Proverbs 13 8-13-20

There’s a reason we meet to hear God’s Word read and expounded upon. There is POWER in the spoken Word of God. Our speech is the same way in that when we speak, meanings become more clear and our convictions become more solidified.

2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things [when they speak uprightly], but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence [both vocally and physically; in other words, they like to fight].

To emphasize the importance of speaking our faith, consider how we got saved. Let’s read it in Romans 10:8-10,

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. NIV

In the spoken word:

There is power-God created the heavens and the earth with His spoken word.

There is concrete– Speaking something out loud solidifies it in our minds. Many people process out loud because it helps them get it out where they can “see” it.

There is connection– speaking how we feel is like pressing the “enable” button; we say, “I love you,” and–POW! We feel love for that person. Compassion works the same way.

The spoken word enables us to believe in our hearts. When we say, “I trust You, LORD,” we click the enable button in our hearts.

Jesus said, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37. Yes, God looks at our hearts, but our mouths reveal what is in our hearts, so be careful! The next verse in today’s chapter says, 3 “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”

Sometimes it helps us to read passages in other translations. Here is Romans 10:8-10 in the Nee Living Translation and the New Life Version:

In fact, it says,

“The message is very close at hand;
    it is on your lips and in your heart.”

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. NLT

This is what it says, “The Good News is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart.” This Good News tells about putting your trust in Christ. This is what we preach to you. If you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved from the punishment of sin. 10 When we believe in our hearts, we are made right with God. We tell with our mouth how we were saved from the punishment of sin. NLV

Let’s practice speaking God’s Word today along with professing our love for each other, having compassion on those who are our potential brothers and sisters in Christ by praying out loud for them. In doing so, we will experience God in a whole new and powerful way!

Abba, You speak to is in our spirits; it’s how we know You are real in our lives. May we pay close attention to You and what the Spirit is saying so that we can be obedient children and followers of the Way. “Speak to our hearts, LORD Jesus, speak that our souls may hear.” Amen.

Proverbs 12 8-12-20

Yesterday, I called us to get serious about our relationship with Jesus. Today, we look at HOW to do it.

11 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies [mirages, smoke and mirrors] have no sense.

The blessings of Christ may be different than you were led to believe. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John 18:36), and neither are most of His blessings. He DOES take care of our earthly needs, such as food, drink, and clothing (Matthew 6:25-32). What He asks of us is to seek His spiritual kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Chasing after the things of this world only leads to slavery of the soul (John 8:34).

12 The wicked desire the plunder of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures.
23:17-18 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

I’m going to go a step further. Anything we think, say, or do that is NOT HOLY SPIRIT-GUIDED leads to sin–in fact, it is sin already because it is done in OUR power and by OUR will, not His. If we understand this statement, then we are ready for the HARD passage:

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. Matthew 18:8-9

A rather gruesome illustration, isn’t it? Jesus got graphic because the topic is REALLY IMPORTANT. Things in our lives that cause us to look away from Him lead us back into sin and slavery. SIN DESTROYS US. Salvation is NOT just a one-time event, but rather the beginning of our relationship with Christ that leads us out of a life of sin and into His glorious light. Jesus gives three examples:

  1. Our hand- It is representative of what we do. All we do must be Spirit-led or it is of the flesh (our sinful nature). We are either gathering with Jesus or scattering against Him (Matthew 12:30).
  2. Our foot- It is representative of where we go. Jesus said, “Follow Me.”  It wasn’t a suggestion; it’s a way of life, THE WAY of life. Jesus is the Way, He is our Truth, and He is our life. HE is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). When we seek the Father daily, we seek Him THROUGH Jesus.
  3. Our eye- It is representative of what we see. Peter had his eyes on Jesus and he was walking on water! (See Matthew 14:22-33). But then, he looked at the wind and waves and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, who reached out and lifted him up. They walked on water together back to the boat. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can endure anything (Hebrews 12:1-3).

We must be willing to give up anything and everything that hinders us from setting our eyes on Jesus and keeping them there. The ONE thing that I don’t want to happen is for Mark 4:19 to come true in my life: “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word [the things Jesus told me], making it [me] unfruitful.”

How about you? Are your ready and willing to lay everything on the altar–even yourself? It’s what it takes to follow Christ. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies [lives] to God because of all he has done for you. Let them [our lives] be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1.

Abba, I am willing. I’ve been willing through the years, but I must keep on being willing. I want to finish well. My goal is to hear You say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21).” May I die to myself daily, take up my cross and follow You wherever You lead (Luke 9:23). I know You’ll equip me, energize me, uphold me, and eventually deliver me right into my Father’s arms! I can hardly wait, LORD. Until then, I remain Your humble servant.

Proverbs 11 8-11-20

The trouble with American life is that there are few apparent consequences–in fact, there are just the opposite!

4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from [the second] death.
“The one who is victorious [over the cares of this world] will not be hurt at all by the second death.” Revelation 2:11b
7 When a wicked man perishes, his hopes die with him; all the promise of his power [by the devil] comes to nothing.

We are an “instant gratification” society. We want what we want–NOW! Tim Hawkins makes fun of “Taco Express” (approximation): “Like, it’s not fast-enough food? What are they going to do? Shoot it out of a cannon as you drive by?” Many times we don’t see what our choices are doing to us on a comprehensive basis. Each bad decision adds to other bad decisions and will cause us to drift off-course. Here are a few that we don’t see coming:

  • If we don’t tithe, we get to use the extra money to buy something we want. What we don’t see is the gradual inward-turning that our souls do to the point where we become very self-centered. We may even “forget” God (see Proverbs 30:7-9 for a great prayer to pray).
  • If we refuse to say anything about our values, we get to be a part of whatever group interests us. What we don’t see is that we become the company we keep. “Don’t be misled: Bad company corrupts good moral character” 1 Corinthians 15:33. Proverbs 13:20 tells us, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” 
  • If we don’t share our faith, then we are not criticized, ostracized, or persecuted. What we don’t see is that if we don’t acknowledge Jesus to others, then He will not acknowledge us before the Father. IT’S A BIG DEAL! “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns [does not acknowledge] me before others, I will disown [acknowledge] before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 Also, we miss the blessing of being useful to Jesus in reaching others for Him. Each grain of salt (a comment, an explanation, even a stance) makes a difference when the Holy Spirit uses it to bring conviction in someone’s life.
  • If we don’t go to church, we can claim any excuse we like and no one can disprove it–especially with online services! What we don’t see is that it’s not about pleasing others or even looking good in their eyes. It’s about pleasing the Father, and He sees the heart!

