go for that other option: Holiness. Becoming like Jesus is what it’s all about!

Abba, I DO want to be like Jesus. May You change my life so that I am transformed, conformed and reformed in His image in personality, temperament, and in spirit. I’m not there yet, but I praise You that I am NOT what I used to be! Looking forward to a day of prayer for my nation and its leaders today; to be continued…

 

Proverbs 25 9-25-20

We don’t just “read the Bible.” We search the Scriptures to find the LORD Jesus in them. His Spirit lights our way.

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

The Bible itself–the pages upon which the words are written–is not holy in and of itself. In other words, the book we hold is not a sacred item. We treat it with the respect we show all books, but it is not holy unto itself. It is the message within the pages that is sacred. God breathed those words, the Scriptures; whether they are passed along on pages or upon the breath of other humans (orally) doesn’t matter; whether they are in a beautifully bound leather book with gold-leaf pages or on worn note cards or even sticky notes, it is the message that is important.

The Jews of Thessalonica did not, as a whole, accept Paul’s testimony of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah). They refused to see the LORD Jesus in the Scriptures. In fact, it is inferred that they didn’t even look! Just down the road, the Berean Jews “were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number or prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” Acts 17:11-12.

For us, who have the collection of the Torah (first five books), the Israeli history, the poetry, and the prophecies, then the Gospels, the history (Acts), the letters, and the final prophecy (Revelation), we have a great resource in our hands. We have it in many translations and paraphrases, as well as electronically. The problem we have is availing ourselves to it and then making application. So, let’s take a passage and use it as an example. This Sunday, we will be doing this same exercise:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah 6:1-8

“The LORD” referred to in this passage is Adonai, the LORD our LORD, or God. The angel is more specific as well as Isaiah in referring to Him as “the LORD of Hosts.” We have heard that name before in the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” in the phrase, “LORD Sabaoth His name,” and again in the song, “Whom Shall I Fear,” in the phrase, “God of angel armies.” But, where is the LORD Jesus in the Scriptures?

Although He is seated next to His Father (see John 17:24), the LORD Jesus is not mentioned directly. But, we have only to look to the altar to find Him. Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” The blood of Jesus in on the altar! This cleansing, transforming blood is what cleansed and transformed Isaiah. It is the SAME BLOOD that cleanses and transforms us! How do I know this–and how did the blood of Christ get on the altar 700+ years before Christ died on the cross? I read it in another Scripture passage, “…the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” Revelation 13:8. The framework of salvation was already in place before God created a single item on this earth. WOW! 

This process of looking for the LORD Jesus in the Scriptures is something that we have the great privilege to do every day. The question is: Are we doing it? Let this lesson be a prompt for you to “search the Scriptures daily.” Let’s look for our LORD in His Scriptures and find Him on every page!

Abba, You ARE on every page. Your Spirit speaks the words of life to me as I read them and especially when I read them out loud. May I take them seriously, LORD, as seriously as they were given. They are “words of eternal life” as Peter put it John 6:68. In fact, You ARE the Word (John 1:1). May I never forget that! Bless me as I read Your Scriptures, LORD, and then bless me as I teach. Amen.

Ephesians 1:3-14 The Plan

SS 20 Ephesians- Verses 3-14 “The Plan”

Let’s review:

  • Ephesus was/is a port city and was very worldly.
  • Home of Artemis, the goddess of fertility
  • Paul spent three month in the synagogue and then split off and formed a church.
  • Ephesians has six chapters, three doctrinal and three of application. 
  • The letter to the Ephesians was probably a circular letter.

 

Chances are the churches had heard everything written in Ephesians firsthand from Paul. The problem is that we only retain a small portion of what we hear. We do much better when we hear the same thing several weeks in a row, when we read something over and over again, and when we commit something to memory. We do best when we teach it because we have to explain it as well as present it. So, let’s start learning so that we can eventually teach it to others.

 

There is one stipulation. Read 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, 15b. These things are spiritually discerned. We must submit our minds and wills to the Father and commit ourselves to following these truths in order to be able and open to receiving what He has for us. Even as we discuss the material, the Father/Jesus/Holy Spirit is speaking truth to your spirit. Cool, huh?

 

The Gospel: The Good News of Jesus Christ–unto salvation

Our Passage: The background and details of the Gospel

 

Read Ephesians 1:3-6, 7-10, 11-14

Verse 3 is an expression of praise.

  1. To the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ
  2. He blessed us in the heavenly realms–what’s that about? (see chapter 2)
  3. With every spiritual blessing in Christ. Let’s name some spiritual blessings:

 

Verse 4 is a humdinger of a statement!

  1. The Timing-Before He created anything, He chose us.
  2. The Blessing (v5)-To be holy and without fault in His eyes and to adopt us into His own family.
  3. The Gift of Grace (v6)-”freely bestowed on all who believe”

 

  1. The Plan (v7)-Through Jesus Christ
  1. Redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins
  2. Lavished and showered (v8) with ALL wisdom and understanding
  3. Mystery of His will (v9-10): To bring everything together under the authority of Christ
  4. Our inheritance (v11)-Heaven, a throne, all the saints (see verse 18), eternal life. Read Colossians 1:9-13 (one of my favorite passages) 
  5. The Purpose (v12)-To Trust in Christ
  1. The Good News that God saves you
  2. Included in Christ (v13), Identified as His own when we heard the message of truth, the gospel of our salvation, and responded to it. “When we believed” is huge. It indicates that we have a choice in the matter, and we chose Christ.
  3. The Mark: (v14) The Holy Spirit, God’s Guarantee and Seal
    1. Promised- Ezekiel 36:26-27
    2. Purchased- 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
    3. Praise- Back to verse 3!

 

Next week: THE PRAYER

 

Questions around the table:

  1. Is it important that we understand God’s timing on everything? What IS important?
  2. How might reading these verses help us to better understand God’s plan for us?
  3. Would you commit to reading verses 15-23 each day for next week’s lesson?
  4. Read verse 18-19a and discuss its meaning.

Ephesians Intro 1:1-2

SS 9-13-20 Ephesians- An Overview

History- Ephesus was a port city on the west coast of Turkey. It was founded in the 10th century B.C. and was the home of the temple to Artemis, the goddess of, among other things, fertility, which allowed–and even called for– all kinds of sexual immorality as part of their feasts and rituals. It was certainly an evil place by Christian standards.

Paul spent three months striving with the Jews at the local synagogue, then he split off and began the church to which he writes this letter. We must note that the letter is rather informal and has the earmarks of a circular letter, meaning that it was circulated among the churches in the area. We can consider our church as one of these.

The letter itself has six chapters. The first three are doctrinal teaching, meaning that they explain what God was up to and how our salvation happened, and the second three are applications of what we learn in the first three.

 

Chapter 1 explains God’s overall plan for us from an eternal perspective.

Chapter 2 describes who we were before Christ and who we are in Christ from an eternal perspective. It also goes into detail about God’s plan to create one new man out of two: Jews and Gentiles.

Chapter 3 expands the plan for the Gentiles and includes Paul’s powerful prayer for his readers.

 

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 are chocked full of descriptors for the Christian life based upon who we are in Christ according to the first three chapters.

 

Chapter 4 includes our call to be humble and patient (v2), our oneness in Christ (v4-6), the equipping of the saints (v11-16), the put-off/put-on passage (v20-24), and how we should interact with others (v25-32).

