Proverbs 28 9-28-22

A God-sized hole in our hearts? Sounds dangerous. Come to find out, it is!

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12

You may have heard of the illustration of the God-sized hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill. It is actually a paraphrase of a quote from a Christian long ago:

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man
which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,
made known through Jesus Christ.”

–Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662

As we consider our lives, let’s do so from the standpoint of being incomplete. The way I understand things, when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the fellowship they had with God, which killed them spiritually, in that the place that the Holy Spirit held in their lives was given to another. In doing so, a figurative hole was left in their lives.

When we are born, we are born with the same “hole” in our lives. We try to fill it with all kinds of things, but mostly we fill it with ourselves. It is not until the Holy Spirit shows us that HE is the One who can fill that hole in our relationship with God. That Spirit is the Spirit of Christ,

18 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

Our awareness of something missing in our lives is the Holy Spirit opening our spiritual eyes to the fact that we are incomplete. We need Jesus. So, every morning when I get up, I have two verses that I use to help me be consciously aware of my need for Him in my life, and I consciously ask Him to take control and fill me:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
David, Psalm 139:23-24

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Asaph, Psalm 73:23-24

We had a Christmas card one time that had a Christmas tree on the front. The card folded out three or four times showing the tree with fewer and fewer needles until we could see the bare bones of the tree. The caption read something like this:

When all is stripped away
and all the tinsel removed
We see the true meaning of Christmas.

The “bare bones” of the tree was a cross. Each day, may we ask the Lord Jesus to strip away all the “tinsel” from our lives so that we can see what is truly needed: Jesus. He died and rose again so that we could be reunited with Him in fellowship. Our relationship with Christ IS our salvation. HE fills the God shaped vacuum in our hearts and satisfies us as nothing nor anyone else can.

Abba, I cannot live my life successfully without You. In fact, life would be dismal and miserable. You are my life and my joy. I want to finish this life with You. You lead, I will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 27 9-27-22

About questions: When is it okay to ask them? When is it SAFE to ask them?

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

The disciples asked Jesus a question and got an answer similar to the statement above,

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. Acts 1:6-7

After reading the Baptist Faith & Message, I have come to the conclusion that in our Baptist denomination, we all believe the basic tenets of the faith, but there is still room for some difference in opinion. Where those differences occur, Christ would have us strive for unity in the midst of diversity.

Paul said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). He even told us how, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). We each answer to the Holy Spirit. If we are each reading our Bibles and searching the Scriptures daily to learn while trusting the Spirit to lead us as we study, then we can trust that the Spirit is in control of everyone’s information. If what someone else thinks — within the BF&M– doesn’t line up with what we think, we are to humbly seek to see the person’s point of view. If that view can be scripturally validated–even if we disagree–we bear with one another in love. If that view can’t be scripturally validated, then according to the Spirit’s leading, we gently and patiently discuss the matter until a consensus is reached (which can take a while–years, even).

In all things, we seek unity in the body for worship and communion even if we disagree on selected points of Scripture. Paul said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:15-16). What is it that Paul asked them to do?

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-mindedhaving the same love, being one in spirit and of one mindDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

In a word,
UNITY.

Abba, we are family, Your family. We are siblings of Christ and You are our Father. I know that you want unity among Your children. May we take seriously Your prayer in John 17:20-21, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Segregating only makes us look like the world. I pledge to You, Abba, to work toward unity in all groups of which I am a part. Hold me to it! Amen.

Proverbs 26 9-26-22

When it comes to family, a decision must be made to love and honor others above ourselves. It is the high road.

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

Our last installment in the Baptist Faith & Message is about:

XVIII. The Family

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God’s pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Genesis 1:26-282:15-253:1-20Exodus 20:12Deuteronomy 6:4-9Joshua 24:151 Samuel 1:26-28Psalms 51:578:1-8127128139:13-16Proverbs 1:85:15-206:20-2212:413:2414:117:618:2222:6,1523:13-1424:329:15,1731:10-31Ecclesiastes 4:9-129:9Malachi 2:14-16Matthew 5:31-3218:2-519:3-9Mark 10:6-12Romans 1:18-321 Corinthians 7:1-16Ephesians 5:21-336:1-4Colossians 3:18-211 Timothy 5:8,142 Timothy 1:3-5Titus 2:3-5Hebrews 13:41 Peter 3:1-7.

In any society, the individual must give up certain individual rights in order to be compatible with the collective. The family is a mini-society, a picture and example of how a society should work. Being God-designed, families work when each member submits to the whole, but excels in his own forte or strength. The real trial comes in reminding each other of our responsibilities without using force, harsh words, or manipulation. We are to encourage and exhort each other in the love of Christ.

Allowing God to establish the rules for relationships (boundaries) is where most people get hung up. They just can’t see the whole picture and they don’t trust God to tell them the truth. Eve bought the lie of the Enemy to doubt God, Adam followed suit, and we have, too, in every subsequent generation. Only a relationship with Jesus Christ (God in the flesh and His Spirit in us) can help us to see that not only does God know what He is talking about, but He is trustworthy to tell us the truth.

When it comes to other people, we are not their Holy Spirit, so we set an example by the way we live and only answer their questions when we sense (via the Spirit) that they are ready to listen.

Abba, there’s a lot packed into today’s article that goes against the tide of popular opinion. May we stick to the truth of Your Word in these matters. We don’t have to accuse anyone of wrong thinking or wrong doing, but we know that we will be accused of being accusatory–just by the way we live. May our acts of faith honor You, O Lord. We trust You. We know that we will eventually wind up on Your side of life, and we know that you are walking with us all the way, so we will not fear. Your rod and Your staff comfort us. Amen.

Proverbs 25 9-25-22

We don’t need religious freedom in order to meet as a church and worship, but it certainly helps!

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

Today, in the Baptist Faith & Message, we look at:

XVII. Religious Liberty

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Genesis 1:272:7Matthew 6:6-7,2416:2622:21John 8:36Acts 4:19-20Romans 6:1-213:1-7Galatians 5:1,13Philippians 3:201 Timothy 2:1-2James 4:121 Peter 2:12-173:11-174:12-19.

“A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal” says it all. America has been a great place for Christians because our laws reflect the statutes in this Baptist article. In many countries, practicing a religion outside of the state religion is punishable by loss of job, loss of property, imprisonment, and even capital punishment. Religious liberty does not stop Christians from meeting and worshiping together; it just makes it easier.

If, at any time, it becomes inconvenient and/or unpopular to be a Christian in America, we can expect two boons:

  1. Our churches will become a lot leaner and, subsequently, healthier (only true Christians will attend),
  2. As Christians live different and sometimes dangerous lifestyles than the people around them, many will be drawn to Christ because of our personal relationship with Christ that goes beyond personal safety or creature comforts.

