Proverbs 22 5-22-22

Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. In fact, we are all part of God’s family (Hebrews 2:11).

8:20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice [a synonym of righteousness], 21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

Americans tend to think individually rather than as a family, which is largely due to our heritage as Americans. Many of our forefathers and their families came to America for a new start away from their extended families and heritage. Hence, individual choice is paramount to us. In “Misreading Scripture Through Western Eyes,” the authors hold up a mirror to us,

“The highest goal and virtue in this sort of culture [Western societies] is being true to oneself. The supreme value is the sovereignty of the individual.” (page 96).
“The non-Western concept of family is broader than the Western. But Jesus expanded it even more. For Jesus, family not only designated one’s immediate, biological relatives but included all who are knit together in faith. (page 105)

Jesus continues to expand His family through the church. We are His church, His bride. We are His body through which He fills everything in every way,

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:22-23

We are the aroma of Christ everywhere we go. This aroma sets the stage for ministry, witness, and evangelism. Christ is still leading a growing procession as the church continues to spread and grow, just like the rock in Daniel’s interpretation of Neb’s dream in Daniel 2:34-35 that grew and “became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.” Paul said that to some we are the smell of death; I interpret this smell to be conviction of the Spirit to a lost person. He then said we are the fragrance of life to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s read this passage:

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Today as we go to church, may we consider those around us. They are more than friends; they are brothers and sisters in God’s family. We will be spending eternity together; maybe we ought to start thinking more long-term in our relationships with them.

Abba, You have included us in Your family. It’s One Big Family! You are our heavenly Father and Jesus is our Big Brother. May we cultivate a kingdom attitude toward our fellow brothers and sisters. Amen.


Proverbs 21 5-21-22

Practicing Christianity while talking about Christianity can be difficult, especially when passions run high.

30:33 For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.

When discussing religious views, there are two rules:

  1. Be respectful.
  2. Manage your emotions.

With these two rules acting as a framework for the discussion, we can set the parameters for discussion using this diagram:

  1. Belief that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and invites all people to join Him in a personal relationship is where we unite.
  2. The dogma (absolute truths) about Jesus is where discussion begins. A person doesn’t have to know the dogma in order to trust in Jesus.
  3. Doctrine is where most debate comes in. Interpretation of text, both literal and theological, can be personal. Viewpoints must be taken for what they are: a person’s personal views which are based upon how he interprets the Scriptures.
  4. Personal opinion is just that: a person’s opinion. Anything outside of Scripture falls into this category.

Labeling, and even vilifying, each other as heretics over personal opinion, doctrine, or even dogma does not reflect the teachings of Christ, help the cause of Christ, or make outsiders want to join us. We must remember that Jesus is responsible for each of His followers, not us. We all answer to the Chief Shepherd. Also, we are to be stars shining in the universe (Philippians 2:15). We can’t really do that if we are attacking each other, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

Here is a great way to live our lives,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

This verse includes other believers/followers. Just sayin.

Abba, there is so much I have to learn that I simply cannot be dogmatic about anything except who You are. May we have great endurance and patience with each other when discussing doctrine and even dogma. I want to learn even from those with whom I disagree. I’m going to take my own advice and chill…amen.

Proverbs 20 5-20-22

The opposite of forgiveness is unforgiveness, which is like Kryptonite to Superman. We must release it before it harms us.

4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

The word, “forgive,” has taken on a meaning for which it was never intended. Most of us think of forgiveness as something we bestow upon someone or withhold from someone. Peter approached Jesus about forgiveness:

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 18:21-22

Peter wasn’t thinking about whether or not to bestow forgiveness upon his brothers and sisters. When he asked about forgiving, here is what he had in mind:

aphiémi: to send away, leave alone, permit
Original Word: ἀφίημι
Part of Speech: Verb
Transliteration: aphiémi
Phonetic Spelling: (af-ee’-ay-mee)
Definition: to send away, leave alone, permit
Usage: (a) I send away, (b) I let go, release, permit to depart, (c) I remit, forgive, (d) I permit, suffer.

The definition is “to send away.” Send what away? The first question we must ask is, “Is it the person or the sin (offense, done wrong) that is sent away?” Since the passage is about restoration, peace and harmony among the family, we must assume that it is the offense that is sent away. How does one “send away” an offense? Let’s look at (b) in the usages.

(b) “I let go, release, permit to depart”– Here is where unforgiveness is like Kryptonite to Superman: The offense is a piece of Kryptonite that a person shoves into Superman’s hands. Superman now has a choice to dropkick it into space (like the football) or to clench it tightly to his chest. One rids the world of that piece of Kryptonite altogether; the other one makes Superman weak and sick.

It is the same for us. When we release a wrong, we save ourselves from becoming weak and sick. It is why Jesus said, “seventy-seven times (some interpretations read, “seventy-times-seven”). We must do it every time for our own sakes. It’s not so much about the other person as it is about our own mental and spiritual health. We will suffer each time we think of it unless we release it.

To whom do we release it? For this answer, let’s turn to Jesus:

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This passage includes the offenses that we carry. We are burdened, and weary from carrying them. Jesus wants us to release anything and everything that is weighing us down and making us sick, which includes unforgiveness. The weight of our burdens is transferred through His yoke onto Jesus’ shoulders (a double yoke). He carries our burden for us and has, indeed, already taken them to the grave!

So, for today, let’s try an experiment. When the word, “forgive,” pops into your head, replace it with “release,” and see how it makes you feel. I have a sneaking suspicion that we will feel our burdens lift right off our shoulders and onto His.

Abba, thank You for such provision! Knowing that You want all my burdens so that my yoke is easy and light, thanks to You, makes me want to follow You all the more. Such happy news! You are wonderful! Amen.

Proverbs 19 5-19-22

We are either building up or tearing down. It’s up or down, folks!

19 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a [rich] fool whose lips are perverse.

When each decision we make has blessings or consequences both great or small, the idea that we are always building up or tearing down makes sense. This concept is an old one; we have it on record about 3,000 years ago. Jesus confirmed it in His teachings about 2,000 years ago. We will begin with Proverbs and then move to Jesus:

24 The path of life leads upward for the wise
    to keep them from going down to the grave. Proverbs 15:24

It’s a lot like rowing a canoe upstream. If one ever stops rowing, the canoe does not stay in one place, but begins to drift back downstream. Jesus put it this way,

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12:30

Another metaphor used to describe whether we are building up or tearing down is building a temple. Jesus first used the metaphor in Scripture in Matthew 16,

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Paul elaborated on this metaphor in Ephesians 2 when he was describing the new humanity that God was making out of two (Jews and Gentiles).