The real issue is with our relationship with Jesus. He went through so much so that He could be with us and in us. Yet, we treat this miracle, this mighty act of salvation, with disdain and contempt. Do we forget how much it cost Him?!

Let’s not worry about what it will cost us. Even though we may not see the results–and even blessings–of our faith in this life, we trust Christ’s promise that we will receive:

  1. A crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8)
  2. A hundred times as much of whatever we lost (Matthew 19:29)
  3. Eternal life! (Matthew 19:29 again)

Do you believe what He said? Then act on it!

Abba, I call all readers today to take You seriously. You paid a heavy price for our freedom and I KNOW You don’t want us walking back into the very “tar pits of sin” from which You saved us. May we take seriously our commitment that we made when we trusted You for salvation and the calling You now have on our lives. We are Your humble servants. May we start acting like we are Yours. (dare I say amen?)

Proverbs 10 8-10-20

What are you eager to do? What floats your boat? What gets you up in the morning? Is it pleasing Jesus? It is the key unifying factor of ALL Christians. Our desire to do good is the key to today’s entire chapter.

3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but He thwarts the craving of the wicked.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6. Is righteousness our goal? If not, then we need to check with the LORD and make sure that we are truly His. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. 

We all slip back into old habits and routines, so let’s add a couple of words to this verse: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are [walking] in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is [president] in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” Once Christ saves us, we are positionally seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is our relationship, our fellowship, with Him that is contingent upon our willingness to die to ourselves everyday and live for Him.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14 (great memory passage!)

If you’re like me, part of me WANTS to live for Him while another part of me balks at the labor involved. It’s HARD WORK serving Christ! The good thing is that His Spirit within us gives us both the DESIRE and the POWER to do His will:

12 Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe [fear] and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). 13 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the desire and power], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Philippians 2:12-13 AMP

NOTE: Be sure to make notes in your Bible concerning these verses. In most versions, the translation can be misleading.

Concerning our chapter for today, are we EAGER to:

  • Bring joy to our heavenly Father (1)?
  • Have diligent hands (4, 5)?
  • Use our mouths to spread righteousness (6, 11, 31, 32)?
  • Accept His commands (8)?
  • Walk in integrity, doing what pleases Him when only HE is watching (9)?
  • Cover all wrongs with love (12)?
  • Store up knowledge (14)?
  • Heed discipline (17)?
  • Speak the truth in love (18, 19, 20)?
  • Find no pleasure in wicked schemes–even in jest (23)?
  • Fear the LORD in reverence and awe (27)?
  • be joyful at the prospect of living for Jesus (28)?
  • Run to Jesus for refuge (29)?

Let me ask again, what are you eager to do? Is it to please the LORD? Then, I’ll let you get back to your Bible study! I’m headed back in, myself!

Abba, may we meet with You in Your Word today. May Your Spirit speak to us as we read Your words. May You open our minds to Your righteousness and truth. Then, help us to discern opportunities to put our new-found knowledge to good use. Increase our eagerness, O LORD! Set us on fire for You (I think that’s called revival)! May Your fire fall on us today. So be it!

Proverbs 9 8-9-20

Proverbs is designed to be an encouragement. Are you being encouraged by reading the chapter and THEN my post?

9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

The Proverbs Club began about 12 years ago with six guys who committed to read a chapter of Proverbs a day (there are 31 chapters in a month, so the chapter we read corresponds with the day of the month). I sent them a small, encouraging text each morning to remind them to read. When I learned about WordPress, I began to write a Proverbs message and then send it out to them as I do now. That was over 10 years ago.

The question is: As a member of the Proverbs Club, do you take time each day to read the chapter and ask the LORD to apply some aspect of it to your life? If you take time to go to my post, then I consider that gravy! The chapter comes first. My thoughts may be based upon the Word of God, but the Word of God ALWAYS trumps human thoughts.

For instance, take today’s chapter. It is about foundations and our need to seek Him in His Word daily. Taking the easy way out always ends in trouble. Let’s look:

1 Wisdom has built her house;
    she has set up its seven pillars.

The Word of God calls us to build on a firm foundation. JESUS AND HIS COMMANDS are our firm foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). By the way, when Scripture addresses are in red, there is a link to that passage in BibleGateway.com.

I add my own commentary: I consider the seven pillars to be the seven admonitions of Proverbs 1, which are wisdom, knowledge, insight, understanding, discernment, prudence, and discretion (verses 2-6).

The promise in this chapter is that we will be wise and that our wisdom will reward us (v12).

There is also one of the most revealing insights into human behavior I know:

“Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” Verse 17

There is a thrill to sin, to being our own boss and calling our own shots, to being the master of our own ship. That’s the up side. The down side is the next verse:

But little do they know that the [spiritually] dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead. 

In other words, IT’S A TRAP! There are no shortcuts to godliness. It takes hard work and repetition, which requires TIME. We tend to be impatient with ourselves. God is not. He understands that it’s a lifelong process and that we will not really get it completely right until we step across the threshold into His kingdom and are glorified. So, let’s relax and be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Let us “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Let us keep the faith according to God’s Word.

Abba, I KNOW that if I focus on You, worshiping You and spending every waking moment aware of Your presence, talking to You even as You prompt my heart, then I will live righteously simply because I am obedient to Your Spirit. You will NEVER lead me into sin, but will save me from it–or lead me out of it. LORD, David said it best, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My heart and my flesh fail, but You are the strength of my heart and my portion [my everything, all I need] forever” Psalm 73:23-24. May we worship You in spirit and in truth today. Amen.

Proverbs 8 8-8-20

Are we fighting the good fight? Are we intentionally “taking up arms” against our enemies: Self and Satan?

5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.

The catch is that we ALL are simple [“gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil” (my note on the bottom of the page in my Bible)] and foolish. We don’t ordinarily look for the godly way to do things. Satan would like to keep us in the dark spiritually. Therefore, we must assume that there is a spiritual battle going on behind the scenes in every circumstance and difficulty.

  1. If it is our own fault, then the battle is in our own souls for dominance. We are rebellious in nature. We must drop to our knees immediately and allow Christ back on the throne of our hearts!
  2. If it is someone else’s fault, then we must drop to our knees immediately and ask for wisdom and discernment on how to handle the matter. We ALWAYS deal in compassion and love even if we must mete out justice. For the most part, leaning toward mercy and grace is the best way to go.
  3. If it is circumstances, then we accept that bad things happen in this decaying world, and that God has allowed these circumstances. Therefore, we drop to our knees and ask for insight and direction concerning what to do next.