Chapter 5 includes following Christ’s example (1-2) with no hint of immorality (v3-7), how to please the Lord as children of light (v8-17), being filled with the Spirit (v18-20), and submission to one another (v21-33).

Chapter 6 includes commands for children, fathers, slaves, and masters (v1-9), the battle and the armor of God (v10-20), and a final greeting (v21-24).

 

We begin with verses 1 and 2:

Read Ephesians 1:1.

  1. Paul is the Paul of Acts. He is an apostle of Christ Jesus because of his Damascus Road experience. He revealed something neat in Acts 26:16-18. Let’s read it. Anyone have the NLT?
  2. By the will of God- What was God’s will for Paul according to what we just read?
  3. Saints- Christians, holy ones.
  4. “In Ephesus” is not in the most ancient texts, which gives weight to the idea that it was/is a circular letter. 
  5. The faithful in Jesus Christ- “in Christ” is used over 10 times in the first 13 verses and over 130 times throughout the epistle (in Him, in the Beloved, etc). Most of the time, we think of Christ being in us (Col. 1:27). What do you think it means to be “in Christ?”

Read Ephesians 1:2.

  1. Grace-unmerited favor (does someone have an Amplified Version?)
  2. Peace of God- Jesus gives us His peace (John 14:27)
  3. Our Father- That’s BIG.
  4. The LORD Jesus Christ- “The LORD” or “Adonai” is the OT reference to God. Paul is calling Jesus “God.” Any self-respecting Jew would get this reference. Gentiles, on the other hand, might think of slave owners as “lord.” Still, if they sat under Paul’s teaching any at all, they would come to understand very quickly that Jesus is God (see Phil. 2:5-11).

 

Next week, we will be studying verses 3-14. Want to know what God was up to before the creation of the world? Come next week and we’ll talk about it!

 

Around the tables:

  1. Why study the Bible?
  2. What would understanding God’s plan mean to you?
  3. Is there a “best” version from which to read?
  4. Would you commit to reading at least the first 14 verses of Ephesians this week? Every day?

 

Proverbs 24 9-24-20

Do we really want to be transformed? Or, do we like ourselves just the way we are? The answer is critical to salvation.

13 Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
    honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
14 Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
    If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

Honey has been used for millennia as a sweetener of foods. Likewise, salt has been used to flavor foods. Have you ever considered how salt is made? As a side note, the chemical reaction needed to create the vast salt lakes and veins was a result of the Great Flood. Here is a description of the process:

“Common table salt, also known as sodium chloride, is an interesting chemical compound because, while it is commonly consumed by humans, when you separate its elements—sodium and chlorine—you are left with something quite different from the edible seasoning known as salt.
The components of salt are sodium and chlorine, both of which are harmful for human consumption and even contact. Sodium requires great care when being handled. If it comes into contact with water, the reaction can be flammable, while powdered sodium has the potential to be combustible (explosive) in oxygen or air. Chlorine, meanwhile, is an extremely caustic and dangerous substance.” Everyday Compound or Poison?

One interesting thing is that when the two elements are introduced to each other, the sodium ignites and transforms into salt. The other interesting thing is that chlorine is used as a cleanser, particularly in pools. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that we are the sodium and the Holy Spirit is the chlorine. We are a dangerous substance on our own, but when combined with the Spirit of God, we become a useful, safe, and beneficial–and much preferred–product.

Which leads to our next point: The “pleroma,” which is Greek for “the Filling.” We find it in Ephesians 1:22-23,

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness [pleroma] of him who fills everything in every way.

We have the pleroma of Christ when we allow Christ to come into our lives, cleanse us of our sin, and remake us into new creations. The implication is that we are prepared to be “done away with” as we are. Many people are not. They want forgiveness of sins, but they do NOT want to be transformed. If one would watch the demonstration in Making Table Salt, he would find that one does not come without the other.

In a sense, the fire that results from the mixing of the two elements is the continuing transformation of us into the image of Christ. It is this daily transformation that either repulses the lost or attracts the lost, and sometimes both. Either way, our transformation is what the Spirit uses to initiate conviction in a lost person’s life.

May we be willing parties to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit as God shapes us into the image of His Son, Yeshua Ha’ Mashiach (Jesus the Messiah). Let’s be salt today (Matthew 5:13).

Abba, I want to be just like Jesus. I know that You are making me to be like Him. May I allow Your Spirit to transform me daily–even the tough parts of my life of which I don’t want to let  go. Help me work through the daily struggle of my feelings. My higher desire is to be obedient and godly; help me attain that goal in spite of myself. May I “put off the old self, which is being corrupted by evil desires,” and “put on the new self, created to be like God in righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22, 24). I can–with Your MAJOR help. Let’s do it. Amen.

Take My Life (Passion ’93)

Purify My Heart (Touch Me With Your Cleansing Fire)

Proverbs 23 9-23-20

Great peace comes from having nothing to hide. Do you have anything you are hiding from others? from the LORD?

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners [or sinful ways], but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD [holding Him in high esteem]. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off [ because of sinful ways].

“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! Luke 12:3

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:7-9

Great peace also comes to those who do not lie because he doesn’t have to remember what he said, but relies on the truth, which does not change.

Great peace comes, as well, to those who complete their duties. Waking up in a panic over something left undone is a poor way to live.

What is your motivation for doing good? Is it to please the Father? Then, what is your motivation for pleasing Him? Salvation? Gratitude? Piety (see how good I am)? I pray that it’s gratitude for all Christ has done for us! We have about as much to do with our salvation as a person does in having his appendix out. The patient signs a consent form and then wakes up after the surgery is done. It’s the same with salvation! We give God the go-ahead and then Christ enters our lives and takes up residence; the Holy Spirit replaces our cold, stony hearts with a brand new, living heart; we are born again! He gives us a new love. He does it all for us!

With the Spirit comes new desires. One of these desires is to please the Father. Our “fear of the LORD” is in knowing that He can send us to hell–but He won’t because of the blood of Christ. God loves us because we love His Son, His One and only Son.

Today, as often as you think about it, tell God the Father, “Thank You for my LORD Jesus.” You will feel His love, peace and joy wash down over you. It’s a great feeling not having to worry about what God thinks of us!

Abba, thank You for my LORD Jesus. I am grateful for the salvation I have in Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in my life. May I become increasingly aware of Him. May He coach me in godliness and righteousness. Make me to be JUST LIKE JESUS. Amen.

Proverbs 22 9-22-20

Continuing in Matthew 12, was the account of Jonah real? Or was it just a story? Let’s look!

8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken [i.e. Nineveh–unless they repent!].

The first question we should ask is WHY is it important for Jonah’s account to be true? Let’s look at what the LORD Jesus said:

39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

Although, it’s not technically necessary for Jonah’s account to be historical for Jesus’ prophecy to be accurate, the reality of the account of Jonah adds much more weight to it. Also, there are several reasons why I think it is a factual account:

  1. Jonah was a real person. We first learn about him in 2 Kings 14:25, and he was a real prophet during the 8th century BC.
  2. Historically speaking, the book of Jonah was probably written between 300-400 BC as a literary account of Jonah’s miraculous adventure, meaning that not all facts line up with the historical timeline. For instance, there may have been about 100+ years’ difference between Jonah and the time that Nineveh was as grandiose as stated (120,000 population), but archeologists are guessing according to what they have ascertained from digs and the VERY FEW documents from that time. It doesn’t affect the historical validity of the book of Jonah; it happens many times when oral history is written down. The fact that God included it in the canon of His Word should be enough evidence for us.
  3. Jesus gave Jonah’s account great weight in his next statement:

41 “The people of Nineveh will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.

