Proverbs 24 2-24-21

The only way for a church body to have unity is for all to have the mind of Christ. His Spirit links us together.

3 By[God’s] wisdom [His] house [Church] is built, and through [His] understanding it is established; through [His] knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Unity does not mean uniformity. Oneness does not mean sameness. We collectively look beyond individual wants, needs, perspectives, knowledge and experiences to Christ’s will for His Church. Coming to that realization takes a lot of prayer and fasting–the kind of fasting where we fast from demanding our own way, from indulging ourselves in our own opinion, from seeking our will over the will of the group; that kind of fasting. Let’s look at some more from Robin’s and my Brainstorm pages:

Kelly– The purpose of prayer is unity of the mind.

  • We seek the same goal, which is Christ’s will in each matter.
  • We give preference to each other as we seek Christ’s will.
  • We lift each other up to the Lord for wisdom, discernment and understanding of His will.

Robin– Why do we pray? (continued from Monday)

  • To confess and repent of what is keeping us from being fully committed to Him (see yesterday’s post). If we don’t know what, or how, then pray, “reveal any offensive way in me and lead me in Your Way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24).
  • To express gratitude for the endless list of blessings He gives us daily! The most important ones are that we belong to Him and that He is with us 24/7!
  • To lift up others:
    • for a specific need;
    • to be used to bring glory to God;
    • that they be able to discern God’s hand;
    • to see evidences of His Spirit among them;
    • to be used to draw their loved ones and care givers into a (deeper) relationship with God;
    • to experience and tell others about God’s power, participation, provision, presence and peace in their lives;
    • for needs to be revealed so that the body of Christ can minister specifically;
    • for strongholds to be revealed, recognized and demolished;
    • for deceptions to be revealed and replaced with truth so people may be set free;
    • to pray all these things over “lost people” including the “do whatever it takes to draw them close to Your side” prayer.

What becomes obvious is that praying for health is okay, but it’s at the surface of a deep pool. There is SO MUCH MORE for which to pray than simple health. Consider this: If God chooses to use a person—with the person’s willingness—to be put in a specific place with specific resources and with a specific message for one specific person and/or event, then we can trust that He will keep the person in exactly the health he needs in order to be in that place and have those resources in order to deliver that message to that one person and/or event. This scenario includes mission fields, work places, and even hospitals–plus a whole lot more.

May we seek to be where He wants us, when He wants us there, and in the frame of mind to do His will while we are there.

Abba, we are Your extensions. May we be Your hands and feet, Your voice and Your ears to a lost and hurting world. We are Your ambassadors, so call the world to Yourself through us. We are Your humble servants. Amen.

Proverbs 23 2-23-21

It’s more than a frame of mind; it’s a framework of the heart. Our hearts must be right with Him for prayer to “work.”

9 Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn the wisdom of your words. If the Lord were to take His own advice, then He would not talk to us when we are being foolish. Give thanks that He does!

The problem is in listening. In order for us to hear Him correctly, we must be listening on the right frequency, so to speak. Our hearts must be tuned in. For that to happen, we must be ready to obey whatever He commands–immediately. My girls learned early that “delayed obedience is disobedience.”

In the book, “How to Pray,” by Ronnie Floyd, he talks about the unrepentant heart:

  1. It keeps on sinning. An unrepentant person won’t do what it takes to change. He denies his sinful behavior, even justifying it.
  2. It ignores God’s convicting Spirit pertaining to sin. The unrepentant person takes his life into his own hands. He won’t wait for God to direct him.
  3. It hardens over time. An unrepentant person’s personality, countenance, behavior–everything about him changes, and I don’t mean for the better! Each time he says “no” to the Spirit makes it easier to say “no” the next time.
  4. It manages sin rather than overcoming sin. The unrepentant person is not interested in giving up his sin. The problem is, “everything in moderation” doesn’t work here. Sin destroys us. God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. If we are truly His, then He will discipline us in due time.

If we cherish sin, we cannot pray effectively. In fact, we inhibit God’s transformation of our lives into Christ’s image. Consider these verses and how they may reveal sin in our lives:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 Do we see how the world indulges and retract ourselves from such behavior or do we take part in them?

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:3 Do we consider others ahead of ourselves or do we think down on others, even judging them and their actions?

In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:26 Do we dismiss a brother’s offense or do we hold a grudge?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 Do we keep a close guard on our tongues and attitudes or do we “let loose the dogs of war?”

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things. Philippians 4:8 Do we intentionally fill our minds with things that are God-honoring or do we allow the world to fill us with trash?

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do we honor the Lord with our bodies and keep our minds clean from dishonoring other people’s bodies or do we indulge in overt and secret sexual sin?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, Ephesians 3:20 Do we allow the Lord to work in our lives or do we shut Him out with unrepentant hearts?

Obviously, we didn’t get to Robin’s and my Brainstorm pages. I thought it prudent for us to discuss that which hinders our prayers first. I pray that you will take inventory With Him and allow Him to clear out anything that gets in the way of your prayers.

Abba, I pray that in my life You will reveal any sinful areas. Deal with them, Lord. I want to be a clean vessel for You. I want my life to bring You glory and honor. May I always stay ‘fessed up and prayed up concerning sin. Amen.

Proverbs 22 2-22-21

If prayer is our connection to God, then we should place great emphasis on it. We learn His will for our lives by asking.

11 One who loves [has]a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king [the Heavenly Father] for a friend.

This week, we will be looking at prayer, what it means, and how to use it. Robin and I made brainstorm pages concerning prayer and what we have learned through our years of study and experience. Let’s begin with a few encouraging Scriptures:

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8

They (the fellowship of believers) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

When they heard this [Peter and John’s report], they [the other apostles and disciples] raised their voices together in prayer to God…31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:24, 31

The Purpose of Prayer

Kelly: There is a unity of spirit when we come together in Jesus’ name.

  • We seek His face;
  • We conform to His ideal (commands);
  • We reconcile (peace between brothers and sisters);
  • We sense a oneness in Christ that can only be experienced by Christians who are unified in spirit and praying in the Spirit.

Robin: Why do we pray?

  • To connect with and align our “will” with God’s perfect will;
  • To ask for wisdom, discernment, knowledge, guidance, motivation, strength…to be equipped for whatever God has for us;
  • To ask on behalf of others for them to connect with and align their “wills” with God’s perfect will;
  • To recognize and submit to God’s sovereign authority and confess our trust in Him with words of praise and thanksgiving!

We read God’s Word to hear Him speak; we pray to God in response to His initiation of a relationship with us. Many times while we are praying, we get a nudge or an urge to do something. Rather than dismiss it or be afraid of it, step out in faith and see if the “door” remains open as you labor to be obedient. If the door closes, simply consider it a closed door and thank God for speaking to you. If the door remains open and you step through it, be ready for an adventure with the Spirit! Small acts of obedience will lead to great acts of faith and kingdom work. Are you wondering where I got such a crazy idea? Here it is:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3 Thus began the first Missionary Journey of Paul.

Tomorrow, we will look at “believing,” and more from Robin’s and my Brainstorm Pages.

Abba, each time I pray, I must remember that You initiated this conversation. Your Spirit urges me to pray, to open up a dialogue with You. You really are right there in my mind! All I have to do is turn around mentally and there you are! One of my favorite verses is Isaiah, 30:21, “and I will hear a voice behind me [right over my shoulder] saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” Lord, may I always hear Your voice and heed Your voice. Amen.

Proverbs 21 2-21-21

Do we really have the right to speak negatively to or about someone? Unless permission is given, the answer is No.

23 Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity.

People nowadays get pretty caught up in politics and other topics. I’ve read some pretty harsh comments and heard some very negative statements from fellow Christians. I know it’s hard to keep a steady temper when the world seems out of control and things aren’t going like we might have planned. Lest we forget Whose we are and our purpose here on earth, let’s look at a passage that will give us a great example of how we are to treat and respond to those who don’t know Christ.

Paul is in Athens awaiting the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who stayed behind in Berea to further instruct the Jewish believers there. In the meantime, Paul debated in the synagogue and in the marketplace. One of the philosophers invited him to come and speak to the Areopagus, which was a really big deal. It was a meeting place for all the philosophers and the wealthy where they talked about new ideas. They asked Paul to explain his “new god.” Let’s pick it up in Acts 17:22,

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

There are three things I would like to point out:

  1. Paul explained who His God was. He didn’t start by telling them that they were sinners. He set his foundation on truth.
  2. Although Paul did tell them that they were ignorant for worshiping gold, silver and stone images, he explained why. What he didn’t say was that their gods were fake or evil or capricious or anything. He didn’t address them at all.
  3. Paul got to the heart of the matter by talking about Jesus rising from the dead. Any conversation from that point would be about Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him.

When we are answering someone or making comment about what someone has said, let’s consider these cautions:

  1. Is what I am about to say godly? In other words, am I trying to defend God (He doesn’t need defending)? Am I venting my anger and frustration? Am I considering that the person may or may not know the Lord?
  2. Is what I am about to say good? In other words, are my words vindictive, accusatory or otherwise negative? Am I trying to “put them in their place?”
  3. Is what I am about to say true? In other words, am I presenting Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him? Might this person want to follow Jesus after talking to me or reading my post?
  4. Is what I am about to say beneficial? In other words, does it need to be said? Will it do any good (is this the right audience)? Will the person want to talk more with me about Jesus? Will it lead to others wanting to know more about Jesus? Does it lift others up?

