Proverbs 3 12-3-21

What alternate route might the Wise Men have taken from Bethlehem to avoid King Herod? Let’s look…

5 Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths [in the case of the Magi, literally].

In reviewing the Christmas story, I began to ponder this verse:

12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:12

What route did they take coming to Jerusalem? What other routes were available to them going home? I googled a few websites and came up with this scenario. There is a road coming out of Babylon that angles Northwest following the Euphrates River and intersects with a road at Resafa going south to Damascus. At Damascus, it becomes the Via Maris and travels down the Mediterranean Coastline to Egypt.

There was a straighter and shorter route through the desert, but the other road was much more desirable because of the availability of water all along the route. At Joppa (or Appolonia) they could have gone East to Jerusalem.

Bethlehem is four miles Southeast of Jerusalem. When the Magi were warned not to go back through Jerusalem, their best route was to go South to Herodiom (sp?) and then Northeast to Jericho, cross the Jordan, and hit the King’s Highway. From the King’s Highway, they could have gone East along the desert route or North to Damascus, thus putting them back on a reverse route home. King Herod, knowing that they had come down the Via Maris and would probably take that way back home, would most likely have sent his troops West looking for them.

I don’t know about you, but it helps me to see the maps and possible routes. It helps me visualize the events, thus making the story not just possible, but plausible in my mind. Of course, I believe the account because I believe in Jesus and the accounts given to us by Matthew and Luke. Still, I like the way history, astronomy*, and geography all work together to give us a detailed and accurate account of Jesus’ birth.

May we all dig deeper and discover more nuggets of wisdom.

Abba, thank You for nudging me to do this research. I found it very gratifying and pertinent. May we all use this knowledge to make the Christmas account more real to us, our families, and friends. Thank You for coming to rescue us. We surely needed it! Amen.

*For a detailed account of the stars concerning the birth of Jesus Christ, go to Bethlehemstar.com and take the study guide.

Proverbs 1 12-1-21

We trust God by spending time with Him and by watching Him prove Himself faithful time and again.

23 If you turn at my reproof, behold [see with different eyes], I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.

Wisdom is seeing through God’s eyes;
faith is seeing through Jesus’ eyes.

What did Jesus see? “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” We are to see ourselves the same way, and others that way, too. How can we get mad at our neighbor when we realize that he or she is harassed and helpless, like a sheep without a shepherd? How can we get mad at ourselves? We are the same way.

Shepherds provide everything for their sheep. Why? Because sheep are dumb (from someone who owns sheep). They need someone to take care of them. Otherwise, they’ll eat too much, drink from dangerous pools and streams, wander into dangerous places or stay in the same place until there is no more grass; they can’t take care of their wool when it gets too heavy, or doctor their own eyes when they become infected (a regular thing), and they can’t protect themselves. Wait…we’re still talking about sheep, right? For a moment there, I thought we were describing mankind’s spiritual state. Oh, we were? Gotcha.

Jesus:

  1. Healed and cleansed the leper (Matthew 8:1-4)
  2. Healed the centurion’s servant–long distance (v5-13)
  3. Healed Peter’s mother-in-law (v14-15)
  4. Healed all who were sick and cast out demons (v16-17)
  5. Healed two demon-possessed men (v28-34) AND THAT’S JUST CHAPTER 8!

In chapter nine, Jesus:

  1. Heals a paralytic and forgave his sins (v1-8)
  2. Raised Jairus’ daughter (v18-26)
  3. Heals two blind men (v27-31)
  4. Heals a man who was mute (v32-33)

As we can see, Jesus was concerned and interested in people’s plights. Now that Jesus has gone back to His throne, His Spirit continues in the same manner healing people of their spiritual maladies. Who said that no one gets physically healed anymore? Go to a country where modern medicine is not available and you’ll see healings in Jesus’ name! The power of God is still working in our world. In fact, I believe that He is moving us to a day of awakening. What this awakening will look like, I don’t know, but I’ll bet we recognize it when it gets here. In the meantime, let’s love Jesus and love each other with all we know and have.

Abba, I look forward to what You have in store for us. I don’t need to know what You’re going to do; I just want to be part of it! Include me, too, Lord. I am Your servant. Amen.

Proverbs 2 12-2-21

Trinity-The Three Faces of God

1 My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom and incline your heart to understandingthen you will find the knowledge of God.

While pondering the Trinity, it occurred to me that their union might be viewed as three faces of God. The concept sounded familiar, so I did a search of “faces” on my Bible app, and this is what came up:

10 As for the form of their [angel’s] faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10

In human terms, we might put characteristics with these faces. The face of a man might stand for intellect; the face of a lion might be courage and fierceness; the face of a bull might be strength; the face of an eagle might be all-seeing or awareness. Yet, in trying to explain them three-dimensionally as Ezekiel did, or metaphorically as we did, we know that it is more than that. We are talking extra-dimensional here!

The angels have four faces; the Trinity has three. But, there is one face that the Trinity wants to add: Us! WE are the fourth face! They want to include us in their fellowship. It’s what God the Father/Son/Spirit has been seeking to do ever since we ran away and hid (in the Garden of Eden–and in our own lives).

Let’s walk through a little bit of the OT beyond Adam and Eve and see how God the Father/Son/Spirit interacted with people:

  1. Cain-God’s interaction with Cain was very relational. God tried to steer Cain to righteousness, but Cain wouldn’t have it. So, Cain walked away from the presence of God (Genesis 4:16).
  2. Noah- God interacted with Noah in a big way. In fact, the Ark was a rescue operation of mankind!
  3. Abraham-The account of the pre-incarnate Christ appearing to Abraham and Sarah is a classic example of God seeking relationship with us and including us in what He is doing.
  4. Joseph-God’s interaction with Joseph was unique. Talking to him in dreams was new. It probably had a lot to do with Joseph’s ability to resist despair (I’ve always admired him for that).

We could name many more–and that’s before Jesus came! Jesus is the pièce de résistance, the most remarkable example of God reaching out to mankind to include him (us) in the Trinity. Think about it:

  • God the Father orchestrates all of history to come to earth as a human;
  • God the Son IS THAT human;
  • Once God the Father has demonstrated His love for us by dying on the cross as God the Son, He sent us God the Holy Spirit so that we would be included in the Trinity. Simple, right?!

It’s mind-boggling, but a worthy topic of thought and discussion. For us, all we need to know is that God is love, and His love lives in us and includes us in the fellowship of the Trinity.

Abba, Your love knows no bounds. I stand with Paul in his description of Your love: That we would be rooted and established in love, and have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19). Open our eyes, Lord, to the intimacy and fellowship of the Trinity. Prepare us for a New Awakening! Amen.

Proverbs 30 11-30-21

What does being reconciled mean? It means returning to what was. The past is not forgotten so much as canceled.

Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, [God holds nothing against us; He just wants us back]

We begin where we left off yesterday, which was,

Why does the Trinity interest me so?
Because I do not think that God the Father turned away
from God the Son on the cross even while God the Spirit
was at work expunging sin. More on that tomorrow.

We learn from Saint Paul that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. How? By being in Christ while Christ was on the cross, as the Spirit reconciled us to Him (Them). Let’s read it:

So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view. Though we have known Christ from a human point of view, now we no longer know Him in this way. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come. 18 But all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them [but canceling them]. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Concerning this Triune God, the Jews have an ancient creed. It is called the Shema. It begins like this:

“Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! Deuteronomy 6:4

Let’s analyze it:

  • “Shema” (pronounced, Shem-ah’) is the Hebrew word for “hear.” It makes sense that they call it the Shema.
  • It is for all Israel to say and believe.
  • The “Lord” is “Yahweh,” and it is the proper name for the God of Israel.
  • “God” is “Elohim,” which is a plural form; it’s the Trinity! See Genesis 1:1-3 combined with John 1:1-3.
  • Yahweh is One Triune Being!

I said that the English language is a poor interpreter of Hebrew. Well, it turns out that it’s not much better translating Aramaic or Greek, either. Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment was. We find His answer in Mark 12:29-31,

29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Notice how Jesus began with the Shema. But, there is a difference. The Greek words don’t match up.

  • “The Lord” does not use “Yahweh,” but “Kurios,” which means, “Master, Lord.”
  • “Our God” does not use “Elohim,” but “Theos,” which simply means “God.”
  • It comes out as, “God is Master.”

What Jesus says in the Greek is true, but it is not the Shema that Moses said and the people of Israel chant today. What happened?

  1. Jesus spoke Aramaic. It was the language of the day and the region.
  2. When Mark wrote down what Peter said, it was either in Aramaic or Greek.
  3. Someone copied it or translated it into the Greek we have today.
  4. It was then translated into the English version that is in our Bibles.

Did Jesus deliberately change the Shema? Was it changed for Him by translators? Did Peter mean to have Mark write it like that? I don’t know. All I know is that it is different. It is NOT the Shema that speaks of a Triune God, the Trinity. My conclusion is this: Even when we know something that has been passed down for centuries, time doesn’t make it right or accurate. Jesus makes things accurate. In this case, Jesus is the living Proof of a Triune God. He’s God the Son. So, I believe the Moses version and I believe Jesus’ version. In fact, I have no problem melding the two. The Spirit testifies that Jesus is the Son of God and is the Second Person of the Trinity. We know that God is the Master of the Universe, so both statements are true regardless of how they came to be.