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone

Paul refers to the foundation of eye-witnesses and prophecy; he then uses a 3,000-year-old psalm to tie it to Jesus, who did the tying Himself. The reference is Psalm 118:22-23, which Jesus quotes,

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Luke 20:17

Paul does something extraordinary next:

21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

He uses people as the building blocks of a new temple in which God lives by His Spirit! One of the interpretations of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:9-27 is that it is a metaphor of the people of God, His Church, His Bride, which follows Paul’s analogy quite closely.

If we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), then we are either building up the temple of God or tearing it down, so to speak, with our actions and our words. May we ask the Spirit each and every time if what we are about to say or do is going to build up or tear down. I am always reminded of Proverbs 17:28, which says, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Just because we “think it” doesn’t mean we have to say it. Let’s be wise in the Lord, shall we?

Abba, thank You for patiently instructing me to ask before speaking or doing. I just wish I thought to ask every time! I know that sin destroys us along with whatever we are doing, including relationships, and You don’t want us to destroy ourselves or others. May we all learn to listen to Your Spirit ever more closely each day. Amen.

Proverbs 18 5-18-22

The great paradox of Christianity is that in order to live, we must die–but I thought Christ came to die for us?

1:1 The proverbs of Solomon…6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Jesus Christ died for us on the cross to draw all people unto Him (John 12:32). As I see it, His death was two-fold:

  1. Even dying the worst death imaginable at the hands of wicked men (of which we are, by nature, part of that group), He forgave us. Completely. For all time.
  2. Jesus went through death and came out on the other side in order to pave the way for all of us. He was the first fruits of all who would rise from the dead. “As the early church fathers testify (from Irenaeus to Athanasius, to the two Gregorys, Cyril and Maximus the Confessor), If Christ were merely God, He could not die. But if He were merely man, he could not defeat death. So Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, enters death by death to annihilate death itself. This victory is made complete and manifest in the resurrection and ascension of Christ.”*

But, accepting His gift of forgiveness and new life is not just a one-time event. He is now our Lord. Learning to follow His orders rather than our own (or Satan’s) is now the major effort of our lives. W e must understand that in our minds, we have lived our lives where we exalted ourselves above God, or at least, to the same level as God by choosing our own way. Jesus calls us to take the cruciform path (the way of the cross) and “crucify” ourselves, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), which means to submit to the Lordship of Christ as if we had died and He lives through us. Thus, we have this attitude from the apostle Paul,

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

I love the phrase, “If anyone would come after me,” because it emphasizes intention of the will. We must determine in our hearts that He is who we want and that we are willing to take up our cross to follow Him. I also love the word, “daily,” because it emphasizes that following Jesus is not just a one-time event, but an everyday lifestyle. We, therefore, exercise a living death, a foretaste of what is to come. We know by His promises that we will die and then be reborn with our heavenly bodies to live physically and literally with Christ.

Good News, right?

Abba, help me get it through my thick skull that the cruciform life (the way of the cross) is the only way to live. It’s what You meant by losing my life to find it in You. May I live continuously in Your death so that I can experience Your life. Amen.

*What ‘Christ Died for our Sins’ Meant to the Fathers – Brad Jersak, point 4-C

Proverbs 17 5-17-22

The call to follow Jesus is individual and universal. We each must hear His voice and respond to Him.

29:1 Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed [by the natural consequences of his actions]–without remedy.

After Jesus reinstated Peter into His ministry, He prophesied to Peter the kind of death by which he would glorify God. “Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19). This call is the same as when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John at the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:19). Jesus is quoted using this same call several times in Scripture,

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:89-60

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

As we can see, the call is universal. But, Peter had not yet been empowered by the Holy Spirit. He asked Jesus about John, “‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'” (John 21:21-22). From Jesus’ response, we see that the call is individual as well as universal. Each of us must:

  1. Hear the voice of Jesus calling;
  2. Choose to obey His voice;
  3. Follow Him regardless of what anyone else says or does (or does not do).

Our resolve comes from His call, and His love flows through us along with His peace and joy. His call gives us hope of better things to come, a hope that is based upon a relationship with the heavenly Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Have you heard His voice and chosen to follow Him? Thank Him for calling you to be His own!

Abba, I thank You for calling me 55 years ago to follow You. As much as any 6-year-old can, I determined to follow You with all my heart. I got a little side-tracked in the 7th-8th grades, but I heard You calling me back to You at Falls Creek the summer of my Freshman year. I have much in common with Peter in this respect. I sure am glad that You are a God of second chances (and thirds, and fourths, etc.). You never give up on us, do You? Praise You, O Lord! Amen.

Proverbs 16 5-16-22

“He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.” Great theology.

9:6 Leave your simple ways [follow Jesus] and you will live; walk in the way of [His] insight.

Whatever happened to the soldiers that were guarding the tomb? The religious leaders protected them from the governor (Matthew 28:11-15), but what about divine justice? We have no record of them beyond that point–which is exactly my point. Did God zap them for their lies about Jesus? What about the soldiers that cast lots for His clothes? Did God pour out His wrath on them? We have stories about the centurion becoming a follower of Jesus; what we actually have in print is Jesus praying for their forgiveness,

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:34

What did the Father do? He said, “Done!” (Psalm 22:31 and John 19:30).

What about Peter? What did Jesus do to Peter for denying Him three times? Let’s see:

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. John 21:5-6

  • The first thing He did was call him “friend.”
  • The second thing was to repeat the miracle of when Jesus called Peter into His ministry (Luke 5:1-11).
  • The third thing was to cook him breakfast, “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast'” (21:12).
  • The fourth thing was to reinstate Peter in His ministry. He asked him three times if he loved Him. Why three times? I think it was to counteract the three times Peter disowned Christ. Each time, Jesus commanded Peter to take care of His flock (John 21:15-17).

There was no retribution; there wasn’t even a scolding. Instead, Jesus called Peter to not only continue in His ministry, but to take over the lead role of shepherd in His ministry. Now, THAT’S grace!

Why do we not think that Jesus does the same with us? Precedent has been set; let’s believe that Jesus really is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Through His Spirit, Jesus wants to walk through life with us, failures and all. Evidently, He is able to look beyond our faults and help us with our needs. What is our biggest need? Him in our lives! Let’s trust Him for daily grace and for continuous guidance.

Abba, You are wonderful! You not only forgive us, You see us as we will one day be, which is like You. Your Spirit is our Guarantee, our Trainer, and our Guide. May we listen to Him/You all the time for everything. Amen.

Proverbs 15 5-15-22

The Spirit of Christ is helping us change the way we think. Are we cooperating?

8 The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

Continuing with our look at Galatians 5, we find that our freedom to think correctly comes from Jesus. What we do next is our choice: Will we follow our Savior, trusting Him with our every decision, or will we make the same mistake Adam and Eve made in the Garden, which was to trust the word of the serpent rather than what God had told them? Let’s read the next passage in Ephesians 4,

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

As young children spiritually, we must learn to pay attention to some things and ignore others. The ones we pay attention to are the ones that the Spirit highlights in our lives through conversation with Him, reading His Word and other Christians’ experiences and insights, conversation with other people, and our own experiences and circumstances. The ones we ignore are the ones that don’t line up with Jesus. For instance, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). If we are paid for a day’s wage, then we are to give a day’s work. Likewise, if we are forgiven for our many trespasses, then we are to forgive others their trespasses, even–and maybe especially–when they are against us.