The validity is in the context of the next verse, which lists the Queen of Sheba (the South), who was a real person and will do the same thing as the people of Nineveh on the day of judgement (1 kings 10:1-13).

The interesting part of Jonah for me is the fact that he ran away. He headed to Tarshish, which was at the Rock of Gibraltar at the tip of Spain and was the last port before heading out into the Atlantic. He may have been intending to catch a ship from there to parts unknown! But, God had other plans–2500+ miles the other direction! Take a look at these maps for a graphic study of his travels.
Maps of Jonah’s travels

The sign of Jonah that the LORD Jesus gives is the only one He gave to the Israelites–yes, He did many miracles and gave seven signs listed in the book of John, but the ONE to which He was referring was His Resurrection. It’s the sign that changed history and can change the hearts of Israel. The literal “three days and three nights” is what has led me to believe the historical argument that Jesus died on Wednesday, which was Passover Day (and had begun the evening before), the day before Preparation Day, which led to the feast of Unleavened Bread (a high Sabbath day which happened on Friday in March of 30 AD–which leads to a whole other discussion about the actual birthdate of Christ). All of that to say that Christ fulfilled the festivals to the day, and the Passover sacrifice to the hour (3:00). I believe that He will fulfill the Feast of Trumpets the same way with His Second Coming. The feast ended Sunday evening, so I am resetting my sights on next year.

“Next year in Jerusalem!”

I hope you followed me all the way to here. I believe that God put the Bible together for us to know Him better. It’s why I read it, study it, research it, ponder it, memorize it, and pray it every day. Let’s do it together, shall we?

Abba, I want to know You more, better, and as completely as I can on this side of heaven. Then, when I reach that point, TAKE ME TO HEAVEN TO BE WITH YOU! I will spend eternity learning about Your love, Your plan, and Your universe. Amen and amen!

Proverbs 21 9-21-20

We cannot love God and have an arrogant attitude, nor can we treat our “family” with contempt and show God’s love.

4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart [arrogance]–the unplowed field of the wicked [uncultivated, fallow; no good works of loving his neighbor]–produce sin.

24 24 The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—behaves with insolent fury [overweening pride].

Jesus dealt with this attitude in Matthew 12:34-37. Let’s read it:

34 You brood of snakes! How could evil [arrogant] men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart [sinful attitude] determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things [works that build up the “family”] from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things [that tear down and cause dissension in the “family”] from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle [careless] word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you [for they show your heart].”

We gain salvation by “confessing with our mouths Jesus is LORD and believing in our heart God raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9). It stands to reason that our daily lives would hinge on what we confess and believe. Salvation is more than just a confession; it’s also believing in the LORD Jesus. What do we know about Jesus Christ?

  1. He is God.
  2. He paid for our sins on the cross.
  3. He owns us (we have given Him our lives in exchange for His life).
  4. The Father is even now bringing all things under the authority of the LORD Jesus, and that includes us! See Ephesians 1:9-10.

Being under the authority of Christ is where we grow the best. We are attached to the vine (John 15:5) and we are accessing the grace and riches found in Christ:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor. 9:8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

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

The real question is, “Is this what you want?” Do we want Him to supply our every need according to His riches in glory or do we want to live our lives our way? Our words and our actions reveal the attitude of our hearts. Remember, “we cannot love God and have an arrogant attitude, nor can we treat our ‘family’ with contempt and show God’s love.”

Let’s be about showing the change that Christ has done in our lives. We WANT to please Him. We WANT to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ–our “family.” We WANT to know more of our Savior and what He’s done for us, which is why we read His Word. I highly recommend Ephesians. Chapter one has been phenomenal in SS as we studied 1:3-14 yesterday. You can catch it on Facebook, my page. Use EVERY advantage and EVERY resource made known to you. You’ll be glad you did.

Abba, I praise You for all that You’ve done for us. Your Plan, which You have carried out through Christ is beyond words. The fact that we are “bought back” according to our choosing You is a whole lot like consenting to a surgeon–he does all the work while I take a nap! You do all the work of transforming me into the image of the LORD Jesus and often I am not even aware of it. You are AMAZING. May You remind me often of what You have done and what You are doing in my life. Thank You, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 20 9-20-20

We choose to believe or not believe God based not on facts, but on what we want to happen. *

27 The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.

Yesterday, we looked at the Pharisees and their deliberate choice to not believe in Jesus. He gave them plenty of direct evidence. Today, we look at their attempt to discredit Him, which backfires on them pretty badly.

In Matthew 12:22-36, Jesus heals a demon-possessed man. People are asking the question, “Could this be the Son of David [i.e. Messiah]?” The Pharisees popped off, “It is only by Beelzebul [Satan], the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Rather than blast them, Jesus answers them very patiently. Let’s read it:

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul [to use their term], by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.” 

Pretty good logic, right? But then, Jesus throws the knock-out punch:

28 “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

WOW! Jesus just performed a miracle by the Spirit of God. According to Jesus, the kingdom of God had come upon them!

We know that most of them did not believe. Why? Because they didn’t want to. They had too much to lose: reputation, lucrative income, accolades, followers, power, and their own beliefs. If they acceded to Jesus, then they must admit that their way of doing things was–if not downright wrong, then fulfilled, complete, and done. They couldn’t afford to give up all of their “fulfillments” in order to be fulfilled in Christ.

How about us? Are there things in our lives that He’s asking us to give up so that He can fill us with Himself? Maybe it’s time to take inventory of our lives and ask Him. If we are not willing to ask Him, then I’ll bet it’s something you are afraid to give up. Just be aware that runners in a race who hold onto things do not run very well. Instead, runners “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” They “run with perseverance the race marked out for them, fixing their eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Let’s finish the race well. There is a crown of righteousness waiting for us…

Abba, may we lay all on the altar so that You can have first place in our lives. We are all in, LORD. Amen.

*Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God,” Part 6, “I Do.”

Proverbs 19 9-19-20

“Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is already made up.” This is the case of most people when presented with the Gospel.

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD. They have plans and don’t want them interrupted–even by the LORD!

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. They can’t have their way and salvation, too. We come when He calls; otherwise, we can’t come.
29
Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools. They were never intended, but how else can God get their attention? If you want a prime example of the human heart, read the account of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt in Exodus and Numbers (you can skip the lists). It just proves that even though they were taken out of Egypt, Egypt was still in their hearts. We know that only Jesus can remove Egypt from our hearts and replace it with His Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:1-14 provides us with an account of Jesus that should have brought all of the rulers of Israel to faith. In it, we find:

  1. The disciples picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. When questioned, Jesus said that He was greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath (v.6-7).
  2. Jesus entered the synagogue (church) and healed a man with a shriveled hand. He gave good reasoning for it, too (v.9-13). In this act, He proved that He was Lord of the Sabbath and greater than the temple.
  3. Did the Pharisees believe and follow Jesus? NO! They “went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” Matthew 12:14.

In Proverbs, we find these types of people:

  1. The wise–those who strive to see from God’s perspective and practice obedience.
  2. The simple–“a person who is gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil” (my note at the bottom of the page).
  3. The fool–a person who knows the good that he should do, but doesn’t care and goes about his own way.
  4. The mocker–a fool who gets angry or haughty with a righteous person. Proverbs teaches that a person who is in this frame of mind is not able to perceive truth and should be left alone–even avoided.