We listen to the Word of God (Jesus) to explain the word of God (the Bible).

Keep digging! Exciting stuff!!!

Abba, I am constantly in awe as I study Your Word. Thank You for the enlightenment of the Spirit, especially concerning Jesus and His interaction with people. May I garner in myself His characteristics and put them to good use; I know I will with Your partnership. Amen.

Proverbs 29 11-29-21

The English language is not adequate for the task of interpreting the Bible (continued). Here’s another example.

20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Words matter. In this case, names matter. I read that the first few words of the Bible contain the Trinity: God the Father
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit

So, I looked it up and here’s what I found,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

The first thing we find is that the word, “God,” is “Elohim” in Hebrew (H430). “Eloah” is singular; “Elohim” is plural, so we begin the entire Bible with a plural God–not three gods, but one God in three Persons. “Elohim” is used each time the word, “God,” is used (31 times in just the first chapter). It is used four times in chapter 2 and then “Lord (Yehovah)” is added to “Elohim.” It is used that way 10 times in chapter 2 and 7 times in chapter 3. From then on, Lord (Yehovah) is used routinely. The closest word we have in English is “Trinity,” but it is used to describe God rather than being used as a name.

The second thing we notice is that the Trinity is at work in creation. God (Elohim) created; how? The Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters when God spoke. The One speaking was Jesus Christ. How do I know? Consider these verses:

in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. Hebrews 1:2

16 for by Him [Christ] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold togetherColossians 1:16-17

When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman [craftsman] at His [Yehovah’s] side, rejoicing day after day;
Proverbs 8:29-30

The third thing we see is the fellowship between the three as they created. Consider it like this:

God the Father implemented creation;
God the Son spoke it into being;
the Spirit did the actual labor.

They were in perfect unity and harmony.

The fourth and last thing to point out is that we were invited to their party! “Then God (Elohim) said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness [notice the plural forms].” “And God saw everything that “he had” or “was” made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31. “He had” was added for our English benefit, but it implies a singular God when “God” at the beginning of the verse was Elohim. At the same time, because the Trinity is actually one God, then “He” works. Like I said, English does not a good interpretive language make (best Yoda voice).

Want to really know who God is and what He’s like? Look deeper. There’s always more.

Why does the Trinity interest me so? Because I do not think that God the Father turned away from God the Son on the cross even while God the Spirit was at work expunging sin. More on that tomorrow.

Abba/Jesus/Spirit, bless You (plural). Thank You for inviting us into Your fellowship. The sad thing is how long it took for me to comprehend what You wanted! Now that I know, I’m all about our relationship. Keep drawing me in; I want to know more and more! Amen.

Proverbs 27 11-27-21

Jesus said that His words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). Sounds important. Maybe we ought to read them…

5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Jesus is our Friend; He is Faithful.

In order to understand the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, we must begin at the end,

28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29

Of course, we know that Jesus was (and is) God in the flesh (Emmanuel), which is why He taught with authority. They didn’t, though, and were being introduced to this new way of looking at things. That new way is through the eyes of Jesus concerning the Father, His plan for Israel and the Gentiles, and for the course of humanity. Let’s look at how Jesus personalized, expanded, and refocused the Scriptures according to the New Covenant that He was about to introduce.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds [and had compassion on them (Matthew 9:36)], He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And He [God in the flesh] opened His mouth [He created the universe with His words] and began to teach them, saying,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven belonged to the people of God, which was Israel, yet Jesus expanded that group to everyone who was poor (recognized they were bankrupt) in spirit. The religious leaders of the day thought that they were fine spiritually because they “kept” the law.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the gentle [meek], for they will inherit the earth.

How we treat our fellow humans is important to God. In fact, He promises the earth to all who treat them as He treats them.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Justice was the order of the day; mercy was for the weak. Jesus changed the tone of the law by stressing mercy and forgiveness rather than justice and vengeance. “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The religious leaders were not interested in peacemaking, which is another term for uniting folks. They maintained power and control (and probably money) by keeping the Jews separate from the Gentiles and the religious leaders from the regular folk. Also, violence wasn’t beneath them…

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was changing the terms of righteousness (in their eyes). It was about to no longer be about sacrifice and ritual, but about allegiance and relationship with Him. What they didn’t realize was that they only had a shadow of true righteousness. They were looking at the righteousness of God in a Person–and many missed Him!

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Up until now, the Law was the all-important sword upon which to fall; Jesus was now saying that He was that sword. Jesus offered a great reward in heaven for His sake. Only God could guarantee that, which was the point.

As we can see, Jesus was changing the direction of everything that the Jewish people had believed for several centuries. He really was starting a revolution, a revolution of grace.

Abba, it blew my mind the day I was made aware that there are tiers to the many parts of the Bible, and Jesus made it clear that I am to place His words above all others. So, Lord Jesus, I pledge myself to You once again to read everything else, whether Scripture, devotional books, fiction books, etc. through Your eyes and Your discretion. May I be sensitive to Your Spirit on these matters. Amen.

Proverbs 28 11-28-21

“Something greater than the temple is here.” — Jesus, Matthew 12:5. What is greater? The New Covenant!

2 When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue [Jesus IS understanding and knowledge; His kingdom will have no end!].

Yesterday, we discovered that Jesus called people to a new way of seeing things. He called them to “metanoia”(repent), which is to change the way we see and believe, to think differently, because He was bringing the kingdom (Matthew 4:17). In His sermons, He interpreted the Scriptures (OT) in an unusual way. He claimed that He was from the Father (God) and that He knew how the Scriptures were intended. We looked at the first 12 verses and saw that He really did call the people to a different standard. If we were to keep reading, we would see that He also called them to a higher standard:

  1. Anger is like murder;
  2. Lust is like adultery;
  3. Oaths are like swearing falsely;
  4. Retaliation is like unforgiveness;
  5. Love your enemies and pray for them;
  6. Give to the needy, pray, and fast in secret;
  7. Place the kingdom of God first in their lives;
  8. Treat others as they want to be treated;
  9. and obey His words.

Why would Jesus make such bold claims? Who gave Him His authority? For that answer, we turn to John 8:42,

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came forth from God and am here; for I have not even come on My own, but He sent Me.

Jesus went on to tell them,

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him. And if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you; but I do know Him, and I follow His word.

He even went so far as to claim oneness with the Father, I and the Father are one” John 10:30. As they picked up stones to kill Him, he asked, 31 “I have shown you many good works (miracles) from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” A little later on, Jesus invited the religious leaders one more time to believe Him, “37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus claimed to be sent by God–but it’s more than that. Jesus came forth from God, as in, He came out of God. John spent the first part of chapter one describing and explaining Jesus’ deity. We know Him as the Second of the Trinity. Jesus’ Godhood is what gave Him the right to interpret Scripture and to set new policy (the New Covenant). Let us praise Jesus today as One of the Trinity and yet lives in each of us.

Abba, knowing that You are God is a great boost of confidence for me. I can trust You to know exactly what I need and that You will guide me on life’s path. I know that You came so that we could have close fellowship with You right now; we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven. Speak to our hearts this morning, Lord. We want to see You and hear You plainly. Amen.

Proverbs 26 11-26-21

Having trouble seeing Jesus? That’s okay. We all do. The Spirit wants to reveal Him to us. Listen closely!

7 Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools [who do not ask the Lord for wisdom].

We all begin spiritually blind. In fact, we all have scales like Paul that keep us from seeing Jesus as He really is. The illness of wrong-thinking that leads to wrong-doing has blinded us to the truth. The salve of Jesus (Revelation 3:18) cleanses our eyes and we see light. That light is Him, and He reveals the truth about Himself to us. Let’s read Paul’s account in Acts 9,

Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

10 Now there was a believer/disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers/disciples in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.

Literal- Saul later becomes known as Paul (His Greek name). He who was a great persecutor of the church became the greatest evangelist known in Christianity. What changed? His perspective! We know that Paul had trouble with his eyes (Galatians 4:13-15, 6:11). He learned to live with his infirmity. It is ventured that he was referencing his eye problems in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8; his conclusion certainly applies,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Moral- Saul couldn’t see clearly even though he had studied the Scriptures (all OT at the time). Why? Because he needed the Father’s perspective. Once he met Jesus, Saul, who became Paul, immediately understood the truth. The filling of the Holy Spirit gave him the understanding to interpret the Scriptures correctly concerning Jesus Christ and His vision of the Father. The Spirit will do the same for us.

Spiritual- Only those who have seen Jesus Christ in His resurrected form see Him clearly (Paul and John, whose accounts we have); even then, they know only what He has revealed to them. Paul says,

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

And John says,

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is1 John 3:2

We spend our whole lives struggling to see Christ clearly. We have the Scriptures, but we need the Spirit to help us interpret. Let’s keep everything on the table and allow the Spirit of Christ to guide us into all truth.

Abba, once we were blinded by the evil one, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), but now we are children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:5). May we see You with new eyes of the Spirit, O Lord. Our heart’s desire is to seek Your face (Psalm 27:8). Amen.