Who else can renew our minds other than the Spirit of Christ? We come to Him for renewal and He renews our minds. He helps us to put on (access, employ) the mind of Christ, which we have because of His Spirit within us. This new self thinks like God and thus acts like God. Let’s go further, though. We don’t think these thoughts on our own; we think them WITH the Spirit. It’s now a dual effort. When we think with Christ, we are accessing the mind of God! Want to know what God thinks? Ask Jesus, who is the Spirit within you.

I love this passage because it shows me that I am responsible for my actions through my thoughts, which can be tempered and conditioned to think like Christ–with Christ. Tomorrow, we will look at how Jesus dealt with failure in this area (I think you’ll like it).

Abba, being young in spirit, I still react according to my feelings. May I learn as I grow to set aside my feelings and to ask You how to respond in a given situation. Knee-jerk reactions are usually not godly. I want to be like You, Jesus. Lead me in Your way. Amen.

Proverbs 14 5-14-22

We don’t need to see the whole picture to hear Jesus and respond to His directions.

Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

Yesterday, we learned that freedom in Christ frees us from following rituals and rules. We are already pleasing to God because we believe in Jesus. Today, we will look at the fight inside of us that goes on every day. It’s the fight to relinquish control to Him.

Galatians 5:13-14, 16-18 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The Spirit in us reveals to us what is the next right thing to do. We don’t have to know why or how, especially the complexities of how each decision links with other decisions in our lives and the lives of others. Nor do we need to know what is wrong for others. We just need to hear from the Spirit for ourselves today. What we learn tomorrow may change the way we view things today, but that’s tomorrow. Leave it there. I am reminded of Jesus’s words,

Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The Bible is a great resource for learning how to be godly, but it is the Spirit within us to whom we must listen and obey. We cannot trust our gut or our intellect; only Jesus knows the right thing to do or say at the right time in accordance with all that connectivity I mentioned earlier. Still, we must decide to follow His leadership. That part is up to us.

Tomorrow, we look at putting off our old ways and putting on His new ways.

Abba, thank You for wanting to be intimately involved in our lives. Your Spirit makes all the difference in us knowing what to do and say from moment to moment. May we learn to live our lives walking in step with Your Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 13 5-13-22

A slave who is set free, but comes back to serve his master is not a slave–especially when his master adopts him!

A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son
    and will share the inheritance as one of the family.

Knowing that we are to trust Jesus with our lives and to interact with Him on everything, we are now in the right frame of mind to consider portions of Galatians 5. The first passage concerns old religion and old habits,

The Messiah set us free so that we could enjoy freedom! So stand firm, and don’t get yourselves tied down by the chains of slavery.
Look here: I, Paul, am telling you that if you get circumcised, the Messiah will be of no use to you. I testify once more, against every person who gets circumcised, that he is thereby under obligation to perform the entire law. You are split off from the Messiah, you people who want to be justified by the law! You have dropped out of grace. For we are waiting eagerly, by the spirit and by faith, for the hope of righteousness. For in the Messiah, Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any power. What matters is faith, working through love.

It was never about what we do so much as it was why we do what we do. Our response/reaction to any given situation is based upon what we believe about God and about ourselves. For instance, I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said, “No Lives Matter.” Based upon this declaration, I cannot trust that person to come to my aid in case of an accident, to not rob me if given the chance, or to not harm me out of mutual human respect. People who believe that Jesus has set them free from having to do things in order to be right with God, but then try to stay “bless-able” by following a list of rules (usually set by others) have missed the point of freedom in Christ. Our old habits die hard; just ask the Israelites. They got away from the land of Egypt, but Egypt was in their hearts. Only Christ can set us free from that Egypt. Before resorting or reverting to following a set of rules, ask Jesus what He thinks. His opinion is the only one that matters.

Tomorrow, we will look at verses 11-18 and this fight that we have inside us.

Abba, You have set us free from having to do anything to earn Your love. You proved Your love to us by consenting to die at the hands of our religious leaders and then not demanding justice–in fact, You forgave them! Then, to look at Saul (who later was called Paul) and the way You called him without even mentioning his sin other than to ask him why he was fighting You so hard makes me rethink just how far Your forgiveness goes. When I read their testimonies, it gives me hope, “and hope does not disappoint, for You have poured out Your love into our hearts through Your Holy Spirit, whom You have given to us” (Romans 5:5). Thank You, Abba. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Holy Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 12 5-12-22

We don’t have to work for salvation. That work has already been done on the cross. Our work starts after that.

22:17 Open your ears, and hear the words of wise people,
    and set your mind on the knowledge I give you.
18 It is pleasant if you keep them in mind
    so that they will be on the tip of your tongue,
19 so that your trust may be in Yahweh.
    Today I have made them known to you, especially to you.

There seems to me to be two kinds of holiness. One is the noble holiness of God, who is set apart from and above humanity in His greatness and goodness. The other is the practical holiness of us setting ourselves apart from that which the Lord has made out-of-bounds for us. Trusting that He has our best interests at heart is key to obeying Him. Satan got Eve to doubt God, that He was hiding something from her, and that He did NOT have her best interests at heart. Let’s look:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6

  1. The fruit was appetizing; it appealed to her senses.
  2. She wanted what Satan said that God was holding back from her: The knowledge of good and evil. The wording says that she desired wisdom, but in actuality only knowledge was mentioned.
  3. The desire to be like God and thus making her own decisions was offered by Satan, but wound up being the deathtrap that God said that it would become.

God is a loving Father and He cares for His children. Sin destroys us, so He warns us to stay away from anything that is out-of-bounds (other people’s stuff), excessive (indulgent), for another time (when we’ve grown in maturity), or warped (twisted from its God-given use). Why does the idea of God limiting us chafe us so? We do it for our children all the time. When we boil it all down, what we have is children (humanity) not wanting to be thought of as children, like a young teen who wants to act all grown up. All of a sudden, Jesus’ insight makes great sense:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change (repent) and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

The old hymn says,

“Trusting as the moments fly,
trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
trusting Jesus, that is all.”

Tomorrow, we will look at Galatians 5 and how setting ourselves apart from worldliness will help us to be like God (godly) the right way. Sorry, Eve.

Abba, we are Your children and You love us. May we not think too highly of ourselves and come to You as little children, ready to trust You at Your Word. Amen.

Proverbs 11 5-11-22

Supernatural power on the outside = miracles. Supernatural power on the inside = martyrs.

