Proverbs 27 6-27-22

Jesus said that His kingdom is within us. How does that happen? It defies the laws of this world–or, does it?

18 The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit,
    and whoever protects their master will be honored [mutual benefit].

We are studying Matthew in my SS class (Sunday School, or what I call “Sunday’s Cool). As we walk through the book, my view of the kingdom of heaven is changing. When Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven, sometimes it is in present tense and sometimes it is coming in the immediate future. One of the references shows that the physical kingdom in which we live and the spiritual kingdom of Christ can coexist and mutually benefit each other.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given/added to you as well. Matthew 6:33

How do we seek God’s kingdom?

  • We are to recognize our spiritual poverty. We seek the Father and receive the kingdom. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
  • We are to acknowledge that we will be persecuted for the kingdom. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
  • Our righteousness (that we have in Christ) is to surpass the Pharisees, who depended upon their works for salvation. “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20
  • We must do the will of the Father (by listening, trusting, believing and obeying Him). “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is wherever Jesus is.
When we seek His righteousness, we are seeking Him.

The verse says that “all these things” will be given/added to us. What are “all these things?” They are all that Jesus knows we need at any given time. All our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met in Christ.

There is a caveat. We must seek Christ Jesus. He wants a one-on-one relationship with us. Any works done FOR Christ can be considered wood, hay and stubble rather than gold, silver or precious gems (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). He doesn’t need our works; He wants us! Unless we have heard from Him about church, quiet time, teaching, conversation, routine, ministry, and numerous other things, we are doing them in our own power and in our own way based upon our very limited perspective.

I no longer see the rewards of heaven as in the future. I see them right here, right now in the presence and participation of Christ.

Abba, thank You that Your kingdom is in me because You are in me. Likewise, You are the kingdom and I am in You. It’s confusing to me with my 3D, finite mind. Please help me understand more and more of Your kingdom as I grow in You. Amen.

Proverbs 26 6-26-22

“How can a good God allow suffering?” Part 3: He has better things in store for us.

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

Jesus came to earth and healed everyone who came to Him. So, now that He is back on His throne in heaven, why doesn’t He just heal everyone now? Why does He allow war and famine and disease? We discussed the fact that sin adversely affected this world, and the things that happen in it, such as natural disasters, are not God’s punishment for sin, but the natural consequences of a fallen world. We also discussed that mankind has the privilege of being able to make choices, and those choices carry either blessings or consequences both for the one making the decision and those who are affected by that decision. Today, let’s talk about those who die at the hands of evil men–or, men making poor choices.

From the beginning, God ordained the birth of human souls by the coming together of the male sperm and the female egg. As soon as they form a zygote, a human soul is born. This soul is eternal. God’s plan for humanity took a detour when sin and death entered the world. Now, all things die in this natural universe. So, what happens when they die? We are not entirely sure, but we know this: Jesus brought His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, with Him when He came to earth, and it is still progressing today. We are now living in two kingdoms at the same time! Let’s look at some verses:

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19

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

From these Scriptures, we can derive that:

  1. Jesus brought the kingdom with Him.
  2. The kingdom was active in the disciples’ lives.
  3. There will be a coming renewal–unless this verse is progressive in nature and has to do with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension where He took His place at the Father’s right hand, and then continues by adding people to the kingdom as they die on this earth, first the disciples, and then everyone else up to this very moment. Either way, we are included, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life in the coming age” (Matthew 19:29).

These bodies belong to an old covenant, one that is perishing. Jesus has glorious, new, heavenly bodies awaiting us upon death,

We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

The last point to make is that in Jesus, we have already moved from death to life, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24). Death has lost its grip on us! We now look forward to all that Christ has in store for us beyond life in these bodies.

Sound crazy? It sure does–unless you’ve met the Savior. Then, it all makes sense!

Let’s conclude today with a wonderful passage, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18,

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Abba, You have given us a hope that goes beyond this life. You said that we would be with You, and wherever You are is where we want to be. Open our eyes to these spiritual truths, Lord. It’s important that we know Your truths and that we share with others that they do not need to be afraid of death anymore, for You have conquered the grave! Amen.

Proverbs 25 6-25-22

The biggest hurdle for many in believing in God is the problem of human suffering–at the hands of other humans.

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals [of conviction] on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

Yesterday, we had confirmed that God is not One of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33), but is the God of peace, and thus does not bring punishment upon mankind through natural disasters. Today in part two, we delve into the question of why He allows human suffering at the hands of other humans. But, before we do, let’s establish some parameters for our discussion:

  1. We will not sit in the Judge’s seat. It is not our place to “judge the Judge.” He is not on trial. He is God and we are not; let’s remember our place.
  2. We see from a very limited perspective, so we must be open to other perspectives, provided they line up with Jesus.
  3. Jesus saves us sometimes from the fire, sometimes in the fire, and always through the fire. (See Proverbs 18 6-18-21).
  4. With God, it’s always about relationship, not deeds, not long life, not accomplishments, not wealth, etc. It’s all about connecting with us.

With these things in mind, here we go.

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. Genesis 1:26a

We are made in God’s image. This includes the ability to choose. With great privilege comes great responsibility. Mankind chose poorly, but God was prepared. He knew we would and does not hold our poor choices against us (see Romans 3:25, 11:32, Hebrews 2:14-15, 4:14-16). Even so, our poor decisions affect others; they have to deal with the consequences of other people’s bad choices. We do, too. It’s been going on like this since Adam and Eve. In order for mankind to have Choice, God gave us complete Choice. Therefore, when people make poor decisions concerning the enslavement of other people, the hurting or taking advantage of other people, those people must deal with the consequences of those poor choices.

It is at this point that we remember that it’s all about relationship, so God comes alongside those sufferers and asks them to trust Him. He also comes alongside those who have made the poor choices and asks them the same thing. Jesus will walk both groups out of their consequences and into His kingdom of light IF they will listen to Him. Is it fair? What’s “fair?” Would you be willing to go through what you’ve been through to know Jesus on an intimate level? Paul said it this way,

10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:10-11

The resurrection from the dead is what we will talk about tomorrow. For today, here are some questions to answer:

  1. Do you love Jesus?
  2. What was the main reason you “got saved?” To gain heaven? To miss hell? or to know Christ?
  3. Are you allowing Jesus to walk with you through your current circumstances?

Abba, when it comes down to it, we must choose You because You are You. Just the privilege to know You personally is enough! But, to be exalted to sonship–that’s incomprehensible! Keep opening our minds, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 24 6-24-22

People ask, “Why is there so much suffering in the world?” Big question. Here is Part One…

7 Wisdom is too high for fools [those who refuse to accept truth]; in the assembly at the gate they must not open their mouths.

Who causes natural disasters? On November 1, 1755, an earthquake hit the town of Lisbon, Portugal. It was All Saints Day and many people were in church. All the churches in the city were destroyed as well as much of the city. 10% of the population lost their lives. God was blamed; the sin of the city (slave trade) was blamed; fatalism (what will be, will be) was blamed. So, which one was it? Kirsten Sanders did a pretty good job of answering that question in her article,

Disasters Are Not God’s Punishments.
But They Can Judge Us.