Proverbs 25 11-25-21

On this Thanksgiving Day, let’s develop an attitude of gratitude.

12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover [with a discreet word of correction or warning] to a listening ear.

We have all heard of a sacrifice of praise before. It’s almost always linked with the Psalms or church music. And, yes, putting Scripture to music is a great way to learn the Scriptures, but let’s look at what the writer of Hebrews was saying in 13:15,

15 Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name.

The word, “sacrifice,” means “to give up something in order to receive something else.” Dave Ramsey says, “It’s better to do what you don’t want to do now so that you can do what you want to do later.” He’s talking about sacrificing having the nicest and newest stuff until our income exceeds our outgoing money, which usually comes later in life. The same concept is here in Hebrews. Look at the previous verse,

14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

Our eyes are set on a future kingdom, the one that Jesus has established and has invited us to join Him there. Verses 7-13 talk about sacrifice with reproach (disgrace); we must stand with Jesus as He takes the good news of who He is and what He’s done to the world.

So, as we celebrate today (or this weekend), let us remember and give thanks for what God/Jesus/Spirit has done for us, what He/They is/are doing for us now, and what is in store for us in the future.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Abba, may You receive our praise and thanks as we reflect upon all You have done for us. We may not have a whole lot on this side of eternity, but You have SO MUCH planned for us on Your side! In the meantime, we thank You for Jesus and His Spirit who connect us to You. We thank You for Your lovingkindness to us in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Our hearts are, indeed, grateful. Amen.

Proverbs 24 11-24-21

The English language is confusing. We have so many idioms (figures of speech). Our Bibles reflect this truth.

3 By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

The mind and the heart cannot be separated. In fact, the heart is the amplifier of the mind; it distills our thoughts and focuses our feelings; it gives flight to our intentions and reveals our greatest desires. It is because of this fusion between the heart and mind that 1 John 5:1 is true:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Belief leads to faith which leads to trust. We choose to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, our Christ, and that He is God incarnate. Because we believe, we trust what He says and leads us to do. This process is called faith. By faith, we follow Christ. This faith was borne out of our believing Jesus and then trusting Jesus enough to obey Him. Let’s read verse 2:

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

Since we are all in Christ (which means that we have been invited to share in the fellowship of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we love those whom God loves. And, our obedience attests to that fact.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

How we show our love for God is by keeping His commandments. And John knows because He heard Jesus say, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

Forget about sin; it’s been forgiven. Desist in trying to please Jesus; you are already pleasing to Him. His yoke is easy and His burden is light! He wants us to begin right now to believe He has taken care of everything and simply wants us to quit looking at darkness and look to His light. He wants us to join Him in the fellowship of the Trinity. Once we begin this journey, we will never go back! We may stumble along the way, but Jesus will help us back up–usually through the hands of His followers–and get us back on track again.

The Christian life truly is simple:
Believe, trust, obey. Repeat.
That’s it.

Abba, thank You for removing my sin and separating it from me as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). Your sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to take my sin (and the consequences of that sin) to the grave. Thank You for taking great delight in Your son (me). You love me, care for me, and keep me in Your love. You include me in the fellowship of the Trinity; may You continue to open my mind to more wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Your grace is sufficient for everything! Amen.

Proverbs 23 11-23-21

An article was sent my way that shed some interesting light on the Trinity. Thought I’d share it with you.

23 Buy the truth and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.

About the time I thought I was pretty well-versed on the Trinity, here comes a teaching that takes me to a whole other level. The Lord has me stepping further and further back to get a larger and larger view of Him, the Trinity, and His plan for mankind. Here again, just as the “experts” of this day consider modern man greatly superior in intellect to the “cavemen” of old (but, it’s not so; just look at the accomplishments of ancient man and we see very quickly that they were superior to us–and with fewer DNA errors), our modern-day biblical scholars hold themselves superior to the early church fathers (again, not so; they were closest to Christ, the apostles, and the pure truth as Jesus taught it). This article is from a person who is well-versed in the early church fathers and their teachings:

“As the early Church was forced, on the one hand, to wrestle with those who denied the deity of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, and on the other with those who said that God is alone and solitary and merely changes faces, the Church hammered out the Christian vision of God as Holy Trinity, and took its stand. The early Church came to know that the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit we see lived out on the pages of the New Testament was not a mere form that God assumed for a moment in time, but the eternal truth about God. God is and always has been and always will be Father, Son and Spirit.

When we confess the Nicene Creed and affirm that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, we are saying with St. Athanasius and the whole Church that there was never a time when God was alone, when the Father was not Father, and the Son and the Spirit were not present. There was never a time when there was just God, so to speak, just some abstract omni-being, some great, nameless unmoved mover, some faceless force up there somewhere. From all eternity, God is Father, Son and Spirit, and this means that God is fundamentally a relational being. This means that fellowship and togetherness, camaraderie and communion have always been at the center of the being of God and always will be.

It is critical that you see this. And it is just as critical that you see that the shared life of the Father, Son and Spirit is not boring or sad or lonely. There is no emptiness in this circle, no depression or fear or anxiety. The Trinitarian life is a life of unchained fellowship and intimacy, fired by passionate, self-giving love and mutual delight. Such passionate love, giving rise to such free-flowing fellowship and togetherness, overflows in unbounded joy, in infinite creativity and in inconceivable goodness.”
From Baxter’s Ongoing Thoughts

It is to this “free-flowing fellowship and togetherness” that we are invited. “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13); this is the purpose and the goal of the love of God. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected (learned to trust) in love.” 1 John 4:18-19. Our invitation is to join Him in the “life of unchained fellowship and intimacy” of the Trinity!

On a practical level, let’s focus on getting to know the King of the universe by looking at life and the Scriptures through Jesus’ eyes. He had a way of interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures according to the love of God. May we do the same. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to interpret for us–but, be prepared to have your mind changed; His view is much greater and higher than ours.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways!
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33, 36

Abba, to see You in Your eternity and realize that our finite world exists within You blows my mind! Nothing has caught You off-guard, nor has anything moved You from Your original position of love. May we see You as You really are: You are LOVE. Jesus is LOVE incarnate. The Spirit is LOVE in us. It really doesn’t get any better than that, Lord. Amen and amen.

Proverbs 22 11-22-21

The interaction between the Father, the Son and the Spirit is perfect and complete. We are invited to share in that interaction.

1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.

We are about to read the passage 1 John 4:16 where, two different times, John proclaims that God is love. I asked myself this question,

“If God is love, but I act in hate, should I expect God to hate me?
The answer: No. Why? Because God is love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is loveIn this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Literal- John is likely on Patmos and is writing to his congregation in Ephesus. His phrase, “My little children” (2:1, 3:18) and “Beloved” (2:7, 4:1) indicate that he knew them very well and was responsible for them. The letter was designed to assuage their fears concerning his future and their own. He wanted them to know that God loved them deeply, and to know and trust that love would cast out their fear (4:18). He was encouraging them to keep their faith and trust in Jesus and that He is who He says He is (God in the flesh) and that He did what He said He would do, which was to save the world from their sins.

Moral- His theme in these verses is that we can know God personally and intimately, that we are in God and He in us, and that because God loves us, we should and must love one another. Being Christ to each other is huge in His eyes. The phrases, “born of God” “God abides in us” and “abides in God,” show the depth of the relationship the Father wants to have with them–and us. Jesus was God in the flesh and is now in the Spirit. It is by the Spirit that they, the Father/Son, come to “live in us (and we in them).” To have one is to have the others. If we have the Trinity “in us,” then we express that love to those around us. The phrasing in verse 20 seems to indicate that hating makes us lose our salvation or indicates that we never had it, which we know is not the case. What John wanted his followers to do, and us, also, is to allow Christ to love others through us. Even though is it we who are doing the loving, it is Christ who is giving us first the desire and then the power to love (Phil. 2:13).

Spiritual- Verse 19 says it all, “We love because He first loved us.” God went first. He proved His love for us on the cross. He took our sins to the grave and left them there. Now, having believed Him for this wonderful salvation, He asks us to do the same. Through Him and with Him, we are to be the agents of His love. As we share in the Trinity, for that is what it means to abide in Him and He in us, we experience His perfect love. That perfect and complete love casts out all doubt, all hate, and all fear. We’ll deal with the “fear has to do with punishment” another time. Suffice it to say that we have no reason to fear God or punishment.

I hope that these posts on the Trinity have given some insight into the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Three-in-One. We are constantly in their presence; pretty neat, huh?

Abba, because You are in me (my heart and mind), I trust You. You say to love, therefore I make up my mind to love. As for feeling that love, I ask for Your compassion. When I see people through Your eyes, I feel the love You have for them, and that’s what I want. Help me to love, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 21 11-21-21

How do we separate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? We DON’T! They are ONE and we are in them!

15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous [righteous living is done in partnership with Jesus], but terror to evildoers [“Payday someday;” the consequences of sin come due eventually].

Let’s review yesterday’s post:

  1. Jesus was face-to-face with the Father BEFORE creation.
  2. Jesus was the Agent of creation.
  3. Jesus is the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact representation of His being.

We are beginning to see that Jesus is more than just a Prophet. Now, we come to Jesus’ own words about His relationship with the Father.