11:29 The way of the LORD is a refuge for the blameless, but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

There are many ways that we still think like our old selves rather than with the mind of Christ. One way is that we still think we can live the Christian life under our own power. We were never meant to even try! It is the interaction with the Spirit of God that gives us first the want-to, and then power to live godly lives,

13 For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:13 (Amplified Version)

Paul talked about this freedom in Christ to put off our old selves and put on our new selves. Let’s read it:

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

In Romans 13:14, it says, 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” The idea is to stop thinking in our old, deceived ways and start thinking like Jesus. It requires surrender. The process of surrender is not as hard as we might think. It means that whenever we have a question, feel the tension, or are tempted, we step back mentally and ask, “Lord, what am I to do with this situation?” The giving over of ourselves to Him in that moment is exactly the interaction for which He was hoping with all mankind! At that point, He will either empower us outwardly to be a sign unto unbelievers of the power of God, or He will empower us inwardly to endure with grace and humility anything that comes our way (which, too, is a sign unto unbelievers).

In the words of a favorite song of mine,

Sometimes He calms the storm,
With a whisper, “Peace, be still,” but it doesn’t mean He will;
Sometimes He holds us tight
and lets the wind and waves go wild;
Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child.

Abba, thank You that in either way we have Your promise to never leave us or forsake us. In fact, we are never closer to You and You to us than when we are in difficult circumstances. You’re awesome, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 10 5-10-22

Hardship equals judgment; “God causes the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Which one is right?

14:32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God.

Throughout the centuries, even millennia, people have judged others by their circumstances. Jesus paid no attention to stations in life; in fact, He made it a point to help those who were considered “cursed” by God. John 9 (the account of the man blind from birth) is a prime example. Matthew Henry, 1662-1714, made this statement,

“Extraordinary afflictions are not always the punishment of extraordinary sins,
but sometimes the trial of extraordinary graces.”

Albeit stated in soft form, Matthew Henry understood that physical ailments were not a direct judgment from God. Of his nine children and two wives, four children died as babies and his first wife of smallpox at 25. He was well acquainted with suffering.

The book of Job is in direct opposition to the idea that physical blessings were God’s blessings and physical ailments, and even low stations in life, were the judgment of God. All forms of death and hardship have as their root the curse of sin (Genesis 3:14-19). We can look at these judgments in two ways:

  1. God arbitrarily chose these judgments to impose upon mankind and the world;
  2. God was stating the effects of sin on mankind and the world.

We cannot begin to know all of the ramifications of Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel against God and follow the advice of the serpent. We do know the cost was high:

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—Romans 5:12

The happy news is that Jesus came to reverse the effects of sin and death on our world:

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. Romans 5:18

Does Jesus physically heal everyone? No. Has He reversed death? Not yet. Jesus knew something that we could only hope for, that there is life after death–JESUS IS LIFE!

The “extraordinary grace” that Matthew Henry mentioned is wrapped up in Romans 5:1-5,

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of GodNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

And His Spirit is our seal of things to come (2 Corinthians 1:22). With this promise we shout with the apostle Paul,

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Thanks be to You, O God, for giving us the victory in the Lord Jesus Christ (v.57)! With the promise of being with You for eternity and Your seal of the Holy Spirit in us, we can “stand firm, letting nothing move us away from our faith in You. We can now give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain” (v.58). Amen.

Proverbs 9 5-9-22

Unity in Christ is what Jesus asked the Father for us. What are we willing to do to make it happen?

16:2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

I heard it said, “What unites us ultimately divides us.” I take this statement to mean that whatever we hold near and dear to our hearts will be for what we fight and die. It also means to me that we need to be really careful about that which we unite, especially concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:23); we need to determine what is absolute truth and what is interpretation. Preferences don’t count, and even convictions can be erroneous; they can be like drawing lines in the sand. The following picture gives us an idea of how to categorize our beliefs:

Let’s take them from the bullseye out.

  1. Jesus- The Person, Jesus Christ, is our foundation. A personal, ongoing relationship with Him is not only necessary, it’s vital.
  2. Dogma- The facts: Jesus left heaven to come to earth to reveal the Father to us; He lived, died on a cross, and rose from the dead three days later; He appeared to many, and then ascended back to His rightful throne with the Father; He promised that He would return one day, for which we patiently wait (for example, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds).
  3. Doctrine- What we believe the Bible says about anything else: Heaven, hell, grace, works, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are starters. Even our views on the Trinity are our efforts to describe that which is beyond words and human perception. Important, yes; vital, no. 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. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:15-16).
  4. Opinion- Our personal feelings, ideas, and concepts concerning all things biblical. Opinion goes beyond the text, which is what puts it in the last circle.

We tend to run with people who think like we do, which is not bad as long as we don’t hold ourselves aloof from other Christian brothers and sisters based upon anything except Jesus and Him crucified (Jesus Christ and Dogma; see 1 Corinthians 2:2). The big questions, those on which we all can unite, are,

“Do they believe that Jesus is Lord?
Do they love Him?

Do they follow Him?”

Abba, reading and listening to people who are Your followers and yet hold different views on doctrine has taught me that I don’t have everything “sewn up theologically”-in fact, can’t. There is so much of church history, what has been believed by church leaders in the past, and on what my own denomination’s beliefs are based that I never knew. In some ways, I feel like I’m beginning my education over–at 61! Rather than be frustrated, I choose to be excited about learning more about You, Lord, and those who have followed You. It’s something like reading a continued version of Hebrews 11, the hall of faith. Grow us, Lord, and make us one in You. It’s important; otherwise, You wouldn’t have prayed for it. Amen.

Proverbs 8 5-8-22

Happy Mother’s Day to all who are moms and to all who have moms.

5:1-2 My child, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.

GCFL (Good, Clean, Funny Laughs) is a place where I get most of my jokes for Wednesday Morning Blessings. I know that Dale Griffin uses it, too, as a source for his jokes. Occasionally, they publish inspirational anecdotes. Here is one appropriate for today:


When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking

When you thought I wasn’t looking you hung my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another.
When you thought I wasn’t looking you fed a stray cat,

and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking you baked a birthday cake just for me,

and I knew that little things were special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking you said a prayer,

and I believed there was a God that I could always talk to.
When you thought I wasn’t looking you kissed me good-night,

and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come from your eyes,

and I learned that sometimes things hurt–but that it’s all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn’t looking you smiled,

and it made me want to look that pretty [good], too.
When you thought I wasn’t looking you cared,

and I wanted to be everything I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking–I looked . . .

and wanted to say thanks for all those things you did when you thought I wasn’t looking.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. See you soon. Your son, Kelly.

Proverbs 7 5-7-22

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Heaven is watching; let’s press on toward the goal.

15:24 The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep them from going down to the grave.

I got to thinking about something that has changed my perspective on my immediate future. It is this question:

Since I am 61, how will I live my life with the prospect
of having 25 more years of active living?