Both 18th-century earthquakes and 21st-century pandemics upend optimism and fatalism.
KIRSTEN SANDERS|

Her answer? The judgment was not God’s punishment, but the opportunity for evaluation of our present circumstances. “In this second sense of judgment-for-revelation, natural disasters can reveal things as they really are. Real lives are lost. Survivors experience real suffering. These aren’t drills. But they also don’t prove God’s weakness, absence, or callousness. Instead, they prove the quality—or lack thereof—of people’s stewardship.” Poor building structure, lack of emergency planning, and other failures were revealed.

The biggest revelation was the folly of the Enlightenment, which was that nature and the world would only get better in light of human reason. “A tidy, positive view of the world prevailed during the Enlightenment. Philosophers in the 18th century argued that the universe was ordered according to a consistent set of rules. By observing nature and using one’s reason, they said, God’s ways could be deduced. God could thus be known through the orderly world.”

In his 1710 book Theodicy, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz argued that the world that
God created was good enough to excuse the occurrence of occasional evils;
indeed, this world we have is the “best of all possible worlds.”

This disaster blew that argument out of the water. Moreover, the preachers of the day blamed the sins of the city, comparing the disaster to Sodom and Gomorrah. The problem with this line of thinking is that unbelievers then blamed God for the disaster. They might believe that God is great, but they would never believe that God is good. Voltaire, a French historian and philosopher, rejected the optimism of the day,

As with optimism, fatalism can’t satisfy the outrage and grief we feel
when we see calamity strike the obviously innocent. Would pessimism suffice?
Such an approach to the Lisbon earthquake is where Voltaire landed. He wrote his famous
“Poem on the Lisbon Disaster” and articulated the famous three-pronged dilemma that has occupied theologians ever since: If God is good, and God is powerful, then how did this hellish thing happen?

What we forget is that we are created in God’s image with the ability to choose to follow and fellowship with Him or to walk away into darkness. When mankind sinned and death entered the world, death entered nature, too, the Great Flood being a classic example. Natural disasters occur, not because of God’s judgment, but because of the consequence of death in our world. God does not promise to save us from disaster and death, but to walk with us through them to His home. We must remember that He is all about a relationship with us. It’s what the cross was all about.

Let’s be careful to not blame God for that for which He is not responsible.

Abba, I know it grieves Your heart when Your children hurt. It grieves You even more when they blame You. May we all learn that we live with the consequences of sin. One day soon, we will be beyond pain and suffering and in the light of Your Presence. In the meantime, may we enjoy and depend upon our fellowship with You. Amen.

Proverbs 23 6-23-22

How can we fear love? God is love. To be afraid of God is to believe a lie. Should we respect Him? yes. But, be afraid of Him? No.

23 Buy the truth and do not sell it–wisdom, instruction and insight as well.

In yesterday’s post, we saw that fear was one of the obstacles to sensing the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit in a worship service. Knowing that fear is not apprehension of God, but awe and respect for Him helps us approach the subject with an open mind. Let’s dig deeper.

A big cause of fear of God is a misunderstanding of who Jesus is. Jesus did not come to stand in the gap between us and the Father–He IS the Father! John 10:30 says, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus is the exact representation of God, therefore, He represents how much God the Father loves us. Look at Hebrews 1:3,

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he [Jesus] had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

When we read John 3:16, we could read it as, “For God the Father loved the world so much that He came as the one and only Son... We cannot trust what we fear; Jesus came to demonstrate the Father’s love for us:

“Do your worst to Me; I will still love you–
in fact, I will go through death for you and
come out the other side so that you can, too!”

When we hold the Father/Jesus at arm’s length, we grieve Him (Ephesians 4:30). Jesus cleared the way for us to have a full and complete relationship with the Father. Everything is now about training, transforming, conforming and becoming:

  • Training- Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 1 Corinthians 9:25
  • Transforming- And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
  • Conforming- 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 8:29
  • Becoming- And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:22

If God partners with us and invest in us so much time and effort, does that not prove His intentions? He loves us and wants the best for us! All doubts and fears can be set aside in light of this great revelation. All He wants is for us to love Him back.

Abba, I wish that everyone in the whole world understood the truth about You. You are not Someone to fear (as in, terror); You love us with an everlasting love! Continue to reveal Your love to everyone, Abba. May I be Your ambassador. Amen.

Proverbs 22 6-22-22

Sensing the Holy Spirit’s presence in a worship service is not self-generated. We must align ourselves and empty ourselves.

2 Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is Maker of them all.

From yesterday: “Those who use their voices to praise the Lord place themselves in the center of His love and grace. We call those gatherings, ‘worship services.’” In them, we can sometimes sense the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. So, why don’t we feel His presence more often in our services? The answers below are not a complete list, but they are the ones of which I, a Worship Pastor for 37 years, am the most acquainted.

  1. Complacency-There is no real immediate perceived need. When life is good, we tend to minimize our need for God. Realizing how much we need Him for daily living is a necessity for true worship.
  2. Culture-The need to be different is something that calls to every generation. Each generation’s cultural needs are different than the past ones, but “different” is not necessarily better, just different. Blending the old with the new requires effort from all generations involved.
  3. Reliance on works-We forget that grace is given by trusting in Jesus. Good works do not impress God; contrite hearts do (Psalm 51:17). Are good works important? They sure are! We have been created for carrying out God’s work on this earth (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s look at it this way, “We should so work as if we were to be saved by our works; and so rely on Jesus Christ, as if we did no works*.”
  4. Need for Realignment-In our daily lives, we can get out of sync with the Lord. Praise reminds us of what is important and what we need. The old-fashioned word is, “repentance.”
  5. Fear-People fear God (usually because they don’t understand how much He loves them). Although the Bible says to fear God, the fear it’s talking about is about awe and respect. Today’s definition of fear has more to do with distrust, and even horror. Jesus said in Matthew 10:31, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” We are to respect Him and be in awe of Him, but not fear Him as we think of fear today.

Being real before God is the only way to move from praise to worship; it’s the only way to sense the Spirit’s manifest presence, and to hear a word from the Lord. Jesus told us that “true worshipers worship in the Spirit and in truth, for these are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23). The next time you gather with other believers to praise the Lord, be sure to realize your need for Him, consider the other generations around you, set works aside, ask the Lord to realign you with Him, and trust Him to do exactly that. Hearing Him on this point alone is worth going, don’t you think?

Abba, as people enter into a worship service, I pray that You will impress upon them whatever is standing in the way of You and them connecting relationally. May they allow You to remove that barrier so that Your love can flow on and through them along with Your mercy and Your grace. May we learn to truly worship You in the Spirit and in truth. Amen.

*Francis Asbury (1745 – 1816) was one of the first two bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States.

Proverbs 21 6-21-22

Worship is our response to God. Praise is our outpouring of recognition, thanks, and gratefulness to Him.

23 Those who are careful about what they say
    keep themselves out of trouble.

Conversely, those who use their voices to praise the Lord place themselves in the center of His love and grace. We call those gatherings, “worship services.” What does that phrase mean? I’m sure that there are other definitions, but here’s mine:

A worship service is where the people of God
are called by the Holy Spirit to come together
with the express purpose of praising God.
It is a collective experience that only happens
when we are together.

Our obedience to the Spirit to come together is called, “corporate worship.” Individual worship differs from corporate worship in that individual worship happens when we hear personally from God during the worship service. We hear from God routinely throughout our day, but we purposely encounter Him during that time set aside with our brothers and sisters to praise Him.

