Proverbs 23 3-23-19

March 23, 2019

Living for Jesus is not designed to be a drudgery, but a joy. We get that joy by walking WITH Him and not just living FOR Him.

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Since this passage is OC (Old Covenant, meaning that is was written for Israel), let’s look at “the fear of the LORD” through New Covenant eyes.  Our relationship with God has changed. We now serve Him based on Jesus’s command to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35) rather than out of fear because we know that “perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).” In other words, we love Jesus-and anyone- because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)! God demonstrated the perfect way to love by giving His Son for us (Romans 5:8). That sacrificial love is the basis for our Christianity, both for our salvation and for how to live out our faith in that sacrificial love.

This hope mentioned in today’s Proverbs passage is wrapped up in our relationship with Christ. HE is our future. As we walk with Him, we get to know Him better and better. We learn to trust Him more and more. As we trust Him, our fears of the unknown, of the future, of pain and heartache, of betrayal, and even of death, subside. Solomon puts it like this:

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

Don’t take MY word for it. Take the Apostle John’s. He walked with Jesus. He saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead. He watched Him ascend into heaven (how COOL was that!). He even had a conversation with Jesus after He had returned to His throne (see Revelation 1-3). So, what does John say?

We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. 1 John 5:20

Let’s break it down:

  1. We know– As Bryan, my pastor, says, “We know that we know that we know.” It’s an assurance thing. We KNOW it, therefore, we cannot be dissuaded or persuaded otherwise.
  2. The Son of God has come– Jesus came. It’s a historical fact. His resurrection and ascension we take on faith from eye witnesses of the events–more than 500 of them (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8)!
  3. Has given us understanding– Jesus has opened our minds and hearts to the truth of God’s love, His Plan, and His invitation for us to join Him in His work.
  4. So that we may know Him– The OC has for its reward peace and prosperity; the NC has for its reward GOD HIMSELF as our Friend, Confidante, and Guide. It doesn’t get any better than that!
  5. Who is true– We can trust Jesus. He really does have all the answers.

As we get to know Him, we will learn to love others as He loves them. We will begin to demonstrate His love by doing what He did: Washing feet (serving others) and laying down our lives for others. Let’s let go of anything that draws us away from Him, whether it’s our schedule, our work, our PLAY, or even our desire to be pleasing to Him (He is already pleased with us. See Ephesians 1:5). What on earth could be more important or more interesting than a relationship with the heavenly Father and His Son through His Spirit who lives in us?!!!

Proverbs 22 3-22-19

March 22, 2019

We have been given the opportunity to share in Jesus’s glory, not so much for ourselves, but to honor Him.

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

Old Covenant thinking: If I am rich, then I am blessed by God.

New Covenant thinking: If I am rich, then I have been given a big responsibility.

Under the Old Covenant, a person worked to be blessed (or to miss judgement). If a person had wealth, then he considered himself blessed by God. As long as he performed all the prescribed rituals and abided by the laws of Moses, then he was “good.” Jesus thought otherwise, and He told us as much. In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus included two people who would have thought that they were doing the right thing in order to stay “clean” before God: a priest and a Levite–in other words, a pastor and a music director. In order to carry out their duties, they couldn’t touch the wounded man because it would make them “unclean” and thus unable to take part in the temple rituals.

Jesus took the story in a whole different direction than just being neighborly. He wanted the expert in the law to understand that the Old Covenant was not what He was about. He was introducing something NEW, something that revealed God’s heart, something that was for ALL people. In the story, Jesus took a Samaritan (a *half-breed, a people hated by good Jews) and made him the hero in the story. He used his financial powers for good according to mercy and grace. Jesus even made the expert admit it:

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus applied His New Covenant thinking to a very likely situation. The expert in the law was forced to make the application himself. I wonder if he got the message…

We, too, must make this New Covenant shift in our own lives. We have been given wealth: the average American low-middle to middle class family has more wealth, more material goods, and better health than over **90% of the world’s population. Yet, there are people all around us in need. Rather than think Old-Covenant (that we are blessed by God and as long as we go to church and avoid sin, we can do what we want with our wealth, time, and resources), we need to embrace Christ’s New Covenant way of thinking and ask the LORD how HE wants us to use our wealth, health, time and resources. Jesus said,

“Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b

Let’s ask Him how He wants us to serve Him today with all we have. It’s all His, anyway–us included!