I think of my dad who was 82 when he died of a stroke. He was scheduled to work that week at his job at the funeral home. He had worked full-time at the county courthouse in Durant until he was 77.

I can look across the hall at church at the office of Bro. Robert Griffin who is currently 82 and is our part-time Senior Adult minister. He and Mama Faye have that ministry going great guns. They have no plans to quit anytime soon.

In light of these two very influential men, I see myself continuing in ministry until the day I die. I probably won’t work full-time until I’m 77, but I see no reason to slow down and stop just because I reach retirement age.

What I CAN see is my training up the next generation of servant/leaders. My generation needs to start thinking about handing off our ministries to the ones coming behind us. Doing so means that we will have to adjust to their way of doing things, changing things, and using different people, but it has to be done. I am rarely on the stage leading by myself anymore. Why? Because I have other people out there leading with me and sometimes for me. Most of them are younger than me (which is most people anymore). It’s a good thing.

If you are around 60, I pray you would consider two things:

  1. Get involved and stay involved in the Lord’s ministry; get in people’s lives.
  2. Train up the next generation as you give your ministry away.

Abba, may I continue to train up the next generation. May I give them room to spread their wings. I know they will make mistakes; I made them, too. With You guiding them, they will grow from their experiences just like I did. In the meantime, please continue to expand my ministry; I don’t want to quit and wait for death; I want You to catch me ministering when You return either for me personally or for everyone. Thank You for the hope we have in You. Amen.

Proverbs 6 5-6-22

Sharing Jesus is simple. We tell what we were like before we met Jesus, how we met Him, and how He has changed us.

25:11 Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word aptly given.

The gospel is simple. It’s the other stuff that blows our minds. Billy Graham once said, “Jesus gave us His thoughts in pictures so that we can think His thoughts.” What metaphors are used in the Bible to give us word pictures of Jesus?

One great picture is the Passover Lamb. We have it in Exodus and in John 1:29,

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

We have the picture of Him being our Rescuer,

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14

Jesus is also our intermediary, much like President Trump’s peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

15 His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:15-16

We have the word picture of Jesus as the Bread that comes down from heaven (John 6), the Light of the World (John 1 and 8), the Gate for the sheep and the Good Shepherd (John 10), and the Vine (John 15). Each of these pictures gives us a view of Jesus that is different than the rest, yet He is all of these–and more!

My point is that salvation, God’s plan for us and our world, and eternity in general is outside our purview. Because we are in it, we can’t back away far enough to see it. For instance, when the disciples asked Him if He was getting ready to restore the kingdom to Israel, Jesus answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). We would do well to hold all ideas of how the world ends very loosely. I doubt if anyone will be going, “Aha! See, I told you!”

Let’s stand fast in what we know: Jesus saves!

Abba, You have Your plans and You ask for no man’s advice (Romans 11:34). Thank You for involving us in Your plan to reach everyone. May we trust You to make Yourself known to each person on earth through missions, dreams, visions, and sharing one-on-one. However You want to do it, Lord! Amen.

Proverbs 5 5-5-22

As Christians, our greatest need is to be aware of how much we need Jesus everyday.

3:1 My child, do not forget [Me or] my teaching, but keep [Me and] My commands in your heart,

God the Father has given us the gift of Choice. He wants us to choose to join Him in a personal relationship with the Trinity through the Son. But, there is a spiritual truth that we need to understand. That truth is:

He wants us. We need Him.

We were not designed to work independently from God the Holy Spirit. Since the day Adam and Eve left the Garden, God the Father has been in pursuit of us (Luke 15:3-7). His pursuit became intense with God the Son’s incarnation, life and ministry, death and resurrection, and the sending of God the Spirit to infuse and empower our lives with the Trinity*. The Gospel is now reaching to the ends of the earth as He continues His search for every lost sheep!

Our constant dependence upon the in-dwelling Spirit (and Trinity) is foundational for Christians. Without Jesus as our Shepherd, we do not have life because Jesus is life (John 11:25-26 and 14:6). We must be willing to follow His lead:

  1. At home,
  2. At work,
  3. In relationships (friends, spouses, family),
  4. When with others,
  5. And when alone (this one’s called having integrity).

Jesus is not asking us to do something that He Himself was not willing to do. In fact, since we know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), we know that Jesus is the ultimate and eternal Servant-Leader. He wants to serve us today by leading us as our Good Shepherd. Consider these verses:

28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Do 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: Philippians 2:3-5

In the words of my pastor, who quotes E.V. Hill, “I know I will preach well today if my Helper shows up.” Don’t let the phraseology fool you. He’s not talking about the Spirit literally showing up–He’s already with and in him. He’s referring to him being in sync with the Spirit and allowing the Spirit to take charge. He’s the shepherd being led by the Chief Shepherd. Now, THAT’S a servant-leader!

Abba, I am so glad that You want us as Your friends because we need You as our Shepherd. Lead us, Good Shepherd; we will follow. Amen.

*Supporting verses for the in-dwelling of the Trinity:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. John 14:23

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

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

Proverbs 4 5-4-22

People think salvation is about going to heaven. It’s not. It’s about heaven living in us. His name is Jesus.

10 Listen, my child, accept what I [Solomon, son of David] say, and the years of your life will be many. 11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.

The apostle Paul sure had a way with words. Let’s look at one of his one-liners that pretty much sums up the Gospel,

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

This verse is the very definition of grace. Jesus knew what we needed: We needed a fresh image of God, a renewed image, a clear image. In fact, to see Jesus is to see God (John 14:9). He knew we were impoverished; He tells us as much in Revelation 3:17, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” He knew we wouldn’t turn to Him, so He came face-to-face with us. He cleared every obstacle out of the way so that we could see Him clearly–even the obstacle of death!

How do we become rich? By hearing of His forgiveness and believing it. He is waiting to pour out all kinds of spiritual blessings on those who will let Him. He wants to give us life in Him, with Him. I know what you’re thinking, “This sounds like a salvation pitch.” Actually, it’s for Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s an everyday decision. To walk with Jesus IS salvation. To trust in Him–daily–is to have life eternal. Martha didn’t have to worry about the Resurrection because Jesus IS the resurrection; He IS life (John 11:23-27).

That goes for us, too.

Abba, thank You for leaving Your throne in heaven to come to earth as a man. Thank You for sharing in our poverty so that we can share in Your riches. May we do so every day. Amen.

Proverbs 3 5-3-22

Historical provenance is important to me, especially when it comes to the Bible.

27 I was there when he [God] set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

I just finished a novel by Tracy Groot called, “Madman.” It is about the Gerasene demoniac from Mark 5:1-20. I enjoyed the book very much. It took me three weeks to read the first half of the book and one afternoon to read the second half. The first half was the development of characters and to build in the despondency of the madman’s family and community. The second half is the drawing up of all the purse strings. Its historical approach and accuracy concerning Scripture is appreciated.