King David was all about coming together to praise the Lord. Psalm 100 is noted for it. Here are two verses:

    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come to him with songs of joy.

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
    Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

As we consider COVID and the saving grace of online worship during that time, we are thankful for the miracle of technology. At the same time, online worship is a lot like the old AT&T slogan, “It’s the next best thing to being there.” It has its place, but nothing beats being in the presence of the assembly and sensing the Lord’s manifest presence in that place. If we want supernatural proof of God, it can be found in the worship of His people.

So, why don’t we feel His presence more often in our services? That’s tomorrow’s topic. Today, let’s focus on our private worship so that when we get together this Sunday (or whenever your church meets), you will be ready to worship corporately with them.

Abba, You have assembled Your people together throughout history. I read about it in Exodus when You called the Israelites to assemble before You at Mount Sinai. I read about it when You poured out Your Spirit upon the assembly at Pentecost. I remember several times throughout my life when Your presence was so thick that we all went to our knees. I don’t need these experiences to believe in You, but they certainly bolster my faith that You are actively involved in our lives. May we come purposely before You every chance we get! Amen.

Proverbs 20 6-20-22

Jesus gave us one command. It is to be the guide to everything we say and do: Love one another as I have loved you.

3:3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.

The night that Jesus initiated the New Covenant, He gave His disciples a new command,

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

The key to the verse is, “as I have loved you.” If WE get to choose how we love, then we can justify pretty much anything. But, if we truly love as Jesus loved, we will always do what is best according to His Spirit. We were talking in SS yesterday and the word, “repent,” came up. “Repent” means “to change the way you are thinking and go a different direction.” Jesus told us to repent in Matthew 4:17. Here, too, if we choose the direction we are to go, we will wind up lost again. Instead, we are to start thinking as Jesus thinks, which requires Him in our heads. Enter the Holy Spirit. Back to John,

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

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. John 15:26

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13

Jesus basically retired the Old Covenant and replaced it with a New Covenant, one of love. From then on, we go to Jesus for instructions on how to deal with people in His love–no matter the topic. Do we excuse sin? No, but Jesus redefined our response to sin. From then on, we are to respond as He did:

  • without condemnation;
  • with compassion;
  • in mercy;
  • showing grace;
  • with much forgiveness–70×7 daily! (another way of saying, “every time”)

He doesn’t need us to be His police and especially the Holy Spirit. We are simply to be His ambassadors of His love. Easy to say, hard to do. Still, it’s imperative to the success of the Gospel that we do.

Abba, If I truly want to be just like You, I need to be just like Jesus who is “the exact representation of Your being” (Hebrews 1:3). To be like Jesus, I must do as He has commanded me, which is to love as He loved. In order to do that, I need Your help! You say that You have given me the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16); please help me to access it. Amen.

Proverbs 19 6-19-22

My dad went to be with Jesus five years ago, but dads don’t have to be blood related. I now have two!

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Robin’s dad, Herb Rainbolt, is 91. He and I have built fence together, sided a house together, played a lot of games as partners, and recently fixed his lawn mower (zero turn!) and shook down an apricot tree. I have always thought of him as my second dad–for 40 years.

Our executive pastor, Robert Griffin, was my pastor when I was in high school and college. His son, Dale, was Best Man at Robin’s and my wedding, I dated his daughter in high school, and harassed his little brother, Ray Neil. They have always treated me like family, but since Mom and Dad died, they have adopted Robin and me as their own kids.

Dads are good for advice. They have walked where I am now walking. I would do well to learn from their experience, wisdom and insight. The verse right before today’s Proverbs verse is,

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
    and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

How does the LORD’s purpose prevail in our lives? By us listening to advice and accepting discipline. A humble heart is ultimately a happy heart. I love the promise in this verse: At the end, I will be counted among the wise. I can only think that “the wise” includes Herb and Robert. Happy Father’s Day, you two.

Abba, thank You for providing such important men in my life. My dad, Herb, and Robert were/are men after Your own heart. I want that same heart, LORD. One of these days, I’m going to grow up and be just like them. May it be so, Abba, may it be so! Amen.

Proverbs 18 6-18-22

Unrealistic, unspoken, and unmet expectations keep us from enjoying life and relationships. Jesus offers a different way…

10 The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Yesterday, we talked about how our preconceived ideas tend to act as filters for how we hear what we are told and what we read. Our views of God and Jesus are that way, too. People tend to project upon God the image of their own earthly fathers. What we need to do is allow the Holy Spirit to rewire our brains according to what Jesus reveals to us about His heavenly Father–who just so happens to be our heavenly Father, too. A passage that speaks to God’s character is Matthew 10:28-31,

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

What can we learn about God in this passage?

Twice Jesus tells us not to fear Him. The one to fear is the Destroyer (John 10:10), which is the devil.

Jesus calls Him our Father. WOW!

Our Father cares for His creation–every single creature. There are at any given moment 10 quintillion insects alive in the world, 50 billion birds, 1 trillion mammals, and 7.8 billion humans. He’s a mighty BIG God–yet, He cares for us!

He knows intimate details about each of us. That intimate knowledge speaks of a very caring Father.

We are worth more than many sparrows (a little godly humor there). To know how much we are worth to the Father, just look at the cross. “I asked Jesus how much He loved me. He said, ‘This much…’ and He stretched out His hands and died.”

There is a quote in Hebrews from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 31:6) that tells us that God’s nature and character are always constant, that He is always faithful, and that He is always with us,

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

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

This verse tells us that our security is to be in Him, for He never leaves us or forsakes us. A little further down, we have a confirmation verse:

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Since God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity and are one God, we can trust that they are immutable, which means “never-changing.” God loved us when He made us, He loves us now, and He will always love us. For those who choose it, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Abba, we have such good news to tell the world. Your love is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can even know. Your love is even stronger than death! May all hear Your name and trust You for eternal life. May we be part of Your plan to do just that! Amen.

Proverbs 17 6-17-22

Our pre-conceived ideas lead to expectations; expectations lead to misunderstanding and disappointment.

A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

This verse has a double meaning, a lot like a double-edged sword or the tongue. The most obvious meaning is that wicked people attract wicked people. The other meaning is about intention: If we expect to hear deceit, then we read into conversations innuendo; if we expect lies or destructive criticism, then we “hear” it whether it’s there or not. A lot of it depends upon our raising and our home life. Even more depends upon our temperament; some people really are wired to be more trusting than others. We must learn to acknowledge our filters of raising, culture, time in history, temperament, and our own expectations and hear what the other person is trying to say. They may not be very good at saying it, especially concerning tact. It may take some clarifying questions, but it’s worth the effort.

There’s a great verse in Romans 12 that sums up how we should enter every conversation:

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

If we will keep this verse in mind, we will go a long way in “hearing” our brothers and sisters.

Abba, You are devoted to us, so we want to be devoted to each other. It’s just hard to do because we are self-centered, like 3-year-olds. Help us to “grow up” and love each other like spiritual adults, honoring one another above ourselves. By Your Spirit, O Lord, we can! Amen.

Proverbs 16 6-16-22

The filter of our feelings is the most difficult filter through which to see. We MUST learn to remove it in order to see clearly.