Which one describes the Pharisees’ attitude at this point in the account? They were mockers. Jesus called them blind guides and hypocrites, white-washed tombs, snakes and vipers, and murderers (Matthew 23:13-36). Was Jesus condemning them? NO! He was trying to get them to repent. How do I know? It tells us in the last verses of the chapter:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39

Jesus was willing, but they weren’t. What does this passage say to us? It means that we are to be discerning when talking to people about Christ. Pay attention to the Spirit and to the attitude of the person. It also teaches us that as long as a person has breath, he can repent, so we continue to pray, calling on Jesus to do whatever it takes to open their eyes to the truth about their sin and Jesus’ willingness to forgive them and embrace them. It’s the heart of the Gospel.

Abba, please, please, please keep us from falling into the old traps of sin and selfishness. Renew us daily in Your Word and with Your Spirit. Make us wise, O LORD, that we may see from Your perspective. Give us discerning hearts so that we can tell what kind of person to which we are talking. It’s a daily thing, isn’t it? Then let us do it daily! Amen.

 

Proverbs 18 9-18-20

Today is a “Just Do It” day. If we’re gonna serve the LORD, then SERVE THE LORD! Let’s quit messing around.

9 One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Jesus said it this way, “He that is not with me is against me: and he that does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23

Christianity is an all-in decision. It’s built on a relationship and not on what we do. We either agree to follow Christ and obey Him IN EVERYTHING or we continue to “serve Him” by practicing our religion. The problem is that religion does not please the Father. The ONLY thing that does is when we recognize and acknowledge Jesus His Son as our LORD and Savior–every day and in every way. As I quoted yesterday, God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5.

When it comes to following Jesus, there is an event in the OT that really sums it up. Elijah called all the religious followers to come and present their offering to their god. Notice that their god was based upon their works whereas Elijah had a relationship with his God, Adonai. In fact, Elijah was following God’s orders (1 Kings 18:1). Let’s pick up on the story when everyone was assembled:

21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” 1 Kings 18:21

Elijah put it out there before them to put their money where their mouths were. He was telling them to quit investing in “religion,” which does NOT please God, but to invest in Adonai (and for us, Jesus), His call, and His mission, which DOES please the Father. They should have immediately agreed with Elijah and come over to his side, but that’s not what happened. The rest of the verse says,

“But the people were completely silent.”

May we NOT be like the people of Israel and put God to the test! If Jesus truly is our LORD and Savior, that should be enough for us to sink all our time, talents, money, resources, and our lives into HIM. He will include us in His work as HE sees fit–not us! In other words, quit being selective in how we serve Him. It’s His call, not ours. Anything else is “religion,” and is worthless. In fact, it’s detrimental to our relationship with Him because we THINK we’re pleasing Him when we are really impeding our relationship with Him. It’s called “grieving or quenching the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

NIKE has it right in this case. When it comes to serving the LORD, let’s quit messing around and JUST DO IT. Let’s get in His Word and ask Him to open our minds and hearts to its meaning and to His plan. Then, when He impresses us with what He wants us to do, let’s not become selective, but say, “Yes, LORD, Yes to Your will and to Your way…I will trust You and obey.” It is at this point that we are gathering with Christ instead of scattering because of our–let’s just say it–disobedience to His Spirit. No amount of religious talk or work can make up for disobedience. Let’s make it about HIM today, shall we?

Abba, I hate it when I don’t feel good–I’m tired, but not feeling good tends to boil out all the distractions that pull me away from hearing You clearly. So, thank You for how I feel today. May I use this time to seek Your face and hear Your voice.

I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ that they don’t take offense, but rather seize this opportunity to “blow away the chaff” in their lives and get close to You. We need You. Come and make Yourself known to us. Amen.

Proverbs 17 9-17-20

The Spirit is always asking us, “Will you or won’t you?” Of course, He’s referring to our obedience. The decision is ours.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

People ask me how God can know before time began and yet give us choice. Actually, God’s name gives us the answer, “I AM.” Exodus 3:14. “I AM” denotes one of the immutable character traits of God, which is His omnipresence (the other two are His omnipotence [all-powerful] and His omniscience [all-knowing]). He is everywhere at once and everywhere IN TIME at once. How can He do that? Because He is OUTSIDE of time. He is above it. At the same “time,” He chooses to live in the “now” with us. He is ever-present with us. It’s all the same time to Him, so He foreknew and arranged everything to conform to His ultimate will AND He allows us to make our choice about whether or not we are going to obey Him. GOD IS THAT BIG!!! The three big questions we must answer are:

  1. Do we believe Him? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed what God told him. We must believe what God told us, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” Matthew 17:5. We are to listen to Jesus. How do we know what Jesus is saying? We read what He said (and had written down for us) and listen to the Holy Spirit as He says those same words to our hearts!
  2. Do we know Him? Jesus made the claim that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). He also claimed that if we know Him, then we know the Father (John 8:19, 14:9). If we have trusted Jesus as our Savior and LORD, then we know the Father. In fact, we are His adopted children! (Romans 8:15). We can trust God because He is our loving Father. He knows us and we know Him. We are valuable to Him (Luke 12:6-7). In fact, if value is what someone is willing to pay for something, then we are priceless to God because He gave His one and only Son for us! (John 3:16).
  3. Do we love Him? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15. Why? Because “the thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that [we] may have life, and have it to the full [abundantly]. John 10:10 If we love Him, we will do what He commands, all the while trusting Him to know what is best for us.

If we can answer “Yes” to these three questions, then we can take confidence that Jesus will take care of us and see us safely to the other side of life. It’s His goal: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:24. His indwelling Spirit is our security, our deposit for eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14).

We can trust God because we believe Him, know Him and love Him. Let’s live our lives accordingly.

Abba, I know it sounds simple–but it is! On PURPOSE! You don’t want salvation to be complicated. In fact, “complicated” is what You got away from when You fulfilled the OT laws through Jesus Christ. Now, the old hymn is true, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” May I be Your willing servant today, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 16 9-16-20

We all have plans. Jesus calls us to give up those plans and assume His plans. It’s what Lordship is all about.

1 To mankind belongs the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue. The right answer is, “Yes, LORD!”

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD. We can justify anything, but the LORD knows our deepest desires.

3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans. By committing to the LORD what we do, we are allowing Him to control our hands and feet, our thoughts and our deeds. He establishes us in righteousness.

4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end–even the wicked for a day of disaster. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7 Self-explanatory.

5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. We are proud of heart when we tell God, “No.” God doesn’t tell us what to do just for the fun of it. It’s a dangerous world out there and Satan waits to trap us at every turn! God wants to protect us. Let’s trust Him!

For a good picture of human nature, look at Jonah. He had signed up for what I call, “selective service,” meaning that he wanted to select about what he would prophesy. Sounds pretty cocky, doesn’t it? But, isn’t that exactly what we do when we tell God, “No?” That we don’t want to do what He wants us to do–or do it His way? Or in His time? We usurp the role of God. NOT GOOD! It’s rebellion at its finest.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:23. He also quoted Moses, Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Mark 12:30-31. And, “A new command I give you: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must love one another. This is how the world will know that you are my disciples if you have love one for another.” John 13:34-35

Do you get the picture? If we really love Jesus, we won’t put any demands on Him, nor will we insist on our own way. We will die to ourselves and allow Him to live through us as we obey Him. We haven’t talked much about the rewards of obedience. There’s a certain satisfaction that He gives us when we are obedient. We can take pride in being His obedient children–not that we compare ourselves to others, but rather to what we were without Christ. Actually, “relief” may be a better term! Then, there’s the love, joy and peace that flow from Him and His throne. When we “stand” near Him, these traits flow off of Him and onto us! Even His fragrance embraces us. We are the aroma of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:15). And, it comes from being close to Him.