There are three things about the demoniac that I find very interesting.

  1. The account really begins with Mark 4:35-41 where Jesus calms the storm. Jesus was headed to a region infested with demons: the demoniac, but also the worship of Dionysus, the god of pleasure, which included some pretty hairy rituals. Could it be that the demons of that region were trying to keep Jesus out of their area?
  2. The demoniac’s name is Kardus, found in an excavation report of Kursi (the Gerasenes is the region; Kursi is the nearest town) which was published in 1983*. Kardus wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).
  3. About a year later, Jesus returned to this area. A large crowd gathered to hear him, I think largely due to Kardus’ testimony in the region. This is the place where Jesus fed 4,000 men, not counting women and children, and took up seven large baskets of leftovers (possibly representative of the seven nations who made up the Decapolis, which were the ten cities of the region). The significance is that Jesus had already performed the same miracle for the Israelites where they collected 12 small baskets of leftovers. In other words, Jesus accepts both Jew and Gentile into His kingdom! It was a huge revelation, one to which the religious leaders of His day did not take kindly.

Believing the Scriptures because they are the Scriptures is an act of faith, but it is a two-dimensional faith. When the Spirit begins to reveal historical evidence of the truth of the Scriptures, our faith becomes three-dimensional and we have a much deeper faith. One of the emails to which I subscribe is patternsofevidence.com. They give weekly newsletters of current findings in the holy lands concerning biblical accuracy. Go take a look.

Abba, may we take seriously our knowledge of You, our world, and the veracity of Scripture. It’s one of the ways that we interact with You as we look into new archeological, historic and scientific findings that You are revealing more and more routinely as our technology advances. Thank You for being a God of details. You are SO BIG! Hallelujah! Amen.

*”Madman,” Tracy Groot, page 388

Proverbs 2 5-2-22

Asking God questions is one thing; questioning God is quite another. We must trust Him in all circumstances.

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

We’ve discussed before how the two miraculous feedings were signs to Israel and to the Gentiles that Jesus had come for both groups (see Proverbs 25 4-25-22). I read an observation the other day that showed another jewel of wisdom from these miracles. Jesus said,

Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered [after feeding everyone]? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered [after feeding everyone]? Matthew 16:9-10

In John, the five loaves and two fish were attributed to a young boy (John 6:9). This little boy represents every one of us in Christ. The tasks in front of us are far too big for us to achieve on our own; we need the interactive help of God the Holy Spirit. He knows what we need, what the best course of action is, and has the power to make it happen. The disciples even had enough left over for tomorrow’s lunch! We were never designed to act on our own. When we do, it’s because we became impatient, which leads to arrogance:
God does not work fast enough for us, so we take over the wheel. The problem is that cars are not built for small children to drive, nor do children have the dexterity or the knowledge to drive capably. We need to trust in the Lord to know and to handle things as He knows they need to be handled. Many times, it may not be our particular situation that gets handled well (by ourselves or others), but those coming after us will learn from our experiences and, hopefully, they will get it right. If not, then the next generation, and so on.

In our impatience, we become arrogant and distrust God. Jesus calls this distrust a lack of faith, or, unbelief (see Mark 13:58). Eve became impatient and acted in arrogance when she believed the lie, distrusted God, and ate the fruit. She got in a hurry and got ahead of God. What a dangerous place to be! May we trust the Lord like little children (Matthew 18:3-4) and do things His way, the Patient way.

Abba, may we see beyond our lives to Your plan, which gives everyone the opportunity to trust You and then act on that trust. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months or years and even generations. We trusted You with our lives; may we trust You with the future, as well. Amen.

Proverbs 1 5-1-22

The interaction of Jesus in our lives is paramount. He has removed all barriers. All we have to do is turn to Him and trust.

1:23 Repent [turn and think differently] at my rebuke [words that are contrary to what you currently know and think]! Then I will pour out my heart to you, and make Myself known to you.

Luke wrote his Gospel between the dates of A.D. 58 and A.D. 65. It was a difficult time for Christians back then, enough so that Luke gave us a code name for disciples of Jesus: “Servants of the Word.” Here’s what he said,

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

Another place where Jesus is referred to as the Word is John 1:12,

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.

Yet another place is Hebrews 4:12,

12 For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Some translations add “it” after “sword,” but that changes the meaning of the verse. The original does not have “it” in the sentence, thus indicating that the Word of God is Jesus, just like He is in Luke and John.

So, as we read our Bibles, listen for His voice; look up the Hebrew and Greek; see what the early church fathers had to say about Jesus’ words. Compare; contrast; inquire of Him. It’s what He’s wanted all along: Interaction.

Abba, thank You for wanting interaction with us. Thank You for clearing out all obstacles that keep us from seeing You. I’m reminded of the Keith Green song, “O Lord, You’re Beautiful,”

O Lord, You’re beautiful, Your face is all I seek;
And when Your eyes on on this child, Your grace abounds to me.

Of course, Your eyes are always on Your children. I take great comfort in that. Amen.

Proverbs 30 4-30-22

We remember word pictures (metaphors) much better and longer than we do facts. It’s why Jesus told stories.

4:3 For I too was a son to my father,
    still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
    “Take hold of my words with all your heart;
    keep my commands, and you will live.

The metaphor of the Vine that Jesus uses in John 15:1-8 is chocked full of word pictures; some translations can give the wrong impression. Here’s the verse that bears the brunt of such impressions:

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. NASB

6 For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all. The man who does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dry sticks that men pick up and use for the firewood. J.B. Phillips

I chose to share the Phillips version because of its unique description of what happens when we don’t abide in Christ. Abiding in Christ has many word pictures all of its own, but, to me, it all comes down to relationship. The interaction between us and Christ is vital for spiritual health and growth. Another word picture would be a coal that is removed from the fire. Over time, it cools off and has no more heat; put it back in the fire and it glows once again.

Christ was talking to His disciples; Judas had left (John 13:30), so He wasn’t talking to him. Jesus was preparing them for the coming of the Spirit (John 14:26) and wanted them to be prepared for what was coming (Pentecost). His warning about not abiding was not about salvation or eternal destination, but about connection. We, too, must learn to turn in our minds to the Spirit within us and listen to what He is saying. The small tensions that we feel are from Him! When we head in the right direction, we feel His peace.

We need not worry about being deemed worthless like the branch that was cast into the fire. Our worth is not wrapped up in what we do or don’t do for the Lord. He loves us just as we are. We are worth “more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31).”* The worth of something is figured on how much a person is willing to pay for the item. In our case, Christ paid the ultimate price for us: His life. Why? To show us just how much the He loves us! Not only that, the Father wants us to join Him in His redemptive work in and among mankind. Let’s join Him!