16:24 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

However we are feeling shows up in our words and our actions. It can also show up in our expressions. In our words and actions, we aim to express Christ in every way. In our expressions, we aim to display Christ and His compassion for all. We might say, “But, Christ got angry.” Yes, He did. His anger was over the resistance of the religious leaders to love the Father and teach the people. What is our anger over? Not getting our way? Being offended? If we remember, Christ didn’t get His way–they killed Him! As for being offended,

20 A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice [righteousness] through to victory.

Part of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. I’ve worked, at the Lord’s insistence, long and hard on this one, and I still have a long way to go before it is my first response. Even so, I know I am pleasing to the Lord when I strive for it, and apologize when I am not. A lot of how we feel has to do with our expectations. Those we will deal with tomorrow. Today, let’s work really hard to show Christ on our faces, speak words of encouragement and grace, and act in a Christlike manner.

Abba, You know my goals for each day. Getting with You each morning before my day begins is how I prepare for all the opportunities I will be having to practice my goals. I want to be like You and express You in my face, my words and my actions. Transform me, Lord. PLEASE! Amen.

Proverbs 15 6-15-22

Our faith tends to be “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”* The question is, What does Jesus’ voice sound like to you?

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

To use an old analogy, God the Father uses the cross of Jesus as an antenna to speak to us. We each have a “radio” to hear His voice, but we don’t have the frequency. The Holy Spirit helps us to “dial in” to God’s voice. In fact, He is our power source for running our radios!

Henry Blackaby listed four general ways how we hear God speak to us: The Scriptures, prayer, people, and circumstances. The idea is to focus on hearing His voice through all the “static” we get from this world and our own minds (a topic we will discuss tomorrow).

Abba, May we hear You more clearly every day as we “press on toward the goal” set before us. Help us to remove, or at least disregard, the obstacles that keep us from hearing You clearly. You are our Prize, Lord Jesus. Amen.

*Winston Churchill concerning Russia

Proverbs 14 6-14-22

I see two reasons the same people get called on to do things. Read on…

20:6 Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?

The first reason is that they are really, really good at something. People will put up with a lot in order to get quality service. We should all strive to be excellent at whatever we do, but we must understand that someone is always going to be better. It’s just the nature of things. Also, we can’t be good at everything; better to be good at a few things than fair at many.

The second reason is availability. I learned a long time ago that just being around when a person needs something creates opportunity. Also, because your face is seen often, your name has a better chance of coming to the person’s mind when he needs something.

A word of caution: be ready to do WHATEVER they ask. If we become selective, we will lose their trust. Once that trust is gone, so is the opportunity.

Here are some verses that might help us to have a willing attitude:

Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Go get’em, tiger!

Abba, being a servant is not everyone’s goal—but it could be. If we accept Your attitude as our own, we will learn how to be self-giving, too. Lead us; humble us; make us like You, Jesus. You came to be the Servant of all. We pledge to follow Your example. Amen.

Proverbs 13 6-13-22

Our image of Jesus is usually taught to us. When we meet Him personally, our image of Him begins to sharpen.

4:18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

When we start out on our journey with Jesus, we usually have just a vague idea of who He is. As we walk with Him, study our Bibles, and trust Him in life’s journey, we learn much about His character, His humor, and His holiness. We learn that He wants us to be just like Him, so we can consider ourselves in training.

Did you know that “justice” and “righteousness” are the same word in Greek? It means that since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed (given, ascribed) to us (2 Corinthians 5:21), then His justice has been met. All a person need do is come to Christ for His righteousness. That righteousness is the basis for our relationship with the Father. That’s what I like so much about Proverbs 4:18; it describes our walk with (the Spirit of) Jesus to the Father. Will we ever see Him fully? Probably not on this earth, but we have this promise:

12 For now we see obscurely in a mirror, but then it will be face to face.
Now I know partly; then I will know fully, just as God has fully known me.
1 Corinthians 13:12

So, don’t fret if you’re not perfect. We are getting there one step at a time with Him.

Abba, thank You that You do not hold our sins against us, but instead impart Your mercy and grace to us (Hebrews 4:16). May we keep our eyes fixed securely on You and strive to walk in step with You each day. Pretty soon, we will find ourselves at Your throne! O, what a glorious day!!! Amen.

Proverbs 12 6-12-22

When a person’s drive to know God overcomes all other drives, we know the Spirit is close to winning him over.

26 The appetite of laborers works for them;
    their hunger drives them on.

The key to the Christian life is the in-dwelling Spirit. He gives us the desire to know, to experience, and to share that experience with other believers. If a person is missing this desire, I see two possibilities:

  1. He doesn’t have a clear understanding of what is available to him;
  2. He has been misled through events, circumstances, teaching, temptation that leads to sin, pride, etc.

The Spirit knocks; will people answer? Jesus has declared amnesty for the entire human race, but people are still infected with the venom of sin; they have scales on their spiritual eyes and veils on their hearts. Jesus wants to heal them, to rescue them and to restore them. If they don’t let Him, they will experience all kinds of hell: A feeling of separation and isolation, anger, bitterness, disappointment and dissatisfaction with life. But, if they do let Him, they will experience all that the Father has planned for them since the beginning:

  • His love, joy and peace that come with His presence;
  • Spiritual insight, knowledge and understanding that come from listening to Him;
  • Wisdom, discernment and prudence that come by walking with Him;
  • Goodness, self-control and perseverance as we become like Him;
  • A Cause worth living and dying for as we strive to demonstrate His love to others.

Tomorrow, we will talk about what I think is the Number One reason people don’t believe in God.

Abba, as You continue to call people to turn to You, may they turn to You in droves. As we reveal to them how beautiful You are by virtue of our lives, may they want You even as You want them. Pursue them, Lord, even as You pursued us. Amen.

Proverbs 11 6-11-22

We can learn a lot about God from His question to Cain: “Cain, where is your brother?”

17:17 A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Cain’s reply was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I’m not sure that Cain was ready for God’s reply to his question:

“What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” Genesis 4:10

Evidently, Cain WAS his brother’s keeper. In fact, if there’s one thing I draw from Jesus’ teachings is that we are to treat each other as He treats us. How does Jesus treat us? “Not as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10). He never has and He never will. It’s what the cross was all about. Follow this progression,

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

Want to know how God replied? It’s recorded in Psalm 22:31, “Done!” (paraphrase)

The verse about God having mercy upon whom He wants to have mercy is about Romans 11:32,

32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

Now, it’s a matter of showing people His grace. What’s the best way to do that? By demonstrating grace.

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44

21 Then Peter approached him with the question, “Master, how many times can my brother wrong me and I must forgive him? Would seven times be enough?” 22 “No,” replied Jesus, “not seven times, but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14

Most important of all, love each other deeply, because love makes you willing to forgive many sins. 1 Peter 4:8

And the clincher:

34-36 “Then the king will say to those on his right ‘Come, you who have won my Father’s blessing! Take your inheritance—the kingdom reserved for you since the foundation of the world! For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was lonely and you made me welcome. I was naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you came and looked after me. I was in prison and you came to see me there.” Matthew 25:34-36 “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ v.40

How we treat others reveals what we think about God and about ourselves. Right thinking leads to godliness (being like God). Jesus wants us to be like Him. Instead of focusing on being right, let’s focus on how to love one another deeply.

Abba, may I take my own advice and let loving others be my focus. I don’t have to be right; I just need to do right, and to do that, I need to think right. Help me transform my mind daily, O Lord, and teach me to love like You. Amen.

Proverbs 10 6-10-22

What is it that makes the Gospel so unique? There have been people with “Messiah Complexes” all through history.