Folks, if we really want to be His disciples, it takes what we’ve talked about here. Let’s put our hand to the plow and not look back (Luke 9:62). He’s worth it!

Abba, I’m speaking to myself here. When You called me, You didn’t give me any pat answer to what I was going to be doing for You. I was to be available. I still am! I figure that You will equip me for whatever You have for me to do–and You have! It’s been an adventure working for You and walking with You. I’m ready to do some more! Lead on, my King. Amen.

Proverbs 15 9-15-20

The motto of a Christian should be, “Die to self; live for Christ.” It’s an everyday thing. Are you a disciple?

9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked, but He loves those who pursue righteousness.

Pursuing righteous means seeking the LORD in the pages of Scripture. It’s the one tangible thing that He has given us; in other words, we can hold it in our hands. We’re talking a book of books that covers 1500+ years, 40 authors, three languages, and a multitude of walks of life, yet one story from beginning to end! It’s the story of God interacting with His creation: Us. And, it’s ALIVE! (Hebrews 4:12-16– I always include 14-16 with 12-13 for the whole perspective).

The motto comes from verses in all four Gospels:

  • Matthew 10:38-39 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.* 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
  • Mark 10:29-31 and 42-45 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
  • Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate [if one must choose between Jesus and] father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own lifesuch a person cannot be my disciple.”
  • John 12:25  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

From one moment to the next, we must learn to die to self and live for Christ. In fact, a powerful prayer is, “Father, I give all I know of myself to all I know of You today. Reveal more of myself to me even as You reveal more of Yourself to me. Tomorrow, I will pray the same.”

The Mark 10:29-30 passage, “a hundred times as much,” has always had me puzzled until recently. Then, it dawned on me (in other words, the Spirit revealed it to me) that what we give up as individuals we get 100 times back in collective family. When we give up our individual rights, possessions, and family, we become part of Christ’s family and possessions. We never get our rights back (dead people don’t have rights), but we gain heaven’s treasures (Philippians 4:19).

Is this the kind of life for which you signed up? If not, then the person who witnessed to you didn’t do his job very well. People must know what they are getting into when it comes to salvation. We give up EVERYTHING as individuals in order to gain EVERYTHING collectively as part of the Body of Christ, of which Christ is the head (Ephesians 4:15).

If it IS the life for which you signed up, or you have just decided that He is worth living for–or dying daily for, depending on how you look at it–then “Die to self; live for Christ” is the motto for us. We give all we know of ourselves to all we know of Him today. Moment by moment. “The main thing’s to keep the main thing the main thing,” which is following Jesus Christ, staying in constant contact with Him, and obeying His every command.

One more passage:

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:23-24

Easy, right? It is when we are walking in step with the Spirit.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will grab onto this motto and make it theirs everyday. Dying to self is nothing more than seeking Jesus’ will over our own. The desire You give me is the first step; the second step is my actually doing it. Both steps together create my walk with You. You keep giving me the desire, and, using Your power (Philippians 2:13), I will strive to place Your will over mine. And, thank You for Your pleasure I feel when I am right with You. I would happily die for that feeling! Yet, You give it generously!!! Thank You, Father, for adopting us. You are a good, good Father. We are Yours. Amen.

*Do you ever wonder why Jesus put these statements in the negative? I do! Maybe it was to make the statement stand out, especially if the tendency is in the other direction. He implies that to follow Him is the exception and not the rule. Let’s be “Exceptionists!”

Proverbs 14 9-14-20

WHAT IF…God put you in your present situation in order to give you opportunity to know Him better?

1 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Ladies, are you taking time to know God? Are you being a godly example in your home? Are you reading? Praying? Meeting with other Christian ladies and learning?

2 Whoever fears the LORD walks uprightly, but those who despise Him are devious in their ways. Guys, are you walking in the fear of the LORD? Are you careful to be obedient to Him and to defer to Him? Are you Reading? Praying? Meeting with other Christian men and learning?

I’ve been reading Amos. He prophesied against both Israel and Judah. Against Israel, he called them in their wealth and arrogance to humble themselves and to consider their wealth as traps rather than “the blessing of God.” Against Judah, he warned them that God was not pleased with their sacrifices and worship because their motives were all wrong. They lived sinful lives ignoring His laws about daily living and only made sure that their offerings and prayers were done in the proper fashion. The prophet Samuel had warned them long ago that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like (as bad as) the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the evil off idolatry [it’s the worship of self]. 1 Samuel 15:22-23. 

How about us? Is God calling us out of our wealth to scorn our toys and our busy schedules, such as–dare I say it?–

  1. Going to the lake every weekend?
  2. Playing tournaments on Sunday?
  3. Using our toys (game devices, golf clubs, four-wheelers, etc.) to keep us from fellowshipping with other Christians and with the LORD?
  4. Being selective about with whom we associate because of social standing, income (or the lack of), whether or not they drink socially, or for any other reason?

Have I meddled enough? Sometimes we have to ask the hard questions. I’m not trying to do the Holy Spirit’s job here, but I DO want to call into question what just a few years ago would have been considered sinful. Let’s take the hard look.

IF you are in a challenging position right now, could it be that God has made it so you can spend more time with Him in Bible study and prayer? Do you have someone with whom you can discuss biblical topics? Are you taking advantage of the “free time” to do so? Again, I’m not trying to be the Holy Spirit; it’s just that I want you to not waste the time, but to redeem the time!

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants. Consider this post one. Don’t wait for God to have to do it. But, even if He does, consider it a blessing to have such a loving God and Father. “Let a righteous man strike me–that is a kindness; let him rebuke me–that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers [even myself!].” Psalm 141:5.

Start this morning by acknowledging the LORD in your life. Block out everything else for a few minutes and open yourself up to His Spirit. Ask Him to “search my heart, O God, test me and know my anxious [fearful, misdirected, selfish, etc.] thoughts. See if there is any offensive [misguided] way in me [I will repent] and lead me in the way everlasting [Your way].” Psalm 139:23-24. Now, tune into His voice and listen as you read His Word. You’re gonna have a GREAT time with Him!

Abba, You know I do not say these words lightly. I do not hold others in contempt; but I do question their motives. Only YOU know if they are spending time with You and growing in You. Our society does everything it can to draw us away from You. May we NOT give in! Call us out; sanctify us; make us holy unto Yourself. Give us the spiritual backbone to make the hard choices even if it causes others to get mad (it’s usually because it calls THEIR motives into question). LORD, we have wandered away. Come and get us. We need You. Amen.

Proverbs 13 9-13-20

Rosh Hashanah begins at dusk on September 16 and ends at dusk on the 18th. Will Jesus fulfill this festival like He did three others?