Abba, joining You in Your work is such an honor. Thank You for inviting us! May we treat this honor with the gravity it deserves. Amen.

*Romans 3:12 is translated “worthless” in many translations, but the actual translation is, “useless, corrupted.” The idea is that we are unwilling and resistant vessels in the Father’s hands. The NASB gets Romans 3:12 right.

Proverbs 29 4-29-22

Paul asked the Corinthians to remember five things. Why? What was so special about those five things?

30:18 There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand…[in this case, five].

At the end of the first Corinthian letter, Paul gives a short, precise charge to the readers/listeners:

13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.

It sounds simple, but it’s actually a summary of the entire letter. Let’s look at each one and see where he has previously exhorted them in each area.

Be on your guard- Against divisions (1:10). We are to “be fully equipped with the same mind and the same opinion” when we meet together in the Lord. Unity is what Christ asked His heavenly Father for us to have (John 17:22-23).

Stand firm in the faith- On the foundation of Jesus the Messiah (3:11). We are to make sure that we are building with gold, silver and precious stones (our obedience and steadfastness) rather than with wood, grass or straw (our disobedience and waywardness) (3:12-13).

Be courageous- in living the sacrificial life. “Why not rather let yourselves be wronged? Why not rather put up with loss” (6:7)? To live a sacrificial life takes courage because our first inclination is to retaliate, to grab for security, and for vindication. Paul said, “When we are insulted, we give back blessings. When we are persecuted, we put up with it. When we are slandered, we speak gently in return” (4:12-13). In this way, we show the overcoming love of Christ rather than the overcoming force of the world.

Be strong- in our beliefs, but meek (controlled strength) in attitude (8:7-9). Conviction over preference; prayer over opinion. We must protect each other. As the song says, “We will guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride.”*

Do everything in love- It is the motivation behind the Advent, His life, the cross, and the resurrection. It can be summed up in 13:8, “Love never fails.” Fails to what? Put others first. The compassionate love of God is what has been imparted to us and is what we are to share by demonstration with others.

So, maybe Paul was giving them something to memorize in order to remember what he was teaching them. Maybe we could learn them, too…

Abba, I want to be like You, so help me to be on my guard, to stand firm in the faith, to be courageous, to be strong, and to do everything in love. May I memorize these five commands and what they mean; then, help me to implement them in my life according to Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

*They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love

Proverbs 28 4-28-22

Victory for Christians is measured in our willingness to allow the Father to love us and lead us. He takes care of the rest.

Proverbs 4
[25] Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
[26] Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
[27] Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

The apostle Paul was very good at articulating on paper concepts and ideas. He was also good at application. Anytime he said, “therefore,” we must look to see what it’s “there for.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 is a good example,

57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

What victory do we have through our Lord Jesus Christ?

  1. We have forgiveness of sin,
  2. We are children of God,
  3. We have fellowship with the Trinity,
  4. We no longer fear death,
  5. We have a hope of an eternal future with Him.

In light of these victories, what is it that Paul encourages us to do (what are they there for)?

  1. We are to be firm and immovable- Knowing what we believe is vital. I see two ways for us to know: Knowledge and experience. Study and discussion give us knowledge, which acts like handles for us to grab onto and hold ideas and concepts. Experience comes through walking with the Lord through life. Our experience helps us to shape our knowledge, latch onto truth, and to let go of everything else.
  2. We are to always be excelling in the work of the Lord- What is the work of the Lord? It is for us to believe in the one whom God sent, who is Jesus (John 6:29). In other words, we are to believe Jesus and imitate Him. If we love Jesus, we will endeavor to be like Jesus. What did Jesus think and teach? What did Jesus do? These are the things after which we run.
  3. We are to rest assured that our labor is not in vain in the Lord- We need not worry about the outcome of anything we do in the Lord. He can take our gluey messes and our crayon drawings and make beautiful masterpieces out of them. He weaves them together with His other children’s “art work” in a beautiful tapestry, one of which we will get to see the other side one day. Right now, all we see is the back side where all the stitching and knots are. He says, “Don’t worry about the outcome; I am working all things together for good according to My will (Romans 8:28).”

Let’s take great comfort in His plan, His grace, and His inclusion of us in His plan. He loves us and wants to do life with us!

Abba, I sure want to do life with You. May I come to You often–constantly–throughout the day for direction, inspiration, and fellowship. I hear You say, “Let’s walk together, you and I.” Whether through the valley of the shadow of death, through the fire or a lion’s den, or even on water, we will be together, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 27 4-27-22

Doubting Thomas was only Doubting Thomas before he met Christ in the upper room that night.

8:5 Are you immature? Learn to be mature [have prudence, show discretion].
    Are you foolish? Learn to have sense [be wise].

Good News Bible

Sunday night marked the anniversary of the end of Doubting Thomas. The account of the disciple, Thomas, could be every person’s story. How did he get his nickname? Let’s read it:

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus [twin]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

So, we see where he gets his moniker. I can see him in my mind stubbornly refusing to believe them.

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

It is that this point that we see the end of Doubting Thomas.

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

It is difficult to imagine anyone not responding to Jesus the same way Thomas did. To put one’s finger where the nails were and to feel where the spear pierced His side…to hear Him say, “Peace be with you,” and to see the love in His eyes…who could refuse such a loving Savior?!

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This is where you and I fit into the story. We have not had the luxury of seeing Him physically, to touch Him and hear His voice aloud, and yet, we believe. Why? Because we HAVE met Him! He now resides within us, walks with us, and guides us through every day. We are most blessed!

To know Jesus is to want to be like Jesus. Let’s fix our eyes on Him and follow Him wherever He leads.

Abba, being with You transforms me. I find myself enjoying Your peace and joy; Your loves overwhelms me! I want everyone to experience You this way. May You lead me to folks who are waiting to hear Your good news. Amen.

Proverbs 26 4-26-22

Jesus took Jews and Gentiles and fused them into one Body–His–thus forming a new assembly, the Church.

8:1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?
Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Yesterday, we discussed the two miraculous feedings in Matthew 14 and 15; these two events announced the process of fusion through expansion of the Assembly, better known as the Church. It all began around 3500 years ago. the LORD was about to deliver the Israelites out of bondage to Egypt. He said,

16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat; that is all you may do.
17 “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. Exodus 12:16-17

From that point on, the assembly referred to the gathering of Israel for worship of the LORD God. This assembly was built upon the Passover Lamb representing what Jesus Christ would do for them–and us–1500 years later.

Fast-forward to Jesus when He had led His disciples to Caesarea Philippi and asked them who they say He was:

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church*/gathering/assembly, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Matthew 16:16-18

Jesus was expanding the assembly; this time, it is on the declaration of Simon Peter. Jesus is the foundation, and all who declare Jesus as Messiah, the Son of the living God, are members of the assembly. Stephen even spoke of the assembly in his famous sermon for which he was stoned (Acts 7:38).