3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Jesus made some claims about Himself that were pretty unbelievable–unless He is who He says He is. These claims can be found listed at Jesus’ Unique Claims About Himself. The main one is His claim to be able to rise from the dead:

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

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21 (also 17:22-23 and 20:17-19)

So, the question is, Did He? We have four eye-witness accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that say He did. We also have indicators of many more who wrote about it, but those accounts have not survived,

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among usjust as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Luke 1:1-2

We have testimony that Jesus appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters (Christians) at one time, and several received personal appearances (1 Corinthians 15:5-7), His last appearance being John on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:10-18).

Foundational to the Christian faith are these points:

  1. The Incarnation– God came down and dwelt among us in the flesh as Jesus Christ.
  2. The Life– Jesus lived in perfect union with God the Father through God the Spirit as God the Son.
  3. The Passion– Jesus willingly laid down His life for all mankind.
  4. The Resurrection– God the Father raised God the Son from the dead through God the Spirit.
  5. The Ascension– Jesus ascended in front of witnesses into the heavens, returning to His throne, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. We know this last part through Stephen’s testimony in Acts 7:55 (although Jesus was standing when Stephen saw Him, we presume that He was standing in front of His seat beside the Father).

(The Return could be added here, but since it hasn’t happened yet, the facts are still “up in the air.”)

Based upon the five foundational points made above, we now have what is referred to as dogma, which is “a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.” All else is interpretation based upon the writings of early Christian writers, specifically Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, James and Peter. In our faith in Jesus, let us hold closely to dogma. It is the first ring in the Concentric Circles of Theology:

Abba, teach us to hold closely what is true about You and Your mission, but to hold loosely to man’s opinions–even our own. The static words that we read can be misinterpreted; the dynamic words that You speak to us in our spirits by Your Spirit are life. May we always seek You for every answer, even if the answer is “not yet.” Waiting is one of the hardest things we do. Give us patience and trust, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 9 6-9-22

God is up to something much bigger in the world than we know. He is in the process of saving it!

24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

As we continue our study of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, let’s read the passage again:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

These verses represent our attitude while in this world.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

These verses remind us to check with the Holy Spirit concerning all teaching regardless of who it is, but to accept all prophecy/teaching that is compatible with the teachings of Christ Jesus.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

  • May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through- It is God who keeps us concerning our salvation. Christ died for all so that we all died to death through Him. God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). God Himself is our peace, and it is He who is transforming us into the image of Christ with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are receiving a complete make-over spiritually.
  • May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ- This verse is a sure thing based upon Jude 24, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—” Verse 25 tells us who “him” is in verse 24, “to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” It is God who keeps us blameless. Christ gave Himself up for His Bride, the Church, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with the water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:26-27).
  • The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it- We have this promise in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

These verses are about what God is doing in us. Jesus Christ is adding to His Church daily. His Bride is being washed. The water is the Word of God, which we have established as Jesus Himself. Could it be that Christ regards all of humanity as His Bride and is in the process of cleansing her through His Spirit and the word of our testimony? It would mean that salvation is much bigger than we think! Does everyone accept His offer of matrimony? No, but to those who do, He gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12). That’s a mighty big plan, but He’s a mighty big God, isn’t He?

Abba, may Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 8 6-8-22

Walking with Jesus is a process. We learn as He reveals.

1:4 Look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure…

Yesterday, we began a study of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 to learn the formula for a godly life. The first three verses constitute our attitude while in this world,

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

Today, we look at our relationship with the Holy Spirit, particularly concerning the Word of God.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

  • Do not quench the Spirit– “Quench” means to put out, to pour water on, to squelch, to extinguish, to suppress or stifle. In a Christian’s life, our connection to God the Father is through the Spirit of Christ (Philippians 1:19, 1 Peter 1:11). Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” So, in a sense, we choke ourselves when we cut off the flow of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Wrong thinking will do that to us because wrong thinking leads to wrong acting. How important is our connection to the Spirit of Christ? “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit is our seal, our proof, our redemption. He is the flow of Christ’s life in us.
  • Do not treat prophecies with contempt– “Prophecy” means, the gift of communicating and enforcing revealed truth, which means that it doesn’t have to be new prophecy or future prophecy to qualify. These prophecies may be written ones, which would include the Old Testament prophecies, or current spoken ones. The idea is to not treat the Word of God with contempt. Just so we’re clear, the Word of God is Jesus Christ; the Bible is a collection of the words of God. Through the ages, the words of God have been misconstrued, twisted, and manipulated. The Word of God speaks to us through His Spirit everyday. In effect, to hold in contempt those who are upholding revealed truth is to hold in contempt what Christ has made known to His church, which leads us to our next point.
  • Test them all– Where we need to be careful is whether we are talking about dogma or doctrine. If dogma, which is the absolute truth about Jesus and His mission, then we politely refuse to give ground. If it is doctrine, which is the interpretation of how people view the meaning of the Scriptures, then we can politely offer a different interpretation, understanding that we may not come to an agreement on any given issue. Just know that “God will reveal [His truth] to us” (Philippians 3:15) in time.
  • Hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil- The litmus test for this command is this: “If it draws us nearer to Christ, then it is good; if it draws us away from Christ, then it is bad.” Because of temperament, susceptibility, culture, and a number of other variables, each person must determine, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what is good and what is evil. Some good and evil are universal, but there’s a lot that is as individual as the individual. Paul said in Romans 14:5, “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” Here again, does it draw you to Christ or away from Christ? That is the question.

Abba, I must take my own medicine here. I cannot be someone else’s “Holy Spirit.” Only You can be our Shepherd and Guide. May we learn to listen closely to You everyday in every way. Amen.

Proverbs 7 6-7-22

Following Jesus is not a drudgery if we truly take the time to know Him, talk to Him and listen to Him.

17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise;
    apply your heart to what I teach,
18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart
    and have all of them ready on your lips.

Yesterday, we looked at Titus 3:1-8 about respecting our rulers and authorities and “to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” A tall order, right? One that can only be done in cooperation with the Spirit.

There’s another passage that really is impossible without the direction and participation of the Holy Spirit. It is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. We will look at verses 16-18 today,

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

  • Rejoice always– means to have joy, His joy, in us always. Joy is not happiness; happiness is an outward and fickle emotion while joy is an inward state of mind. We have joy because we KNOW what Christ has done for us, is doing in us, and will do for us when we die.
  • Pray continually– means to have an open line of communication with the Father through the Son via the Holy Spirit all the time. Never are we to shut it down. If (when) we do by turning away from His face, then we repent and turn back around and face Him. We will not see anger on His face, but complete love and intense compassion. His smile and pleasure are always upon us for us to see and experience.
  • Give thanks in all circumstances– means to understand that nothing in this world or the next can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39) and that He is walking through our circumstances with us (Hebrews 13:5). We know that He will take those circumstances and use them to mature us (Romans 8:28-29). We become more like Him by sharing in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
  • For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus– means that becoming like Jesus is the overall plan (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our constant fellowship with the Father is what the cross was all about! (see John 16:7, 13).

As we can see, these three verses constitute our attitude while in this world. The great part is that we don’t have to generate anything on our own; the Spirit is our dynamo,

13 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Philippians 2:13

Abba, thank You for providing the motivation and energy to even desire to know You. It has been called an “irresistible grace,” yet You allow each person to choose or not choose You. It’s not a matter of how many times we rebuff You, but when we turn from the darkness in our lives to the saving light of Your glorious face, Jesus! May everyone experience Your wonderful cleansing and new life. Amen.