30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:21

The phrase, “that they also may be in us,” is a GREAT BIG CLUE as to the nature of Christ’s mission. Could it be that when Christ died on the cross for us that we all became one with and in the Trinity? If so, then repentance is more about “changing the way we think” (the actual definition) rather than being sorry for our sins.

Back to the Trinity:

Our best verses for the basis of the Trinity is found sprinkled throughout Jesus’ last words to His disciples in the upper room:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, John 14:16

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. John 15:26

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:13-15

23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:23

Whew! I wasn’t kidding, was I? Jesus talks about the Father, Himself, and the Spirit interchangeably. It is this fellowship into which we are invited. Wow! The love, joy and peace that emanate from this Trinity is what we feel when we are in close communion with Them. Even though they are individual in the sense that we perceive them as individuals, we should never separate them in our minds, for they are One (that’s a brain-stretcher!).

As we enter into fellowship, praise, and feasting (at our church), may we worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Three-In-One. Tomorrow, we look at 1 John 4 and see how John described the Trinity.

Abba, I address You, my heavenly Father, understanding that my fellowship with Jesus through His Spirit who lives in me is with You, also. May I get “caught up” in Your love, joy and peace as I change the way I think to include me in You, in the Trinity. I can’t begin to describe the safety and comfort I feel in knowing that I can never be separated from You, and that You include me in Your intimate fellowship. Wow! For this revelation I worship You. Amen.

Feasting and Fellowship

This Sunday, our church is gathering for a feast. We will eat together and fellowship together after a time of worship. For some, it may be a time of remembrance of those who have gone on before us (bitter-sweetness), those who have left us (sadness mixed with prayers of hope), and the goodness of God for all of us through and in Jesus Christ.

Feasts are designed for us to remember:

  1. We are God’s and He loves us.
  2. He has a Plan for us and we are living in that plan.
  3. He has given us each other as family for eternity–yes, even that crazy aunt or uncle!
  4. Our fellowship with Him and in Him can never be broken.
  5. He has much more in store for us, so much more that we can’t even begin to imagine.

When God established Israel, he commanded them to observe three annual feasts:

  1. The Feast of Unleavened Bread in the Spring in commemoration of Passover.
  2. The Feast of Pentecost 50 days after the offering of Firstfruits (the first Sabbath after the Feast of Unleavened Bread).
  3. The Feast of Tabernacles (booths) in the Fall after the New Year had begun in commemoration of Israel living in tents (booths) in the wilderness, but also a reminder that the Promised Land (heaven for us) was coming.

There were other feasts, but these three required the attendance of every male, and the entire family often went together to celebrate. Jesus was crucified during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Holy Spirit came during the Feast of Pentecost; could it be that Jesus will return during the Feast of Tabernacles? It’s definitely worth pondering. Whether He does or not, His Return is the next great Event in Christian history.

So, as we gather with our families, our church families, friends, work associates, and any other thanksgiving gathering, let’s be in remembrance of God’s love for us.

Our Father in heaven, thank You for loving us, for Your mercy and Your grace, for Your provision and Your Presence in our trials and tribulations. As the shepherd was with the sheep in the valley of the shadow of death (headed from one green pasture to another), so Jesus is with us in our valleys. With humble, grateful, and thankful hearts we praise You and worship You through Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit as our Guide. Amen.

Proverbs 20 11-20-21

Three-in-one is a difficult concept, especially when talking about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

27 The spirit of mankind is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts [the Lord is familiar with every part of us–why wouldn’t He be? He created us!].

I learned the first five verses of the Gospel of John by listening to “Celebrate Life.” My church youth choir in Athens, Georgia, went to Daytona Beach, Florida, to join other youth choirs for a debut of the musical in an amphitheater in 1972 (I was 13). My mom and dad bought the double-LP album set, and I would set up our Panasonic quadraphonic speaker system around me on the floor and listen to the whole thing (I really don’t recall how many times I did it, but I can still sing most of the songs word-for-word, parts and all!). Here’s what the first five verses say,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I learned recently that a literal reading of the first verse is, “From the beginning (implying before) was the Word [Logos, indicating the heart and expression of God], and the Word was face-to-face with God, and the Word was God Himself.” When reading Proverbs 8:23-31, I print here for your reading pleasure the footnotes in my Bible:

8:23 The Lord is the Father, and created in this statement means the Father established Wisdom over His works; for the Father made all things through Wisdom (AthanG). “Created” as used here does not mean the Father made Wisdom Himself, for the next clause shows the Father established Wisdom over His works in the beginning before time. Therefore, “created” is used in this verse as a synonym of established, for Wisdom, who is the Word and Son of the Father, is not a creature. He is “begotten from the Father before all time” (Creed; see also v. 25).

The beginning of His ways means two things. It means the Father made all things through Wisdom, and it also refers to the Incarnation, when the Wisdom and Word of the Father became flesh (see also John 1:14). The phrase for His works refers both to the works of creation and to those accomplished by Christ for our salvation, which are outlined in the Creed. “In the beginning before time” is the same as “In the beginning was the Word” in John 1:1. For the Father “established” Wisdom “before time.” Therefore Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, is not a creature (1 Corinthians 1:24).

There’s more, but it pretty much states that Jesus is with God the Father at the time of creation and is the Agent of creation. We know this to be true because of Paul’s testimony in Colossians 1:16 and the testimony of the writer of Hebrews in 1:2. Hebrews 1:3 says that “He is the radiance of the glory of God [the exact representation],” and “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).

There’s more, but we will have to wait until tomorrow to cover those verses. Suffice it to say that when we talk to one, we are talking to the others.

Abba, as we engage You in conversation, I thank You that You want to have conversation with me! I know that You are not hungry for fellowship because You have perfect fellowship within the Trinity, but You invite me in to Your inner fellowship. May I never take the Holy Trinity for granted. Amen.

Proverbs 19 11-19-21

What?! I am held personally responsible for my own choices? What’s up with that?!

3 When a person’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord [he sees his ruin as “God’s fault” or His punishment when actually it is the consequence of the person’s choices].

Through the years, I have heard these expressions,

  • To miss a day of musical practice, I notice; to miss two days, Robin notices; to miss three days, the whole world notices.
  • To work out and do only one set means my muscle strength survives, but only that; do two sets, and my strength maintains with endurance; do three sets, and my muscles grow in strength and endurance.
  • In my spiritual life, if I miss an extended time with the Lord, I notice; if I miss two days, those around me notice; if I miss three or more days in a row, everybody notices.

The point is that we all need regular times of refreshing. We all eat every day; why would we not sit at the Lord’s table and nourish our souls with Him through the Scriptures? One of my favorite passages is Ephesians 5:25-27,

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [Jesus Christ is the Word (John 1:1-3)], 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Let’s analyze:

Literal- Jesus is talking to the Ephesian church through his letter to them. He stated in verse 21 that we all are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In a marriage, the wife is to submit to her husband, and a husband is to submit to his wife and to love her as Christ loved the church. Christ cleansed the church through the shedding of His blood on the cross; His plan is to present her in splendor, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish to the Father (Jude 24).

Moral- Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20); Jesus said in Luke 9:23 that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily in order to follow Him daily (implied). Our daily exercise of submission begins with Christ each morning.

Spiritual- We need to submit ourselves to Christ in order to survive in this world. We maintain our devotion, fellowship, and our integrity when we continue to submit throughout the day. We have seasons of growth when He calls us into a time of intense study and deep prayer. It is a time when we seek His face with an earnestness that we usually don’t have. The Spirit calls us to search for Christ as for hidden treasure. These are the times when we jump ahead in our spiritual walk.

If you are in survival mode, I pray that you will ask the Lord for the urgency to seek His face.

If you are in maintenance mode, I pray that you will enjoy your times with Him and seek His face routinely.

If you are in growth mode, write down everything He shows you and teaches you–don’t leave anything to memory! The notes you take will be what maintains you when that season is over.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would seek Your face every day. Give them that higher desire to search for You as for hidden treasure. Spiritual growth is scary, but we don’t have to worry about losing our relationship with You; You hold us in a double-fisted grip (John 10:27-30). Grow us, O Lord; make us more like You every day. Amen.

Proverbs 18 11-18-21

What do you treasure? It’s important to know because it directs your path through life.

11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination. 12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

Jesus uses treasure several times to refer to that on which we set our hearts. Let’s look at them and see if we can draw some spiritual conclusions.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. Matthew 12:35

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44

52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52

21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

Literal- In the first four verses, Jesus is teaching. In the fifth one, Jesus is talking to the rich, young ruler. In each case, treasure is representative of that which the person wants more than anything. Key points are:

  1. Where our treasure is, there our hearts are, also.
  2. What we treasure in our hearts comes out in all we do.
  3. That which we treasure is what we will spend our time, money, and our energy getting.
  4. Our treasure affects how we look at everything: past, present and future.
  5. Sometimes the cost seems too high.