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Jesus fulfilled three festivals at His death, resurrection, and the sending of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began with the Passover meal. From my research, I believe that this meal may have happened on what we call Tuesday evening at sundown, which is when the Jewish new day begins. That Wednesday (which began the night before) was the first day of a week-long observance called Feast of Unleavened Bread, which commemorated the Exodus from Egypt by the Israelites some 1500 years before. On Wednesday afternoon at 3:00, Jesus died on the cross for us as our Passover Lamb (Matthew 27:45). 3:00 was the very time that the lamb was sacrificed in the temple (Mark 15:42-43 and The Passover Lamb). To me, it is important that Jesus be in the tomb three days and three nights because of His own prophecy in Matthew 12:40, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Kinda hard to get around it, huh?
  2. The Feast of Firstfruits, which is actually a floating festival because it is a regular Sabbath and falls right after the Passover and during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus rose from the dead and appeared on that Sabbath! He is the Firstfruits of all who will rise from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). From this Sabbath, we count seven full weeks (49 days) to the 50th day, which is Pentecost, or, the Feast of Weeks.
  3. The Feast of Pentecost (Weeks)- As mentioned, it happens 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits when the Barley harvest begins. When the barley is taken in and stored, the men are required to appear in Jerusalem for the festival, which is why there were so many people there in Acts 2–and from so many places (Acts 2:9-11). Jesus even had the disciples wait 10 days until the festival before He sent power from on high: the promised Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:3). Jesus fulfilled the festival to the day!

Now, do you see why I get excited each Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year)? It’s the Feast of Trumpets and is the next Festival in the Jewish calendar! In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:52 gives us this next description, in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” This last trumpet speaks of the several trumpet (ram’s horn, or shofar) blasts that are blown at the festival to announce it’s beginning. I am looking forward to hearing that trumpet sound!

“If not this year, then the next IN JERUSALEM.”

Abba, I am looking forward to Your Coming. May we worship You as our Risen and Returning LORD today. Even so, come, LORD Jesus. Amen. (Rev. 22:20)

Proverbs 12 9-12-20

We are comprised of our thoughts. They reveal who we are.

8 A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised.

The ability to think is our greatest evidence of the existence of God. “I think, therefore I am.“ Christ calls us to take every thought captive to Him and for Him.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

[3] For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. [4] The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. [5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Is this task even possible? Not without the Holy Spirit! What we must learn to do is to take every thought and run it through these filters:

1. Is it true? According to the facts, is what I am going to say or what I am thinking lining up with what I know to be true?

2. Is it verifiable? Is there proof either in scripture, in evidence, or by testimony for what I am thinking?

3. Is it prudent? Does it need to be said? Will it help or hurt the person or situation?

4. Is it the right time? Timing is everything. It needs to be the right place, right time, right people, and the right moment.

There is a hack for this exercise. It is in knowing the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will call to our minds verses that give us God’s opinion on every matter. Right now you are either thinking, “that’s a great idea,“ or,“ that’s impossible,“ or, “that’s too much work.” Each of these thought responses tells us something about ourselves. They even reveal our temperaments. Knowing our tendencies will help us to work through our initial reaction and enable us to respond in a godly fashion. Each godly thought builds our character and makes us more like Jesus.

Let’s use these filters today in our conversation with people, as we are driving, as we watch TV or surf the Internet, and even as we read God’s Word (why this one? Because we may have been taught something that the Holy Spirit may question).

Abba, help us to stop and consider a godly response rather than reacting with a natural (fleshly) response. Our desire is to be like You (which comes from the Holy Spirit). Make it so, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 11 9-11-20

God has plans for us; they are for good and not for evil*. Are we willing to follow Him and receive what He has for us?

17 Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.
19 Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death.

How do we reconcile God’s plans and our choices? Either God chooses everything, in which case, He chooses for me to make bad choices as well as good, or He hopes that we make good choices and works damage-control when we don’t.

OR, His plans for us are on a different plane. We tend to think in outcomes that are physical and within our lifetime; God thinks in terms of our character and eternity.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

His HUGENESS is how He accomplishes Romans 8:28 even while performing 8:29 in us. In God’s foreknowledge, He knows our every decision (Psalm 139:16). Knowing that we would accept Jesus as our LORD, He predestined us to meet Christ at the appointed time in our lives. From that point–and even before–He uses the circumstances in our lives and our choices–both good and bad–to conform us to the image of His Son. Love is based upon choice; love that is required is not love at all, but duty. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Our choice is based upon His choice (John 15:16). Nobody made Jesus lay down His life; He CHOSE to do it because of His great love for us! Follow these verses:

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 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

Understanding the relationship between love and choice should help us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16. Choosing to love God daily means sacrifice of worldly goals and pleasures; it means being obedient to His Word and to His Spirit in every decision. What is our reward? THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST. We learn to “swim in heaven’s waters.” When we swim in the ocean, we are out of place: We cannot breathe underwater, we don’t have fins or flippers, our eyes are not made to see underwater, we don’t have sonar, etc. We are designed to walk on land. But, in Christ, we are new creations; we begin to grow these qualities in our lives to the point where we will be not only proficient at swimming in heaven’s waters, we are AT HOME in heaven’s waters. Of course, we are speaking of standing in the presence of our Almighty God. We will no longer worry about thinking, saying, or doing the wrong thing; the right thought, word and deed will come naturally to us.

In the meantime, we struggle every day, but that struggle is what God uses to transform us. In the words of my pastor, “Well, here it is another day and I am still in this fleshly body. LORD, I’m gonna need Your help again!”

Abba, You know what is in our hearts. You know what we need. As we walk with You each day, may we become more aware of You, more in touch with You, and more like You. I give all I know of myself to all I know of You today. Tomorrow, I will give a little more based upon what I have learned of You today. In this way, I am a little more like Jesus each day. Work wonders in me, LORD. I NEED YOU. Amen.

*Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Proverbs 10 9-10-20

Those who are in Christ Jesus have passed from death to life in Him. Let’s learn all we can about our heavenly Father.

1 A wise son [child] brings joy to his father…
2 …righteousness delivers from [all kinds of] death.

3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry [esp. spiritually]…
4 …diligent hands bring [spiritual as well as physical] wealth.
17 Whoever heeds discipline [learning the disciplines] shows [others] the way to life…
23 …a person of understanding delights in wisdom.
28 The prospect [end result] of the righteous is joy
31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom…
32 The lips of the righteous know what finds favor [what pleases the LORD]…

The fear that Christians have for their heavenly Father is based upon who He is: Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Upon reading the accounts of those who have spent time in His literal presence (Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7-8), I have come to recognize that being in His “physical” presence is terrifying! But, we need not worry; His children are safe with Him. At the same time, we must come to terms with His glory in our lives. Do we want that glory to shine through us? If so, then we must take seriously the fear of the LORD.

By taking seriously the fear of the LORD, we would:

  1. Always fall on our knees (metaphorically if not literally) every morning in repentance, confession, and alignment.
  2. Always consider Him by asking His opinion, which is His will, concerning every matter, even every word we speak–or are about to…
  3. Never think that we have the right to do anything, except, that which is governed by the Holy Spirit and the law of grace.
  4. Always have an attitude of thankfulness for what we have, gratefulness for what He has done, and hopefulness as we look ahead to what the LORD has in store for us.

By taking seriously the fear of the LORD, we:

  1. Live in a constant state of awareness of His presence and, therefore, His scrutiny. Our desire is to please Him in every way (I know there is a tension here; we will talk about that tension another day).
  2. Look for where He may be working and ask to join Him there.
  3. Love everyone-some from a distance that we must keep because of their bad choices, and some close up and personal, but all according to the love that Jesus has for all people. He died for them, you know.

These axioms are all based upon the Word of God, i.e. the Bible. Our heavenly Father has placed literally in our hands His written words to us to make our lives simpler and easier. Do you like simple and easy? I sure do! At the same time, He offers us in the Bible depths of insights of which we can never reach the bottom! Why would we not take advantage of so great a resource?!!!

Let’s read His Word today and listen for Him to speak to us. It really is that simple.