*Half-breed: In 722 B.C. Assyria captured Israel (the northern 10 tribes) and hauled them off to Assyria as slaves, leaving only a small percentage of the poorest farmers behind to keep the land from becoming barren. Many of that remnant intermarried with the surrounding people and accepted their gods as their own. The offspring of those marriages were considered half-breeds and were treated with contempt by “true” Jews. The interesting thing about this attitude is that Paul was a half-breed in that his mother was Jewish and his father was Roman.

**The world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 45 percent of the world’s wealth. Adults with less than $10,000 in wealth make up 64 percent of the world’s population but hold less than 2 percent of global wealth. The world’s wealthiest individuals, those owning over $100,000 in assets, total less than 10 percent of the global population but own 84 percent of global wealth. Credit Suisse [Global Wealth Databook 2018] defines “wealth” as the value of a household’s financial assets plus real assets (principally housing), minus their debts. See World Wealth Inequality

Proverbs 21 3-21-19

March 21, 2019

We have the Holy Spirit of God in us; why do we rely on ourselves so much? Doesn’t it make sense to trust Him for insight, discernment and understanding of any given circumstance?

4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart–the unplowed field of the wicked–produce sin.

Because of our sin nature, our default is “haughty eyes and a proud heart.” We are naturally bent toward evil. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives gives us a NEW heart and a higher calling to live for Christ. Our feelings are still part of our bodies, so they lean toward reaction; our minds are being renewed to think like Him, so we learn to respond to His leading. Left to ourselves, our pride takes over, which is why we give our lives to Him anew each morning ASAP. It’s not a salvation issue; it’s a relational issue. We will always have to work through the natural reaction before we can get to the spiritual response. Our maturity depends on how fast we can do it!

The Holy Spirit lives in us and in Him we have everything we need. HE is the KEY to our success in living a victorious Christian life. It’s not a matter of us picking the right tool or weapon to combat temptation and evil, but turning to Him and asking for what we need at the present time. For instance, when we need patience, we ask Him for it. The measure of patience that we get is according to how we have responded to His leadership concerning learning patience in the past. Have we learned to watch for unspoken, unmet, or unrealistic expectations, which cause us to be impatient? Have we learned to respond with gentleness and kindness? There are many times that He calls me to reset my attitude in the moment and “begin again” from there–often with an apology.

The Spirit grows fruit in our lives as He molds us and shapes us to be like Jesus:

For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against these things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Be sure that He WILL grow these fruit in our lives if we truly belong to Him. It’s one of the ways that we can tell if someone is really His or not: We are known by our fruit.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:15-20

Returning to our key verse, the unplowed field is what we start with when we become new Christians. An unplowed field is fallow and will naturally be taken over by weeds, thorns and thistles. We must cultivate–and KEEP cultivated– the soil of our minds by relying on the Spirit to introduce spiritual concepts as we walk with Him. He does this in four ways:

  1. Through His Word- He made sure you have a copy of His teachings. Want to get to know God? Read His Word and ask Him to teach you through it.
  2. Prayer- Communing with God is WHY we became Christians. Sin separated us, but Jesus removed the barrier between us and the Father. Live in continuous prayer. Leave that line open ALL the time.
  3. Others- Christians and non-Christians alike. The Spirit can call our attention to anything a person says or does. He particularly uses His family to grow us. Spend time with your new FAMILY.
  4. Circumstances- God will guide us through circumstances. If a door you thought was open closes, step back and check with the Spirit. He may have a new way for you.

Lots of information here. Today, let’s focus on walking in a constant state of awareness of His presence in our lives. Listen for His voice; pay attention to the tension (if something niggles at your consciousness, chances are it’s Him telling you to be careful or reconsider). Enjoy His closeness and experience His love, joy and peace–or, at least, His comfort.

Proverbs 20 3-20-19

March 20, 2019

God designed us to think. He has things He wants us to learn. Are we willing to give Him a chance?

5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

Ever wonder why things happen the way they do? Is there some cosmic design behind even the bad things that happen? Let’s delve into God’s Word and see what clues He gives us to the answers to these questions.