Paul said to pray for a peaceful atmosphere in order to live godly lives that draw others to Christ,

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holinessThis is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Abba, this is our prayer today. We pray for our president, his cabinet, congress, our judges, our state leadership and our city leadership that they would allow Christians to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. May we exemplify You in our lives and share with those who ask about our “strange” behavior. All glory goes to You, Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 24 9-24-22

Christians don’t have to be pacifists. But, our war is more on the spiritual side than the physical side.

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

We are nearing the end of our study of the Baptist Faith & Message. Today, we look at:

XVI. Peace and War

It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.
The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 2:4Matthew 5:9,38-486:3326:52Luke 22:36,38Romans 12:18-1913:1-714:19Hebrews 12:14James 4:1-2.

The key to this article is the phrase, “The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord.” Nothing was mentioned about Christians being soldiers, nor was anything mentioned about self-defense or physical protection of families. This article was purposely written with a broad brush so that each person can work out the specifics between him and the Lord. We must not judge another’s servant based upon our own conscience and conviction (1 Corinthians 10:29, Romans 14:4).

In case you were wondering, many soldiers in the Roman army were Christians, and they used their influence to bring many other soldiers to Christ. For interesting reading, go to earlychurchhistory.org.

I look forward to the day when every soldier beats his sword into a plowshare and his spear into a pruning hook (Isaiah 2:4).

Abba, may that Day come in Your time. I know You are filling the earth with Your Church. One day, she will be complete and You will come back to establish Your kingdom fully here on earth. I look forward to that Day. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Proverbs 23 9-23-22

Christianity only grows one way, and that is one transformed life at a time.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one [that is, Christ] 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. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

This next one’s tricky. I’ll tell you why after we read from the Baptist Faith & Message:

XV. The Christian and the Social Order

All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death. Every Christian should seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love. In order to promote these ends Christians should be ready to work with all men of good will in any good cause, always being careful to act in the spirit of love without compromising their loyalty to Christ and His truth.

Exodus 20:3-17Leviticus 6:2-5Deuteronomy 10:1227:17Psalm 101:5Micah 6:8Zechariah 8:16Matthew 5:13-16,43-4822:36-4025:35Mark 1:29-342:3ff.; 10:21Luke 4:18-2110:27-3720:25John 15:1217:15Romans 12–141Corinthians 5:9-106:1-77:20-2410:23-11:1Galatians 3:26-28Ephesians 6:5-9Colossians 3:12-171 Thessalonians 3:12; Philemon; James 1:272:8.

Influence. It’s the big stick of Christianity. We can use our influence in a Christlike manner or we can be impatient and use it in a manipulative manner. In history, we have classic examples of both:

From the stoning of Stephen (c. 35 A.D.) until 313 A.D (the end of Diocletian’s Roman rule), Christianity grew at a radical rate until it is estimated that more than half of the Roman Empire was Christian–and I mean Christ followers who were willing to die for following Him. The influence of Christians during this time is a great example of the Christlike manner about which we are talking. It’s been called the patient ferment of the early church. Christians lived differently than those around them, which peeked the interest (Holy Spirit-driven) of many. The ensuing conversations created converts to Christianity. But then…

Constantine the Great had a dream of a cross with the words inscribed on it, “With this sign, conquer.” He had the cross painted on all his soldiers’ shields. They won the battle and he became emperor and converted to Christianity. The Edict of Milan, signed in 313 A.D, was an agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire.* Later, Christianity became a legal religion in Rome,** and in 380 A.D. became the official religion of Rome.***

It sounds wonderful, but when we take Christianity and make it a state religion, we take all the power of conviction of the Holy Spirit out of it. We reduce Christianity to a bunch of rules–wait a minute; that sounds like Old Testament! Satan used his best ploy: If you can’t beat’em, join’em–then water’em down and steal their real power: the influence of transformed lives.

We must be careful to use our influence in a Christlike manner. It’s not about politics; it’s about the influence of our transformed lives that will bring curiosity and conviction to those with whom we have contact.

Abba, please help us to see that it’s about You in our lives that makes us different. The transformation of us into the image of Christ is what will draw all people to You. Our influence is wrapped up in our testimony. May we look to You to help us build and maintain our influence for You. Amen.

*Edict of Milan

**The Strange Dream of Emperor Constantine

***Christianity as the Official State Religion of Rome

Proverbs 22 9-22-22

Imagine what would happen if we all came together in unity under the banner of Christ. Pentecost all over again!

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mindDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4

Cooperation among our churches is what makes us Southern Baptists. From the Baptist Faith & Message:

XIV. Cooperation

Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

Exodus 17:1218:17ff.; Judges 7:21Ezra 1:3-42:68-695:14-15Nehemiah 48:1-5Matthew 10:5-1520:1-1622:1-1028:19-20Mark 2:3Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-142:1ff.; 4:31-3713:2-315:1-351 Corinthians 1:10-173:5-15122 Corinthians 8-9Galatians 1:6-10Ephesians 4:1-16Philippians 1:15-18.

We are basically talking about getting along. One of the things that has hurt us the most is our propensity to segregate rather than look for ways to unite. I’ve talked about the target before, but it’s still the best analogy I know for cooperation among churches both in and out of the Southern Baptist Convention.

  • The target, of course, is Jesus Himself.
  • The first ring is our dogma: The truth of Jesus’ incarnation, immaculate birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, subsequent resurrection, and His ascension to the throne at the right hand of God.
  • The second ring is doctrine, which is interpretation of Scripture. Views depend upon culture, geography, timeline, experience, and teaching.
  • The third ring is anything that is not clearly spelled out in Scripture. It is at this ring that we can come together with people of other churches and other denominations to work toward a common goal.

Jesus told us plainly, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will the world know that you are My disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Finding ways to segregate is not loving each other. Let’s love like Jesus told us to love, shall we?

Abba, You are the great Uniter. Your Spirit lives in us and binds our hearts together. May we look for Your Spirit in each person who claims to be Your disciple. Through loving each other as You have loved us and through cooperating together toward a unified goal, we can reach the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ, Your Son! Direct our hearts, O God. Amen.

Proverbs 21 9-21-22

Our willingness to share shows maturity in our walk with Christ. Which will we follow: His will or our way?

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Today in the Baptist Faith & Message, we look at:

XIII. Stewardship

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.

Genesis 14:20Leviticus 27:30-32Deuteronomy 8:18Malachi 3:8-12Matthew 6:1-4,19-2119:2123:2325:14-29Luke 12:16-21,4216:1-13Acts 2:44-475:1-1117:24-2520:35Romans 6:6-2212:1-21 Corinthians 4:1-26:19-201216:1-42 Corinthians 8-912:15Philippians 4:10-191 Peter 1:18-19.