Paul was pretty specific in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I’m not saying that we should tiptoe around people who spout off about their sin, but I do think that we need to be Spirit-led in our conversation with them. Proverbs 26 has two verses that seem to contradict each other. I think of them in this light:

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be just like him. This fool is a mocker and is not interested in hearing someone else’s opinion. He will argue (however illogically), make fun, and even get angry and violent.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. This fool is a simpleton and simply doesn’t know any better. When approached with the truth, he is interested in hearing and learning.

We need to determine which kind of fool a person is before “rushing in where angels fear to trod.” Let’s be discerners of the Spirit about every conversation we have whether in person or online.

Abba, we want to be good ambassadors for You. Help us to be “wise as wolves and as innocent as doves.” You will help us be prudent in what we say as we discern what type of person to whom we are talking. May our audience always see Christ in us and be attracted to Him because of our words and actions. Thank You, Abba, for giving us such a great privilege. Amen.

Proverbs 20 2-20-21

Is being a Christian all about the rules to you? If so, then you have missed the whole point of Jesus’ sacrifice.

7 The [already] righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.

Behavioral Christianity is not true Christianity. True Christianity begins and continues with a relationship with Jesus Christ. Take, for instance, these “myths:”

  • Running in church dishonors God because it’s God’s house.
  • Wearing a cap or hat in church is disrespectful to God.
  • We are to wear our “Sunday best” to church on Sundays because it honors God.
  • The church is “God’s house.”
  • Eating or drinking in the auditorium dishonors God.

These myths are based upon an Old Testament mindset in which God did actually inhabit the temple. Since Jesus split the veil and sent the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire at Pentecost, we are all now mobile thrones; therefore, wherever we meet is the house of God. Brick and mortar don’t matter anymore.

The same can be said for people. It used to be that a godly person was one who acted godly by following the Jewish law. Since Jesus came, the emphasis changed from outward behavior to inward relationship. Of course, a relationship with Jesus will show up in a person’s actions, but instead of making him a Christian, it proves that he really is one. Why? Because our behavior is due to obedience to the Person of the Holy Spirit who lives in us rather than to an outward person, set of beliefs, customs, or expectations.

As an argument, people have used Matthew 7:21 as proof that works matter concerning our salvation:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven [works].”

What we have to know is what God’s will is, and it is found in John 6:29, “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent [relationship].” Now, look at Matthew 7:22-23:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles [works]?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you [relationship]. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus Himself made it all about the relationship, “I never knew you.” What an indictment! They knew the rules, but never met the Savior, much less walked with Him in fellowship and communion. Yet, that’s what He calls for us to do, and that’s what we get to do every day–if we choose to take Him up on His offer of friendship and Lordship. He really knows the best way to live to avoid the traps of the devil and to live in glorious victory, enjoying His love, joy, peace, hope and grace on a daily basis.

Let’s finish the discourse:

“Therefore everyone who hears [reads] these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Let’s be wise.

Abba, thank You that You have opened my eyes to Your Word and what it means in my life. When I read, I hear Your voice, sense Your peace, and comprehend on some level of spiritual truth. I ask that I would keep going “higher up and further in” concerning Your truth, wisdom, discernment, prudence, knowledge, insight and understanding. Lead on, O King eternal. Amen.

Proverbs 19 2-19-21

Our relationship with Christ means nothing if He is not in charge. Is He not just resident, but President in your life?

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

Listen! Do you hear His voice? What is He saying to you? Are you searching the Scriptures to find out? We find in His Word that He has demonstrated in other people’s lives what He will say, how He will respond, and what He desires. Do you care enough to seek out the answers? We bear out this question every day as He comes to us for fellowship. But, we must be willing to do as He directs; otherwise, we will not hear. We will have turned our attention to the chatter of a multitude of voices around us.

Our decision to seek out the Savior, listening and heeding what He tells us through His Spirit, is like entering the small gate that leads to life. Let’s read it:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Luke says something similar, but goes further with the teaching:

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter [their way] and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:24-30

As we can see, knowing Christ on a personal and ongoing basis is essential for eternal life, which, by the way, begins the moment we receive Him into our hearts and lives. We don’t wait until we die to begin living eternally, for wherever Christ is, there is heaven! If He is in our hearts, then the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21).

Again, I exhort you: LISTEN! Make time and determine in your hearts to pray to the Father, read His Word, seek His will, listen for the Spirit’s voice, and obey Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You might begin with 2 Peter. Verses 3-11 of chapter one are whoppers! You might continue with Romans 12:9-21, which tell us how to live with our brothers and sisters. Ephesians 4:1-3, 29-32 teach us how to be like Christ in personal holiness. If not with these, start somewhere!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would catch a vision of what it looks like and feels like to be in communion with You. Allowing You to guide our thoughts and actions is what Christianity is all about. Our relationship with You means nothing if You are not in charge. Be in charge of me, Lord Jesus. I am Your humble servant. Amen.

Proverbs 18 2-18-21

The prevailing peace of God is at the heart of every Christian. From it flows the joy of the Lord. Are we experiencing it?

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

There are lots of good verses on peace. Jesus Himself gave us the best:

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

Paul explained in Romans 5:1-2 that, “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 rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Did you notice all those key words? Faith, peace, grace, rejoicing and hope. These attributes are at the heart of being a Christian, and peace is one of them. We have a positional peace in that we are positioned in the family of God. But, there is an experiential peace, a dynamic (transformative) peace, that we lose and gain according to our willingness to respond to the Spirit. In this experiential and dynamic peace lies the attainment of the other attributes.

Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We receive peace just as we receive His love and His joy. They are gifts and by-products of being one with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, and peace emanate from them and onto us, into us, and through us. They produce a satisfaction like nothing else even while they create a desire to know the Father more deeply. If there is anything mystical about Christianity, here it is: The peace of God that cannot be explained.

Philippians 4:7 is another great verse about peace:

May the calming peace of God that overflows into our lives and transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus–finding our refuge in Him, regarding Him constantly as we walk through our days. (Adapted).

When we have peace, we have peace of mind. Our fears are allayed, and our hearts are at rest. Nothing this world can throw at us can shake us when we are at peace with God and with our fellow man. It allows us to take any abuse, any pain, and even death and turn it into praise. Why? Because we are at complete peace. We trust the LORD. Paul called his trials “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He had his eyes on the future and it gave him peace. We, too, have a wonderful future in store for us, so we, too, can allow it to give us peace.

Last is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Are you experiencing the peace that passes all understanding? If not, ask our heavenly Father to make Himself real to you. He will through His Word and through His Spirit. Trust Him. He has everything in control. Know this, though: We will never experience the peace of God until we have surrendered to the will of God. Secret sin–any sin– breaks fellowship with Him. Start there.

Abba, thank You for Your peace. The at-rest peace I feel when I am in communion with You far outweighs anything this world has to offer. Nothing touches it–and to think that it just gets better when I go to be with You! Wow!!! May Your love, joy, peace, hope and grace overflow from You to me so that I may overflow to others. Amen.

Proverbs 17 2-17-21

Used to doing things your way? Do you ever seek the Lord’s opinion or would that mess with your plans?

24 A discerning person [of the Spirit] keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes [left to his own imaginings] wander to the ends of the earth.
16:25 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
22:3 The prudent [those who seek the Lord] see danger and take refuge, but the simple [those who refuse to ask the Lord for His help and guidance] keep going and pay the penalty.

We were not designed to be loners. It has always been God’s plan to do life with us. After sin broke the relationship between God and mankind, God went out of His way to be with His people. He walked with Enoch (Genesis 5:24); He sealed Noah in the ark (Genesis 7:16); the Lord met with Abraham (Genesis 18); He appeared to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30); the Lord met with Moses at the burning bush and traveled with the Israelites in the desert as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22); He plopped Himself down in their midst by inhabiting the tabernacle (tent) that traveled with them (it was set up in the middle of camp in a shape similar to a cross; see Numbers 2). There are many more times that the Lord reached across the divide to interact with His creation. All this to say that He was desperate (to use a human term) to be with us again.

Enter Jesus! He is Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” Jesus is God in human form. Jesus left His throne in heaven to limit Himself to humanity. He grew up as one of us and lived a perfectly sinless life–how? The same way we do: By the leadership of the Holy Spirit; the difference is that He has no sin nature; He was our Sin Substitute. He died on the cross and then rose again so that we could experience God on the same level He did. Pentecost was the Day that God entered mankind again. Since then, everyone who believes that Jesus is God’s Son and pledges his/her life to Him receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s talk about going it alone:
Anything we do without the Holy Spirit’s consideration and partnership//leadership
is sin and considered evil in God’s eyes.