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17

According to what God said, death [and chaos] came from sin [rebellion]. Things haven’t changed much through the millennia. We still rebel and chaos comes. If not us, then it’s all the other people in the world. It stinks having to live with the consequences of other people’s bad choices.

God allows nature to take its course [the consequences from Great Flood have a lot to do with our weather–okay, they have EVERYTHING to do with our weather!]. Each of us WILL die. So, what is our goal in life? What is HIS goal for us in life?

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 28-29

According to Paul (who spent time with Jesus in heaven-see 2 Cor. 12:1-10), God uses the natural circumstances in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son. WOW! Does He cause them? NO. Does He USE them? Absolutely. Not only that, but He equips us ahead of time for these circumstances with everything good for doing His will so that He is pleased. Whaaaaat?! Read it for yourself:

May the God of peace…21 equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Christ Jesus, to Whom be glory forever and ever, Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

Tomorrow, we will discover HOW He equips us. Stay tuned…

Today, let’s step back and realize that WITH HIM, we have everything we need to be like Him in any circumstance. Our natural response sees the future without Him in it; our supernatural [Spirit-led] response sees the future with Him right beside us, even in us! Let’s work through our natural response as quickly as possible and get to the Spirit response. THAT’S the way to be filled with His love, joy, peace, hope, grace, faith and truth.

Proverbs 19 3-19-19

March 19, 2019

Laziness is a self-fulfilling prophecy. We don’t do what needs to be done and we pay the penalty for it.

15 Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.

Laziness and shiftlessness are synonyms of slothfulness, or sloth: a habitual disinclination to exertion. The problem is that in most cases we only put off the inevitable, and often, doing something later requires a lot more work.

There is no greater example than our daily Bible study. Statistically, most Christians do NOT read the Bible more than once a week (Sunday), and that at church. Can we get along without reading the Bible? Sure, especially if we go blind or are in a foreign prison. But, for most of us, we have MORE than one Bible lying around the house. We have no real excuse.

Reading God’s Word has many functions:

  1. It prepares our hearts to hear Him;
  2. It teaches us how God communicates with us;
  3. We learn many of the basics to righteous living;
  4. We find nuggets and treasures at the most convenient times;
  5. We obtain handles by which the Holy Spirit works in our lives.

These are a few of the reasons we are to read His Word. Do you want assurance of salvation? It’s in there. Do you want overflowing love and joy in your life? It’s in there. Do you want peace that transcends all understanding? IT’S IN THERE!

Excuses I’ve heard:

  • “I’m too busy to take time to read.” Then you’re too busy! Martin Luther exclaimed one day, “I have so much to do today that I will have to spend an extra hour praying before I start.”
  • “I don’t understand it.” That’s the point. We read to hear from Him. HE is the One who gives understanding.
  • “I’ve read it. I don’t have to read it again.” We are always changing and so do our circumstances. We could read the same passage for a month and get something different out of it everyday because we change, our circumstances change, our outlooks change, even our chemical makeups change (hormones, intellect, brain function, etc).

Everyday is a new day. We are new creations in Christ. HE is making us new. Therefore, we read His Word. I promise you that what you read yesterday and then read again today will speak to you differently; if anything, the time of day and your frame of mind may be different.

Another BIG reason to read is that the words of Christ by way of the writers of the books are important–they are TRUTH! Jesus said as much: “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:16. 

The BIGGEST reason to read is that His words are LIFE–they are alive! “For the word of God is living 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

Are you convinced, yet? If not, then how about this: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” Col. 3:16a

It doesn’t get any plainer than that. Let’s quit making excuses and get down to business. The Spirit has something to say to the churches–that’s us!–and He speaks through His Word. Let’s read it!

NOTE: Need a plan? How about reading the Bible chronologically? It helped me gain perspective on the timeline of events. Go to Chronological Bible Plan

Proverbs 18 3-18-19

March 18, 2019

Which side of grace on which we live has to do with what we think about grace. Did we earn it? If so, then it’s not grace.