The phrase, “You can’t ‘outgive’ God,” is true, but not necessarily in the way one might think. Spiritual currency is different than this world’s currency. If one puts money in the offering plate thinking that he will get a monetary return for his “donation,” he’s banking at the wrong bank. We give to God praying that He will use it to meet the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the advancement of the Gospel. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

The advancement of the Gospel happens when followers of Jesus Christ are obedient to the Spirit’s guidance in their lives. Whether it’s living a godly life before an unbelieving spouse, sharing with someone who stops by the church for assistance, going to the other side of the globe to further the cause of Christ, or some other way that the Lord directs a person to testify for Him, God uses each act of faith for His purposes.

May we give of our finances, our time, our resources, and even our very lives in the advancement of the Gospel. Building His Church (members, not buildings) is a major goal for us. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

Abba, You said that we would be witnesses all over the world. In many cases, You bring the world to us through neighbors, business contacts, and in many other ways. May we, first, live a life that brings You glory and attention, and second, be obedient to Your still, soft voice as You direct us to people You want to hear our story of how You interact with us on a daily basis. We want to be good stewards of the lives You have given us. Amen.

Proverbs 20 9-20-22

Education isn’t everything–but, it’s a lot! The more we know of something, the better decisions we make.

15 Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 AMP

We continue in the Baptist Faith & Message with:

XII. Education

Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.

In Christian education there should be a proper balance between academic freedom and academic responsibility. Freedom in any orderly relationship of human life is always limited and never absolute. The freedom of a teacher in a Christian school, college, or seminary is limited by the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ, by the authoritative nature of the Scriptures, and by the distinct purpose for which the school exists.

Deuteronomy 4:1,5,9,146:1-1031:12-13Nehemiah 8:1-8Job 28:28Psalms 19:7ff.; 119:11Proverbs 3:13ff.; 4:1-108:1-7,1115:14Ecclesiastes 7:19Matthew 5:27:24ff.; 28:19-20Luke 2:401 Corinthians 1:18-31Ephesians 4:11-16Philippians 4:8Colossians 2:3,8-91 Timothy 1:3-72 Timothy 2:153:14-17Hebrews 5:12-6:3James 1:53:17.

Education is important, but it does not save. Here’s why:

  1. Salvation comes through a personal relationship with Jesus; He becomes Lord of our lives.
  2. His Spirit fills us and begins to transform us into the spiritual image of Christ.
  3. The first thing the Spirit does is to give us a hunger and thirst to know Christ. We want it any way we can get it, such as prayer, Bible study, conversations with older Followers, classes, sermons, and experience. Paul said that he wanted to know Christ more deeply and intimately through His resurrection, but also through fellowshipping with Him in His sufferings (Philippians 3:10).

Without the Spirit, we have neither the desire nor the power to comprehend God, His will, or His ways. It’s not a blind faith in that we just take someone’s word for the truth. We base everything upon the revealed Word of God, the Bible. His Word says that we can know Him and that He wants to walk with us and lead us to Himself.

And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 1 John 2:3

It is these commands that we read in His Word. Jesus has two basic commands,

Love God (Matthew 22:37)
Love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39
)

Since Jesus is God in the flesh, we do what Jesus says. His Spirit guides us and reveals truth to us as we go. Although our salvation is not based upon education, our lives as followers of Christ are one big educational process.

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces [we are turned toward Christ] contemplate the Lord’s glory [we are learning as we go], are being transformed into his image [we become more and more like Jesus] with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

There is SO MUCH to learn–WE have SO MUCH to learn!

Abba, please teach us. May we be open to Your teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training as You make us righteous in our thoughts and ways (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We are trusting You for the process of sanctification, and, eventually, glorification, when “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). Amen.

Proverbs 19 9-19-22

There’s more to it than simply telling someone about Jesus. They need to see Him in our lives, too.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

We move on in our study of the Baptist Faith & Mission. Today, we look at:

XI. Evangelism and Missions

It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.

Genesis 12:1-3Exodus 19:5-6Isaiah 6:1-8Matthew 9:37-3810:5-1513:18-3037-4316:1922:9-1024:1428:18-20Luke 10:1-1824:46-53John 14:11-1215:7-8,1617:1520:21Acts 1:828:26-4010:42-4813:2-3Romans 10:13-15Ephesians 3:1-111 Thessalonians 1:82 Timothy 4:5Hebrews 2:1-311:39-12:21 Peter 2:4-10Revelation 22:17.

When we have something too good to keep to ourselves, we want to share it. The Holy Spirit sets up “divine appointments” where He draws people to His followers to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our lives point the way to a different way, His Way. How we treat others is extremely important because it tells the tale of what we truly believe. Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). He then said that if we love Him (to love Jesus is to love God; see John 14:9), we will do as He says (John 14:15). Then He said to love one another as He has loved us. By this love the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).

We must earn the right to tell them about Jesus. Sometimes, we earn the right for the next person, as in the case of Jim Elliot, who was killed by natives while trying to reach them with the Gospel. His widow went to meet the chief and shared Christ with Him. He and the entire village followed Christ. Who we are has more bearing than what we say. What does this say about our daily lives and how we treat others, especially family? And I was doing so well…

May we preach Christ’s love with our lives and earn the right to tell people about the deep, deep love of Jesus.

Abba, thank You that You are in charge of our “divine appointments.” I try to stay available and to treat others as I would like to be treated. More than that, I want to treat them as fellow brothers and sisters in You (or potential siblings). Rather than see them as targets, I see them as valued children of You, O Heavenly Father, who need Your loving touch through me. May I be Christ to them, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 18 9-18-22

Jesus is coming back to establish His kingdom on earth, thus joining the two kingdoms together. THAT we know for sure.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8

As we continue our look at the Baptist Faith & Message, we turn now to:

X. Last Things

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

Isaiah 2:411:9Matthew 16:2718:8-919:2824:27,30,36,4425:31-4626:64Mark 8:389:43-48Luke 12:40,4816:19-2617:22-3721:27-28John 14:1-3Acts 1:1117:31Romans 14:101 Corinthians 4:515:24-28,35-582 Corinthians 5:10Philippians 3:20-21Colossians 1:53:41 Thessalonians 4:14-185:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 21 Timothy 6:142 Timothy 4:1,8Titus 2:13Hebrews 9:27-28James 5:82 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:283:2Jude 14Revelation 1:183:1120:1-22:13.

Honestly, I had expected a more detailed description. What I like is that there is room for differences in interpretation concerning end times. There are several points on which we can all agree:

  1. Jesus is coming back (Acts 1:10-11).
  2. Jesus will bring everything to unity under Himself (Ephesians 1:10).
  3. Everyone will rise from the dead, some to live and some to be condemned (John 5:28-29).
  4. We are promised glorified bodies that are just like the one Jesus has (Philippians 3:21).