Romans 7:18 tells us everything we need to know about ourselves and our decision-making abilities, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” In other words, even Christians must admit that we have no power to do good in us without the aid and support of the Holy Spirit. Even our desire comes from the Holy Spirit living in us. If we do not have the desire to do what is right, then we’d better spend this day and night in prayer entreating the Lord to save us! The most practical verse I know is Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you [through the Holy Spirit] to will [the desire] and to act [the power] in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Did you catch that? He gives us even the desire to do His will, and then the power to actually do it. Partnering with the Holy Spirit is what Christianity is all about!

Let’s go over it one more time: If Jesus lives in us, then we will have the desire to follow His commands and the power to do them.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would, indeed, have the desire to listen, heed and obey the Spirit within them. If they don’t have that desire, I pray that they would plead with You until they DO have it. May I always be willing to set aside my own opinion, desires and agenda for Yours. Keep me honest, Lord; keep me humble. Amen.

Proverbs 16 2-16-21

We must decide about whom our lives are going to be lived–and then live our lives accordingly. Will it be Christ? Or, will it be us?

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
9 In his heart a person plans his course, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Are We Willing?

Are we willing to let God use our lives as a catalyst for conviction in a person’s life? Are we willing to give our lives at the Spirit’s request? Is it really about Him? Or, is it really about us and our lives–and deaths–counting for Him the way we think they ought? Is there ever a wasted death? Does the Father, who knows when every sparrow falls (Matthew 10:29), not know when a saint dies–and how and why, and are under His care? Is not the death of His saints precious in His sight (Psalm 116:15)? Our obedience is based on our faith. So, where is our faith? Do we really believe that God can use our deaths for His glory regardless of how it happens? If we do, then 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 takes on a whole new meaning:

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.

In order to understand these weapons, we have to couple this passage with one in Ephesians:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13

We fight against rulers and authorities and principalities and powers of darkness; we need spiritual weapons! These weapons are truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, knowledge (both the intellectual and experiential kind), and the Word of God. We also need a constant and consistent line of communication between us and the Father (prayer). With these weapons, we can pull down every stronghold and take every thought captive. It may not save our lives, but God can use our deaths for His glory even as He uses our lives–sometimes, better!

I am reminded of what the apostles did when they came back from being flogged:

The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Acts 5:41

Abba, would that I be counted worthy one of these days. Whether it is highly publicized or in secret, glorious or ignoble, You know and the person(s) know; make my faith like the Rock on which I stand. Make me strong in You, and may You use my death to pull down every stronghold in that person’s life and set Him free, just as You did me, Abba. Lord Jesus, may my life count for You in life and in death. I have an inkling of what is awaiting me on the other side, and I’m ready! Amen.

Proverbs 15 2-15-21

Allow the Spirit to change the way you think by reading His Word and asking for comprehension and discernment. He will give it!

9 …[the LORD] loves those who pursue righteousness.
14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge…

Changing the way we think will change the way we feel. Getting ahead of our feelings is important to overcoming sin in our lives. It’s part of the guardrails mentality. When the Lord commands the way we feel through how we think, we will be done with sin.

The tension comes from 1 Peter 4:1-2,

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sinAs a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

Let’s look at the passage:

  1. Christ suffered in his body- We find in John 17:19 that Jesus intentionally sanctified Himself, meaning that He set aside the cravings of the flesh in order to achieve the Plan. He then prayed that we would do the same.
  2. Arm yourselves also with the same attitude- Through the law we understood what we needed to do, but we had no power to do it. Through the Spirit, we have been given everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3).
  3. Whoever suffers in the body is done with sin- The word, “suffers,” refers not only to pain and loss, but to struggle. We are to struggle with the cravings of the flesh to the point of pain and loss in order to overcome, which we have been promised that we would do.
  4. We live for the will of God- We see sin for what it is, a fleeting pleasure AND extremely destructive, and instead, crave the companionship of God. His love, joy, peace, hope and grace are always available.

So, where’s the tension? It’s in the verses that promise us that we will overcome.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37. This verse is in the midst of a passage about great trial and suffering even unto death.

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Revelation 12:11. This verse is self-explanatory.

We grow best when we are in trial and tribulation. In fact, the Church grows best in struggle and tension. Just ask the Christians in China. They asked that we would not pray for persecution to cease, but that they would be strong. Why? Because they are experiencing a great awakening over there! They have seen what happens to the Church when we experience generations of relative ease concerning the Gospel (for an example of what generally happens, read Judges).

Instead of calling our times “the last days,” I prefer to view them as a continuation of what happens in societies over a period of time, and as the Lord calling us to take up our cross and follow Him. Christians throughout the ages have experienced the same circumstances and have been called to the same renewal. Let’s be THAT generation!

Abba, I know that You are calling me to step away from politics and to focus my attention and energies on evangelship (a meshing of evangelism and discipleship). May I use Your Word guided by Your Spirit to set my guardrails in place so that I am not caught up in feelings. Anything that makes me angry or afraid needs to be run through the filters of Scripture. Help me to step back and see it coming. I know it takes failure and practice, so keep encouraging me, Holy Spirit! The best is yet to come. Amen.

Proverbs 14 2-14-21

Want a love story? How’s this: “‘How much do I love you? This much…’ And He stretched out His hands and died…”

8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is [self] deception. Also v.15, 18, 24 and 27

Things go wrong. They have ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. We need to be prepared for when they go wrong for us. God works within the framework of our own making: a sin-riddled world. He may not protect us from injury, disease, and attack; instead, He asks us to trust Him with what is beyond this life. Do we?

In the hands of our loving heavenly Father, every event becomes an opportunity for us to learn trust and discipline, and to turn our eyes to the eternal. Every day, we are faced with our own mortality. The problem is that the enemy gets us to focus on our health, our security, and the longevity of our lives. Think about it: Why would we strive so hard to live in this world of pain, loss and heartache when we can go to be with our heavenly Father, our loved ones who have already gone on, and receive our glorified bodies that will last forever–without the sin nature!?

Our lives exist to bring glory to the Father and to Christ Jesus. Everything that happens to us can be a glory-giver. Are we willing to allow Him to use the failures, the accidents, and the unfortunate circumstances–as well as the good times–in our lives for His glory? No matter how we live or how we die, our success is in our faithfulness. If we really believe that He goes to prepare a place for us and that, when it is ready, He will come back for us, then we can focus on Him and on His plan for us today and not worry about tomorrow. We know that it’s not about heaven; it’s about Him–His will, His glory.

Would you give your life to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The only way we’ll answer yes to this question is if we are in a continuous and intimate relationship with Him. I pray that you are.

Abba, dying to myself is the hardest thing I do, yet you call me to do it daily–even moment by moment. I want to act like You, Jesus, therefore I want to think like You. Please transform my mind and my thoughts. Help me to overcome my will and my “wants.” I can be pretty selfish…okay, a lot selfish! Keep renewing me, Abba. I need it badly. I need You! Amen.

Proverbs 13 2-13-21

People who claim to be Christians but act like lost people give true followers a bad name. Maybe our standards are too low…

5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.

The problem is that we have a lot of people who have been inoculated against the Gospel. An inoculation is a dose of a dead strain of a virus that keeps us from getting the real thing, as in the flu. The same thing can happen with the Gospel. A prayer for salvation without a pledge to live for Christ is an empty prayer. Jesus doesn’t call us to be sinless, but to follow Him. He promises that our sins will be taken care of, but it’s not the main reason for His sacrifice on the cross. He died and rose again so that we could have Him come and live in our hearts! Once He is there, He is LORD. If a person had no intention of ever letting Jesus be Lord, then “Houston, we have a problem.” Consider this event:

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
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.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:17-23

This would-be disciple had a problem: he loved the good life too much. He loved his stuff. Jesus knew his heart and called him on the one thing that was an idol to him. Jesus does the same thing with us. The cost of discipleship is whatever we treasure most. Are we willing to give it? If you are reading this post, then you probably already have. What we need to know is that Jesus comes to us every day and asks the same question, “Will you give Me all?” Every day, we must answer, “Yes, Lord!”

If all professing Christians would answer, “yes,” to Jesus every day, then we would have no problem winning the world to Christ. A relationship with the God of the universe is that attractive! All we have to do now is, through the way we live our lives, hold up a mirror to all of those who profess Christ, but don’t really have Christ living in their hearts. The Holy Spirit will have to show them the truth; we are to live the genuine life regardless of those around us.

The best example of our plight is the Parable of the Weeds:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” Matthew 13:24-30

We will always have impostors; the Lord will sort them out at the Harvest. In the meantime, let’s make sure that we are committed to Him, that our children are committed to Him, and those we disciple are committed to Him. We ALL need a personal, intimate, and ongoing relationship with Jesus!

Abba, may You protect us from wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are those who are deliberately so, but there are also those who truly think that they are saved, but are still part of the dark side. Help Your children to discern the truth about those who follow You and those who don’t. Help us to raise the bar of discipleship so high that only those who depend upon You can reach it, which is the whole point (us depending on You). Guard Your Church, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 12 2-12-21

Are we right with the Lord? Are we walking in step with Him? Here are some sure-fire signs of a disciple of Christ.

1 Whoever loves [the] discipline [of the Lord] loves knowledge [finding out about our Savior and fellowshipping with Him], but whoever hates correction is stupid.