May all we do bring glory and honor to Him as we wage war on every argument (whether in our heads or by someone) and bring it captive to Christ.

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

Look at all the promises we are given if we do:

  1. We find all of wisdom’s words to be true, just, right and upright (vs7-9)
  2. We will find wisdom, which is seeing from God’s perspective (v17).
  3. Spiritual riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity await us (v18).
  4. The treasuries of our hearts will be made full (21).
  5. We will be blessed (v34).
  6. We will find true life and favor from the LORD (35).

May we seek Him today in His Word as He prompts us to read, study, ponder, and live His instructions. If you haven’t been doing so, then TODAY is a great time to START!

Abba, may You move in our hearts today prompting us to read Your Word, to study it, to ponder it as we ask You to explain its meaning, and then to put it into practice in our lives. Your Word is TRUTH. May we guard it and allow it to guide us even as You speak to us through it. I’ll be listening. “Speak, LORD, Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Amen.

Proverbs 7 8-7-20

Today’s chapter reminds me of Hansel and Gretel. Did she know she was a pawn in Satan’s hand? The result was the same, “Many are the victims she has brought down…” (26).

10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
    dressed like a prostitute…
13 She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
14 “Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

Notice the progression:

  1. She was dressed provocatively. Guys are visually tempted.
  2. She kissed him. She really had his attention now! The kiss was like the first hit on a cigarette or cocaine: it gives an incredible high and wraps the brain receptors around the drug. From that point on, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DRUG!
  3. Her words were well-chosen with just the right amount of tease with an enticement of food and wine. She appealed to his stomach, as well!
  4. She lied to him! He could have been anyone. She was waiting for any unsuspecting soul to come walking by that she could snare. This guy was the (un)lucky one.
  5. Her den of iniquity was fixed up in such a way that it appealed to his senses: Linens from Egypt, perfumed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. It sounded like a tasty treat and smelled good, too.
  6. The invitation: “Come, let’s together have some real fun. Never mind that I’m someone else’s wife and property.”

At this point, if the young man (or woman, depending on reverse circumstances) has the Holy Spirit within him, the Spirit says, “NO!” If he desires to please God above Himself, then he will walk away–miserable, of course, for a few minutes, but victorious. But, if he has not settled in his heart who is God, then he is fertile soil for such sinister seed.

21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
    she seduced him with her smooth talk. She knew he wanted her. She had him!
22 All at once he followed her  He made the decision. It is certainly too late to turn back now–not without outside intervention.
    like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
23     till an arrow pierces his liver [deadly shot],
like a bird darting into a snare,
    little knowing it will cost him his life.

Sin makes you go further than you intend to go,
stay longer than you intend to stay,
and pay more than you want to pay.

22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

We must decide NOW how we will react THEN. We must learn to call on the Holy Spirit at the BEGINNING of the temptation rather than near the END of it. Guarding the way we think will govern how we feel when tempted. If we know that we have a weakness in a certain area, then we STAY AWAY from that certain area, or have someone with us who will keep us accountable. OUTSIDE INTERVENTION is an acceptable option–and a life saver!

Let us:

  1. Die to self. We died with Christ and went into the grave.
  2. Live for Him. We are resurrected to walk in newness of life with Him.

This pattern of living is something every faithful Christian does everyday, every hour, every decision. It’s a WAY OF LIFE.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will take this pattern seriously. They will never get to know You unless they do. Oh, how You want them to know You! But, ultimately, You leave the decision to us. I choose to die to self and live for You. May they do the same. I love You and thank You for Your sacrifice on my behalf. I choose You, Jesus. Reign in my heart as we walk together today. Amen.

Proverbs 6 8-6-20

We forget–or ignore– that Christ came humbly the first time; the second time He will come as a Warrior King!

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
    if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
you have been trapped by what you said,
    ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself,
25 Settle matters quickly with your adversary [who is Christ] who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25-26
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
    When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Lest we get complacent with our position in Christ, we must remember that we Americans live in an entitled state. In other words, we are spoiled. In fact, even our salvation can be faulty because we base it upon OUR decision to receive Christ (almost in a condescending way). Because of our tendencies, salvation has been made a tricky thing. Our western understanding is that a transaction has been made and that’s it. That’s all it takes. Jesus cleanses us from our sins and we’re good with God now. We continue to live our lives for ourselves, but when things don’t go the way we think they should, we call on Him and He gives us what we want. He is our heavenly vending machine–NOT! It’s also why so many “Christians” leave the faith when God doesn’t perform like they think He should.

Salvation is offered by God through Jesus Christ for anyone who is ready to die–to give up who they are and to become like Christ: Holy, Righteous, and without fault. Impossible? YES, without Christ Himself living in us. Without this willingness everyday, our willful spirits keep Him from “taking the reins” and leading us heavenward. Consider the rich, young ruler:

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

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

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

  1. Notice that the emphasis is on what he must do. Ephesians 2:8-9 clears that up: God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
  2. Jesus made it clear that only God is good, yet in verse 20, the man declared himself on the same plane as God. Jesus knew better. In fact, Jesus knew exactly what stood between the man and God: his money.
  3. Still, Jesus loved him. He had compassion on him. He gave him a chance to come clean and walk with Him.
  4. The man did not take it–then. We do not know what transpired in his life as Jesus went to the cross and then rose again. We can hope to see him in heaven!

The promise that Jesus gives us is that when we allow Him full access and complete control of our lives, He becomes very involved in our lives. We sense His presence, we feel His love for us, His joy in our decisions, and His peace that He gives to His disciples (John 14:27). We see Him moving and shaking in our lives as He weeds our vineyard, prunes our  vines, and rebuilds the walls around our vineyard (Proverbs 24:30-34).

Are we willing to take His offer of salvation seriously? Every day? We don’t need to be saved but once, but the commitment is and must be the same everyday.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they have given their hearts and lives to You. It is my hope that they have died to themselves and now live for You, with You, and in You even as You live in and through them–and me! May Galatians 2:20 become our mantra: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live in the body I live by faith [trusting what He has told me in His Word] in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.” Hold me to it, LORD. Amen.

 

Proverbs 5 8-5-20

Ever wonder why God allows our lives to fall apart? It is so He can direct us in how to put things back together.

12 You will say, “How I hated discipline!
    How my heart spurned correction!
13 I would not obey my teachers
    or turn my ear to my instructors.
14 And I was soon in serious trouble
    in the assembly of God’s people.”
21 For your ways are in full view of the LORD,
and He examines all your paths.