Moral- Could it be that Jesus is talking about who has control of our hearts? Let’s put it in the form of questions:

  1. Are we willing to invest in kingdom treasures?
  2. Are we already showing who has control of our hearts, whether us or Christ?
  3. Have we come to the realization that all good things come from the Father (James 1:17) and are worth pursuing?
  4. Do we look back on our lives and see how the heavenly Father has been pursuing us? Is He pursuing us now?
  5. Is Jesus asking us to give up our “fake pearls” for the real ones He is holding out for us?

Spiritual- In each case, I see Jesus asking for control of our hearts. To seek Him is to find treasures abounding! Life itself comes through Christ, as does love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit–and the Spirit, as well! When we are ill, are we not ready to spend whatever it takes to get well? If we consider ourselves sin-sick, would we not give up all we have to be spiritually well? Jim Elliot, a contemporary martyr for Christ (1956), said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain that which he cannot lose.”

We must ask ourselves, “What are we willing to give up in order to gain a better understanding of, and fellowship with, Christ? Jesus asked everyone to whom He preached to give up what they thought they knew about the heavenly Father to receive the truth from Him. He asked the rich, young ruler to give up his material goods in order to gain eternal treasures. We know that he walked away sad–but did he stay away? I secretly hope that after the resurrection, he trusted Christ and used his wealth to serve people.

So, my take-away from this study is this: Jesus is my treasure. Therefore, what comes out of my heart is Him! Jesus is the One for which I am willing to give away everything in order to have (the treasure in the field), knowing that I can “keep Him” forever (we say He is in our hearts when in actuality we are in Christ; Ephesians 2:10, 4:15).

Abba, You are my Treasure. I store You in my heart; I bring You forth in my life; I count everything else in my life as worthless compared to knowing You; You teach me both old and new things; I would give anything, and have, indeed, pledged my life to You in order to be Your disciple. I look forward to walking with You for the rest of my life and straight into eternity! Amen.

Proverbs 17 11-17-21

Having God in our lives is the best! We have the Creator of the universe living in our hearts: Jesus Christ!

8 A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; he thinks success will come at every turn [we know that charms are deceptive; eventually, they fail and the person pays the price for putting his faith in elusive ventures. Only Jesus is completely trustworthy].

I read a verse yesterday that I have read a hundred times, but this time it stuck out at me as I read. Here it is:

26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Let’s use our study technique or literal, moral and spiritual inspection.

Literal– Jesus is having a conversation with His disciples. He has just invited a rich young ruler to join Him, but the ruler turned Him down. His statement was that it is difficult for rich people to choose heaven because of their investment here on earth. The disciples were astonished because the thought of the day was that material blessing equaled spiritual blessing. They asked, “Who then can be saved?” Thus, Jesus’ reply.

Moral– This whole encounter is good news for us regular folks. If material blessing does not equal spiritual blessing, then we have an advantage over those who are wealthy. At the same time, we should take note of the fact that physical possessions and the desire for them can cause us to lose spiritual blessings. Staying true to Jesus is extremely important. We learn that in the next few verses where Peter says, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus gives them great encouragement, for He tells them that they will sit on twelve thrones with Him at “the renewal of all things.” Since that renewal did not happen upon His resurrection and ascension, we must assume that it is either a future event or a heaven event. Since we are already seated with Him in heavenly places (but not necessarily thrones), we, too, will be blessed on that Day.

Spiritual– To me, Jesus is indicating two things here:

  1. God is capable of all good things; we have Him as our heavenly Father; He will do for us whatever is needed.
  2. We were never meant to be alone; God has always wanted to be with us, and later on, for us to be with Him.

This verse exposes the heart of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is that the kingdom of heaven has come in human form (Him) and is headed for our hearts. He made it possible by what He accomplished on the cross, and then, He accomplished heaven in us, which is Him in us, at Pentecost. I thought it interesting that He had them wait 10 days in Jerusalem for that particular feast. It was the ingathering celebration of the barley harvest. Jesus made a great ingathering that day, didn’t He?

We are to be about our Father’s business, but WITH Him, not FOR Him. Otherwise, we’ve missed the point of what Christ did on the cross and then at Pentecost. Let’s enjoy His Presence and Participation in our lives today.

Abba, I enjoy You. Thank You for the promise that You will provide everything I need for salvation, my walk with You, and then being with You in Your kingdom. Keep teaching me, Abba. I want to learn all I can before I get to where You are. I’m sure it will come in handy somehow. Amen.

Proverbs 16 11-16-21

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

10 The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth does not betray justice [Jesus is our King].

The famous Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, is more than likely a compilation of a series of sermons that Jesus taught during His ministry throughout Israel. He ends this sermon with a charge,

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

I believe that Jesus was speaking to us, as well. He wants us to obey Him rather than all we have learned and know. But, wait! What if I know a lot about Jesus and His ways? Yes, even rather than all those things. We all have our own capacity for hearing and perceiving, just like we have our own way of interpreting what we hear and perceive. For instance, a friend (the grandmother) was talking to her daughter whose daughter had said that the grandmother (my friend) had said that when it thunders, it’s God raining tater tots. The grandmother immediately denied saying such a thing (I’m inclined to believe her) and couldn’t recall anything that even came close to what the granddaughter heard her say. The granddaughter had interpreted in her young mind what she had heard, and it made perfect sense to her. She had heard it according to her world: her experiences, her knowledge, and her own intellect. We all do the same thing!

Jesus wants us to quit relying on what we know (or think we know) and listen to Him. Daily. Hourly. Continuously. He then wants us to do what He says. We can trust Him to lead us in the right way. If we will quit trusting ourselves and start trusting Him, I promise that we would be a whole lot better off! The bonus is that we would experience Him in a whole new way! Jesus emanates love, joy and peace. Walking in fellowship with Him is a great way to feel great.

There’s an old hymn that says,

“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms [of Jesus].”

So, let’s give up everything, even what we “know,” and trust in what Jesus is saying to us right now. He’s talking. Are you listening?

Abba, I hereby shuck all I think I know to hear Your voice and to experience You first-hand. I know that You will not contradict Yourself, so I have Your words to guide me. I want to use everything at my disposal: The Old Testament, the New Testament, the internet, books, translations, and Your children to get to know You and to learn about Your kingdom. May I get to know Your voice (when You speak to me) and Your words (when I read the Scriptures) so well that I can interpret clearly what You are saying to me. “Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, speak that my soul may hear.” Amen.

Proverbs 15 11-15-21

The assumption is that when we see Christ and experience Him in the flesh, we will become just like Him in character.

24 The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead. [We are always in motion; we never remain idle. As a canoe rowing upstream must keep paddling, so we must “keep paddling” upstream.]

When a person turns to Christ and experiences rebirth (that connection that is made when we turn to Him and seek Him), the transformation begins. We begin moving from being dominated by our base desires and living for ourselves according to how we were raised to becoming Christ-like: Holy, godly, joyful, peaceful and loving. Living with Jesus will do that to a person.

The assumption is that we are moving toward the goal of being just like Christ–but unique according to our own personalities and gifts. We are a synthesis of Christ and us. We are new creations and are, indeed, creating with Him. It’s a partnership. When do we achieve this goal? When we are with Christ.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2

19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19

Life in Christ is designed to be different. “Get used to different.”

Abba, thank You that You take a personal interest in each of us. Thank You for making us each unique and that You celebrate that uniqueness. May we look for the uniqueness in each other and celebrate it with You. I look forward to the Day when You are revealed to us and we are revealed to each other. Amen.

Proverbs 14 11-14-21

Forgiveness…who doesn’t want it? How about feeling forgiven? How long does that take? Well, we are already forgiven in Christ!

30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy [and a whole lot of other things, like unforgiveness] rots the bones.

Jesus gave us specific instructions that when we pray, we are to include forgiveness. In fact, He said that if we don’t forgive, then we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). What’s that about? Let’s begin with the Model Prayer and Jesus’ instructions:

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Let’s use our model for Scripture examination:

Literal- Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. This is not a mantra, but an example that includes several key components, one of which is forgiveness. The timing of this teaching is during His earthly ministry, so the cross was yet to come (it may even give extra weight to the phrase, “Thy kingdom come…”). The key that makes this prayer work is in verse 8, “Do not be like them (babbling pagans), for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him [implying that He will provide what we need, asked-for or not). We are simply agreeing with God for the things we want and the things we need.

Moral- Why forgive? Does the Father need for us to forgive? No. WE need us to forgive. Forgiveness releases negative emotions of anger, rage, bitterness, and malice, all of which will kill us. Jesus went first. We find Him early in His ministry forgiving sins (Mark 2:5). He also knew what He was going to do on the cross (although, no one else did, especially Satan and his horde), which was to forgive the world! This teaching was a foretaste of the forgiveness to come. It’s good for us to confess our sins. Confession is cathartic. It is not necessary for God, but it is for us. Our peace is wrapped up in forgiveness. Want to feel the forgiveness of God? Then forgive everyone everything. It empties our arms and allows us to receive His love and mercy, His grace and His peace. How long does it take? About as long as a good breath.

Spiritual- The purpose of forgiveness is to put everyone back on the same plane again. Through forgiveness, Jesus raises us back up to “accepted-son” status (in our unforgiveness, we were like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story). We can now enjoy the Presence of the Father at His throne, the Presence of the Spirit of Jesus in our lives, and the presence of our fellow Christians. What happens when we don’t forgive is that we take on a type of entitlement. It’s “you owe me” or “I deserve an apology or recompense.” Neither case is true. All that we have is from the Father’s hand. Any offense is against Him, not us. The neat part is that no matter the offense, it is already forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ!

Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
The Father answered, “Done.”
Luke 23:34, John 19:30

Let’s begin our day with a clean slate by praying, “Father, I forgive my offenders; thank You for forgiving me.”

Abba, thank You for Your forgiveness. May each day bring me greater insight into Your love and what You did on the cross. I’m beginning to think that it is much greater than I ever expected! May I reflect Your love to everyone around me through forgiveness. Amen.

A word of thanks to Scott at Mammoth Baptist Church for his devotional yesterday. It was inspiring.

Proverbs 13 11-13-21

3-D reading is done with a broad brush. We look for a general view of Jesus and His message in all we read in the Scriptures.

4 A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. Are we seeking more of Christ in the Scriptures than just what’s on the surface? He promises to reveal Himself to us.

Today, we look at the Gospel of John, specifically, 20:30-31 concerning signs*. These signs are linked to miracles, but go beyond the physical deeds to a greater message.

30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Let’s review what 3-D reading is:

  1. Literal- Who? What? Where? When? How? Why? What is the C.I.T.? (Central Idea of the Text)
  2. Moral- What can I learn from the text?
  3. Spiritual- Where is Jesus in the passage?

The first sign that Jesus gives us is in 2:1-11. Let’s read it:

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to himWhen the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

Literal– Jesus is at a wedding in a nearby town of Nazareth in Galilee. It is probably a relative, so He had a vested interest in having it go well. Mary was an integral part of the ceremony, which gives weight to it being a close relative. It is the third day since Jesus called Nathanael to follow Him. He had told Nathanael that he would see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” This reference is from Genesis 28:12 when Jacob had his dream about the heavenly ladder. The fact that it was three days later is an inference to the resurrection and the cleansing of all sin for all time.

Spiritual– The sign is Jesus’ signature as God the Son. It’s like a signature. Who else could do such a miracle than God? And, being born on earth, He is the Son of God. There are several specific things to note. This miracle that Jesus’ mother, Mary, asks Him to do links Jesus to several events in history:

  1. Ceremonial washing (Exodus 30:17-21) had been performed for 1500+ years at this point. Jesus used those particular pots to change the water into wine. The water cleansed the outside of the hands. The wine represents a New Covenant. Speaking of which,
  2. Later on, Jesus uses the fourth cup at the Lord’s Supper to announce His New Covenant and to ask the disciples to “marry Him.” That particular cup is never drunk in the ceremony; it stands for the coming of Messiah and in particular His marriage to Israel. It is interesting that Jesus is at a wedding when He performs this miracle!
  3. Jesus’ statement that His hour had not yet come was in reference to the announcement of that New Covenant. I think Mary was rushing things a bit, but Jesus acquiesced to her and to the wedding couple. Who knows? It may have been something that He planned to do closer to the Cross.
  4. The wine is the best of the event and was provided in abundance, and it represents the better and greater wedding feast of the ages when Jesus comes for His Bride, the Church.
  5. God’s glory is revealed in Jesus through this miraculous event. The revelation of Jesus being God is a very important theme to John. Look for it throughout his Gospel.

Moral– Jesus is either a Liar, a Lunatic, or He is Lord. The fact that Jesus had a plan from the beginning of His ministry to reveal the glory of the Father through signs of the coming New Covenant through miracles is huge in proving that He is Lord. This sign reminds me of the shepherds in the field when Jesus was born. Look at what the angel–as if that in itself weren’t enough!–said, “for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior [Messiah], who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11). Yet, the angel told them to go find their Messiah in a manger. WOW! Jesus was always revealing Himself to the regular folks, like at a wedding. I can trust Christ because He cares for me, a regular guy.

It’s all there, folks. All we have to do is apply a little intellectual elbow grease and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Sometimes, He begins the process and we run to catch up! Either way, it’s a whole lot of fun to discover Jesus in the Scriptures. He delights in us getting to know Him better.

Abba, thank You for revealing Yourself in the Scriptures. Thank You for the tools that are available for the first time in history: The internet, computers and phones, software programs, so many translations and commentaries at our fingertips, blogs and studies, an incredible amounts of information about the church throughout the age–may we take advantage of everything to learn as much as we can of You, Your Mission, and Your Plans. Amen.

* The Seven Signs of John’s Gospel

Proverbs 12 11-12-21

The Word of God is more than words, more than a book, and more than anyone can capture with pen and ink. He’s a Person!

28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality. Just as this “path” is metaphorical and stands for much more than simply a road, the Word of God is much more than a book.

“In the beginning was the Word…” John 1:1. The Greeks translated “Word” as “logos,” which means “a word (as embodying an idea), a statement, a speech.” but the meaning is much more than that! The “Word” is the breath of God that proceeds from His mouth as He speaks creation into existence. That very breath, that life, is God the Son. We are told in Proverbs 8:30-31 that Jesus is the Craftsman at God’s side during creation. In fact, John 1:2-3 says that “He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” This fact is confirmed in Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:3.

One may argue that Hebrews 4:12 says that “the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” NIV

There is a problem, though, with that particular translation, as well as New Living Translation, Amplified Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Good News Translation, GOD’S WORD Translation, and others in that “it” is not in the original manuscript. The most literal English version we have is the New American Standard Bible, and it doesn’t have the word, “it,” nor do the English Standard Version, King James Version, New King James Version, and several others. What does this mean?

It means that they should have taken the next verse into consideration, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” The “Him” is Jesus, and He IS the Word of God.

In case you’re still dubious, turn to Revelation 19:13. We find:

13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

The blood is His own, and the name is “The Word of God.” Folks, it doesn’t get much plainer than that.

Does this delineation mean that the Bible is not God’s word? No. It just means that we trust Jesus to teach us truth, for He IS Truth. We trust Him to show us the way as we read, for He IS the Way. We trust Him to give us life, for He IS life. The Bible gives us a written form of our knowledge of Him, His message, and His love, but only Jesus Himself can actually give us those things experientially.

We must seek the Lord each time we open the Scriptures.
He is the only One who can shine light on their meaning.

We begin by picking up our Bibles. We pray and then we read.

Abba, thank You for Your Spirit who guides me into all truth and opens up my heart to Your love. Enlighten me, Lord, even as I read the Scriptures, which point to You. May I find You on every page and in every sentence. Amen.

Proverbs 11 11-11-21

Reading the Bible 3-D isn’t necessarily hard; it’s just different because we’ve always read it a certain way.

2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom [I figured out that for me to not look at Scripture 3-D was because of my pride; I had to let it go and see what Jesus said about the Scriptures].

Yesterday (scroll down to read it), we talked about how to read the Bible 3-D: Literally, Morally and Spiritually. Let’s look at them again:

  1. Literal– it is the grammar part, the skeletal layout of the text. Is it narrative? Poetry? Story? Who wrote it? To whom was it written? When? Under what circumstances? What is the CIT (Central Idea of the Text)?
  2. Moral– it is the questioning part: How does this passage apply to my life? Is there a “moral” to draw from the text? What was the author trying to say? What can we draw from the story, either to do or not do (cautionary tale)?
  3. Spiritual– Jesus said that all Scripture points to Him, so we ask, “How does this passage point to Jesus?” Seeing Jesus in every passage is difficult, especially in the Old Testament. Many times, we must realize that people’s veiled hearts are exactly what we are supposed to see: distorted, confused, and incomplete views of God and His Son.

Here is Psalm 101 for our dissecting pleasure.

Psalm 101

I will sing of lovingkindness and justice,
To You, O Lord, I will sing praises.
I will give heed to the blameless way.
When will You come to me?
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil.
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.
My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me;
He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me.
He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.
Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.

Literal- David is praising the Lord. He attests to his success in keeping the law and recounts yesterday’s successes in keeping his integrity according to the law. He commits to conscripting others into keeping the law. In many versions, it says, “I will slay sinners…” We must remember that David lived in a war-world. David did not usually make peace with the enemy; he conquered or killed them.

Moral- The things that David did in order to fulfill the law were not bad things. We would all do well to:

  1. Sing praise to the Lord.
  2. Lead a blameless (upright) life.
  3. Conduct our affairs with integrity.
  4. Not hold company with faithless people, those who run their mouths, nor those who practice deceit or lie.

Spiritual- Where is Jesus in the text? The law was everything to David. Even so, we find in his life that he was not always successful in keeping it (2 Samuel 11). Thus, Romans 3:25 comes into play, “through the law we become conscious of our sin.” We have the fulfillment of the law in Jesus Christ. He, through His in-dwelling Spirit, gives us the motivation and the wherewithal to accomplish such feats.

There is an overall theme here from which we can benefit. David talks about yesterday and then today. He is basically recounting yesterday’s successes and then committing to work on repeating those successes today. We would do well to recount yesterday’s successes and then commit ourselves to the Lord to hear His voice and be obedient to Him in order to have success today. Tomorrow, we do it again.