  1. We want to talk with Him. We have an ongoing conversation that constantly yields to His will and His way. He is the Master and we are apprentices. “Teach me, LORD, the way of Your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.” “Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight.” Psalm 119:33, 35.
  2. We have a craving for His Word. We hunger and thirst after righteousness [Matthew 5:6]. We see the importance of finding out what was so important that He made the effort to write it down and then keep it safe through the centuries. “Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:21.
  3. We have a passion for people: For the lost to know Him as we know Him, and for other Christians to know Him as we know Him. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10.
  4. We desire to sit under godly teaching and to meet for haverim (interaction between believers about spiritual things). “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42.”
  5. Our priorities are different than the world’s. Our desire to know Him and His Word, our passion for people, and our desire to meet together take precedence over the things after which the world seeks. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” –Jesus, John 15:19.

I believe that our society has reached a point where it is not going to tolerate the god of Christianity as it is generally being presented to them. In other words, they see through the façade that is presented to them by religion: We serve Christ because it serves us, or because it is our culture, or out of fear (faith is treated like a talisman, a charm). Jesus said that the only reason to follow Him is because He called us to follow Him. We respond to His call and follow Him the rest of our lives. Many people prayed a prayer for the forgiveness of their sins with no intention of following Him the rest of their lives. They wanted fire insurance! These people are NOT true Christians. They have believed in a god that doesn’t exist, one that offers salvation of sin without commitment. Not only that, they use the name of Jesus as a weapon against the very people that Jesus came to save! Demanding our rights “in Jesus’ name” is tantamount to blasphemy. Do we forget that dead men (and women) don’t have rights? Do we ignore what Jesus said about being His disciple:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Folks, let’s set aside our arguments and focus on what is true. We are called to be lights in a dark world. We are to exemplify Jesus in every area of our lives. Are we studying, striving, and struggling to make our lives just like Jesus’ life? Paul says,

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Galatians 4:19-20

I feel like he is talking straight to me! The struggle is real, people! I am perplexed about my own life and the areas in which I can’t seem to have victory. How about you? Let’s not give up the fight! Instead, let’s “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.” Philippians 3:12.

Abba, the world seems to be getting darker when it doesn’t have to. Instead, help us to lift our eyes to You and to involve ourselves in Your plan to reach the world. We have Your promise to be with us and lead us, and eventually to take us home to be with You. Why are we so taken with this world? Increase my faith, O Lord, to include everything that goes on, whether it is considered good or bad, as being brought under Your authority (based on Psalm 110:1 and Ephesians 1:10). I am Yours, Lord. Light me up! Amen.

Proverbs 11 2-11-21

Prayer is the key to Christianity. Praying saves us, connects us, keeps us, and empowers us. It’s our link to God Himself!

14 For lack of guidance a nation [person] falls, but victory is won through many advisors [and one Main Advisor: the Holy Spirit!].

Somewhere along the way, we lost the main goal of salvation: The re-establishment of our relationship to God. This connection is designed to right what was wronged so long ago in the Garden of Eden. The fellowship between the Creator and the created was broken by sin. Jesus came to redeem us and to make it possible for humanity to be reunited to the Father through Him. Upon salvation, the Holy Spirit enters us and takes up residence. From that time on, our goal becomes making Him President over every area of our lives. The connection between us and Jesus is prayer–a conversation with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is continuous (to believe otherwise is to ignore His presence in our lives) and aligning (we align with His will). Is this pattern the pattern of our lives?

Consider the disciples when they came to a circumstance that they could not overcome.

Mark 9:14-29 (NIV) [14] When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. [15] As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
[16] “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
[17] A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. [18] Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
[19] “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
[20] So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
[21] Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. [22] “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
[23] “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”
[24] Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
[25] When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
[26] The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” [27] But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
[28] After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
[29] He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.

There are many “devils” that plague our society and our lives. Some are easy fixes, but most are not. The devil is strong—but we are stronger! How? Through our link with God through prayer and the Holy Spirit. Consider these verses:

1 John 5:4 (NIV) [4] for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Romans 8:37 (NIV) [37] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV) [57] But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 4:4 (NIV) [4] You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

It is connection with the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit that gives us “the desire and the power to do His will.” Philippians 2:13. We connect through prayer; our Bible study is the language and the platform He uses to communicate with us.

This is why we pray… and study… and pray with others… and study with others… and pray alone… and study alone… and pray with others… and study with others… etc. If we want to be encouraged, then we need to pay attention to the One who will encourage us–the Holy Spirit. We also have those who challenge us to “up our game” in our study time and prayer time. The more we pray (especially together) the more we assume the attitude of Christ for those around us. I see it all the time in prayer groups. Be encouraged–and PRAY!

Abba, You tell us that through prayer we can have a personal, one-on-One conversation with You. That’s enough reason for me! I’m gonna pray! If I change in the process to look more like You and be more like Your Son, then so much the better. It is the reason I got saved. Have Your way in me. I am Yours! Amen.

Proverbs 10 2-10-21

The goal of discipleship is reproduction: The making of new disciples who will in turn make new disciples, etc.

1 A wise son brings joy to his father…
5 He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son…
8 The wise in heart accept commands…
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…
13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning…
16 The wages of the righteous is life…
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver…
21 The lips of the righteous nourish many…
31 From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom…

From “The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman
There is no use to pray for the world. What good would it do? God already loves them and has given his Son to save them. No, there is no use to pray vaguely for the world. The world is lost and blind in sin. The only hope for the world is for men to go to them with the Gospel of salvation, and having won them to the Savior, not to leave them, but to work with them faithfully, patiently, painstakingly, until they become fruitful Christians savoring the world about them with the Redeemer’s love.
Here finally is where we must all evaluate the contribution that our life and witness is making to the supreme purpose of Him who is the Savior of the world. Are those who have followed us to Christ now leading others to him and teaching them to make disciples like ourselves? Note, it is not enough to rescue the perishing, though this is imperative; nor is it sufficient to build up newborn babies in the faith of Christ, although this too is necessary if the first fruit is to endure; in fact, it is not sufficient just to get them out winning souls, as commendable as this work may be. What really counts in the ultimate perpetuation of our work is the faithfulness with which our converts go out and make leaders out of their converts, not simply more followers. Surely we want to win our generation for Christ, and to do it now, but this is not enough. Our work is never finished until it has assured its continuation in the lives of those redeemed by the Evangel. (pages 109-110)
The test of any work of evangelism thus is not what is seen at the moment, or in the Conference Report, but in the effectiveness with which the work continues in the next generation. Similarly the criteria upon which a church should measure its success is not how many new names are added to the role nor how much the budget is increased, but rather how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes. The ultimate extent of our witness is what matters, and for this reason values can only be measured by eternity.
This is the new evangelism we need. It is not better methods, but better men – men who know their Redeemer from something more than hearsay – men who see his vision and feel his passion for the world – men who are willing to be nothing in order that He might be everythingmen who want only for Christ to produce His life in and through them according to His good pleasure. This finally is the way the Master planned for his objective to be realized on the earth, and where it is carried through by his strategy, the gates of hell cannot prevail against the evangelization of the world. (pages 113-114)

This book sounds like something we need today–yet, it was written in 1963. What happened? Did we not heed the warning? How come our entire church calendar is not structured around discipleship toward evangelism and more discipleship? How well do we know our Lord? How well do we WANT TO? Are we really on board with His plan? In case we think that Jesus was introducing something new, we have these illustrations from the Old Testament:

  1. The birth of Israel through Abraham and Sarah–Each son had children, who had children, who had children, etc. until Israel was a mighty nation, so great in number that the Egyptians were threatened by them (Exodus 1:6-12).
  2. Daniel’s dream of the rock that grew into a mountain that filled the whole world (Daniel 2:35).
  3. The water coming out from under the threshold of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision that grew to be a great river that turned the salt water of the Dead Sea into fresh water (Ezekiel 47:1-12).

From Jesus Himself, we have these parables:

  1. The mustard seed (Matthew 13:31-32) that starts as the smallest of seeds, yet grows to become a tree.
  2. The yeast in the dough (Matthew 13:33) that works its way into sixty pounds of flour.

As we can see, God’s plan all along was for us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Here’s the plan:

  1. We learn- There are some great resources out there to help us learn a good strategy; the best one is the Bible!
  2. We pray- Our ongoing relationship with the Father through the Son in the Spirit is how we connect with Him; with us connected to Him, He can then use us to connect with others. He will lead us to each person to whom He wants us to share.
  3. We initiate- Whether it’s a text, a call, or a visit, we seek out that person.
  4. We share- Our story is our best evangelistic tool. They want to know what is so special about Jesus. Well, we know Him personally and enjoy His love, joy, peace, hope and grace! Now, THAT’S worth sharing!
  5. We strive- Rarely does a person respond to the Gospel the first time he hears it (the average is seven times before a decision is made). We simply continue to pray, initiate and share short examples of God’s amazing grace in our lives. God will bring the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Jesus gave a parable about increasing our investments, The Bags of Gold in Matthew 25:14-30. Jesus expects obedience. When will we learn that salvation is not about us, but about His glory? Let’s make it all about Him, shall we?