I am sure that there are times when God actually afflicts His children. I think that there are times when He doesn’t stop the natural circumstances of this world, i.e. cancer, natural disasters, accidents, genetics, etc. But, I think that most of the time that which we perceive as His afflicting us is actually Him allowing us to reap the consequences of our choices, some that are deliberate rebellion and others that are made out of ignorance. Either way, we learn from these afflictions. King David did:

Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.

In Christ, life becomes a practice field for us. We no longer need to worry about “making the team.” It’s all about learning to be obedient to the Spirit in how to be like Jesus: How to represent God to the world. There may be times when He tells us to “drop and give Me twenty.” In that case, it’s an attitude problem. David had them:

75 I know, LORD, that Your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. 76 May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant.

The key to this passage is in believing what Jesus has told us, what He has promised us. For instance, in Hebrews 12:4-8, we have this promise:

 

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
(“as a father the son he delights in” Proverbs 3:11-12)

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 

In my own personal creed (see Proverbs 7-29-20), I stated what I believe according to His promises to us:

In fact, I know exactly how David felt when he wrote:

92 If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Had I not known the above verses and believed them and cherished them, then I would not have learned from my situation and may have been doomed to repeat my mistakes until I learned the lesson–not by God’s hand, but by my stubborn will and poor decisions.

If we will see every problem in our lives as opportunities to grow in Christ, then we would see how God uses these predicaments to bring good for us. There is a verse that tells us this good news, but there is a catch:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

The catch is in the phrase, “who have been called.” It implies those who are following the LORD closely, “according to His purpose.” We MUST be following the LORD closely to see the good that God is bringing out of our afflictions, both for ourselves and in ourselves and for and in others. The key is in Him asking, “Do you trust Me?” and us responding, “Yes, LORD, Yes, to Your will and to Your way.”

May we read His promises and base our next decisions on those promises. Soon we will be able to say with David, “It was good for me to be afflicted” (73).

Abba, You have taken me through some rough times. I know that TRUST COMES FROM TIME PLUS BELIEVABLE BEHAVIOR. T+BB=Trust. You are always believable and trustworthy. Thank You for Your unfailing love! May I always trust in You as I become trustworthy to You. Amen.

 

Proverbs 4 8-4-20

It’s not about the prayer; it’s about submission. I repeat: It’s not about the prayer; it’s about submission.

20 My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast [deliberate, stubborn in doing right] in all your ways.
3:6 In all your ways submit to Him, and He will direct your paths.

There comes a time when every one of us must decide if Jesus is really worth following. If He is, then everything in this world becomes a tool in the Master’s hands; everything goes on the table for His use. If we don’t put it on the table, it becomes a hindrance and an encumbrance, a stumbling block that gets in our way, and a ball and chain that we drag around. Are we willing to give up our little “golden calves” (a reference to the golden calf that Aaron made for the Israelites at Mount Sinai; see Exodus 32)?

When talking to people about Christ, we must be careful not to mislead them. Asking Christ into their hearts is good, but not without the understanding that He wants their lives. There must be a willing submission of their lives to Him before He will enter and take over. It’s like swinging the door open wide and saying, “Come on in, Jesus!” He then stands at the threshold of their heart’s door smiling, with His hand out, waiting for them to give Him the deed to their house and the master key to every room in it. Until they are willing to give Him their lives, die to self, and allow Him to live through them, then He will NOT step across the threshold. IT’S THAT IMPORTANT.

Jesus had taken His disciples to Caesarea Philippi, which was a demonic worship center. He then asked the disciples who people said He was. They replied: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. When He asked them, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). From that time on, He set His face toward Jerusalem to die on the cross. He even told His disciples what was going to happen (Matthew 16:21). The disciples didn’t take it very well. Peter even rebuked Jesus! The LORD set Him straight:

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

If we are not willing to give up our “human concerns,” then Christ considers us an enemy of the cross. There can be no salvation. Once we are saved, the question still comes up every morning, but it doesn’t affect our position in Him. What it DOES affect is our fellowship with Him and how well we hear and heed His voice and direction. We would do well to live by this verse:

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

May we take to heart the very things we preach. “Christ in us; the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) means that we have given Jesus everything. We have “thrown off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1). Jesus IS our ONLY HOPE.

Abba, Jesus is my only hope. I have placed my whole life in His hands. Jesus, You are my LORD, my Master, and my only hope. I trust in nothing else for my satisfaction, my fulfillment, and my happiness. I am satisfied in You and content in any circumstance. My “money” is on Your eternal life in Your country, which is beyond the borders of this world. Keep me from becoming entangled with the things of this world, LORD. I submit to You and Your will for my life. I want to live for You. In the power of Your Spirit who lives in me, I will! Amen.

Proverbs 3 8-3-20

So many people are comfortable with just being saved, but that is NOT what Christ had in mind! He wants FELLOWSHIP!

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

His presence in our lives and the fellowship we have with Him has a very practical side. Even while we enjoy Him on a personal level, He is leading us along life’s path. This path is filled with traps, hidden snares, lures, and every kind of temptation. Only Jesus can guide us through them–and rescue us when we get caught in them.

A favorite verse of mine is Ephesians 2:10. I particularly like the NLT version:

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

  1. The NIV uses the word, “workmanship.” “Masterpiece” denotes a higher degree of accomplishment and value. It’s not just about His ability to create, but about how pleased He is with His work, with US!
  2. We are new in Christ upon salvation and every day, even all the time. His Spirit is our tree of life, the shekinah glory of God that lives in us and is constantly regenerating us.
  3. The “good things” are acts of obedience. HE puts us into position; HE gives us the tools; HE sets up the circumstances; HE tells us what to do; HE empowers us to do it; therefore, HE gets all the glory even as we enjoy doing it. These “good things” are actually new works that glorify the LORD.

If we hear His voice and heed it, then we will supernaturally live righteously, walk humbly with Him and others, and be witnesses in our homes, school, work, church, neighborhood, city, state, country, and the world, all depending upon His plan for each of us. The Key is DEPTH.

How do we get depth? The rest of today’s chapter tells us how:

  1. We are not wise in our own eyes (verses 7-8).
  2. We honor God with the best that we have. All the time. Every time. (verses 9-10)
  3. We accept the LORD’s discipline in our lives, learning as quickly as possible and thanking Him for the discipline. We are better people for it. (verses 11-12)
  4. We do all we can to find wisdom and gain understanding of Him and His Word by studying the Scriptures and listening to His voice. We will find true treasure and peace in the process. (verses 13-18)
  5. Wisdom, understanding and knowledge all come from Him. We “study to show ourselves approved” (2 Timothy 2:15). Depth comes from study. Are you ready to go deep with Him? (verses 19-20)
  6. Wisdom, understanding, sound judgment and discretion come from a disciplined lifestyle. We MUST apply ourselves to learning all we can about Christ and His Plan and then make ourselves available to Him. Daily.