Proverbs 6 6-6-22

Respect is something the Lord asks us to give to our rulers and authorities whether they deserve it or not!

29:18 Where there is no revelation [Christian example], people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

Paul’s letter to Titus brings bad breaks for bureaucrat bashers. Here’s what he told Titus:

3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

This passage doesn’t leave a lot of room for debate. I reckon the best place to start is by not talking judgmentally about them. We can respectfully disagree with their policies and decisions, but when it comes down to it, we are to be obedient. Of course, our first allegiance is to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything else is subject to respect and obedience. How else can God show Himself mighty if we don’t allow Him room to move?

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. 

What we need to remember is that we all start out facing the darkness. We all need Jesus. We would do well to consider every person, “good or bad,” as a prospective–even future–sibling in Christ and one of His sheep for whom He died and is in the process of searching for them.

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 

The key words in this passage are “kindness,” “love,” “saved,” and “mercy.” Remember that Christ forgave His executioners, both physical and political; we, too, are forgiven, restored, and remade in His image through His kindness, love and mercy. There are three metaphorical terms used, as well. They are “washing,” “rebirth,” and “renewal.”

  • Washing- We are washed by His blood and made clean, not just covered.
  • Rebirth- Jesus gives us the opportunity to start over with Him. With the acceptance of the Holy Spirit, we are awakened spiritually and it’s as if we are “born again.”
  • Renewal- Our relationship with the Father is renewed. Another word is restored. In fact, our relationship with the Trinity has moved to a higher dimension. He now lives with us in close communion all the time. He has removed our blinders and we see Him with spiritual eyes and hear Him with spiritual ears.

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

We are to devote ourselves to doing what is good. If we confine “good” to this chapter, we know exactly the “good” we are supposed to do: Be subject (respectful) and obedient to rulers and authorities, slander no one, be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. When we are successful in these areas, we are different from the world (see verse 3) and draw great attention to Christ. We are the aroma of Christ to the world (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Seeing people as He sees them is, indeed, seeing them in a different light–His light!

Abba, please open our eyes to Your beautiful truth. You love everyone! May we spread Your fragrance to everyone around us, even the “unlovable”–especially the “unlovable!” Amen.

Proverbs 5 6-5-22

How to have peace in your heart:

29:17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

Peace comes when we are at one with God. It’s what atonement was all about. “Atonement” can be pronounced, “At-one-ment.” Christ was bringing us back together with the Father relationally. If we will let Him, He gives us His peace,

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

I particularly like the word, “thankful.” It’s a lot like “grateful.” Both words describe what I feel inside when I turn my mind toward Jesus. His sheer presence washes away any doubts and fears on which I have been dwelling. The apostle Paul tells us in the previous verses how God feels about us and how to receive His peace,

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:12-14

In other letters, Paul uses the term, “put off/put on” instead of “clothe.” Either way, the idea is to set our minds on doing these things and being this way. In many ways, it’s the re-training of the mind. The Holy Spirit will grow compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience in our lives. He will teach us how to forgive, but also how to keep healthy boundaries in place, and what it looks like to put on love. He is the One who brings us peace, our at-one-ment.

My prayer for you this morning is:

Let the [peace and this] message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Abba, Your peace means everything to me. My at-one-ment with You is all that matters. I trust You for everything in my life, so whatever You say works for me. May I work on my at-one-ment with others now–Spirit, help! Amen.

Proverbs 4 6-4-22

Know anyone who has walked away from church? Religion? Jesus? Many are in America.

23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

There seems to be a shift going on in America concerning how Christians view what truly pleases the Lord. For many, Christianity had been reduced to rules and pleasing those in power, so they decided to deconstruct their faith, which was supposed to allow them to hear more clearly the Spirit’s voice, but instead, they left Christ behind with the rules. I pray that they will hear His voice again and turn back to Him; He is waiting on them–no, He is pursuing them with a burning heart of love!

The truth was supposed to set us free from rules and regulations. We are to be free to love Jesus and follow Him wherever He leads. Let’s look at a passage where Paul warns the church at Colossae about listening to anyone but Jesus about what is true and what is not:

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23

While these commands could be said to apply to the Law, I believe that Paul was referring to rules that were being made up by people who were wanting to control the churches. It would be like saying, “We don’t allow women to wear pants to church,” or, “Guys must remove their caps inside the church building.” These customs may have been relevant to society at one time, but there’s nothing about them that makes us godly–other than having a humble spirit by trying not to offend. They have nothing to do with our becoming like Christ, being strong in the Spirit, or living exemplary lives.

How do we live exemplary lives? Let’s look at the next verses in the letter:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

Our journey is one of relationship with Jesus and companionship with like minds. If that journey leads people away from organized religion for a season, I cannot judge them. I have heard it said that in order to make an abrupt change of direction, there must be a cessation of movement. Our society is changing so fast that many people are having to come to a standstill in order to hear directions from Jesus. I pray they do not leave their faith; that road is quite bumpy and long. Instead, let’s pray for each other that we would all hear from Jesus about what is essential. Let’s work together. Anything else is counterproductive.

Abba, I noticed that in the first passage, I am dead with You to the elemental spiritual forces of this world. Thank You! I noticed in the second passage that I have been raised with You and am now seated with You in the heavens. Thank You, again! I realize that there is nothing on this earth that shakes my relationship with You. May I also realize that much of our rules we live by have to do with getting along with each other. Figuring out which ones are beneficial and which ones are harmful is where we need Your guidance day by day. Help us to determine Your truth, O Lord. You ARE Truth. Amen.

Proverbs 3 6-3-22

The goodness of God is displayed on the cross. God gave His life so that we can have life. He wants the best for us: Him.

1:33 “Whoever listens to me (Wisdom) will live securely and in confident trust
And will be at ease, without fear or dread of evil.”

There is a children’s dinner prayer that goes, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.” As quaint as this little prayer is, it is chocked full of truth. If God is great, but not good, then He is a God whom we fear and cannot trust; if God is good and not great, then He is a God who cannot truly help us or save us. But, God is great and good in that He loves us and is mighty to save. He is God the Father/Son/Spirit.

When considering death, we know that it was not God’s will that we die. Death is the repercussion that comes from disobeying God. It’s not a punishment, but a consequence. Yet, even death serves a purpose. Were it not for death, then sin could not be taken to the grave, which is exactly what Jesus did! Thankfully, Jesus rose from the dead, thus breaking the power of sin and death for us. Knowing this, we should not be surprised when we read in James 1:13-18,

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Temptation is not sin; giving in to temptation is. Temptation is when we have the desire to go beyond the boundaries given, to exceed the amount of temperance, or to taste that which is not ours to taste. The Spirit will guide us IF we listen and obey.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

How does God choose to give us birth? Through the word of truth. Who is that word of truth? Jesus Christ, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). This metaphor of birth is also called “the awakening (of ourselves to Him)” and “the turning (from darkness to Him).” The goal is connection–actually, our reconnection.