Abba, thank You for Your written Word. You really have made it simple and easy for us. I exult in what I learn about You from You. When I read Psalm 19:7-9, I glory in Your law, statutes, precepts, commands, decrees, and the fear and awe I have of You. I find Your Word perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, firm, and righteous. They refresh my soul, make me wise, give me joy, allow me to see, give me endurance, and make me righteous. You call to me and I answer. You are a good, good Father. May I be just like You. Amen.

Proverbs 9 9-9-20

Our fear of God is different than the fear talked about in the Bible. I am guilty of supporting this wrong kind of thinking.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth;
Give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your name. Psalm 86:11

I have always maintained that “the fear of the LORD” had to do with awe and wonder with a healthy respect, and these feelings do come with the fear of the LORD. But, we tend to minimize His holiness and superiority if we don’t consider what it means to “fear the LORD.” I have come to understand that “fear” is “real fear.” It’s the terror of standing before a holy God and being found unholy. Jesus said,

“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. Luke 12:4-5

We have lost the fear of the LORD in our American view of Christianity. The A,B,C’s of becoming a Christian impart the how-to’s of becoming a Christian:

A. Admit that you’re a sinner.
B. Believe that Jesus is God’s Son.
C. Confess Jesus as your LORD.

But, do we take the time to explain that the fact that we are sinners means that we cannot stand before the holy God of Israel, the world, and the universe? That we deserve more than physical death; we deserve hell? Do we describe what we look like to God: Wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17)? Did I mention that our sin is like filthy rags to Him? Listen to this description:

For your hands are stained with blood,
    your fingers with guilt and filthy with sin.
Your lips have spoken falsely,
    and your tongue mutters wicked things.
Isaiah 59:2

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; Isaiah 64:6

When we tell them to believe that Jesus is God’s Son, do we take the time to emphasize that God left heaven for us–to die for us a horrible death? Do we teach them to cry out to God in Jesus’ name to save them from death and hell and from themselves? Or, do we make it a sales pitch?

Do we teach them that confession is more than just saying we’re sorry? That it involves deep remorse and repentance, turning around 180 degrees from our sin, and pledging to strive to live a godly life? Do we teach them that our sin causes great harm to us, to our relationship with others, and to our relationship with God? It interrupts our fellowship and causes us to lose His guiding light and voice at what is usually a very precarious time in our lives. It’s a DANGEROUS time in our lives! Do we teach them that their first confession of sin to the Father is not their last, and that much of our prayer time throughout our lives is spent in confession?

God is good, but He is also just, and His justice cannot allow Him to excuse our sin. Our sins are paid for by the blood of Jesus, but they also carry consequences in this life. A breaking of fellowship with our God is one of them, and is, in fact, the biggest one. What do we do when we find that we are out of fellowship with the LORD?

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners [repent], and purify your hearts, you double-minded [wanting things both ways]. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-11

God “jealously longs for the Spirit He has caused to dwell in us,” (v.5), meaning that He wants fellowship with us who are in Christ and have the Holy Spirit in us. Let’s not put off humbling ourselves before the LORD. Let’s run to Him in repentance and humility. Let’s cry out for His mercy and His grace. We have this promise:

16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

When do we need it most? When we are caught in the snares of sin. Don’t wait to clean up before coming to Christ. He’s in the business of taking sinful people and making them beautiful, blameless saints! My favorite verse is Jude 24:

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling [and falling] and to present you before his glorious presence without fault [blameless] and with great joy

Abba, thank You for loving us so much that You provided a way back to You through Jesus Christ, Your Son. May we keep in mind that You are holy and that You have called us to be holy, too, which we can only do by trusting in the Holy Spirit to guide us. Please don’t let us take for granted Your sacrifice on the cross, or to think so highly of ourselves as to try to live godly lives on our own. It just doesn’t work that way. WE NEED YOU. Fill us with Your Spirit, LORD. Amen.

NOTE: Did you notice how many Scriptures I used? Wonder how I knew them? Because I read them in the Bible and committed many of them to memory. Why? Because they’re important to know! Ask God to give YOU verses as you read. He will!

Ephesians Is Coming!

This Sunday in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School), we will be starting the study of the book of Ephesians. It is a MUST-READ for every Christian!

I invite you to be a part of the study in one of three ways:

  1. Attend! We meet in the Fellowship Hall and have plenty of room for social distancing. We are 2nd Sunday School, so we meet right after the service.
  2. Facebook Live. Go to Kelly Anderson’s Facebook page and join us for the class or whenever you are available. It’s recorded.
  3. I will be posting the class through Remind for easy access and will include the notes that we follow.

Please commit with me to read Ephesians. It’s six chapters that are chocked full of doctrine (what we believe) and application (how we live it out).

Looking forward to Sunday!

Proverbs 8 9-8-20

We don’t have to have the Bible to know God, but it sure makes it easier! The Spirit speaks to us through it.

5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, your hearts on it and instruct your minds.
9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

Let’s practice by taking a passage from King David’s Psalm 143.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
NOTE: This passage is on a card that I read every morning.

What can we learn?

  1. Each morning brings us word of His unfailing love. It’s in His Word for the reading. He has provided it for us if we will take advantage of it.
  2. What we read in the Bible we take as truth, not because it’s in the Bible, but because we believe that God orchestrated its writing, kept it protected all these millennia, and makes it available to us today.
  3. Why should we trust that the Bible–New Testament especially–is how God shows us the way to go? Peter himself told us, “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16. Matthew, Peter (through Mark), John, Paul, James and Jude all walked with Jesus. They had special knowledge of having learned from Him. Luke gathered many of the stories of people who walked with Jesus (I believe he talked to Mary; it’s the only way to explain Luke’s intimate knowledge of the Advent). His testament was verified and validated by those who walked with Jesus and were still living. Why shouldn’t we believe that God will speak to us through His Word? He did with David and with Jesus.
  4. How do we hide ourselves in God’s Word? By immersing ourselves in it and learning it inside and out. We can’t know too much of God’s Word. Why? Because it’s alive! “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. How does it penetrate so deeply? “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”1 Corinthians 2:13. His Spirit leads us on level ground as He teaches us to do God’s will.

Our obedience IS God’s will for our lives.

Let’s do all we can to know God. Let’s read His Word, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, and share it with others. We can’t go wrong knowing the Scriptures, for in them we find our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We “study the Scriptures diligently because we think that in them we have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me,” (John 5:39) so let’s come to Him for life. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Where did I learn this? From Jesus’s words, which were written down by John as he heard Jesus say them (recorded in John 14:6).

Abba, it breaks my heart when Christians are not interested in learning about You in Your Word. It would seem that if they truly believed that You came to earth and died for them that You would be worth reading about in Your Word that You so graciously provided for them! Cause us to hunger and thirst after righteousness, O LORD. We need You to give us both the desire and the power to seek You. Create in us clean hearts, O God, and renew a right spirit within us. Amen.

NOTE: Statistics show that people who read the Bible four or more times a week experience life change. Are YOU experiencing life change?

 

Proverbs 7 9-7-20

Has it ever occurred to you that the man in today’s chapter had no reason not to go meet the harlot? Sinners sin!

7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense.

Christians tend to forget what it was like before coming to Christ. Sin was FUN! We had no guilt concerning doing things that God considers wrong and harmful. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit began to open our eyes to God’s way of seeing things that we began to see how destructive sin is to us and how arrogant we were to our Creator. Proverbs 15:21 says, “Folly [carnal thinking] delights a man who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.” We all thought in this way at one point:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3

We were “without hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:12b. Aren’t we glad the LORD saved us?!!! Now that we have the Holy Spirit living inside us and we are dead to our old selves, our desire should now be to please God and give Him everything.