I have a friend who is a Pan-Millennialist while I am a Pro-Millennialist. He says, “Everything will pan out like Jesus wants it to,” while I say, “Whatever Jesus wants to do, I’m for it.” Our faith is in our Lord, and we are working to help Him grow His kingdom.

Abba, when I read passages that can be taken different ways, I trust You to know what they are actually saying, and that if it is important for me to know, that You would make it plain to me. When You don’t, I still trust You to know what You’re doing. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

Proverbs 17 9-17-22

The kingdom of heaven is among us. Wherever Jesus is, there is the kingdom of heaven. Is He in you? Then the kingdom is, too.

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20b

As we continue looking at the Baptist Faith & Message, today we look at:

IX. The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.

Genesis 1:1Isaiah 9:6-7Jeremiah 23:5-6Matthew 3:24:8-10,2312:25-2813:1-5225:31-4626:29Mark 1:14-159:1Luke 4:438:19:212:31-3217:20-2123:42John 3:318:36Acts 1:6-717:22-31Romans 5:178:191 Corinthians 15:24-28Colossians 1:13Hebrews 11:10,1612:281 Peter 2:4-104:13Revelation 1:6,95:1011:1521-22.

The kingdom of God is also the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is wherever its King is, so if the King rules in our hearts, then the kingdom has come to us, and we are part of His kingdom. Peter calls us “living stones”:

So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 2:4-5

Paul implies the same when he says that we are a holy temple in the Lord,

19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

So, we don’t have to wait to get to heaven to join Christ in His kingdom, although we will receive glorified bodies when we do,

20 But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21

Let’s rejoice that we are part of His kingdom right now!

Abba, thank You for not waiting for us to die to be with us. Having You in my life is greater than anything this world has to offer. Besides, You have promised something so much greater than this world. In fact, You have already “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son You love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Hallelujah! Praise You, Lord Jesus! Thank You, Abba! Amen.

Proverbs 16 9-16-22

The Lord’s Day is not the Sabbath, but can be like the Sabbath in rest and celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people…Acts 20:7

God established our week to be seven days long with one day of rest. Jews have celebrated Sabbath on the last day of the week (Saturday) for over 3500 years, but the concept of six days of toil and one day of rest goes all the way back to God’s creation of the heavens and the earth,

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 2:2

Paul and the early Christians celebrated on the first day of the week because Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1-10). Because of all three of these traditions, we have this statute in the Baptist Faith & Message:

VIII. The Lord’s Day

The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Exodus 20:8-11Matthew 12:1-1228:1ff.; Mark 2:27-2816:1-7Luke 24:1-3,33-36John 4:21-2420:1,19-28Acts 20:7Romans 14:5-10I Corinthians 16:1-2Colossians 2:163:16Revelation 1:10.

We don’t have any rules, per se, about how to celebrate the Lord’s Day, but we do have customs, such as congregating for fellowship, worship, teaching, ministry and evangelism–and eating. We do a lot of eating. Whether we meet on Sunday or another day, for one service or for two, early or late, dressed up or casual, traditional or contemporary music, we meet to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, to pledge ourselves anew to Him, and to affirm to the world our faith in Christ’s imminent return (since I lead the music at my church, I’m particularly fond of the worship time).

I pray you look forward to a weekly get-together with other Christians to celebrate our Lord Jesus Christ. One thing that helps is to spend time daily reading His Word and fellowshipping with Him on a personal and private level. By the time Sunday rolls around, you’re raring to go!

Abba, meeting together in Your name is one of the highlights of my week. The other highlights are my personal time with You, the time I get to spend with Robin talking about spiritual matters, and my time with others discussing Your Word and in prayer. May You continue to show us “great and unsearchable things we do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Amen.

Proverbs 15 9-15-22

Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why are they so important?

26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:26

There are two traditions that Jesus practiced. One was baptism of which He participated and all His followers, as well. The other was the Lord’s Supper, which was a modification of the Seder, or Passover meal, which He asked us to continue until He returns. Let’s look at the Baptist Faith & Message and see what it says.

VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Matthew 3:13-1726:26-3028:19-20Mark 1:9-1114:22-26Luke 3:21-2222:19-20John 3:23Acts 2:41-428:35-3916:30-3320:7Romans 6:3-51 Corinthians 10:16,2111:23-29Colossians 2:12.

It’s interesting to note that although immersion (baptismo in Greek) is stated, the method of immersion is not. Each church can baptize in whatever fashion it wants. Concerning the Lord’s Supper (also known as the Eucharist), it is left up to each church to determine how often it will partake in this ordinance. Most Baptist churches of which I have been a part have taken the Lord’s Supper four times a year. Most use grape juice (unfermented wine) and wafers (unleavened bread), but here again, it’s up to the individual church.

Each ordinance is designed to show our relationship with the Lord Jesus:

  1. Baptism symbolizes our participation in Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection. He did what we couldn’t by rising from the dead. It was His plan all along to break the curse of death and to rid us of the fear of death, “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” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
  2. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes our commitment to our service to Christ (the bread) and the sacrifice of our lives to Him (the wine). We are to do it to remind ourselves of His promise to return. He said, “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:24). When Jesus’ kingdom is finished (the building of His Church), then He will return and join the heavenly kingdom to the earthly kingdom. What a day that will be!

Abba, I know that many Christians all over the world partake of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday as the climax of their service. I don’t see the need for the frequency, but I do see the importance of the reminder to myself and my profession of faith in Christ’s promise to return. May I never take it flippantly. As for my baptism, I remember it well–seeing that I had to wait three weeks because I had stitches from busting my head open on the playground! It is a milestone in my life signifying my decision to follow You. I’m still following You today, and am more sold on You than ever! Thank You for these traditions, these reminders, of the relationship we share in You. Amen.

Proverbs 14 9-14-22

Why do you go to church? Or, why do you NOT go to church? Relationships make a big difference.

1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Article six of the Baptist Faith & Message is about:

VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Matthew 16:15-1918:15-20Acts 2:41-42,475:11-146:3-613:1-314:23,2715:1-3016:520:28Romans 1:71 Corinthians 1:23:165:4-57:179:13-1412Ephesians 1:22-232:19-223:8-11,215:22-32Philippians 1:1Colossians 1:181 Timothy 2:9-143:1-154:14Hebrews 11:39-401 Peter 5:1-4Revelation 2-321:2-3.

The two ordinances listed are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which will be covered in tomorrow’s post. The biggest challenge for the local church is unity, not so much in every specific belief, but in fellowship and spirit. Christ is our center, then establishing core beliefs (dogma) as the inner ring, doctrine as the next ring, and opinion as the outer ring is essential in order to maintain fellowship and unity.

The local church is where we come together for fellowship, worship, service, Bible study, and ministry. It’s also where Christians get to practice their Christianity on each other. Verses like Romans 12:10. Philippians 2:3, and Ephesians 4:2 come to mind, and especially,

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:3

Let us not give up on each other. Relationships come first.