Bad things happen in this dark, diseased (with sin) world and we will have trouble, but be at peace. God is both great and good and Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Abba, Your goodness is the fiber of Your character. I think You get blamed for a lot of stuff that is not Your fault. Do You guide our lives? Absolutely, but do You dictate our lives? Absolutely not. Our choices are our own and You honor them. What You desire is for us to consult You in all decisions. The fact that You have overcome the world makes me not fear death. I trust You, O Lord. May I trust You even more tomorrow. Amen.

Proverbs 2 6-2-22

“Surely not I,” comes to mind whenever I want to do something that might have consequences attached.

29:1 Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed–without remedy. NIV

29:1 He who hardens his neck and refuses instruction after being often reproved (corrected, criticized), will suddenly be broken beyond repair. AMP

“Surely not I” comes straight from Mark 14:18-19 when Jesus told the disciples that they would betray Him,

18 While they were reclining at the table, Jesus said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 19 They began to be grieved and deeply distressed and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?”

We all think that we are bulletproof concerning certain things. Sugary drinks, chocolate, alcohol, certain places and actions, drugs, etc. These “vices” have avoidable consequences. Can they be done in moderation? Some can, some cannot, and some have more dire consequences than others, but whatever calls to us with the Siren Song* must be avoided at all costs–because it may cost us all. If anything, they teach us to ignore the Spirit’s prompting, which creates dissonance and interference between us and our Lord Jesus. It can be seen as a betrayal like the disciples (a turning away from the Lord).

Yet, Jesus did not condemn any of the disciples for their betrayal–even Judas. How did Jesus great him in the garden of Gethsemane? He called him, “friend” (Matthew 26:50). Our best passage about no condemnation from Jesus is John 8:1-11 about the woman caught–or rather, trapped in adultery. Jesus first of all called every leader into account, from the oldest to the youngest, and then he addressed the woman,

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.”

Jesus knows what calls to us, our Siren Song*. We know from James 1:13-18 that only good things come from God. How can that be so? We will talk about it tomorrow.

Abba, we all have our weak spots. May we cling to Your Spirit for direction, strength, rescue and solace. The relationship we have with You through the Spirit trumps anything this world has to offer. May we remember that truth the next time we come under temptation. Amen.

*Siren song describes something that is very appealing and alluring on the surface but ultimately deceptive, dangerous, or destructive. Siren song’s origins are rooted in Greek mythology. The Sirens were beautiful women with the upper bodies of humans and the lower bodies of birds whose bewitching songs lured sailors to their doom. So irresistible were their songs that sailors who heard them would be tempted to navigate the ship close to the shore and risk crashing or they might jump overboard into the water and drown. In Homer’s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus cleverly stops the ears of his crew with wax to keep them from hearing the Sirens’s song. He tied himself to the mast so he could hear the song yet survive.

Proverbs 1 6-1-22

Made in God’s image and worth saving: That’s who we are to God. Also, we are counted dead to sin with Christ.

7 The fear of the LORD [understanding who He is and who we are in relation to Him–we are His children!] is the beginning of knowledge…

Yesterday, we looked at the first of two truths that shed light on Romans 6:11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” One is that we are made in God’s image. The other is that in Christ, we are counted as dead so that death no longer holds power over us. We found that God loves us dearly and would not abandon us to our corruptible fate. Instead, He rescued us! Today, we look at the second truth and how He rescued us.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Again, from Athanasius:

1. Although being himself powerful and the creator of the universe, he prepared for himself in the Virgin the body as a temple, and made it his own, as an instrument, making himself known and dwelling in it.

A temple is wherever God lives (manifests Himself), so when God took up residence in a baby, that baby’s body became a temple of God. “Immanuel” means, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). We, too, are temples of God the Holy Spirit, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

2. And thus, taking from ours that which is like, since all were liable to the corruption of death, delivering it over to death on behalf of all, he offered it to the Father, doing this in his love for human beings,

In God’s love, Jesus gave Himself over to death–but, He did not see corruption! (see Psalm 16:10)

3. so that, on the one hand, with all dying in him the law concerning corruption in human beings might be undone (its power being fully expended in the lordly body and no longer having any ground against similar human beings), and,

Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He rose from the dead.

4. on the other hand, that as human beings had turned towards corruption he might turn them again to incorruptibility and give them life from death, by making the body his own and by the grace of the resurrection banishing death from them as straw from the fire.

Death is the consequence of rebellion. Mankind has lived in rebellion since Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Jesus vanquished death and now seeks to turn mankind back to Himself, to incorruptibility (no more fear of death), and to walk in the light of His love.

Because Jesus died for all, it’s as if we have already died. It’s simply a matter now of turning from darkness to His light, a shedding of the old person and taking on the new person. Paul said in Ephesians 4:22-24,

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In death, we became finite–but, so did sin! We could not go beyond death, but neither could sin. Jesus did, and He takes us with Him beyond death, beyond sin!

Paul says in Colossians 3:3, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” And, in Romans 6:4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Have we realized the fullness of new life, yet? No, but we surely will when these bodies die. In the meantime, we consciously put off our rebellious ways and walk in step with Jesus. Daily. Hourly. Continuously. If we get out of step, He helps us get back into step. The Christian life really is that simple. It’s all about our personal relationship with Jesus.

Abba, living dead to the world but alive to You is difficult because our eyes deceive us and our feelings betray us. May we come to You every day so that You can give us new sight, spiritual sight. Renew a right spirit within us, O Lord. We need You every hour, every minute of every day. Amen.

Proverbs 31 5-31-22

What does it mean to be dead to the world, but alive to God in Christ? Dead how? Alive how?

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute. —
God speaks for us.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.
–We are poor and needy.

There are two truths that shed light on Romans 6:11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” One is that we are made in God’s image. The other is that in Christ, we are counted as dead so that death no longer holds power over us. Let’s look at what Athanasius (296-373 A.D.) had to say about being made in God’s image:

5. Once again, a merely human king does not let
the lands he has colonized pass to others to serve them, nor
go over to other men; but he warns them by letters, and often
sends to them by friends, or, if need be, he comes in person,
to put them to rebuke in the last resort by his presence, only
that they may not serve others and his own work be spent for
naught.

Athanasius takes liberties with two parables in his illustration. One is the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-41) and the other is The parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14). He takes the king from one and makes him the landowner. He then gives the reasoning for sending his son to correct the situation in the vineyard. Lest his work and his investment be for naught, he takes back control of the vineyard and places it in the hands of willing tenants. The difference in Athanasius’ illustration and Jesus’ parable of the Tenants is that Jesus was referring to the religious leaders whereas Athanasius was referring to mankind in general.

6. Shall not God much more spare His own
creatures, that they be not led astray from Him and serve
things of naught? Especially since such going astray proves
the cause of their ruin and undoing, and since it was
unfitting that they should perish which had once been
partakers of God’s image.

WE are the work and investment of God. It is we who He does not want to lose. We had once been partakers of God’s image, but chose to believe the devil, who told us that we are not worthy of His image. In Genesis 3:8-10, we read that Adam and Eve hid from God; they hid in the garden because they thought themselves unworthy to stand in His presence–this is the lie of the ages. I love God’s response: “Who told you…?” I can almost hear Satan say, “Mmm, mmm, mmm. You ate of the fruit against the command of God. Shame on you. Shame, shame, shame! You’ll never be good enough to be His children.” It’s still one of his best lines today.