23 The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly.

Grace is “unmerited favor.” To earn it makes it something other than grace. In the Old Testament (OT) under the Old Covenant (OC), the rich perceived themselves as blessed by God because a person earned God’s favor by obeying the Law–which is only partially true because God’s nature never changes; He has always been about the heart of a person. What He was doing was showing (over a long period of time with a nation) what people–Jews and Gentiles alike–needed, which is GRACE. The Law was designed for us to realize that we CANNOT keep it (Acts 15:10) so that we would cry out to God for His mercy. King David understood this concept and called upon it when the Bathsheba Incident happened,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

Under the OC, a person was supposed to do right so that he would be blessed, or at least, avoid judgement. Under the NC (New Covenant), we have already received grace, and therefore, we are already blessed, so we don’t have to worry about coming judgement or having to work for blessings. EVERYTHING we do is out of gratitude for what God has done through Christ. Indeed, Christ has taken our sins, past and future, and removed them from us as far as the east is from the west, as David wrote in Psalm 103. Why? Because of the previous verse:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear [revere] him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12

God loves us! He has ALWAYS loved us. Christ proves it.

The Apostle Paul spends quite a bit of time in Romans 7 explaining why the Law didn’t work: Without the Spirit of God in us, we have NO POWER to break the chains of sin. But, look where he takes us:

What a wretched man I am! who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 8:1 Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Conclusions:

  1. Under the Law, we were subject to sin and death.
  2. Jesus delivers us from sin and death!
  3. The Spirit gives us new life.
  4. We are free from the consequences of breaking the Law.
  5. We are NC people living in OC bodies.
  6. We no longer are slaves to sin because His Spirit gives us everything we need to live a righteous life (see 2 Peter 1:3).

What would happen if we all started living our lives in gratitude for all Christ has done for us and stopped living in fear: fear of disappointing God, of His judgement, of not receiving blessings because we weren’t good enough, or of not living up to His expectations? I think our joy level, our peace level, and ultimately, our love level would skyrocket! Let’s try it!!!

Proverbs 17 3-17-19

March 17, 2019

Why do you follow Jesus? DO YOU follow Jesus? Why or why not? What reason would you give for where you are in life?

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

People like to argue, especially about politics and religion. When it comes to religion, we should be noticeably silent during these arguments. Instead, we look for an opportunity to give our testimony. Keep in mind that what we say about our faith and how we say it is important. Is it relevant? Is it respectful? Does it highlight the right truth? These are good questions based upon 1 Peter 3:15-16. Let’s look at this passage in parts:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.

As followers of Christ, this is a given. Let’s keep Him Lord of our lives.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

What an opportunity! The person is asking! But, rather than starting with Scripture, let’s start with our testimony. We ARE the Bible he has been reading, so let’s capitalize on that. Besides, we are much more confident with that which has happened to us. Our story is what is appealing to the seeker. He is interested in how you were before meeting Christ, how you got to know Christ, and how your life is better now that you know Christ. Said in your own language and “verbal skills” (remember that the Holy Spirit is probably working on their hearts and will cause them to hear His voice through yours, so quit worrying; you can’t mess this up), just tell the person what happened.

But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience,

This is the hard part. If we argue with him about ANYTHING, we ruin the chance to give our testimony. For ANYTHING ELSE, wait until the person is truly hungry for truth. That is the time to break open the Bible and share with him God’s Word. Creation over Evolution is great, but NOT NOW!

so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

The idea here is to live a life that “underscores rather than undermines our message.” It may be that your behavior causes them to fall under conviction of the Holy Spirit. We pray that it does.

I read a good quote: “Every generation of believers must be prepared to explain their decision to follow Jesus in their generation to their generation out of concern for their generation.” Doing so is Christianity 2.0. It’s the next level. Want to grow in your faith? Put together your testimony so that you can share it in under a minute. Remember that they are interested in:

  1. Your life before Christ (What were you like? Where did you struggle?)
  2. How you met Jesus (Who introduced you? What got your attention? Why did He look good to you?)
  3. Your life now that you know Christ (What’s different? How are you a better person? What do you have now that you didn’t have before?)

I would be interested in seeing what you put together. Please send me a copy of your testimony. Let’s do this, people! Let’s move “Higher Up and Further In” with Christ by moving out with His message!