Abba, if our churches could reflect Your love by showing love to one another, it would change our world. I know it did in the first two and a half centuries. Guide us as we meet together in Your name. May the world take notice and say of us, “See how they love one another!” Amen.

Proverbs 13 9-13-22

Ever wondered why you were created? The answer is simple: “To glorify (love) God and enjoy Him forever.”

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

We continue our look at the Baptist Faith & Message today with:

V. God’s Purpose of Grace

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-8; 1 Samuel 8:4-7,19-22; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31ff.; Matthew 16:18-19; 21:28-45; 24:22,31; 25:34; Luke 1:68-79; 2:29-32; 19:41-44; 24:44-48; John 1:12-14; 3:16; 5:24; 6:44-45,65; 10:27-29; 15:16; 17:6,12,17-18; Acts 20:32; Romans 5:9-10; 8:28-39; 10:12-15; 11:5-7,26-36; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; 15:24-28; Ephesians 1:4-23; 2:1-10; 3:1-11; Colossians 1:12-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2:10,19; Hebrews 11:39–12:2; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:2-5,13; 2:4-10; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:19; 3:2.

Talk about a lot in one paragraph! God created us to love Him, but of our own accord. Once we turn to Him in love by responding to His love, we enter a new dimension of being: We are invited to join the Trinity at the table of Communion. Right now, it’s by faith, but one day, “we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Abba, I long for the day when I sit at Your table and enjoy the presence of the Trinity along with all my brothers and sisters in Christ. It will be a glorious day, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! I can hardly wait. Amen.

Proverbs 12 9-12-22

Salvation: What will you do with Jesus? There are near and far consequences…

1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The Baptist Faith & Message is the Southern Baptist doctrinal statement. If we had a party line, this would be it. Today, we look at the subject of:

IV. Salvation

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.

There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ.

Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.

Yesterday, we ended with 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Today, we started with it. This verse sums up salvation like no other. Having Jesus is having God live in us loving us, encouraging us, and empowering us to live godly lives, something we cannot do on our own. To walk with Him now means we walk with Him forever. It’s that simple and that important.

Abba, sharing You is easy when we are walking in step with You. You guide us through every step as if we were blindfolded and only You know the way—which is exactly our spiritual state! We trust You, Lord, to lead us to those who are interested in knowing You. Lead on! Amen.

Proverbs 11 9-11-22

Evolution would have us think that we are nothing more than animals. God wants us to know we are special!

Psalm 8:3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? 5 You have…crowned them with glory and honor. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;

Continuing our look at the Baptist Faith & Message, we turn now to mankind.

III. Man

Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation. In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.

Genesis 1:26-302:5,7,18-2239:6Psalms 18:3-632:1-551:5Isaiah 6:5Jeremiah 17:5Matthew 16:26Acts 17:26-31Romans 1:19-323:10-18,235:6,12,196:67:14-258:14-18,291 Corinthians 1:21-3115:19,21-22Ephesians 2:1-22Colossians 1:21-223:9-11.

Want to know how God feels about us? check this out:

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

but God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. Romans 11:32

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

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

The finished work on the cross says that salvation is available to everyone (Titus 2:11). All we have to do is accept it and receive Him. It’s not about getting to heaven, but heaven getting to us via His Holy Spirit. We need Him in order to walk victoriously through this life and to become like our big Brother, Jesus.

Folks, it doesn’t get any plainer than that! Here’s what it all boils down to:

12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would appropriate Your mercy and grace by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and then walking with Him daily. Jesus, You make life better (by giving us Your life) and You make us better at life (as we walk in and with the Spirit). Amen.

Proverbs 10 9-10-22

The unity of the Trinity is central to Christianity. God = Jesus = Spirit = God.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

Today, we look at the third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit (part C of article two of the Baptist Faith & Message).

C. God the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service.

Genesis 1:2Judges 14:6Job 26:13Psalms 51:11139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3Joel 2:28-32Matthew 1:183:164:112:28-3228:19Mark 1:10,12Luke 1:354:1,18-1911:1312:1224:49John 4:2414:16-17,2615:2616:7-14Acts 1:82:1-4,384:315:36:37:558:17,3910:4413:215:2816:619:1-6Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-271 Corinthians 2:10-143:1612:3-11,13Galatians 4:6Ephesians 1:13-144:305:181 Thessalonians 5:191 Timothy 3:164:12 Timothy 1:143:16Hebrews 9:8,142 Peter 1:211 John 4:135:6-7Revelation 1:1022:17.

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of Christ (1 Peter 1:11), the Spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4), the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14), and the Spirit of glory (1 Peter 4:14). He is the “action” of God in the universe and our lives.

Interestingly, the question of equality of the Spirit in the Trinity was one of the issues that split the Roman Catholic Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054 AD. In the Nicene Creed, which was established in 325, the phrase about the Holy Spirit, “proceeding from the Father,” was given the addition, “and the Son (filioque–>son).” This change to the creed was so inflammatory that they split. A good, quick, informational source on “filioque” is gotquestions.org.

Baptists believe that the Holy Spirit is in equal standing with the Father and the Son. The fact that the Spirit is referred to as “of God,” “of Christ,” “of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19),” and “of holiness” attest to the unity of the Trinity. To have one is to have the others. They cannot be separated. The Spirit in us is HOW we have Christ in us and HOW we are sons of God. Neat, huh?

Abba, thank You for Your Spirit in us. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is what restored our relationship with You back to Eden-status. Actually, it’s better than Eden because we can never be separated from You again (Romans 8:31-39). You are awesome, and we are eternally grateful to You. Amen.

Proverbs 9 9-9-22

Jesus was literally fathered by the Heavenly Father, yet He has always been one with Him. How is that?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3

As we continue of our survey of the Baptist Faith & Message, we pick up where we left off yesterday with God the Father and move on to God the Son:

B. God the Son

Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

Genesis 18:1ff.; Psalms 2:7ff.; 110:1ff.; Isaiah 7:14Isaiah 53:1-12Matthew 1:18-233:178:2911:2714:3316:16,2717:52728:1-6,19Mark 1:13:11Luke 1:354:4122:7024:46John 1:1-18,2910:30,3811:25-2712:44-5014:7-1116:15-16,2817:1-521-2220:1-20,28Acts 1:92:22-247:55-569:4-5,20Romans 1:3-43:23-265:6-218:1-3,3410:41 Corinthians 1:302:28:615:1-8,24-282 Corinthians 5:19-218:9Galatians 4:4-5Ephesians 1:203:114:7-10Philippians 2:5-11Colossians 1:13-222:91 Thessalonians 4:14-181 Timothy 2:5-63:16Titus 2:13-14Hebrews 1:1-34:14-157:14-289:12-15,24-2812:213:81 Peter 2:21-253:221 John 1:7-93:24:14-155:92 John 7-9Revelation 1:13-165:9-1412:10-1113:819:16.