Abba, You know that I am thankful for my salvation; I know that when my heart beats in sympathetic rhythm with Yours that I find myself consumed with spreading the Gospel. The question that runs through my mind constantly is, what is best going to spread the Gospel: Me going out or me training others? May You give me opportunities to train others even as I go out in Your name and Your power, under Your orders and Your protection. Let’s go, Abba! Amen.

Proverbs 9 2-9-21

Discipleship is a decision to become a Christ-follower. He has extended an invitation to follow Him. Shall we take it?

4 “Let all who are simple [unlearned, undisciplined, and prone toward ungodly habits and tendencies] come to my house!” –Wisdom [God’s perspective]
9 Instruct the wise [those who want to learn] and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous [made so by Christ] and they will add to their learning.

Young Christians: Are you being discipled by anyone? If not, why not?
Mature Christians: Are we discipling anyone? If not, why not?

  1. A failure on the leader’s part: “There is no one to lead us.”
  2. A failure on the follower’s part: An unwillingness to be discipled.
  3. It could be a mixture of the two.

Today, we will discuss the part of the young Christian.

A disciple of Christ is willing to put himself/herself under the tutelage of a mature Christian for learning. It can be a prescribed period of time. The early church leaders called this relationship, The Catecumenate-“Hearing the Word” (from The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, page 152). Instruction was called, “catechesis,” and the candidate was called a “catechumen.” The sponsor (mature Christian) and the catechumen had a master-apprentice relationship and could last for up to three years. At some point, the sponsor would present the catechumen to the church leaders for evaluation. “The sponsor has to affirm that the candidate has changed: not only the candidate’s thinking (that was the easy part), but also the candidate’s behavior, character, and reflexes–in short, the candidate’s habitus.” “It wasn’t the candidate who answered these questions; it was their sponsor, their accompanying advocate.” pg. 153.

I wonder what would happen if we all had to go through such a rigorous process in order to join our particular group of Christians: How would a “sponsor” describe us? Would our “habitus” be different enough from the world for us to be considered for membership? Have our thinking, behavior, character and reflexes (what happens to us when we are surprised or caught off-guard) been transformed by the Spirit of Christ? According to history, candidates didn’t get to worship with the church, but only with other candidates. Neither did they get to be baptized or partake in the Lord’s Supper until they were considered for membership. They really wanted to be part of the Christian church! Why? Because Christ lived in their hearts and their sole desire was to be like Him, so all the teaching and the rigorous training were exactly what they wanted.

How about us? Is being just like Jesus exactly what we want? Are we willing to go through such training and teaching to learn Christ? This is the question of the ages and the question for the current church–for us.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” — Paul the Apostle (Acts 20:24)

Abba, I realize that in some ways I have an advantage over most folks in that I am encouraged to study and learn in order to help lead the church. At the same time, You know that I answer every day the same question that everyone answers: “Will you follow Me?” Thank You, Lord Jesus, for giving me the privilege to be Your disciple. May I lead others to the same decision; may they find the love, joy, peace, hope, grace and truth that has sustained me and calls me homeward. I, too, count my life worth nothing to me except to complete the task You have given me. Use me up, Lord; I am Yours to do with as You see fit. Amen.

Proverbs 8 2-8-21

To make disciples, we first need to be disciples. Following Jesus from afar doesn’t cut it. We need to be up close and personal.

6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Our job as Christians is to evangelize the world. What does that mean? It means that we are to spread the account of Jesus Christ and His message with those we come into contact. You might say, “That’s impossible! Even Billy Graham didn’t share with everyone he came into contact.” Correct. So, we must have an incomplete view of what it means to share Christ. Jesus said for us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Paul called us the fragrance and aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16).

We get our marching orders from Jesus on the Mount of Olives just before He ascended to heaven, “All authority has been given to me, so go, and as you go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I promise to be with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20. Paul puts it like this, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.

How did Jesus call His own disciples? Let’s look:

  • Peter and Andrew, James and John- “Come, follow Me and I will send you out to fish for people.” Matthew 4:19.
  • Philip-“Follow Me.” John 1:43.
  • Matthew-“Follow Me.” Matthew 9:9.
  • The rest were appointed out of the ones who were following Him as a group-“He appointed twelve that they might be with Him…” Mark 3:14.

In each case, Jesus called them to walk with Him, to learn from Him, and to be like Him. This process is True Discipleship. Wherever did we get the idea that evangelism was having people pray a prayer? How did the process get boiled down to just one act? Where’s the commitment? Where’s the footwork?

Let’s go back further to Moses. Here’s what the LORD said to him, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:12. How about Abraham? “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” Genesis 12:1. What about Noah? Genesis 6:9-14 says that Noah was a righteous man who walked faithfully with God. It was out of one of these conversations that God told him to build the ark. Again, it was part of discipleship.

There is the office of evangelism (Ephesians 4:11-12). Evangelism is the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ; it is a call to repentance and change; it is a call to follow Christ. There are people who are called to be evangelists. Take Peter, for instance:

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38

Peter had the occasion (the festival of Pentecost–all male Israelites were required to attend), the sign (tongues of fire and individual languages), the motivation (Jesus had told him to spread the Gospel), and the opportunity (all were gathered in the temple grounds for the sacrifice). These are the things we are to look for when sharing the Gospel:

  1. The occasion– “as you go…”
  2. The sign– There will be something that triggers the opportunity.
  3. The motivation– We listen to the Spirit and He prompts us and empowers us.
  4. The opportunity– We wait for the Spirit to present the right time and circumstances, the right people and the right frame of mind.

If we walk with the LORD everyday, all day, if we immerse ourselves in His Scriptures and plead with the Holy Spirit to open our minds to Him, if we converse with our brothers and sisters in Christ about the things of God, then we will find that we, too, are evangelists, and that we, too, are disciple-makers. As we walk in step with Christ, He will lead us and will present these opportunities to us. We don’t have to “conjure them up.” In fact, forcing the issue creates issues (Acts 19:13-16, the seven sons of Sceva). When the time is right and the people are ready, He will let us know.

What happens after evangelism? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s lesson on Discipleship: the True calling of Christ’s followers.

Abba, You are so faithful to keep Your word. Thank You that You don’t expect us to do anything that You do not first call us and then empower us to do. We can trust You in this matter of evangelism and also in discipleship. May You train us up in true righteousness and holiness so that we can show others The Way. Amen.

Proverbs 7 2-7-21

A successful Christian realizes that he can do nothing on his own. He, and we, need the Spirit!

25 Do not let your heart turn to her [Desire’s] ways or stray into her paths.

The lure of desire is too much for us humans. Just ask Adam and Eve. Eve felt the desire to be wise like God and it cost her–it cost us! 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. If Adam and Eve, perfect as they were, could not resist the lure of temptation, what chance do we have? “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is [so easily led astray and] subject to death?” Romans 7:24.

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:26

Therefore, there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2

The law said to not covet; we coveted (wanting what someone else has instead of them having it), and according to the law, we had to die. Christ died for us, so that we could live through His resurrection. Now, instead of living by the law of sin and death, we live according to the law of the Spirit, which is LIFE! Our sins are no longer held against us. But, neither are we doomed to sin and fleshly desires. We now have the Spirit in us to give us the want-to to want to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. Let me say it again, if we are in Christ, there is NO CONDEMNATION. None! Zilch. Zero. We could live in sin the rest of our lives and still not be under the condemnation of God. The good news is that if we have the Spirit of God in us, we won’t want to live in sin the rest of our lives. The starting point is realizing that we are free in Christ to love God with all our hearts. It’s all He wants from us.

So, if you feel resistant in giving your whole life to the LORD, it’s just your flesh trying to draw you back in. Consider giving Him the deeper part of your being. Recognizing the Spirit’s voice in our minds is one of the first and liberating feats of becoming a disciple. Also, if being obedient to Him in your daily life seems overwhelming, try giving Him your current inner thoughts and motives. “If you change the way you think, you’ll change the way you feel.” –Beth Moore. Reading His Word is the best way to know what God is thinking.

Psalm 73:21-26 is amazing to read every day. allow it to minister to you.

21 When my heart was grieved
    and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
    I was a brute beast before you.

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.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Begin with this prayer to the Lord Jesus, “Lord Jesus, I give all I know of myself to all I know of You. Please increase both today.” Tomorrow, pray this prayer again based upon what you have learned about yourself and about the Lord. Trust me, it works. I’ve prayed this prayer for years.

Abba, I want to pray it again: I give all I know of myself to all I know of You. Please increase both today. As I learn about myself, I see me as incapable of getting along without You. I know I can’t be righteous and holy without You. As I learn about You, I see a God who loves me with abandon–You abandoned Your throne to come to earth and rescue me! Wow! May I experience more and more of Your love. Amen.

Proverbs 6 2-6-21

The Work of the Holy Spirit in us: Fellowship with a purpose. Even as He abides in us, we are transformed into Christ’s image.