Christ left His throne in heaven, came to earth in human form, died on the cross for our sake, rose again, and then returned to Heaven and now sits on the right side of the Father interceding for us.

HE DID ALL THAT FOR US. CAN’T WE LIVE FOR HIM?

Abba, I remember when Johnny Bisagno preached at Falls Creek that Tuesday noon session in 1975 this very message about all that Jesus went through just to get us back. That day, Howard and I gave our lives back to You after living for ourselves for so long. Thank You for calling me back. Thank You for not putting me on a shelf!  LORD Jesus, I pledge myself anew to You. I am Yours. Use me as You see fit. Amen.

Proverbs 2 8-2-20

Want to beat bigotry? Have a common bond that is higher than skin color, culture differences, age, or heritage.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
    from men whose words are perverse [they will lead you astray],
13 who have left the straight paths
    to walk in dark ways [they no longer look beyond the surface],
14 who delight in doing wrong
    and rejoice in the perverseness of evil [their minds are warped],
15 whose paths are crooked
    and who are devious in their ways [they are like their father, the devil].

Wicked men would have us believe that people are different in character and worth because of skin color (we all come from the same set of people: Adam and Eve, and then Noah and His family), nationality, political standing, social position, and the amount of wealth one has, all of which are only surface circumstances. King David had the right idea by choosing to bond over something bigger than any of these differences:

63 I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow Your precepts. Psalm 119:63

If we choose to be friends with all who love the LORD, then verse 64 comes true, too:

64 The earth is filled with Your love, LORD; teach me Your decrees. Psalm 119:64

The world gets darker because people of the dark just get darker. But, we have the cure for darkness: the Light of Christ! He shines in us and through us. If we pray for those who are caught in darkness, maybe the LORD will send His Spirit to convict their hearts and revival will break out in Washington, D.C. or New York or even California! But, we must pray!

Let us pray:

  • That God would convict OUR hearts of sin and show us where we have compromised with the world–and then repent!
  • That the LORD would move in our very own Metroplex, and that He would begin in BWBC.
  • That we would be brave enough and wise enough to get on our faces before God and ask Him to use us as His instruments for revival.
  • That we would set aside everything that divides us and focus on what unites us, or rather, Whom, who is Christ.

May we wait patiently upon the LORD and “seek His face with all our hearts (v. 58)” and maybe He will send His Spirit to fall on us as it has in days past. It’s not too late for OKC, for Oklahoma, for America, or for the world. LET’S PRAY!

Abba, I join with my brothers and sisters in Christ to look beyond our differences to unite in our common ground–at the foot of the cross. We have “one body and one Spirit, just as we were called to one hope when we were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:4-6. So, LORD, may we come together in Your name and in Your power to do something extraordinary, which is unite in prayer for revival in our land. “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.” Amen.

Proverbs 1 8-1-20

Many want to live a righteous life, but, why, if not to please our Savior? Is He not worth serving? Was His sacrifice even necessary for our sin?

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;

Did you catch that? Gaining, Understanding, Receiving, and then Doing. It’s not enough to just gain knowledge, nor to understand what to do, nor even to receive all we need to do it UNLESS WE ACTUALLY DO IT. Our fear of the LORD comes from understanding that He is the King of the Universe and doesn’t owe us anything. We serve a holy God who does not have to have anything to do with us at all–and yet, He does! He loves us so much that He sent His Son, His One and only Son, to die in our place to buy us back from death and hell. Why? To live in our hearts! So, if we’re going to trust Him as Savior to save us, then we should be ready and willing to trust Him as LORD of our lives.

Do you crave the very thing that will teach us how to please God? David did:

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,
    that I may follow it to the end.

Increase our knowledge of You and Your Word, O LORD.

34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law
    and obey it with all my heart.

We need conceptual understanding so we can know the “why” to many of the questions of life. For instance, why is it important to not “try” sin even once, like smoking or drinking or sex or bars or gambling or any other traps we can think of? Because that’s what they are: TRAPS!  They have been laid for us to step into and be caught. One of my precious girls in my youth group when I was a Youth Minister (many years ago) was talked into drinking a beer and was caught: Her family had a propensity to alcoholism, and all it took was one drink. Another friend from our youth group in high school was talked into trying homosexuality. He died of AIDS several years later. “Once” is too many when it concerns sin because SIN DESTROYS US.

“Sin takes you further than you intend to go,
stay longer than you intend to stay,
and pay more than you want to pay.”

35 Direct me in the path of your commands,
    for there I find delight.

Our delight is in the fellowship we share with the Spirit.

36 Turn my heart toward your statutes
    and not toward selfish gain.

Or, selfishness. We tend to be self-centered (understatement).

37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things;
    preserve my life according to your word.

If we keep our minds filled with truthful, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy thoughts (Philippians 4:8), we will have no room for the worthless things of this life: Pornography, mind-controlling drugs, “keeping up with the Joneses,” etc.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,
    so that you may be feared [so that I may fear You].

People are watching. If we don’t fear God, then why should they?

39 Take away the disgrace I dread,
    for your laws are good [and steady].

The disgrace I dread is failure. I do NOT want to finish poorly. So, I stay glued to His Word and am obedient to His Spirit.

40 How I long for your precepts!
    In your righteousness preserve my life.

More than just finishing well, I want to “shine like a star in the universe as I hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). I want to be His image-bearer and ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Let’s live a life pleasing to our Savior and Lord.  He is achieving for us an eternal glory. IT WILL BE WORTH IT! (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Abba, as we seek Your face today, make Your Word come alive in our hearts. Fan into flame a desire to please You, be like You, and serve You. Give us Your passion for those around us, especially for those with whom we live (if we can be Christ to them, it’s a cinch to be Christ to others because we are in the habit). Make it so, LORD Jesus, make it so. Amen.

Proverbs 31 7-31-20

Today I honor the most noble woman I know: Robin. She has been my wife and friend for 38 years today.

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Every morning we get up and spend the first few hours of the day reading and praying separately, yet together. We study in the same room, so if we want to discuss something, we can. Otherwise, we get absorbed in what we are doing and allow each other to converse with the LORD uninterrupted. Many times, we open our prayer time with this verse:

18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your law.