Three references are listed above that explain who Jesus really is:

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel [God with us]. Isaiah 7:14

Jesus is one of the Trinity. He is God with us.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.
He IS grace and truth.

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. Hebrews 1:2

Jesus is how God speaks to us. He is the One to whom we listen.

Jesus is “God with skin on.” He is the exact representation of God’s being, the Sustainer of all things by His powerful word (see Genesis 1:3 and Hebrews 1:3), and the “appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he [God the Father] made the universe (again Genesis 1:3-26).” If we want to know what God is like, we look no further than Jesus Christ. ““Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

Yet, Jesus showed us His great love for us in that while we were still sinners, He died for us (Romans 5:8). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1). This is the Good News of the Gospel!

Abba, thank You for coming and taking on the curse of death for us. Only You could be raised from the dead, thus breaking the curse forevermore! You are the firstfruits of many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29), of which I am one. Amen.

Proverbs 8 9-8-22

The reality of the Trinity is key to understanding why the Father could send the Son to die: They are the same Person.

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9
30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

Article 2 of the Baptist Faith & Message is what we believe about God:

II. God

There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

A. God the Father

God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Genesis 1:12:7Exodus 3:146:2-315:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2Deuteronomy 6:432:61 Chronicles 29:10Psalm 19:1-3Isaiah 43:3,1564:8Jeremiah 10:1017:13Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:1123:928:19Mark 1:9-11John 4:245:2614:6-1317:1-8Acts 1:7Romans 8:14-151 Corinthians 8:6Galatians 4:6Ephesians 4:6Colossians 1:151 Timothy 1:17Hebrews 11:612:91 Peter 1:171 John 5:7.

John tells us in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.” God is also righteous. Everything He does is right. He is our standard for right living, goodness, and love. His is a self-giving love. We cannot live up to any standard of righteousness without Him. He knows this and has offered everyone the opportunity for Him to come and live in them, help them, guide them, and transform them into complete righteousness (the image of His Son, Jesus). God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This is God the Father, who longs for each of His prodigal children to return home (Luke 15:11-24).

Aren’t you glad you did?

Abba, I find it amazing that You have made a way for us to be Your children, in right-standing with You, and eligible to inherit Your kingdom with our Brother, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:14-17). May we bask in Your love, Your righteousness, Your joy, and Your peace. Thank You, thank You, thank You, Abba. You’re the best! Amen.

Proverbs 7 9-7-22

Ever wondered why you believe what you believe? I read through the Baptist Faith and Message the other day…

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

As I read through the BF&M, I felt grounded in my faith and secure in my belief. I thought you might like to walk through them with me. None of them are very long, but they do speak the basic truths of our Baptist beliefs.

I. The Scriptures

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.

Exodus 24:4Deuteronomy 4:1-217:19Joshua 8:34Psalms 19:7-10119:11,89,105,140Isaiah 34:1640:8Jeremiah 15:1636:1-32Matthew 5:17-1822:29Luke 21:3324:44-46John 5:3916:13-1517:17Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11Romans 15:416:25-262 Timothy 3:15-17Hebrews 1:1-24:121 Peter 1:252 Peter 1:19-21.

I like the way that each article has a list of Scripture passages as references. The sad part is the loss of the original texts and our inability to read Hebrew. Hebrew is a three-dimensional language as opposed to Greek, Latin, and English. As was said by an interpreter around 3 BC, there are some concepts that simply do not translate from Hebrew to Greek*. Even so, from Hebrew to Greek, to Latin, to old English, and finally to contemporary English, the Central Idea of the Text has never changed.

We do well to remind each other often of the Gospel we have received from reliable witnesses and on which we have taken our stand. We are saved through this Gospel; let’s hold firmly to it. What is the Gospel on which we hold firmly?

  • Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
  • He was buried,
  • He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
  • and was seen by Cephas (Peter), the Twelve, more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time, to James (His brother), and to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

Abba, we search the Scriptures not to find life, but to find You, for You give life (John 5:39-40). May we study them diligently in order to correctly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Sanctify us with Your truth; Your Word is truth (John 17:17). Amen.

*In the prologue of Wisdom of Sirach

Proverbs 6 9-6-22

There is an apparent contradiction in the Old Testament–or is it there on purpose?

All Scripture is God-breathed [inspired] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The apparent contradiction is as follows:

Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”
2 Samuel 24:1-2

Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-2

So, which is it? Was it a clerical error? Was it the authors’ own opinions? Why would God allow a “mistake” in His Word? I’m glad you asked!

We know that “the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Proverbs also tells us, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6). Taking the words of the LORD as our foundation, everything else is built on top of it. If God allowed both editorials on who motivated David to take the census, then we must accept that God wanted us to see this apparent contradiction. Consider this:

Could it be that God wanted us to understand that every person born before Christ had a veiled view of Him (2 Corinthians 3:14-15)? The version given by the author of Kings had a traditional view of God as King of Israel. Less than 100 years previously, God WAS the King and Leader of Israel (theocracy). Then, the people asked for a king, so God gave them Saul. Saul died, and David became king. Given the troubled history of the Israelites from the Exodus (1459 BC), through the rule of the judges to Saul (1050 BC), it was no wonder that the people had a warrior view of God, especially since the writer of Kings (possibly Jeremiah according to Jewish tradition) lived during the Diaspora (605-535 BC).

What I appreciate is God’s way of setting the record straight. The writer of Chronicles was a priest (possibly Ezra according to Jewish tradition) during the Diaspora, and gives the corrected view of how God works in our lives:

  • Satan rises up against us (either actively or passively through our sinful world and our corrupt flesh) and tempts us.
  • We succumb and fall into sin.
  • God punishes/corrects His children through the consequences of our sin. The good news is that He walks with us through them and, somehow, turns them into blessings (Romans 8:28).

For me, the coolest part of the story is the end as told in 1 Chronicles:

  • The angel of the LORD (the pre-incarnate Christ?) stood at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. v15
  • David repented. vs 16-17
  • The Angel of the LORD had David build an altar there. v18
  • When David offered the sacrifice and “called on the LORD, the LORD answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.” v26
  • The plague was stopped. v27
  • The threshing floor is the place upon which the Temple was built! It was also the place where Abraham offered his son to the LORD in sacrifice (God intervened). Twice, on this very place, God had mercy!

God is, indeed, a Romans 8:28 God!

Abba, Your thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts! Thank You for showing us that without You to open our eyes, ears, thoughts, and our hearts, we cannot comprehend Your Word. May we always look to You for wisdom, insight, and understanding. May we not be afraid to ask, to seek, and then to knock. Amen.

Proverbs 5 9-5-22

The Rich Man and Lazarus: True story or parable? You make the call!