7. What then was God to do?
Or what was to be done save the renewing of that which was in
God’s image, so that by it men might once more be able to
know Him? But how could this have come to pass save by
the presence of the very Image of God, our Lord Jesus
Christ? For by men’s means it was impossible, since they are
but made after an image; nor by angels either, for not even
they are (God’s) images. Whence the Word of God came in
His own person, that, as He was the Image of the Father, He
might be able to create afresh the man after the image.

Jesus is the Image of the Father. He came to create afresh the man after the image of God. WOW!

8. But, again, it could not else have taken place had not death
and corruption been done away.

Jesus entered Hades through death and wrested the keys of the power of death away from the devil, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

9. Whence He took, in natural fitness, a mortal body, that
while death might in it be once for all done away, men made
after His Image might once more be renewed. None other
then was sufficient for this need, save the Image of the Father.*

There it is: “men (mankind) made after His Image might once more be renewed.” Our rightful place as His children has been restored. Romans 8:15 says, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Tomorrow, we will look at being counted as dead to this world.

Abba, thank You for such great wisdom from Athanasius. Knowing that we are Your children, and, as Your children, are deserving of Your name makes me appreciate all the more what You, through Christ, did for me. Jesus, thank You for restoring Your image in me. Amen.

*Athanasius, On the Incarnation, pg. 36

Proverbs 30 5-30-22

Being called a little child can be offensive, but that is exactly what we are spiritually.

[4:1] Listen, my children [Solomon speaking], to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
[2] I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
[3] When I was a boy in my father’s [David’s] house,
still tender, and an only child of my mother [Bathsheba],
[4] he taught me and said,
“Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands and you will live.”

Yesterday in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School), we were looking at Matthew 18. In that chapter, the disciples asked Jesus who the greatest of them was in the kingdom. Jesus took a small child into His lap and told them that they must become like that child in order to be part of His kingdom. What was He saying (to them and us)?

  1. Children had no rights; we must give up our “rights” in order to accept His kingdom.
  2. Children trust with pure hearts; we must be willing to trust completely, too.
  3. Children don’t need to know why, but they trust the person to know why; we must do the same with God.

The next portion of Scripture had to do with causing another child to stumble, in this case, the religious leaders who were keeping the people from believing and following Jesus. He then broadened His approach to include anything that tempts us away from Him. Jesus used hyperbole in order to get His point across. Let’s read it:

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

The hyperbole that Jesus uses in this passage is extreme. One would think that these verses warn against hell, which they do, but not in the way we usually understand hell. “Fire” is “pur” and is defined as “the fire of God; He that transforms into light and likeness with Himself.” It gives the concept of God being a consuming fire that consumes all of a person’s dross, thus purifying the person (see Hebrews 12:29) like silver (Psalm 12:6). Painful, yes. Condemning, no.

As we talked, it became apparent that our view of hell in this passage was about more than just beyond the grave. It called to attention the fact that we are eternal beings right now, living in either heaven (walking with Christ) or hell (walking without Christ). Jesus is burning out the dross and transforming us into light so that we become children of light (Ephesians 5:8). We are becoming like Jesus.

Jesus points out things in our lives that tempt us and He asks us to give them up, or to allow Him to help us put guards around them. He asks that we look to Him for strength and patient endurance. We are to keep in mind that we are to give “joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-13).

Remember that how we think determines our actions. Keeping this passage in mind helps us to focus our sights on Jesus and keep them there.

Abba, I live by this verse and look forward to its realization in my life. May I keep You and Your plan in mind as I walk through each day; it will help me keep my eyes focused on You, Jesus. You are the Beginner and Finisher of my faith. Amen.

Proverbs 29 5-29-22

Today, as we remember those who have gone on before us, let us pay homage to our Christian fathers of old.

23:22 Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

In today’s culture, we tend to think that technology makes us smarter. Actually, it just makes knowledge more available. The problem is not with the knowledge, but the wisdom that drives that knowledge. Without wise predecessors, we must “reinvent the wheel” each time we read the Scriptures. The solution is that they have already given us sound doctrine in their writings and, in some cases, in their liturgy, i.e. the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Before we think too highly of ourselves, consider this point of view:

Is our theological understanding always increasing? If theology isn’t just an abstract discussion, but is literally the knowledge of God, is there any evidence that we today know God better than any previous generation? This would mean the earliest Christians had the least accurate understanding of their faith. Compared to us, they must have had a mere sliver of the knowledge of God that we have. Even though we trust them to have written the New Testament and to have chosen what books to include in it. Even though they died for their faith with a courage we would find hard to match.*

We would do well to consider the teachings of our forefathers–the ones who walked with the apostles and learned from them, passing down their faith from generation to generation. People like Origen, Tertullian, Clement, Ignatius, Justin, Polycarp, Irenaeus, and many more have much to teach us about the Christian walk and life.

At the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius fought hard to compile the canon of our Bibles today. It was completed at the council of Carthage in 397 A.D. with the addition of Revelation. Over the centuries, doctrines have changed according to the leaders and the times. We would do well to learn the faith of our fathers–our original fathers of the faith.

Abba, may we take seriously the faith of those who took their faith seriously. Many of the ones mentioned above gave their lives for Your sake. May I be as brave if called upon to do the same. May my faith be that real to me–may YOU be that real to me! Amen.

*Frederica Matthewes-Green, “Mary As the Early Christians Knew Her: The Mother of Jesus in Three Ancient Texts”

Proverbs 28 5-28-22

Snobbing the snobs makes us snobs, too. We become the very people we are judging.

27:3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

When we start judging other people, we become the very people we are judging: sinners. Sinners are those who think differently than God. “To sin” means, “to miss the mark.” We take on the responsibility of God when it’s not our place to do so. But, it’s more than just action; it’s the reason for the action. What we believe determines how we act.

Jesus put a lot of emphasis on believing. We Westerners think of believing as thinking something is true. The believing that Jesus was talking about means, “to entrust,” “to put your faith in.” It’s the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge, or book knowledge and experience. Take Peter, for example, when he walked on water. All the other disciples believed that Jesus could walk on water. If Jesus had told them to come and join Him, would they have gone? We will never know. Who we DO know about is Peter. He believed and entrusted himself to Jesus’ command. What Peter had was faith. It wasn’t blind faith because Jesus told him to come, and Jesus Himself was walking on water. Peter had experiential faith, tested faith.

Consider, though, how long it took Jesus to bring Peter to the point of believing and trusting Jesus enough to walk on water. How many miracles had Peter seen Jesus perform? How many months had he heard Jesus’ teaching? It was enough to have a credible reason for believing. When people are acting or believing differently than we think they should, instead of judging them, we must remember that we are all on a journey with Jesus and pray for them. Our walk with Him is personal and individual. They may not be where we are on their walk in experiential faith. As much as we don’t want to allow wrong thinking or teaching, we must focus on those whom God has given us to influence. He will take care of everyone else.

One more thing: We never stop growing spiritually. There is way too much to learn for us to learn it all on this side of heaven. In fact, much of what He has in store for us must be experienced on His side! I think the first word we will speak in heaven is, “Oh!” Why? Because everything will be much different than we thought it was going to be (think three-dimensional thinking vs. multidimensional experiencing).

Giving people grace is the great lesson of church. If we can do it with each other, we should be able to do it with everyone.

Abba, judging other people according to my standards smacks of self-righteousness. May I learn to see them like You do. We are Your children, small children at that. May we deal with each other in grace as we all walk with You. Amen.