And He does! Each morning, He shows us new things, things we didn’t know. It’s amazing that there is always something new to learn about God’s word. In fact, He promises to share new insights with us, “This is what the LORD says, He who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it– the LORD is His name: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.'” It’s like opening a treasure chest each morning. The ironic thing is that I am memorizing specific passages out of Ephesians, so I read them every morning, and the LORD speaks new things to me about the SAME PASSAGES each morning!

24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.

The more we read, the more we delight in His word, His presence, and His participation in our lives. We come to rely on Him and His word for guidance about everything–or, at least, we are trying.

27 Cause me to understand the way of Your precepts, that I may meditate on Your wonderful deeds.

This verse is the prayer of our heart. Without His Spirit opening our minds and the eyes of our heart, there is NO WAY for us to even begin to understand what He is saying. He is our Point of Reference (I accidentally typed, “Reverence” which would have worked!).

32 I run in the path of Your  commands, for You have broadened my understanding.

As we get older, we run less, but our spirits are being renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16). As He broadens our minds, we learn to maneuver quickly between passages and teachings. Old lessons are lessons learned well. New lessons keep us “young” in our minds. And He is always teaching us!

Robin, I love you and thank you for staying close to Jesus. I can’t wait to stand in His presence, can you?! Happy Anniversary.

Abba, it is the desire of our hearts to be with You and see You in Your glory, the glory You have had since before the creation of the world (John 17:24). Until then, may You continue to make Your presence known in our lives in each other, to each other. In Your name I pray, amen.

Proverbs 30 7-30-20

“If we change the way we think, we will change the way we feel.”* The more we think of God, the more we want His ways. Without the Holy Spirit, good things become twisted, perverted, and abused. But, WITH the Holy Spirit, our bad ways begin to transform into good, right and true thoughts and actions (Ephesians 5:9).

5 Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 119 was written by King David. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Here is what he wrote about keeping our ways pure:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.

Is it possible for a person to stay on the path of purity? How can he/she maintain it for a lifetime? Yes! By living according to the word of the LORD daily.

10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.

How do we live according to His word?  By seeking Him with all our heart, soul, mind and with all our strength. The promise is that He will guide us and keep us on the right path. When we do wander off, He will bring us back to the straight and narrow road. Hopefully, it will require only a minor course correction. If not, then we may get caught in a loop of rebellion. This loop will continue until we are willing to look up and acknowledge His Lordship in our lives. King Nebuchadnezzar is a perfect example of this truth, Daniel 4:26-34.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

Our souls train our hearts by filling our minds with the word of God. Hiding God’s word in our hearts is vital to all believers. If a believer wants to move up to being a follower (living a victorious Christian life), then he/she will memorize Scripture. It’s not necessary to memorize it verbatim or even its address, but that we know the gist of it (a paraphrase) and at least the book in which it is found. Context helps.

12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.

Praise to the LORD engenders a submissive spirit and a willing heart. We are eager to do what is good, which is whatever He says. What does He say? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” Colossians 3:16. We implore God to teach us His decrees and statutes of righteous living. Otherwise, there is NO WAY to really learn them.

15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees

We “set our face like flint” (Isaiah 50:7) to keep His commands first and foremost in our minds and hearts. We meditate on them; we delight in them–can you feel the enthusiasm and joy that Jesus feels when His children walk in truth (3 John 1:4)?

 I will not neglect your word.

“I WILL NOT NEGLECT YOUR WORD.” Really? Will you vow to keep this promise? The Holy Spirit will assist you in keeping your vow by reminding you, prompting you and convicting you about it constantly. Sound annoying? IT’S NOT! WE are interacting with the God of the universe!

Computers typically don’t erase old data; they just overwrite it. This process is EXACTLY what we need to do with our minds: Overwrite old ways of thinking with God’s words. Not only will they give us a new way of thinking, they are ALIVE with the Spirit of God! He talks to us even as we read His words. Hebrews 4:12-13.

It boils down to this question: Are you really interested in being like your LORD Jesus Christ? Then you will do anything and everything necessary to learn His ways, His likes and dislikes, His character traits, His convictions and what He considers important. Let’s see, what’s important to Jesus? “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17. Folks, it doesn’t get any plainer than that!

LORD, I pray that You will sanctify us according to our reading and study of Your word. I pray that we all will be on fire when we get through with our Bibles! I know that there will come a day when I will wish I read more, studied more, and memorized more of Your words. May I begin NOW changing that outcome. May my readers join me in this endeavor. Bless them, LORD, with Your presence and sense of pleasure as they read Your word. Amen.

*Beth Moore

Proverbs 29 7-29-20

Throughout Christianity, the pendulum has swung for and against us. What will you do if it swings against us again?

6 Evildoers are snared by their own sin, but the righteous sing/shout for joy and are glad.
10 The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity and seek to kill the upright.

I have been reading about the early Christians of the second and third centuries. They didn’t have Bibles at that time. They may have a copy of a letter or part of a Gospel. The Jews kept the Tanach (Old Testament) to themselves. So, the early Christians would put their doctrine (basic biblical beliefs) into poetic form, song, and creed.

In that day, when a person said that he or she was a Christian, the term carried a very specific connotation. One did not adopt the term lightly, for it spoke of a belief system, a lifestyle, and faith that were contradictory to everyone and everything else around them. It would get a person ostracised if not beaten or killed. I began to wonder what I would do if I were locked up in a cell for several days or weeks until my sentencing or release. So, I wrote down my beliefs based upon Scripture in creed form so I would have something to remember and to recite to myself and anyone who would listen.  I’ve been working on this a few days. Let’s see how it works:

I Am a Christian

  • I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20
  • I believe in Jesus Christ, descended from David, cucified, buried, and risen! 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

I Am a Christian

I Am a Christian

I Am a Christian

I Am a Christian

I Am a Christian

Abba, I pray that I may live up to my own words! May YOUR Word become alive in us as we apply it to our lives. May we memorize it, speak it, and depend on it in good times and in bad. “For richer or poorer, for good times and bad, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others I cleave to You,” LORD. I am SO GLAD that those marriage vows differ at the next part, “til death do us part.” Instead, THAT’S when we get to GO BE WITH YOU! You are wonderful, Jesus. Thank You, Abba, for sending Your Son. And thank You for the blessed Holy Spirit through whom I pray right now. Amen.

 

Proverbs 28 7-28-20

Who is it that you seek to please? Yourself or God? Everything we think, say, and do emanates from our answer.