21 Bind them (words of knowledge) always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Scripture tells us that the Spirit is transforming us into the image of Christ,

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined [predetermined] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29

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

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Colossians 3:9-10

17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 1 John 4:17

But, our transformation is not the only work He does in us. We must also remember that any works that we do for the kingdom are done at the prompting, then the powering, and then done at the direction of the Holy Spirit. We are vessels, conduits, stone water pots, e.g. the purification pots at the wedding at Cana (John 2:6). We ourselves have no inherent power; it is He who flows through us who does. At the same time, because He is doing it with us, we are creating something brand new–a brand new work never before seen! And you thought God quit creating on the sixth day of creation! We are new creations in Christ–everyday! 2 Corinthians 5:17 and 4:16 point out this wonderful fact.

There is one more important work that the Spirit does in us and that is fellowship. The whole point of the cross was for Jesus to be able to send “another advocate” to help us and be with us forever. The term, “another,” in the Greek denotes something that is just like its replacement. In other words, the Spirit coming to live in us IS Jesus Himself, but in Spirit form. Jesus said, “Remain in Me, as I remain in you.” John 15:4. What a powerful verse that is chocked full of meaning and promise! The term, “remain,” means to dwell, to live permanently, to set up shop, which is exactly what we ask Jesus to do when we invite Him inside. We ask Him to come in and take over, to be the Lord of our lives. And He Does!

If we take the time to ponder these verses each morning, we will get a sense of destiny (Jesus has a plan for our lives), belonging (Jesus lives with us and the Father has adopted us into his family), and purpose (God is doing a new thang–with us).

Abba, thank You for coming to live in me, for giving me destiny, belonging, and purpose. May I devote myself to seeing these three to their fulfillment in me. Rule in my heart, my Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 5 2-5-21

What is a follower of Christ? “I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors.

Terminology is interesting. What means one thing to one person might mean something entirely different to another. So, let’s define our terminology.

(American) Christian- a person who has trusted Christ for salvation: deliverance from hell and the promise of heaven.

Follower of Christ- a person who takes the Way of Christ seriously: relationship over ritual, and His ways over the person’s ways.

I wonder when the terms got to be so far apart in meaning. The biblical definition is found in Acts 11:26, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” If the term was meant for disciples, then let’s delve into what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

The best place to start is with what Jesus said about following Him as His disciple:

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24

Jesus gets specific about the cost of following Him later on in that chapter:

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62

1. The first candidate might have had a love for comfort and security. Jesus warned him that following Him required giving up all comfort and security and allowing Him to provide what was needed.

2. The second candidate had family ties and responsibilities that kept him divided. “Bury my father” meant much more than a funeral. It meant staying with him and caring for him until he died. Either the man felt responsible (or was made to feel that way) or he was making sure he received his inheritance. Again, Jesus told him to leave the consequences and possible fallout to Him.

3. The third candidate was possibly looking to define how he would follow Christ and when. Jesus made it clear that once we have decided, there is no turning back. We either follow Him 100% or eventually lose our desire to continue and return to our former way of life, which can be licentious or religious—both are sinful because they are done without the involvement of Christ in their lives.

Let’s take a good look at ourselves and what we consider important in our daily lives. Are we spending time in prayer and Bible study every day? Is our relationship with Him our highest priority? Are we truly followers of Christ as He desires? “If not now, when?” (Jesus to His mom in “The Chosen”).

Abba, I choose today to follow closely to You because yesterday is gone and tomorrow depends on today. May You prompt me in the way you want me to go and to say what you want me to say; May You call my attention to what You want me to learn and help me to avoid what I don’t need to think, see or do. It’s all about You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 4 2-4-21

Our anger needs to move us to prayer; we ask God to intervene in us and in the situation.

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

The protection of our hearts is paramount to godly thoughts and actions. Our inner motivation comes from our thoughts being run through the filter of our hearts. The problem is that our hearts are deceitful and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). We need another filter, one that we can run our thoughts and feelings through as they come out of our hearts. It is….prayer.

You thought I was going to say the Word of God, didn’t you? Actually, God’s Word was given to us so that we can learn how to talk to Him. We learn about Him by reading what He has revealed to us. We can even pray His words back to Him. God’s Word is alive with His Spirit. We are to run to Him in prayer and His Word to know what to do with everything that comes out of our hearts.

Speaking of which, I was asked the other day if Christians could have righteous anger. My reply was based upon James 1:19-21,

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of [reject] all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

We get angry. That’s a fact and inevitability. What we do with that anger is crucial. God wants us to come to Him with that anger. In fact, we are to leave all judgment and wrath to Him (Romans 12:19-20). Instead, we are to humbly accept the Word planted in us through daily reading, study, pondering, and conversation with God as well as other believers. We will find that God wants us to show compassion to people—this does not mean that we are to lie down and let them walk on us. It simply means that we pray for them and seek to show Christ to them even while doling out consequences if that is our job. We should try to help them see the truth about their bad choices.

Even persecution is to be treated this way, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14. It is how we can break through the walls of division and shine our lights.

Today, let’s let everything that comes our way take us to the throne of Grace “with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16.

Abba, today promises to be weird as Robin and I take care of her parents after her dad’s surgery. May we have patient endurance and place their needs above our own. May we keep happy spirits and cheerfully serve as needed. May we treat each other with love and respect, each considering the other above and before himself. May we be Truth in action, Lord, allowing every trial to take us to Your throne for some of that mercy and Grace! Amen.

Proverbs 3 2-3-21

Let’s go back to the beginning: Did you surrender to Christ? Were you baptized in obedience? Do you walk with Him daily?

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight [direct your paths].

Those who answer “yes” to the above questions are the ones who Paul includes with himself in Romans 6:2, “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Sin bothers us. In fact, we will not rest until we have first repented of it and then worked hard to conquer it. We will make any change in our lives, give up any pet desire, and struggle against any besetting sin (one that has a deep root and is locked into place) until we have victory in Christ. We allow that struggle to drive us to the cross and then to the throne of Christ. We use that struggle to teach us to die to self and live for Christ. In this way, we become stronger because of our weakness as Christ takes up “presidence” in our hearts (a mash-up of residence and president). Our key verses for living are:

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:4

11 In the same way, we count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus12 Therefore we do not let sin reign in our mortal bodies so that we obey its evil desires.  Romans 6:11-12 adapted

13 …we have been brought from death to life; and we offer every part of ourselves to him as an instrument of righteousness14 For sin shall no longer be our master, because we are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:13-14 adapted

Our slavery is of our own choosing. “Slavery?” you say. Christ said, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34). But, those who are in Christ live in this verse, “But thanks be to God that, though we used to be slaves to sin, we have come to obey from our hearts the pattern of teaching that has now claimed our allegiance. We have been set free from sin and have [voluntarily] become slaves to righteousness.” Romans 6:17-18 adapted. We freely and wholeheartedly follow Christ! And, our righteousness leads to holiness (Romans 6:19).

We would do well to remind ourselves of these verses often as we walk in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Abba, it is my sincere hope that every reader of this post will pray these verses back to You in thanksgiving and praise. You have done a wondrous thing for us through the work of our Savior and Lord on the cross of Calvary. May we never take Your sacrifice for granted. Amen.

Proverbs 2 2-2-21

Three questions to ask yourself when praying: Why am I asking? Am I willing to step aside? Who gets the glory?

10 For wisdom will enter your heart [through the Holy Spirit], and knowledge [of Him] will be pleasant to your soul.

Often when people pray, they do not get what they ask. Even though Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name,” (John 16:23) there is a problem, which is that we don’t really ask “in His name.”

“In His name” implies that we are asking in the same spirit and intent of Jesus Himself. In order to have that same spirit, there are some questions we need to ask ourselves. These three questions are from the book on prayer by Ronnie Floyd that we are going through in staff prayer meeting. They are:

  1. “Why am I asking God for this?”
  2. “Am I willing to lay aside my will so that God’s will can be done?”
  3. Is my main concern that God will get the glory for it?”

These questions are covered in the model prayer taught my Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13,

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.

The first question of “Why am I asking God for this?” is covered in “Your kingdom come.” What we ask must have to do with the furtherance of the kingdom of God. If it is for our own pleasure and our own will, it will probably interfere with God’s kingdom. Answer this question candidly.

The second question of “Am I willing to lay aside my will so that God’s will can be done?” is covered in “Your will be done.” His will over our will; that’s the way it needs to be. Jesus prayed, “Let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” Matthew 26:39. We must learn to pray the same way.

The third question of “Is my main concern that God will get the glory for it?” is covered in “on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s will is always done in heaven, completely and fully. God’s glory is utmost in heaven. We must make it our main concern here on this earth, as well. In fact, bringing God glory is our primary task. We accomplish this task through our obedience. Our obedience brings Him glory, which Jesus demonstrated by “becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8. His obedience brought His Father great glory, “Father, glorify your name!” “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again [speaking of the cross and resurrection].” John 12:28.

Of course, if we ignore these questions when we pray, it means that either we are not communicating (we are not really interested in a relationship with the Father) or we do not want to yield (Lordship is not part of our plan). Either way, we are headed for destruction as sin takes hold of our lives and destroys us. God loves us, but He will not keep us from suffering the consequences of our own bad choices. He will guide us, warn us, and pick us up and dress our wounds when we fall, but He loves us too much to keep us from the lessons learned through hardship.