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24

After looking it up on the internet, I’m still undecided about the question. Let’s read the story and look at both sides.

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

A True Story-
From Gotquestions.org

  • The story is never called a parable.
  • The beggar was actually named.
  • “Third, this particular story does not seem to fit the definition of a parable, which is a presentation of a spiritual truth using an earthly illustration. The story of the rich man and Lazarus presents spiritual truth directly, with no earthly metaphor. The setting for most of the story is the afterlife, as opposed to the parables, which unfold in earthly contexts.”

A Parable-

  • It is in the midst of other parables.
  • It begins just like two other parables: Luke 15:11 and 16:1.
  • “Lazarus” might have been used as an icon. It means, “God will help.” “Eleazar” is its Hebrew counterpart. “Lazarus” is the Greek version.
  • Since we have no particulars on the afterlife, we have no way of knowing if Jesus was being literal or simply making the point that many would not believe in Him even after He rose from the dead (v.31).

There is a compelling evidence in Matthew 13:34 that makes me lean toward the passage being a parable,

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

At the same time, Matthew may have been referring to the parables that he related in his Gospel. Again, we don’t know for sure. On either side you fall, we can find these truths in the story:

  1. Wealth can turn a person away from true devotion to God. Because of the mention of purple, the entire story may have been pointed to the leadership, specifically the high priest.
  2. There are blessings and consequences beyond the grave about how we live–and for Whom– on this earth.
  3. Jesus was prophesying that many of the leadership of Israel would not believe in Him even after He rose from the dead.

The Rich Man and Lazarus: True story or parable? You make the call!

Abba, I was surprised when Robin pointed out that the rich man’s attitude had not changed even in his torment. He was still ordering people around! If this story is about the current leadership of that day, which several of the other parables were, then they were dead-set against Jesus. No wonder within 40 years the entire sacrificial system was destroyed. It’s interesting to me that they were afraid of losing their privileged status with Rome (John 11:48), yet it was the Romans who annihilated Jerusalem and the temple! Lord, may we always put our trust in You. You are the One who helps us. Amen.

Proverbs 4 9-4-22

Magic vs. Christianity- Part 2: How can we escape the trap of expectation?

19 Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. Galatians 4:19

Yesterday, we looked at what could be entitled, “Faith-Magic,” where if we have enough faith, miracles happen. We just don’t know enough about any situation to know what or when a miracle is truly needed. It’s up to God’s overall plan to reach the world with the Gospel.

Today, we are looking at “Performance-Magic.” This kind of magic is really based upon the credit/debit system. If we live a certain way, do a certain number of good deeds, perform certain religious rites, or meet certain expectations, then our prayers will be answered the way we want them to be answered. We can already see the flaw in this kind of magic. God is not obligated in any way, shape or form to “come through” for us. His ways are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). We cannot even begin to expect to know what kind of miracle is needed, when, how, or even to whom. We must face the fact that God does not answer to us just because we followed a certain format or lived a certain way.

Actually, knowing this fact can be quite freeing, especially if we learn to lean into Christ rather than panic. One of my favorite songs that ministered to me when I was going through vocal issues (that led to surgery) is, “Sometimes He Calms the Storm.” Here are the words.

All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong

Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control

(refrain)
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

He has a reason for each trial
That we pass through in life
And though we’re shaken
We cannot be pulled apart from Christ

No matter how the driving rain beats down
On those who hold to faith
A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet peaceful place

(refrain)

As long as we remember that many of our circumstances are of our own devising, and many others are of other people’s bad choices, we can trust God to work all things in our lives for good because we have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), which is to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Let’s forsake the old ways and reach out for His new ways. All we have to do is:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

It really is that simple–easy to say, hard to do! It’s a daily struggle, but remember, He is with us all the way.

Abba, if we would relax and let You lead us, we would find that You have everything under control. Even when our lives seem not to be, You have us in the palm of Your hand. It’s a wild ride, Lord, but I know that eventually, this rollercoaster will stop and we will get off and step into Your kingdom. I can hardly wait! Amen.

Proverbs 3 9-3-22

Magic vs. the faithfulness of God. We all fight it.

23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
    and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you [King Saul] have rejected the command of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.”

I have heard that magic is manipulating circumstances using spells, elemental ingredients, talismans, etc. for a desired outcome. Many cultures and even civilizations were/are based upon magic, and that includes religion. In fact, in many places, magic IS the religion.

For Christians, we must ask ourselves if we have carried something from our former life into our Christian life expecting things to work the same way. For instance, we are told to pray and move mountains (actually, it’s about faith in God’s sovereignty rather than our efforts), to “name it and claim it” (actually, it’s about being dead to ourselves and seeking the Spirit’s leadership in our lives), and that if we have enough faith, miracles happen (actually, our faith is to be in God’s overall plan to reach the world with the Gospel; how He does it is His business). I wholeheartedly believe that if I were to go to a place where the Gospel is new and the atmosphere was toxic with pagan religious rites, I would see miracles happen as God shows Himself mighty unto salvation in the form of signs, dreams, visions and physical miracles. At least, that’s what I am praying concerning Africa, China, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and other parts of the world.

Instead of taking the responsibility of answered prayer upon ourselves, let’s leave the outcome up to the Lord. We have His promise that He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5), so we can trust Him in all circumstances. In fact, the famous verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13), is about trust and patient endurance in the face of hard times (read 4:10-20). We can trust Him with our pain, with our loved ones, even our lives. Let’s just remember that His long-term goal is for us to be with Him in glory,

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Tomorrow, we will look at another kind of magic called, “Performance Magic.”

Abba, You know our hearts. We love You, but we can’t seem to let go of control. It started in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day in every person’s life. Help us to let go and trust You in all things for all things. I know our blood pressure would be lower and our attitudes would be better. Amen.

Proverbs 2 9-2-22

Jesus asks us to think outside the box (of our western thinking) on this one.

Jeremiah 33:3 (God’s phone number) “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.”

Something was pointed out to me the other day that I want to pass on to you. Jesus gave us the greatest command in Matthew 22:37, but He linked another verse with it, thus giving the second verse the same authority as the first. Here they are:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

See what He did? “The second is like it.” How can two verses have equal importance? Western thinkers will have a problem with this concept because we think in priorities. Eastern thinkers would see these verses as co-central. Instead of building a pyramid with the greatest command on top, they would see it as a target with both greatest commands as the center, or bullseye. When these two verses are seen as central to everything else, it’s easy to keep them in perspective. Jesus put it this way,

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15

Since Jesus is God with skin on, we show our love for God by obeying Jesus. What did Jesus tell us to do?

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, [love your neighbor, but also] love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect [complete, mature, fulfilled], therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect [complete, mature, fulfilled].