Reading the Bible literally is what we do most. We take it at face value, so to speak. Reading it morally is not uncommon for us. We ask, “How can this passage apply to my life?” But, reading it spiritually is not something we do on any regular basis. In this case, we had to determine that the law was important to David, which gave us something (in contrast) to apply. David’s not having the Spirit as we do is a big deal in how he hears God, perceives what God says, and how he interprets the message through his various filters (his raising, the times, his current position as king of Israel, as a warrior, etc). We, on the other hand, have the Spirit of Christ to teach us all things and Who will lead us into all truth. He is our Counselor and Guide.

It is evident that there are more layers of meaning in the Scriptures and we need to learn to find them. Reading the Bible literally, morally and spiritually is a great way to peel back the first two layers to that third layer. By the way, the passages get harder.

Abba, thank You that You are pleased, even delighted, with us. We no longer have to keep the letter of the law. If we are obedient to You as You lead us, then we keep the law that You wrote on our hearts, the law of love! Deepen us, Father. We want to see Jesus in every verse and every word. Amen.

Proverbs 10 11-10-21

Length, width and depth. Reading the Bible in 3-D is pretty cool.

20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver [metaphor]… 25 When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone [metaphor]… 29 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so are sluggard to those who send them [simile].

I’ve been doing a lot of extra-curricular reading lately. One of the books talks about the three ways to read Scripture. I tried it yesterday morning and it worked!

The three ways are:

  1. Literal– it is the grammar part, the skeletal layout of the text. Is it narrative? Poetry? Story? Who wrote it? To whom was it written? When? Under what circumstances? What is the CIT (Central Idea of the Text)?
  2. Moral– it is the questioning part: How does this passage apply to my life? Is there a “moral” to draw from the text? What was the author trying to say? What can we draw from the story, either to do or not do (cautionary tale)?
  3. Spiritual– Jesus said that all Scripture points to Him, so we ask, “How does this passage point to Jesus?” Seeing Jesus in every passage is difficult, especially in the Old Testament. Many times, we must realize that people’s veiled hearts are exactly what we are supposed to see: distorted, confused, and incomplete views of God and His Son.

Jesus came to give us clear sight. To see Him is to see the Father,

Jesus answered, “For a long time I have been with you all; yet you do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Why, then, do you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9

There are two passages where Jesus claims that all the (OT) Scriptures point to Him. They are:

39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me [these very Scriptures point to me- NLT]40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5:39-40

25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27

Finding Jesus in the Scriptures is what we will do tomorrow as we look at Psalm 101.

Abba, I begin this trek into the Scriptures with great trepidation because it challenges how I have looked at Scripture all my life. May I seek You constantly in prayer even as I read Your story through time. Show me on every page and in every verse how You are involved with every person and every account. May the Scriptures come alive to me, Abba. I’m counting on it! Amen.

Proverbs 9 11-9-21

Slaves to sin or slaves to Christ? Sin=deception, bondage, and death. Christ=life, liberty, and acceptance. It’s a no-brainer.

12 If you are wise, your wisdom [choice] will reward you; if you are a mocker [and reject Christ], you alone will suffer [the consequences].

To be free from the law means that we have no other law than Christ Himself. So, we can forget any rules and, instead, focus on what Jesus is saying to us. He is quite capable of keeping us from straying. Here are three versions of Romans 7:4,

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also were put to death in regard to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. NASB

In the same way, brothers and sisters, you have died to the laws in Moses’ Teachings through Christ’s body. You belong to someone else, the one who was brought back to life. NOG (Names of God)

There is, I think, a fair analogy here. The death of Christ on the cross had made you “dead” to the claims of the Law, and you are free to give yourselves in marriage, so to speak, to another, the one who was raised from the dead, that you may be productive for God. J.B. Phillips

We are married now to Christ and nothing else. I used to wonder how the first century Christians operated without any type of New Testament Scripture. Well, I don’t wonder anymore. Once they tasted the love of Jesus, they gladly took His yoke upon themselves. In fact, they considered themselves slaves to Christ!

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29

Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Colossians 6:6

16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2:16

Rather than seeing our salvation as a one-time event of having our sins forgiven and being given a ticket to heaven, let’s see it as:

  1. The beginning of a conversation with the heavenly Father about His Son.
  2. The sprouting of the Spirit of Christ in us (He is the kingdom of heaven-Luke 17:21).
  3. The awakening of our souls from the sleep of death to walk in the light of His love.
  4. The event of being born again as a child of God.

All four analogies are taken from the Scriptures. Each serves to show that our salvation is the BEGINNING of a relationship. The concept of a transaction leaves so much to be desired, but is still a valid description. Our relationship with Jesus is personal, intimate, and continuous. With Him leading us–and with us following closely–we cannot wander very far from the trail.

What I’m trying to say is that Jesus IS our Bible. We allow the Scriptures to lead us to Him. If we read the Scriptures without consulting Him for interpretation and enlightenment, then we have missed the entire point of the Scriptures! Even then, we must make allowance for ourselves for an incomplete understanding of said Scriptures because we all have filters by which we read the Scriptures; the times we live, the people we live with, and our experiences are three of them. There’s always more to learn.

In the words of Nathan Hamm, a fellow Christian,

“Read the Bible. Follow Jesus.”

Abba, this mantra is how I want to live my life. I want to know You more through study and through experience. I really am willing to give up everything to know You better. Paul said that he considered everything in his world as garbage in comparison to knowing You and your righteousness. I agree. May I know You in the power of Your resurrection, the participation of Your sufferings, and finally, the realization of rising from the dead. You are my Counselor, my Guide, and my King. I will follow You. Amen.

Proverbs 8 11-8-21

Every once in a while, God changes our viewpoint. He moves us to a different peak and sets before us a new vista. Are we ready?

7 My [wisdom] mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

2 Corinthians 5 is chocked full of wonderful insights and quotable verses. For instance,

  1. Verse 1- We have an eternal house (body) in heaven not built with human hands.
  2. Verse 5- God has fashioned us for our dwelling (body) and has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing it.
  3. Verse 8- To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

My favorite is,

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose on their behalf.

This passage leads into the verse for the day, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (verse 16). Let’s break it down.

  1. By the term, “no one,” we can assume that Paul is talking about his brothers and sisters in Christ as well as–well, everyone.
  2. The viewpoint is from a worldly perspective, which assumes that everyone is in it for themselves. I’m sure there are other worldly perspectives, but that is the one that comes to mind.
  3. By viewing them differently, we must see them not for how they can benefit us, but for how they can be reconciled to God (verses 18-20).
  4. Before Christ’s Passion (trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection), all Jews saw Jesus as just another Jew with delusions of grandeur. After the Passion, many saw Him for who He really is: The Risen Savior, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  5. What I see is Paul telling us that it is REALLY important to see each other differently from the world’s viewpoint. If we see through the eyes of Christ, then we WILL see everyone differently: They are all prospective brothers and sisters in Christ.

This verse helps me to calm down when I get frustrated. It helps me chill when I am perturbed. It helps me have patience when mine is all used up. It helps me to love even when people are being…unlovable. Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. With the Spirit of Christ in us, we have availability to that wisdom every day! Let’s make good use of it by staying in a constant conversation with Him.

Abba, my prayer, my aim is to see things Your way. I know how important it is, so help me to overcome how I feel and just do the next right thing according to Your Spirit. Thank You for making it all so simple that even a child could do it–ME! Amen.

Proverbs 7 11-7-21

We cannot understand the Bible unless the Spirit gives us spiritual insight into the meaning of the Scriptures. Will we listen?

24 Now then, my children, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.

The apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). At a time when there were no New Covenant Scriptures and virtually no Christians, it made sense for Paul to tell the Corinthians to follow his lead. Nowadays, we have an entire culture based upon Judeo-Christian values (although, not so much anymore), the Old and New Testaments, and plenty of people to imitate concerning godly living.

But, Christian living is much more than imitation. We have the Holy Spirit in us to guide us along the way. The early Christians did, too, and leaned heavily upon Him for guidance through a very pagan world. It may be that our culture has made it too easy for us to be lax in our dependency upon Christ. As our nation drifts farther away from those Judeo-Christian values, we Christians will need to go back to the basics. What are those basics? They begin with knowing what Jesus said:

  1. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6. To know the Father, we must know the Son. To know the Son is to know the Spirit of the Son and the Father.
  2. “If you love me, keep my commands.” “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” John 14:15 and 21.
  3. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” John 14:26.

So far, we have us coming to Jesus, obeying Him and having Him and the Father and the Spirit coming to live in us. He (they) will tell us everything we need to know. These are the words of Jesus. He is our Lord and Master, King of the Universe. We are to listen to Him. Nothing else matters. If we knew nothing but these few verses, we would make it just fine because we have been promised that the Spirit would teach us what Jesus said and meant, and what the next step would be.

Caveat: I envision them coming to live in me much like the old couple in the car. She said, “Remember when we used to sit close together and cuddle as we drove?” He (who was driving) replied, “Honey, I never moved.” Like the Prodigal, the Father waits for us to come home even as Jesus comes to find us. Isn’t that exciting?!

Maybe losing our Christian culture would be the catalyst for revival among the Church (as a whole), especially in America! The Gospel is spreading like wildfire in restricted countries; why not here? Maybe we need some pruning. We certainly need some focus. Let’s be available to the Spirit to help us take the mighty stone of the Gospel and turn it into a mighty mountain that fills the entire earth (Daniel 2:35).