Proverbs 16 3-16-19

March 16, 2019

Did you know: God works with us and through us to reach others. He invites us to join Him in His work.

6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.

Let’s deal with the second half first. “Through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil.” That’s OT (Old Covenant). “Perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18. Before Christ came, God showed His greatness; Christ came to show us His goodness. There is no need to fear God any longer! We avoid evil because we think like Christ now. We have Him in us calling us to come “higher up and further in” with Him! Besides, we know sin destroys us; it is to our benefit for us to avoid it.

Now for the first half: “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;” we show His love to those around us. We are His marquees, His billboards. As people see us, the Spirit calls their attention to the extraordinary love we are displaying and asks them to come along. It may take a while–it may even take our lives, even our deaths– but we joyfully and freely do it because He is with us propelling us forward, encouraging us and filling us with His love, joy, peace, hope, grace, faith, courage, truth, and an increasing compassion for even the “vilest of sinners” (people we don’t like to be around). It sounds simple because it is. All we have to do is love like Christ as He directs us.

NOW we understand why we stay connected to Him through prayer, Bible study, church, fellowship with other believers, and the constant contact we have with Him throughout the day. Christianity is not a religion (mankind seeking God); it’s a relationship (God reaching out to us and living in us). Let’s take His hand as He leads us to the next person He is calling!

Wouldn’t it be great if we all let Christ lead us?

Proverbs 3-15-19

March 15, 2019

We chose to follow Jesus. He saw something in us and invited us to walk with Him. Focus on doing just that!

30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

I would like to suggest a new way of thinking: Once we come to Jesus for new life, spiritual healing, and adoption, it ceases to be about us and becomes about others. We are more conduits than containers. Consider this: the vessels talked about in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 are more like the vessels in our bodies that carry life-giving blood–His blood–to those in need.

20 In a large house there are articles [vessels] not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument [a vessel] for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Another example is Christ Himself. He made Himself nothing, taking the position of a servant for our sakes.

but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Phl 2:7

It’s about us in the beginning of our relationship with Him, but it quickly moves to be about others. We build our relationship with Him around reaching and serving others. It’s important to Him, therefore, it’s important to us.

As we apply this concept to our lives, we begin to understand how we are to treat others:

  • In friendships- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better [first] than yourselves. Phl 2:3
  • In marriages- Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Eph 5:21
  • In our jobs- Slaves [employees], obey your earthly masters [bosses] in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col 3:22-24

We show our love and gratitude for Christ when we adopt His attitude of humility and service. Let’s love Him today by loving others. Let’s be Christ to them.

Proverbs 14 3-14-19

March 14, 2019

Motivation is key to serving Christ. We must move from selfish motives to gratitude for all He’s done for us.

5 A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.

What we say reveals what we believe, especially how we say it. Take lying, for instance. There are two motivations for not lying:

1. The Ten Commandments- “Thou shalt not bear false witness” Exodus 20:16 (Old Covenant).

2. Jesus’s command to love one another, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” John 13:34 (New Covenant).

The first comes from a selfish motive in that we don’t lie in order to avoid God’s wrath, i.e. His discipline or punishment. The Israelites obeyed so that they would be able to keep their land and avoid being dispossessed. That old covenant is with them; let’s leave it there. We are under a New law, the law of love!

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jn 13:34

Under the New Covenant, here is how we are to approach lying (and all forms of sin):*

  1. Lying dishonors the one to whom the lie is told. Lying communicates protecting me is more important than honoring you. God honored us by sending His Son to die for us… who am I to dishonor those whom God has honored?
  2. Lying devalues the recipient. Lying says, “You’re not worth the truth.” Jesus declared us valuable by dying on the Cross for us. Who am I to treat as worthless those to whom God has bestowed the status of sons and daughters?
  3. Lying breaks the relationship. God sent Jesus to repair the broken relationship between Himself and humankind. Who am I to break a relationship with someone for whom God paid so high a price to establish and restore one?

We should tell the truth because Jesus is TRUTH (John 14:6) and we want to be like Jesus. Out of gratitude for giving us honor, worth, and a relationship with Him, we ought to tell the truth.

Let’s think like Jesus and be motivated according to His way of thinking. It’s important!

*Note: Taken from several sources.