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
14 Blessed is the one who always trembles [lives in a state of awe] before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom [seeing from God’s perspective; it comes from hanging with God] are kept safe.

During the main portion of King David’s life, he lived a life devoted to the LORD. Let’s look at portions of his masterpiece, Psalm 119:

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
    who walk according to the law of the Lord.

It would seem that we are judged by what we do. There is an equation at work here: If our thoughts are pure and holy, then as they pass through our heart, our passion and zeal are amplified, thus culminating in works that bring praise and honor to our LORD. We have pure and holy thoughts when we wash our minds with the water of the Word, when we transform our thinking according to His commands, and when we turn to the Savior for His words to guide us. His Spirit leads us into good works, which are works of obedience. We were never meant to make decisions on our own; the Spirit wants to make those decisions with us. It is His guidance and direction that will make us pure and holy.

Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
but follow his ways.

Nothing else can get in the way of our seeking Him. No one else’s opinion matters. Only His. We consider others’ opinions, but we always weigh them against what He is saying to us.

4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.

These verses have to do with character. God has listed them, explained them, and illustrated them in the law. David was trying his best to learn them, but his heart kept leading Him astray. Today, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit–and we STILL have trouble steadfastly obeying Jesus!

I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.

Praise the LORD that we don’t have to learn about God through the Old Testament law! We can study it to see where God was going with it all, which was Jesus Christ and His completion of the law by fulfilling in His body the sacrificial system. Now, all of us who have Christ in our hearts as LORD can praise God with an upright heart even as we learn daily more and more about His righteousness and holiness.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14

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

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would revel in Your grace today, that they would learn to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to say “Yes” to self-controlled (actually, Spirit-controlled), upright and godly lives. May we please You with our submission to Your will and Spirit even as we praise You and bless You with our lives, our mouths, and even our thoughts. Keep us focused on You, LORD. Amen.

You’ve Been Hurt

You’ve Been hurt.

I acknowledge that. Hurt people hurt people.
That’s what families are made of: Hurt people. They have been damaged by sin, by others, and many times led astray by the devil. They still have idols in their lives (things that they count on for security, success, and fulfillment). They can be conceited, proud, prejudiced, acidic and judgmental. If we focus on our families, our families will let us down—hard!
The same is true with friends, teachers, bosses, lovers, and even spouses. Our focus is to be on one Person alone, and that is Jesus Christ. HE is the only One who will not let us down. Christ calls us to look to Him. He has chosen to work with and through these imperfect people in our lives. He loves them. He even calls them His friends!
Here’s the irony:
You’ve been hurt.
I acknowledge that. Hurt people hurt people.
That’s what churches are made of: Hurt people. They have been damaged by sin, by others, and many times led astray by the devil. They still have idols in their lives (things that they count on for security, success, and fulfillment). They can be conceited, proud, prejudiced, acidic and judgmental. If we focus on the church, the church will let us down—hard!
But, Christ calls us to look to Him. He has chosen to work with and through these imperfect people. He loves them. He even calls them His friends!

Every Christ-follower is a part of His Church.
He calls us His Bride. He married us!!!

From the outside, church can be not very attractive, but from the inside, we have a fellowship that goes beyond anything we can have in this world! We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are FAMILY.
See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!  1 John 3:1
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Ephesians 5:1
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. Ephesians 4:2-3
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. Hebrews 10:24
 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people [His children, His family] who are his rich and glorious inheritance. Ephesians 1:18

Proverbs 27 7-27-20

The child of God wants to read the Word of God. It’s our love letter from Daddy (Abba).

9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

Jesus is our Friend (John 15:14-15). In our lives, we might run into this problem: Jesus is trying to speak to you, but you’re not hearing Him. Why not? Probably because you and He aren’t connected. Let’s consider the Bible our “telephone” to God, and even though His Spirit is within us, God is still on His throne. Our connection with God is His Word and it is translated by the Holy Spirit. It’s why a non-Christian cannot read the Bible and understand it. He has no Spirit to interpret.

14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14

Our Daily Process

16″But we have the mind of Christ.” The Spirit of Christ who lives inside us tells us what God says, interprets for us, and gives us understanding. He then gives us the desire and the power to be obedient. In the process, we are molded into the image of Christ. We take on His character.

The first thing the Spirit does is show us the enormity of what Christ did for us when He forgave us of our sins and washed them away. We become grateful.

Then He shows us what He is doing for us now even as we routinely experience His love, joy and peace. We become thankful.

After that, He begins the slow and thorough work of drawing out our deepest darkness by shining His light where we don’t necessarily want Him to shine it. We become thoughtful, compliant, and compassionate as we realize the debt we owe Him and that He wants to save others, as well. We WANT to be involved in the saving of others. It’s important to Him, so it becomes important to us.

Today, if you don’t have a regular reading schedule or plan, read any or all of these passages:  John 3:16-21, Titus 2:11-14, Ephesians 2:1-10. They will confirm, illustrate, and explain His plan for you.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will want to step into Your light and allow You to cleanse them and purify them. I pray that they will be eager to do what is right according to Your leadership in their lives. I ask that they grasp the depths of their sin, the glorious salvation in You, and their position in Christ. We, as new creations, are Your masterpiece, O LORD! WOW! May we spend today and the rest of eternity pondering this truth. Amen.

 

 

Proverbs 26 7-26-20

King David was a man after God’s own heart. We show we are after God’s heart through obedience to His Word.

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin.

In this case, a lying tongue belongs to the person who says he or she loves God, but doesn’t do as He commands. Jesus said,  “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46. God interprets our love by our actions. Why, you might ask? Consider:

  1. Had God not loved us enough to send His Son, His one and only Son, to rescue us, we would die in our sins, separated forever from Him.
  2. Without Jesus dying for our sins, we would have no Holy Spirit in us.
  3. Without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would not know God.
  4. The Spirit’s job is to ready us as a bride is prepared for her groom. The Spirit is transforming us making us holy, righteous, blameless and spotless, and is preparing us for our Savior as His Bride. To NOT do what He says implies that we really do not want to be married to the Son.

If a person lived by only the words of Jesus in the Gospels, then he would still live a life worthy of the LORD. But, He has given us the Tanach (the Old Testament), the writings of Luke telling the story of the spread of the Gospel in Acts, and the letters of Paul, Peter, James (Jesus’ half brother), John, and the writer of Hebrews, as well. We have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom at our fingertips–and that’s without our phones and computers!