Fast-forward again to Pentecost. In Peter’s famous sermon at which 3000 Jewish men believed, he made this statement,

36 “Therefore let all Israel [the assembly] be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” Acts 2:36

This assembly, the Church, is still growing this very day. Daniel said that through the Church, Jesus would fill the entire earth (Daniel 2:34-35). We are members of this assembly and every time we gather in Jesus’ name, we join Christians all around the earth, even those who stand before the throne, in worship of our great and loving Savior and our heavenly Father. May we praise His name together in gratefulness for including us in His Assembly, the Church.

Abba, You are great and You are loving. You love us, Your Church, Your Bride. May we join our brothers and sisters around the globe and around the throne in worship of Your greatness. Amen.

*Church=Assembly. Greek, “Ekklesia,” is translated, “Gathering,” but was interpreted from, “kirche,” which is German for, “congregation,” by Tyndale.

Proverbs 25 4-25-22

Jesus was all about doing what His Father told Him. The two miraculous feedings were NOT coincidental.

25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings [the King’s kids].

Matthew was all about presenting Jesus as the Jewish Messiah to his fellow Jews. In chapters 14 and 15, he gives us two accounts of Jesus feeding the masses in miraculous ways. They are Matthew 14:13-21 and 15:29-38. Let’s compare the two accounts.

Feeding #1: We find in Luke 9:10-11 that Jesus and the disciples have retreated to Bethsaida, which is at the top of the Sea of Galilee, Northeast of Capernaum. The crowd consisted of about 5000 Jewish men, not including women and children. Jesus fed them with a boy’s lunch, and they gathered up 12 small baskets of leftovers.

Feeding #2: According to Mark 7:31, they traveled to the region of the Decapolis (10 cities), which is on the East side of the Sea of Galilee, a decidedly Gentile area consisting of the people from seven nations. Here, Jesus fed them with a few small fish and some bread. In about 4000 men, not including women and children, they had 7 large baskets of leftovers.

The two miracles are nearly identical, except for the number, which was close, and the number of baskets of leftovers. Could it be that Jesus intended for the 12 small baskets to represent the 12 tribes of Israel and the 7 large baskets to represent the 7 nations in the Decapolis area? Why would Jesus make such a grandiose illustration?

Jesus told us in John 5:16-17 that He and the Father are always at work. He was in the process of expanding His kingdom. Ephesians 2:14-18 explains that Jesus was in the process of creating in Himself one new humanity out of the two [Israeli and Gentile], thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross. These two events announce the process of fusion through expansion of the Assembly (we will cover “the Assembly” tomorrow).

Abba, thank You for making peace in Your body through the cross. We are forever grateful. Amen.

Proverbs 24 4-24-22

Having to be right all the time is a sign of immaturity. Respecting someone else’s opinion is a sign of maturity.

18:17 In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

As we look at the Concrete Operational Stage of Development (ages 7-11), we find that Jean Piaget was pretty accurate in his conclusions.

While children are still very concrete and literal in their thinking at this point in development, they become much more adept at using logic. The egocentrism of the previous stage begins to disappear as kids become better at thinking about how other people might view a situation.
While thinking becomes much more logical during the concrete operational state, it can also be very rigid. Kids at this point in development tend to struggle with abstract and hypothetical concepts.
During this stage, children also become less egocentric and begin to think about how other people might think and feel. Kids in the concrete operational stage also begin to understand that their thoughts are unique to them and that not everyone else necessarily shares their thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

This maturity is also seen on a spiritual level. Respecting someone else’s opinion, even when we don’t agree, is something that takes maturity. Sometimes, we color our lines a little too darkly on matters that are not as clear as we would like for them to be. Maturity says, “Let’s hold loosely to anything other than what we know beyond a shadow of a doubt.” What do we know beyond a shadow of a doubt?

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

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scripturesand that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

14 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

Everything else is subject to perspective. I love what the apostle Paul wrote concerning God’s wondrous plan:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!

34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Abba, I praise You for so great a salvation, one that is far above my understanding. At the same time, it’s so simple: You love me, You rescued me, and now You live in me. May I have plenty of opportunities to share my story. Amen.

Proverbs 23 4-23-22

Hiatus-a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc. Today, I am taking a hiatus…

24:33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest–

Actually, it’s the opposite. Spring is upon us and the outdoors calls…to weed, trim, plant, clean out, etc.

Abba, may I get done all that is on my list for today! Amen.

Proverbs 22 4-22-22

Our physical growth and our spiritual growth are amazingly similar. Let’s look at how:

3 The prudent see danger and take refuge [they are able to look ahead], but the simple keep going and pay the penalty [they are not able to see beyond what they are doing].

Yesterday, we looked at the four stages of Jean Piaget’s cognitive development. They are:

  • Sensorimotor stage: birth to 2 years
  • Preoperational stage: ages 2 to 7
  • Concrete operational stage: ages 7 to 11
  • Formal operational stage: ages 12 and up

In the Preoperational stage, there are some parallels between our physical stages of growth and our spiritual stages of growth. Let’s consider some of them:

Major Characteristics and Developmental Changes:

  1. Children begin to think symbolically and learn to use words and pictures to represent objects.
  2. Children at this stage tend to be egocentric and struggle to see things from the perspective of others.
  3. While they are getting better with language and thinking, they still tend to think about things in very concrete terms.
  1. Jesus definitely related to us symbolically. For instance, He called Himself “the bread of life (John 6:35),” “the light of the world (John 8:12),” and “the good Shepherd (John 10:11).” He used word pictures, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…(John 6:54),” and bread and wine representing His body and blood (Luke 22:19-20).
  2. Egocentric means that we see predominantly from our own perspective. Christians who are loyal to either the person/denomination who brought them to Jesus or to the specific belief system that introduced them to Jesus can struggle with this stage. Learning to learn from other believers who believe differently than them can come slowly and over time.
  3. The cross and its intent is a prime example of concrete thinking:
    1. For a thousand years, the general belief was that Christ rescued us from sin, death, and the clutches of the enemy.
    2. In Medieval times, the general thought was of honor and satisfaction, which was a big deal to the serfs, lords and knights in their day.
    3. In the Renaissance, John Calvin introduced the courtroom metaphor that is still loosely held to this day in Western churches.

As we can see, our spiritual growth mirrors our physical growth. Sometimes we “grow up” very quickly spiritually while at other times we can linger in a stage. What it all boils down to is our interaction with the heavenly Father. He is the one who helps us work through each stage. The amount of time it takes doesn’t matter as much as getting through them.

Tomorrow, we will look at the Concrete Operational Stage (ages 7-11 years) and see if we find any parallels.

Abba, as Your children, I know that You are in the process of growing us up in Christ. May we get really good at listening for and then to Your Spirit as You lead us in our daily lives. Amen.