Let’s make it our life’s goal to bring glory and honor to our Lord, whether in life or in death.

Abba, it seems that each time I want something, I have to ask these questions. When will I stop having selfish and self-centered desires? When I die? Oh, in that case, please lead me to ask each time I desire something! May I be open and honest with myself–even when it hurts. I want You to gain much glory–how do I go about accomplishing this goal? Through obedience, I know. May I get better and better at dying to self and allowing You to have first place in my heart and life, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 1 2-1-21

Everything we say, do, everyone we meet, all we read and watch must be seen as tools in our Master’s hands to train us.

3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;

Since the Lord Jesus is with us all the time, everything must be seen as instruments in the hands of the Master. We don’t have to wait for judgment concerning what we say; the Holy Spirit convicts us of it right then and there! Matthew 12:36 says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty [idle] word they have spoken.” What we must remember is that Jesus was referring directly to the Pharisees who had accused Him of driving out demons by Beelzebul (Satan). Those who have not taken the mark of the cross (been saved) will answer for every word and every deed on Judgment Day (Revelation 20:13). Those of us who have the Spirit answer Now to the Spirit. Our judgment at the BEMA (judgment) seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) is about rewards–it’s an awards ceremony! What we must remember is that the Great White Throne and the BEMA Seat are right next to each other and that God and Jesus are one–yet, three: Father, Son, Spirit. Those who never accepted Christ as Savior will stand before the Father: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15) while those whose name is written in the book of life will hear from their Master, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).

Jesus being with us all the time through the presence of the Holy Spirit is why we cannot continue in sin for very long. John put it like this, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him [Jesus] or known Him.” 1 John 3:6.

The Spirit’s conviction may be immediate, but we still live with the consequences of our bad choices (sin). Repentance usually helps mitigate those consequences so that we are not in them as long or don’t have to suffer the extreme consequences. Proverbs 22:3 tells us that “the prudent see danger coming and take refuge [hide themselves in Him as our high tower], but the simple [those who lack judgment and ignore the direction of the Spirit] keep going and pay the penalty.” The sooner we repent and obey, the better our outcome will be. Just know that the Spirit loves you and wants the best for you. It hurts Him to see us make choices that hurt us.

So, let’s not “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). Instead, let’s “find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10) and do that, instead!

Abba, I want to please You. You are my God! Jesus, I want to please You. You are my Savior. Spirit, I want to please You. You are my Companion, my Advocate, my Helper. Please lead me in the way of righteousness (I know You will) and help me be pleasing to You (I know I already am). Let’s make it all about You. Amen.

Proverbs 31 1-31-21

We know when the Spirit of God speaks to our hearts because we feel the conviction of the Spirit in us. It’s tangible.

2 Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!

King Lemuel’s mother prayed for her son that he would listen to her advice, and it was sound advice (verses 3-9). In the same way, our heavenly Father wants us to listen to Him. He now lives inside His followers through the Spirit. We can talk to Him anytime and He talks to us all the time! What does He say? Pick any verse or passage in the Bible that is pertinent to our circumstance and that is what He is saying. Many times, it’s in what I call, “picture form;” another way of putting it is a zip file. We get an idea of what is the right thing to think or do, then we fill it out with Scripture, many times after the fact. Our obedience is key to understanding.

Do we recognize when we are being prompted by our own spirits? How can we tell the difference? There are some clues to knowing which one is speaking. It’s effectively the put off/put on list found in Colossians 1:1-17, and looks something like this:

  1. Entitled–Selfless
  2. Proud–Abandoned
  3. Vain–Humble
  4. Impatient–Kind
  5. Selfish–Self-denying
  6. Angry–Compassionate
  7. Slothful (lazy)–Diligent
  8. Lustful–Pure thoughts
  9. Spiteful–Forgiving
  10. Full of rage–Gentle
  11. Hateful–Loving
  12. Gluttonous–Moderate

Some of these characteristics overlap and some are the extreme of others. Some are descriptive of a lifestyle while some burn brightly for only a moment. All of them are driven by emotion and desire. We need His higher desire in order to overcome our own selfish desires, that want-to to want to. In order to become mature spiritually, we must be willing to die to self and allow Him to guard and guide our thoughts.

“Change the way you think and you’ll change the way you feel.” Beth Moore

Dave Ramsey has a motto that says, “Do what you don’t want to now (save, get/stay out of debt) so that you can do what you want to later (with the money you have saved).” I believe that his motto goes well with today’s lesson, “Feel what you don’t want to now (choosing the right thing rarely feels good at the moment) so that you can feel what you want to later (His peace and His joy in our choosing His will over our own, along with all the fruit of the Spirit). The best way I know is to quit asking ourselves what we want to do and start asking the Spirit what He wants us to do. Then, we go dig in the Scriptures to find His answer to our situation. Asking for advice is generally a good idea, but only after we have made the effort to find the answer ourselves. Confirmation goes a long way.

Abba, finding answers to my questions in Your Word is exciting and encouraging because I can trust You as my Source for Truth. May my readers find seeking Your will in Scripture as exciting as I do. May You reveal Yourself to us as we read, study, and discuss Your Word. Amen.

Proverbs 30 1-30-21

God’s desire is for our fellowship. Everything else: our forgiveness of sin, our sanctification, and our glorification is due to Him fulfilling this desire.

3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to all the knowledge of the Holy One [thankfully, we don’t have to in order to enjoy His company].

It is not for us to clean ourselves up, but to allow Him to give us life, His life–Himself! Once we have Him in us, He gives us His righteousness, so we are instantly clean. From then on, we learn how to walk in that righteousness as He teaches us in perfect patience, gentleness and love. It’s all about the relationship. Jesus said,

“Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean…” John 13:10

This washing is mentioned in Ephesians 5:26, which is a major stone in our foundation:

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,”

We are sanctified (made righteous) by God’s truth.
Jesus said that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
Therefore, we are washed every time we read and heed God’s Word.

Could it be that when we read and pray that Christ comes and washes our feet, thus making us holy? The precedent is there in Scripture (John 13:5-11). Whether it is metaphoric or spiritual, we can bank on the truth that we are made new every “morning” (it’s a continuous process), as are His mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23, 2 Corinthians 4:16). That process is accelerated when we read and pray.

Today, let’s allow Jesus to come and wash our feet and fellowship with us as we read His Word. There is much we don’t understand about what we read, but it doesn’t matter. It’s more about the relationship than the knowledge (although, that, too, comes with time, regular reading, and experience).

Lord Jesus, I want You in my life leading me, talking to me, directing me and counseling me. My determined desire is to know You more, better, and more intimately. If that means more victories, then great, but if it means sacrifice and suffering, then I am for that, too; whatever is going to allow me to know You the most. Right now, it’s all about Bible study and prayer. As I do these two things, You are directing my path in leading others and reaching others. Thank You! Amen.

Proverbs 29 1-29-21

Mary Magdalene was the poster child for humanity. We all need His healing.

6 Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but [those made] righteous sing for joy and are glad.

In the second episode of “The Chosen,” Mary Magdalene was talking to Nicodemus about her healing. Nic asked her how could this be; she replied, “I do not know, but this I do know: I was one way, but now I am completely different, and the only thing in between was Him [Jesus].”

How about us? Were we one way and now are we completely different? We may say, “but I didn’t have seven demons living in me.” Actually, we have something much worse: our flesh! Beth Moore says that her own flesh is twice the enemy Satan ever thought about being! Even the apostle Paul fought a losing battle with his sin nature,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. Romans 7:15, 18-20.

Paul then gives us the answer to his—and our—plight:

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

What came between how we were and how we are now? Jesus! I don’t see how anyone can meet Jesus, trusting Him for salvation, and walk away unchanged. Even today, as we spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study, as we walk along life’s road with Him, we are transformed. In fact, it is the very point of our salvation to become just like Jesus.

Let’s live the transformed life as we continually acknowledge and yield to the presence of Christ in our hearts and lives.

Abba, I was young when I met You, but I knew right away that I was different because You had come to live in me. Even today, I am changing, becoming more and more like You in true righteousness and holiness as I put off the old self and put on Your new self (Ephesians 4:22-24). May I never quit allowing You to transform me into Your image. Amen.

Proverbs 28 1-28-21

Church is not a building, nor is it a place. It is the assembly of the people of God together with Him. Do you qualify?

14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart [against Him] falls into trouble.

The church is the assembly of people who believe in Jesus; He in-dwells each believer, and joins together the hearts of all believers. As we mature in our faith, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ become our “safe house.” We can generally trust them to seek the Lord in all decisions; we can usually trust their topics of conversation (or, turn them back to godly topics), and their lifestyles are not much different than ours. If one looks at the senior adults of our church and wonders why they like to meet so much, it’s because of this safe zone. It’s not that they don’t have friends outside of church; it’s just that they hold so much in common with the others in church that they enjoy spending time together and work really hard to keep “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The overall reason for meeting is our oneness in Christ. We primarily go to enjoy the Savior together with other believers. Jesus said, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20. There is a connection between the Spirit in us that unites our hearts together in a unique way. We experience the Lord in a way that cannot be experienced privately. This unique bond is exclusive to Christianity and is for believers only.