May we pledge our lives to Jesus Christ anew this morning.

Abba, I pledge my life to You. May we, together as partners, do mighty works that glorify Your name in heaven and earth. You lead, I will follow. THAT’S a partnership I can trust and enjoy! I love You, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 6 11-6-21

We tend to view things along certain parameters of knowledge and experience. Learning something new is uncomfortable.

10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest [spiritual inactivity]–and [spiritual] poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

People who look for counterfeit money do not study counterfeit money, but the real thing. Any abnormalities are immediately spotted. We want to do the same thing with truth. The problem is that our minds automatically adjust what we hear and read to a prescribed format. Take, for instance, the phrase, “They are now in the grave.” I typed this the other day and my auto-correct changed the word “grave” to “grace.” Even while I was making a note on my phone for this post it did it again! “Grace” not a bad option; it’s just not what I intended.

Our theology works the same way. In order to consider a new idea or concept, we must be aware that we have certain precepts built into our background, which is good–to a point. So, how do we determine what is good and what needs scrutiny? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In other words, He is the way to truth and life. Let’s run everything through the lens of Jesus, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Trust me, it’s not easy! In fact, it’s downright mind-blowing!

Jesus said that He came to fulfill (complete) the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus completed their job, which was to point to Him (John 5:39). Jesus inaugurated a new covenant at the Lord’s supper and was referring to His blood that was to be spilled out during the crucifixion (Luke 22:20). From that point on, only Jesus matters. If it doesn’t line up with what Jesus taught, then we are to not put it on the same level with Jesus’ words and teachings. Here is a for-instance:

I have heard it taught that God turned His face away from Jesus while He was on the cross. Not True! I get their reason: God needed to punish mankind for their sin, so He poured His wrath out on Jesus. But, consider this:

  1. The Psalm that Jesus quoted was Psalm 22. Verse 1 is exactly what Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Taken at face value and if we read and know nothing else, I can see how a person might see it as God turning away. But, if you read the rest of the psalm, you find that in verse 24, it says, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one [Jesus]; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
  2. A technique of writing is the question/answer kind. The psalmist begins with a question and then answers it later in the psalm. Psalm 22 is just such a psalm, as is Psalm 6 (verses 3 and 9), Psalm 13 (verses 1 and 5-6), Psalm 62 (verses 3 and 5-6), Psalm 94 (verses 3 and 15, 23), and several others.
  3. Nearly all Jews knew Psalm 22. It was part of their early memorization and part of their weekly synagogue readings. Once Jesus began the psalm, every Jew within earshot would finish it in their minds. That particular psalm has several specific references to the crucifixion, which was going on at that time:
    1. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.” Compare to Matthew 27:39, “those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads.”
    2. 8 “He trusts in the LORD, let the LORD rescue him.” Compare to Matthew 27:43, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.”
    3. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” The body weight pulls the bones out of joint.
    4. 16 “They pierce my hands and my feet.” Compare to John 20:25 and 27, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” “Thomas, put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” The feet are implied as per crucifixion methods.
    5. 18 “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” Compare with Mark 15:24, “And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”
    6. 31 “He has done it!” In the Greek of the day, “It is finished!” Compare with John 19:30, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.'”
    7. Jesus’ reference to this particular psalm identified Him as the Messiah, for it was considered a Messianic psalm.

My conclusion: Knowing that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3), I can say with confidence that God died in Christ that day on the cross. His body took all our sin and the spiritual consequences (separation from God and its torment) and deposited them in the grave. That’s not a court room scene; that’s a Rescue Operation! And that’s how I choose to see God, as one of love, one who loves the world so much that He came to earth to rescue mankind so that we can be reunited with Him. It’s all there in John 3:16-17.

Abba, thank You for loving us and coming to rescue us. You are amazing! I love You! Amen.

Proverbs 5 11-5-21

Heaven is a great selling point for salvation, but it’s the wrong selling point. The love of Jesus is.

23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.

Here’s how salvation should go:

  1. Jesus prompts a person to ask questions about spiritual things. There’s an interest.
  2. As those questions are answered, the person feels drawn to Jesus.
  3. At a given point, that person receives Christ as his Savior and Lord, along with a pledge of obedience.
  4. The person begins to walk with Jesus as a new creation in Christ.

Let’s take these four steps apart:

  1. Many times, the questions come as accusatory remarks. There may be a lot of hurt behind the question, like, “Why did God kill my father?” We must always assume that the question is real and the person is seeking an answer, something that he can believe. The answer is, “God didn’t kill your father; sin did. Maybe not his personal sin, but sin in general has caused all people to die. The result is evident in our world. God loves your dad, and He grieves with you as you grieve.”
  2. As we talk to him about how much Jesus loves him, we stress that Jesus wants a personal, ongoing relationship with him. This relationship begins with him recognizing Jesus as Lord, King of the Universe, and pledging his life to Him. The idea of Jesus being our personal Guide through this world needs to appeal to him.
  3. The realization of our inability to make good choices in life because we are subjective (living in it) enables us to trust Jesus for His leadership. The more we trust Him, the more trustworthy He becomes, and the more trustworthy He becomes, the more we trust Him. The person’s willingness for Jesus to transform him from the inside out is big. If a person wants Jesus, he will have to give Him all rights and all controls to his life.
  4. A mentor is a great idea for a young follower of Jesus. We can explain the fellowship we share with Christ in everyday life, teaching him what happened when he was adopted into the family, when he was reborn, and how Christ is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus (who is God). We want to be like Him in character. It is this desire that reveals the heart of the person.

If we explain that hell is not having a relationship with Jesus and that heaven is having a relationship with Jesus, the person begins to understand that we are already living in one or the other. The step beyond this life is nothing but a continuation of our everyday life. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this kind of salvation?!

Abba, it is Your desire that all people come to You. You offer so much to us that it’s impossible to grasp it all: the forgiveness of sin, the presence of Jesus, the fellowship with the Spirit, Your guidance through this world, the promise of eternal life with You…and these just scratch the surface! May you continue to lead us into all truth, Lord. We will be diligent searchers for Your truth. Amen.

Proverbs 4 11-4-21

To think of the cross as strictly for those who believe the message is two-dimensional. Let’s take a 3-D look at it.

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you [on Jesus]. 26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet [and mind] and be steadfast in all your ways.

I love figures of speech. They can draw a mental image for people that cannot be summoned by narrative. One such figure of speech that Jesus used was the seed that was planted:

23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24 I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. John 12:24-25

Pictures of speech were never meant to be literal. That’s their point. They are metaphors, graphic descriptions, illustrations; it’s how they work. The idea of a seed dying in the ground is pretty specific when we think of the cross. Jesus died and was laid in a tomb. Through His death, sin was finished. Let’s look at a three pictures of speech using seeds that give us a 3-D picture:

  1. Jesus was the True Seed of the Gospel (the good news that He was forgiving our sin debt). He died and came to life, thus bringing life to all because of His representation (just like Adam).
  2. We, too, must die and be buried in order to be reborn and walk in newness of life with Christ.
  3. When Jesus died on the cross, we all died with Him. His soul, His Spirit, is buried in each of us. He awaits awakening when we come and say, “Jesus, reveal Yourself to me; Spirit, speak to me.” At that moment, we are reborn and we spend the rest of our lives being transformed from the image of men into the image of God (becoming just like Jesus).

There are some Scriptures that will help us grasp the meaning behind these pictures of speech:

16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish [In John the word ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi) can mean either (1) to be lost (2) to perish or be destroyed, depending on the context] but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. John 3:16-17

16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die [be destroyed–sin destroys] but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior. John 3:16-17 Good News Bible

I listed these verses from two different translations so that we can get a better idea of the scope of the cross. It is through God’s love that Jesus suffered on the cross (Titus 3:4-7). There is no condemnation in the cross, only love.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Since Christ is our Representative (just like Adam), we all died with Him. He is waiting for us to “wake up!” When we do, we will be in relationship with Him, and His Spirit will lead us into the righteous way (Titus 3:4-7 again).

25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:25-27

The “seed” of Christ is in all people. The potential for its “growth” is in everyone. Sin is now dead, its power over us broken–the very reason that, had Satan and the rulers of this age known what Christ was up to, “they would never have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was referring to the forgiveness of sin, the erasure of any debt owed, for all humanity. All because of God’s Great LOVE. Now, when I sing songs about the blood and being reborn, I attribute them to Christ’s finished work on the cross.

I am not taking away from the “salvation experience;” each of us must “wake up” to Christ’s presence in our lives. Refusing to do so is, in a sense, a kind of hell. He is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) and to be at odds with Him would be torment–but that fire is an unquenchable love. Love is who God is. Let’s tell people about that great love so that they may awaken to Him, like we did.

Abba, Your love is so great that we can never find the end of it. “From everlasting to everlasting is Your love” (Psalm 103:17). That’s a pretty LONG time! Thank You for loving me. I want to share Your love with others. May You awaken in them Your presence; burst forth in their lives, Lord Jesus! May revival, renewal and restoration come to our souls and to our land. Amen.