Our desire to do anything and be anything for Him
is the Holy Spirit burning bright within us.

Do you have this desire burning in you? Pray that it is–or pray that it does. I will be praying for you:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

The more we know Him, the more we love Him; the more we love Him, the more we trust Him; the more we trust Him, the more we obey Him; the more we obey Him, the more our confidence grows in Him, which is our faith. The more faith we have, the more we want to know Him–and the cycle continues in an upward spiral! This faith is based on the grace of God, which “teaches us to say, ‘No,’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (Titus 2:12).                

Let’s engage the LORD in conversation, interaction, and praise as we go about this holiday. I KNOW you have time today to sit down and do it! It’s important.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would, indeed, spend time with You in Bible study and prayer today. Call them to do the work so that they can enjoy the benefits. Reveal Yourself to them. Speak to their hearts. May they feel Your desire for righteous living and holy lives. May we feel Your pleasure when we are obedient to Your Spirit. Give us that certain satisfaction that comes when we are pleasing to You. May it be our first goal all day, everyday. Amen.

Proverbs 6 9-6-20

[read before worship] We are ultimately responsible for our on-going relationship with the Father. The choice is ours.

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its way and be wise!
9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard When will you get up from your sleep? 10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–11 and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

Let’s expand the list a little bit: a little sleep, a little extra tv, a little extra social media, a little sports, a little partying, a little more work…get the picture? When we don’t CREATE time to spend with the Father in prayer and in the Word of God–I’m talking distinct, deliberate time and not just a word while we’re driving or in line at the store–we reveal our hearts. Just how serious are we about our relationship? If we are really interested in Him guiding our decisions and our lives, then we’d better spend a LOT of time with Him! His Spirit wants to share all things with us (doled out over time and experience). Let’s give Him a chance!

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 NIV

The last verse of this chapter is, “But we have the mind of Christ.” Do we really WANT the mind of Christ? How do we access the mind of Christ? When we read God’s Word, the Spirit explains it to us, but not just the facts; He also explains the mind behind the facts: God’s mind. When we read about the way God led Jesus and the plan that Jesus fulfilled, we find out a LOT about the Father and how much He cares for us, interacts with us, and has in store for us.

Knowing Him intimately and walking with Him daily
is why we got saved! It’s what the cross was all about.

If you are reading this post before church, then I encourage you to connect with the Father in worship! Don’t just go through the motions. God’s own words about that attitude is, “I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood (wrong-doing based upon our own evil desires)! Wash and make yourselves clean…stop doing wrong; learn to do right.” Isaiah 1:11, 15-17

God is not interested in our “worship;” He’s interested in a relationship with us.

Here’s the next verse: “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

When we turn to Him for cleansing, we begin a conversation with Him; we spend time in His presence; we begin to become like Him. It really is that simple.

Abba, “You desire sweet fellowship with us, and the Spirit calls to us. When will we turn from this world and turn to You? When will we immerse ourselves in Your Word and hear Your voice speak to us? Give us “aha!” moments as we read Your Word. May we turn to You and Your Scriptures when tempted to sin. Change our habits, LORD–change me!” Amen (from my journal Saturday morning).

Proverbs 5 9-5-20

Before coming to Christ, we lived in a state of rebellion. We were rebellious by nature. Christ changed all that!

12 “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.”

This is how we were:

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. Ephesians 2:1-3 NLT

But, once we came to Christ for forgiveness and new life, the Holy Spirit now resides in us giving us a heart of flesh (we’re alive) and has removed our stone-dead hearts (Ezekiel 36:26).

Our new nature is based on love (John 13:34-35). We now live in a state of loving God and loving others. When we are rebellious, we put on the grave clothes from which we were delivered. Rebellion is NOT our nature, and we should be able to strip it off like old clothes, just like a dirty old coat. Look what Jesus said to do to Lazarus:

43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, Unwrap him and let him go!” John 11:43-44 NLT

Paul makes much over us putting off our old self and putting on the new self:

22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. Ephesians 4:22-24 NLT

Like I said yesterday, don’t wait for a feeling. Make a conscious, deliberate decision to do things God’s way. As you change the way you think, I promise that it will change the way you feel. If anything, we have the satisfaction of thwarting Satan in his schemes to drag us back into sin. May we all have success in whatever battle field we are fighting.

Abba, I pray for my brothers and sisters that You would give them victory in whatever area of life that is giving them trouble. May they never lose the desire to win in that area even if it takes their entire lives! To know that You are in there right alongside us fighting with us gives us courage, strength, and the will to keep going. Thank You for giving us all we need to be victorious, LORD. May we realize that we WIN just by being with You and leaning on You in our times of need. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP. Remind me again and again, Abba. I love You. Amen.

Proverbs 4 9-4-20

Deciding to follow Christ–from that first time until now, it is a conscious, determined decision. Emotions are fickle.

1 Listen, pay attention…4 Take hold of my words, keep my commands…5 Get wisdom, get understanding, do not forget or turn away…6 do not forsake, love her [wisdom]…7 get wisdom, get understanding…8 cherish her, embrace her…13 hold on, guard it well…15avoid the evil path…20 turn your ear…21 do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart…23 guard your heart…24 keep your mouth from corrupt talk…25 look straight ahead, fix your gaze…26 give careful thought, be steadfast…27 do not turn, keep your foot from evil.

Did you notice how many decisions are made in this chapter? 31 (2 are repeated). Yes, we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we feel relief and gratefulness when we come to Him, we receive His love, joy and peace, hope and grace–many times, with tears and shouts of thanksgiving! But, we should never equate tears and emotions with salvation. True salvation is that conscious, determined decision to follow Christ, to open our lives to His Lordship and leadership. It is a transaction, much like a marriage.

When I married Robin, we had a beautiful ceremony in Ardmore, Oklahoma, with many friends and relatives attending. It was a joyous occasion. But, it wasn’t until Dr. Hopper, Robin and I filled out and signed the marriage license that we were officially married according to the state of Oklahoma. The same is true with Jesus. He stands at the threshold of our hearts waiting for us to give Him the deed to our house and the key to every room. It doesn’t matter how happy we are that we “threw open the door for Him.” It only matters if He steps inside, because once He does, it means that He has taken possession of our “house” and everything in it. The rest is just a matter of settling in.

When it comes to sanctification (becoming like Jesus daily), it means that every day we renew the marriage license. It doesn’t go bad or lose its power; it is a reminder of Whose we are and Who calls the shots. We must remember that, “we are crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. This life we live in the body we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave Himself for us.” Galatians 2:20. The next verse tells us why, “We do not set aside the grace of God, because if righteousness could be obtained by the law, then Christ died for nothing.” In other words, if we could be saved by good works, following the law, or by any other means, then Christ didn’t have to die on the cross for our sins. But, as He said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:39, 42

Let’s determine in our hearts and in our minds to be like Christ, to allow the Holy Spirit to change us and make us into His image. There are parts of us that will resist, but we will be tenacious and strong-willed in the right sense. We die to ourselves and live for Christ.

Abba, may today be one of complete and total submission to You and Your Spirit. May we look at the life of Christ and emulate Him. May You build in us His characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. May we speak truth and life to those around us. Help us to be all that we can be in You, Jesus. Amen.