NOTE: When I say, “believers,” I am talking about those who have put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, giving Him their lives to be lived as He commands. They are followers of Christ and Him alone and have a personal, on-going relationship with Him.

So, let me ask, Do you believe that Christ joins our hearts together as a church, His assembly? Is He resident in your heart? Then joining with other believers will definitely be a priority. Granted, COVID has put a damper on getting together, but as we slowly pull out of the quarantine, I am confident that Christ’s followers will once again meet together to worship our Savior. Each person must hear from the Lord as to when he or she can come back. I can hardly wait for us all to be together again!

Abba, those who have had COVID and those who get the vaccine have a distinct advantage over those who have not. May You lead each of us in the decision You want each of us to make. May we not judge others because they chose differently than we. Help us to love each other as Christ loves the church, giving our lives for each other as You have for us. Bless us when we meet, whether it’s on Sundays in corporate worship or in small groups throughout the week. Amen.

Proverbs 27 1-27-21

The old hymn says, “Moment by moment I’m kept in His love.” We are! Do you see yourself as kept in His love?

1 Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Time is an interesting thing. To live in either the past or the future robs a person of living in the moment. It’s not that we cannot enjoy the past as we look back on it (or rue it, depending upon our prior choices), nor is it that we should not plan for the future. It’s just that we live each moment as it comes, therefore this moment is where our attention needs to be.

How does staying focused on the moment help us spiritually? First we must consider that Jesus lives in the moment with us. Note His use of God’s name from Exodus 3:14 in John 8:58 and 18:5,

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He *said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. Now then, when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Three characteristics of God are His omnipotence (all-power), His omniscience (all-knowing), and His omnipresence (He is everywhere at all times). God is always ever-present, which is right where we live. So, if God comes to live in us, and He is ever-present, then He interacts with us in this moment. I cannot stress the import of this statement.

  1. God does not look at our past and judge us by it. He judges us on what we decide right now.
  2. God does not look at our future and condemn us for it. He judges us on what we do right now (which may change the outcome).
  3. His Spirit is constantly asking us to choose His way. He does not grow weary of asking; the here-and-now is where He lives, never tiring of being with us because He loves us!

I have been asked if God is ever disappointed with us. The answer is decidedly no. He knows our every failure and tendency; He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Now, He lives in us urging us to be like Him. He knows that every struggle squeezes the coal and moves it to become a diamond. That is what we are: Diamonds in the rough. What we learn as we walk in step with the Spirit is to yield, submit, and die to our own desires and self-centered way of thinking. We cannot be 100% committed all the time, but we can be 100% committed at the moment. Put enough moments together, and voila’: the victorious Christian life.

In the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus tells them their past, where they are in relation to Him in the present, and then their future based upon their choices. He then tells them what they can expect if they are successful in following His commands.

  • If the church in Ephesus would repent and return to their first Love (Christ), then they would be given the right to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 2:1-7).
  • If the church in Smyrna would be faithful during persecution, then they would receive the victor’s crown and not be hurt at all by the second death (Revelation 2:8-11).
  • If the church in Pergamum would repent from the teaching of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans, they would be given some of the hidden manna and a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it (Revelation 2:12-17).
  • If the church in Thyatira would repent of the teaching of Jezebel and hold onto what they have until He comes, they would be given authority over the nations and receive the morning star (Revelation 2:18-29).
  • If the church in Sardis would wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die, they will walk with the Lord, dressed in white, for they would be worthy. They will never have their name blotted out of the book of life, and He will acknowledge their name before His Father and His angels (Revelation 3:1-6).
  • If the church in Philadelphia would continue to keep His command and endure patiently, they would be kept from the hour of trial and be made a pillar in the new temple of His God in the new Jerusalem. He would write on them His new name (Revelation 3:7-13).
  • If the church in Laodicea would realize how wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked they were and repent, then they would have sweet fellowship with Jesus Christ and would sit next to Him on His throne [don’t ask me how we all could sit with Him–it’s a BIG throne!] (Revelation 3:14-22).

Jesus gives us the same offer. He tells us of our past–not in a condemning way, but simply speaking the truth–and then tells us what to do to change the future that is ahead of us if we continue on the present path. Then He tells us the good things that He has planned for us if we are faithful, trusting Him enough to obey Him. We can trust Him, and in that trust we learn to love Him as He loves us. In that love there is no fear (1 John 4:18). We have moved from judgment to celebration!

Abba, may You continue to chisel away at our unwillingness to believe You when You say that You love us. I know that there is no standing before You and giving an account of every deed–that’s already been paid for and done away with for Your children! What we have to look forward to when we stand before You is the right to eat from the tree of life, a victor’s crown, manna and a new name, authority to rule with Him, a robe of white, to be a pillar in the house of God and fellowship with Him forever. Now THAT’S a future I can get excited about! May our lives and even our deaths bring glory and honor to You, O LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 26 1-26-21

Our work is to believe–not just for salvation, but for every breath, every thought, and every deed. Complete dependence!

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

This verse is what happened to Adam and Eve. The devil deceived them into believing that they knew better than God. Satan talked Eve into not trusting God. She either didn’t trust Him out of arrogance or out of fear. Either way, she didn’t trust Him enough to believe that He had her best interests at heart (see Genesis 3:1-6). Adam’s sin was that he watched the whole exchange and did nothing. His responsibility as the head of his wife was to protect her from Satan–and from herself. Instead, he participated in her arrogance/fear.

King David saw in himself this same danger, which was to be arrogant and fearful. We see both in the account of him bringing the ark from Kiriath Jearim to Jerusalem. He used a new cart; when it stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady it and was killed instantly. The next two verses tell the tale:

Then David was angry [his arrogance] because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah [“outbreak against Uzzah”]. David was afraid [his fear] of the Lord that day and said, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?” 2 Samuel 6:8-9

How did David counter this danger within himself? We read about it in Psalm 86:11, which says,

Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth [that I may rely on Your faithfulness],
give me an undivided heart [make me single-minded] that I may fear Your name [and nothing else].

God’s way is the way of faith. Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in [trust] the one He has sent” John 6:29. We must ask for the want-to to want to and believe that He will be faithful to complete what He started in us upon salvation (Philippians 2:13 and 1:6). We act out of our level of faith (trust) in Him.

Acts of faith must be done in the truth of God’s Word and in the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In order to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), we must know the words of Christ. Revelation is revealed through His Word. Example: Water purifiers filter water through several filters, each one removing certain pollutants. The Word of God works the same way,

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27

Let’s bathe daily in God’s Word and allow the Spirit to wash us and run us through the filters of Scriptures. Until we take our Bible study seriously, we will not be able to grow as our heavenly Father desires us to grow.

Abba, may You give my readers and me a burning desire to know You more and better through Your Word. You thought enough of us to write down the things that are important–even vital–for us to know. May we take them very seriously as we go through today, then tomorrow, and then the day after that, etc. Amen.

Proverbs 25 1-25-21

Lasting fulfillment only comes through a personal, ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. And it’s eternal!

12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear [it’s what His voice sounds like when He speaks to our spirits].

Many people who follow Christ do so at a distance; they follow a set of rules. The problem is that they don’t really know the Maker of those rules, and therefore tend to see how closely they can get to the line without going over, or going over just a little bit to see if they will actually be punished for it. What they don’t know is that God doesn’t have to punish them; the natural consequences of our actions will do that. Somehow, they have missed the most important part of Christianity, which is the relationship with Him.

But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons and daughters. Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba [Daddy]! Father!” Galatians 4:4-6 [note: the passage at Biblegateway has reference notes as links]

This passage is what Christmas is all about! Jesus came so that through His atonement for our sin, He might send the Holy Spirit back into believers in order to restore the fellowship that used to be. Adam and Eve had it good, but I think our present situation is better: We get the Spirit of God and Christ in us 24/7! What we need to do is turn away from the things of this world that distract us from what is going on inside of us. What is going on inside us? How can we turn away from our distractions? By getting in a quiet place and reading our Bibles. The words of God and the words of Christ will become living bread that satisfies our souls. For instance, this next passage is a favorite of mine (it’s a good one to memorize):

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

And, what do we get through this symbiotic relationship with Christ?

  1. We become filled with wisdom and understanding,
  2. we live a worthy life,
  3. we bear fruit;
  4. we grow in our personal and active knowledge of God,
  5. we become strong in the power of the Holy Spirit,
  6. we have great endurance and patience,
  7. and we give joyful thanks to the Father!

We are no long trapped in the dominion of darkness, but He has brought us into the kingdom of Christ. How? Through the forgiveness of sins–our redemption by way of the cross. It is at this point that we should exclaim as Paul did in Romans 11,

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.

Romans 11:33-36

Abba, You have done so much for us at great expense to Yourself. May we take our salvation very seriously and “study to show ourselves approved by You, workmen who need not be ashamed, right handling the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Your Word is truth; Lord Jesus, You are truth, and Your Spirit, who is truth, as well, reveals truth to us. Because of Your great love for us, You have chosen to give us the mind of Christ! Overwhelm us, O Lord. Wash over us like the waves of the sea! May we get lost in Your love. Amen.