Paul went even further with this central thought:

14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

Again, we show our love of the Father by loving our neighbor. How do we accomplish this task? Enter the Holy Spirit. We are not designed to do it in our own power nor by ourselves. He craves our fellowship and offers us a partnership with Him for life. Christianity really is that simple.

Abba, thank You for wanting us as Your children. You’ve made things almost too simple. I stake my life on Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you to will [the desire] and to act [the power] in order to fulfill his good purpose [becoming like Jesus].” I crave it more and more, Lord. I can hardly wait to see You, for then I will be just like You (1 John 3:2). Amen.

Proverbs 1 9-1-22

Loving God and loving others pretty much sums up the two greatest commandments.

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Psalm 139:23-24 has been a favorite passage of mine for quite a while. It’s a great memory verse and is a good way to begin my quiet time with the Lord in the mornings.

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

It’s a very personal passage between my Father and me. The first part is about my heart and thoughts and my making them accessible to Him. It’s not that He does not know them already, but if I let Him, He will help me sort them out. It’s part of our relationship and the fellowship we share. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

It’s the “any offensive way in me” that has gotten me to thinking lately. My traditional interpretation of this line is that it pertains to the parts of me that are offensive to God. But, that is not how God sees me. He sees me as a little child (Matthew 11:25), as a lamb without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). He has compassion on me and loves me. He wants us to come to Him with no fear (Matthew 11:28-30, 1 John 4:18).

So, if it’s not an offensive way in me, then what is it? Could it be about how I treat others? Am I offensive to those around me? Jesus puts great stock in how we treat others. He even said that if we were not willing to forgive those who sin against us, then the heavenly Father would not forgive us (Matthew 6:14). Basically, we set the curve for our own forgiveness. Also, we are most like Jesus when we serve others (Matthew 20:28).

Now, when I read this passage on my card every morning and quote it to the Father, I am asking for Him to be Lord of my life and to show me how to love others. It’s a daily thing. Try it sometime. I think you will find it very cathartic.

Abba, You know my heart. You know what I need and what I need to get rid of. I am trusting You to guide me today (Psalm 73:23-24). May I give all I know of myself to all I know of You today. Teach me to set myself aside and love others as You love them. It’s important to You, therefore it’s important to me. Loving others is one of the best ways to love You. Amen.

Proverbs 31 8-31-22

Here’s a paradox: We cannot serve Christ without Christ. Living for Jesus means living WITH Jesus.

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears [and serves] the LORD is to be praised.

Living for Jesus is not about following rules and staying within certain moral parameters. It’s about learning to walk with Christ in righteousness and godliness. Why would we do that?

14 For Christ’s love compels [constrains] us, because we are convinced that one [Christ] died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he [Christ] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him [Christ] who died for them and was raised again. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

This verse enables us in several ways:

  • We love as He loves.
  • We live in the joy of His eternal presence (He was raised, therefore, we will be raised).
  • We trust Him and are at peace with ourselves, which allows us to be at peace with others.
  • We start using the tools He has given us, such as patience, kindness, goodness, graciousness, and perseverance. Notice that these tools have to do with interacting with other people, and can be applied to animals, too.
  • We set as goals faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • We trust God’s Word. His Word is truth (John 17:17). God is Jesus –>Jesus is the Word –>The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ –> What is He saying to you right now?

There is an old hymn written around the 19th Century that puts to music the theme of Living for Jesus. Here are three of the verses; we could easily insert “with” in place of every “for”:

1. Living for Jesus, a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

Refrain:
O Jesus, Lord and Savior, I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonement, didst give Thyself for me;
I own no other Master, my heart shall be Thy throne;
My life I give, henceforth to live, O Christ, for Thee alone.

2. Living for Jesus Who died in my place,
Bearing on Calv’ry my sin and disgrace;
Such love constrains me to answer His call,
Follow His leading and give Him my all.

4. Living for Jesus through earth’s little while,
My dearest treasure, the light of His smile;
Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem,
Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.

(Good luck in finding a good rendition of this hymn on YouTube)

Abba, walking with You, loving You and serving You all seem to be wrapped up together. I know Christ said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). I know that with You, I can do all things (Philippians 4:13), and without You, I can do nothing (John 15:5). May Your Spirit continue to lead us into all truth; may He give us wisdom, knowledge, insight, understanding, discernment, discretion, and prudence as we serve You WITH You. Amen.

Proverbs 30 8-30-22

In Full View: It’s how we should live our lives.

20 This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Personal integrity is at the top of the list for Christ-followers. Why? Because what we do and how we are reflects directly upon our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His followers. An even bigger reason is because we have the Spirit of Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and He is our Lord.

Romans 12:17 tells us, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Does this mean that we should do everything publicly? No. The Pharisees did because of selfish motives (Matthew 23:5-7). We do everything as if someone is watching so that everything we do brings honor and glory to Christ.

Abba, if we could ever get it into our heads that we are never alone, that You are always with us, we would forget about entertaining inappropriate and thoughts, and especially inappropriate deeds. Help us to think like Christ so that we can become like Christ. Amen.

Proverbs 29 8-29-22

Immediately after giving birth, the mother’s body does something miraculous. Read on!

30:18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand:” One is how a woman’s body knows how to do what it does.

This post is the last installment from,  “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body” (that’s not to say that we won’t look at other parts at another time). Today, we talk about a true miracle that has no explanation on how the body learned to do such a thing.

During the baby’s development, the placenta is securely attached to the endometrium of the uterus by some of the larger branches of each cotyledon (tree-like structures). When the uterus contracts to expel the placenta after the birth of the baby, some of the endometrial surface is torn off with it. This results in severing about 20 large uterine arteries which, if unchecked, would involve the loss of blood at a rate of about one pint per minute. Since fewer than five quarts of blood are in the adult female body, all the blood would be lost in less than 10 minutes. It is also important to note that the blood-clotting mechanism is suppressed in the placenta and uterine blood vessels during pregnancy, creating a situation comparable to a hemophiliac with 20 severed arteries. These factors result in a wound that no one would expect to survive!

How does a woman survive childbirth with such a wound? Here is another example of the awe-inspiring work of God, the Creator and Sustainer of life. You see, each of the severed uterine arteries has a precisely placed muscular sphincter that acts like a purse string, or a surgeon’s hemostat, to immediately close off the loss of blood. As a result, a normal birth involves the loss of only about a pint of blood. Simply amazing!

The next time you experience the joy of a baby’s birth, thank the Lord for providing this selfless placenta. And above all, reflect on the fact that our Creator, who at the time of childbirth so mercifully spares the mother from a fatal loss of blood, did not hesitate to shed His own blood in death to save us from sin, death, and the power of the devil [Hebrews 2:14-15].

Abba, it boggles my mind to think that every time a baby is born that You perform this miracle. You did it twice for my family–You did it for me! You are in the business of giving life. Thank You for Your abundant life in Christ that You have made available to anyone and everyone. Amen.