Today as we worship, may we consider this verse:

7 I will praise You with an upright heart as I learn Your righteous laws. Psalm 119:7

  1. Let us praise Him!
  2. Our upright heart comes from the Spirit working in us: It [the grace of God, which is His Spirit in us] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”
  3. Learning His laws, statutes, ways, precepts, decrees, commands, and word will teach us God’s character. What is God’s character?
    1. He is righteous; we have been given the righteousness of God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21).
    2. He is holy, and has called us to be like Him: Holy. “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

I want to be just like Him. How about you? We become like Him when we read His words and put them into practice. Earlier, I quoted Luke 6:46. Let’s look at the rest of the passage:

47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Let’s come to Him today. Let’s “hear” His words as we read them, as we hear them read from the pulpit, as we speak them to each other in Bible study, and then put them into practice. We will be filling God’s “love tank,” and we will be avoiding a whole lot of heartache, detours, and pitfalls.

Abba, bless us as we read Your Word. Make it come alive to us and in us today, O LORD. May we hear Your commands and then set about doing them. Call many to Yourself through us as we show the world that You are worth serving. We love You; may we SHOW You by our obedience. Amen.

Proverbs 25 7-25-20

Let’s make sure that any civil disobedience on our part is for the sake of Christ and not our rights.

26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
are the righteous who give way to the wicked.

We have one goal as Christians: Obedience to our LORD.

He tells us to obey the law of the land–but only to a point. We are called to never renounce our faith even in the face of ridicule, loss of property, violence, prison, and even death. Let’s consider Paul:

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2:8-10

What can we learn from Paul?

  1. Paul preached Jesus is Messiah, crucified and resurrected; this was his gospel. The Jewish leaders hated him because of his message, and the Romans hated him because he preached only one God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
  2. Paul suffered at great personal expense for sharing his gospel. He was beaten, whipped, stoned, and imprisoned.
  3. “But God’s word is not chained.” “Historians have come to a similar judgment: ‘Every public execution was a great and often successful advocating opportunity for the church.’ It was not primarily what the Christians said that carried weight with outsiders; it was what they did and embodied that was both disconcerting and converting.” The Patient Ferment of the Early Church by Alan Kreider, page 51.
  4. Paul endured everything for the sake of those who would entrust their lives to Jesus Christ even if it called for his death.

Here is the Promise upon which Paul based his faith:

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him.
If we disown him, he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13

  1. Jesus said that He is the Resurrection and the Life and that those who believe in Him will live, even though they die (John 11:25-26).
  2. If we endure-We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. Hebrews 6:11
  3. If we disown Him-“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33
  4. If we are faithless-this phrase is different than disowning Him. It happens when we are afraid and we act out of our fear. The LORD understands. He comes to us and comforts us and helps us overcome our fear. He is our Continuing Savior (not just once, but until we get to Him).

This is my own editorial: If I am commanded to wear a mask, then I will wear a mask. If I am commanded to limit the number of people I am around, then I will limit the number of people I am around. But, if I am commanded to quit meeting altogether, then I will respectfully (if clandestinely) commit civil disobedience, for Jesus Christ requires His Church to meet together for worship, discipleship, encouragement, exhortation, comfort, and to show solidarity. Come sickness or fines or even arrest, I WILL be faithful to my LORD. The meeting doesn’t have to be big, it just has to meet. Just sayin.

May we have confidence in our LORD that whatever happens, He will bring glory to His name and people to His side. All we have to do is look back throughout history to find many stories of great heroes of faith–and I’m not even talking about Hebrews 11. We serve a mighty God, so let’s let Him be mighty in our lives.

Abba, I first pray that You would protect us from rulings that would keep us from meeting as Your church. Then, I pray that if those rulings come, that they are for the express purpose of letting our lights shine so that people You have chosen to speak to through our circumstances will come to You. Last, I pray that we will be faithful to You and NEVER renounce our faith in You or disown You. Give us strength; give us courage; May Your Spirit rise within us and may we be champions of the faith! You gave all for us; I pledge my all to You. Amen.

Proverbs 23 7-23-20

Many Egyptians believed in the God of Moses. But, they didn’t take any proactive steps toward aligning themselves with Him or serving Him. They could have had their families circumcised; they could have gotten rid of their household idols; they could have put blood on their doors, but they didn’t. Therefore, they suffered the same fate as Pharaoh and the unbelieving Egyptians–or did they? Evidently, there WERE Egyptians who “saw the light” and became proselytes of Yahweh–right along with most of the Israelites.

19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
    and set your heart on the right path:

37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds. Exodus 12:37-38

Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country.The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord. Deuteronomy 23:7-8

It has been postulated that most of the Israelites had been sucked into the Egyptian culture. Israel DID have a penchant for worshiping whatever gods were handy. The problem is that we have the same problem! Our gods are not so obvious, but they are there just the same: Fame, fortune, power, security, health, family name, honor, pride, pleasure, and a host of other ones. The Egyptians had gods that they served, and the gods “gave” the Egyptians license to do whatever they wanted in the name of religion (someone assigned the religious duties and mandates, and we know that “someone” to be Satan), just as the Assyrians did, and the Babylonians did, and the Medes and Persians did, and the Greeks did, and the Romans did, and right on up to today.

Yahweh (the LORD God) has standards that befit His character. He asks us to have that same character. In Old Testament times, the power had to come from the person; in New Testament times, the power comes from WITHIN the person. It’s why Jesus came! God sent His Son to accomplish His will: to pay the price for our sin so that He could have us back. He gives us His Spirit as a deposit, “When you believed, you were marked in him [Christ] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:13

Let’s live our lives according to God’s Word, Christ’s Redemption, and the Spirit’s Leadership. The best way to know God is to seek Him in the pages of His Word. He will reveal Himself to us as we read, ponder, and put into practice.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will “set their hearts on the right path” by learning who You are. May the Scriptures come alive to them as You reveal Yourself to them. “Create in us a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within us.” Recreate Your character in us so that we will look Just Like Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 24 7-24-20

Christ says, “Want to be like Me? Then…” As His disciples, we walk with Him and learn to be just like Him.

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

Paul gives the Romans a pretty specific picture in Romans 12 of how to be like Christ in culture. He begins with our goal:

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

He then moves to stating how to show Christ and be Christ to others in their culture. It’s interesting that his strategy works well in our culture, too! Here’s how we can let the light of Christ shine through us:

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Compassion might be a better term for us. It’s seeing people through God’s eyes: Deceived, dying/dead, and in need of the Savior.

10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. The NIV says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” Easy to say, hard to do. It takes dying to ourselves each day–sometimes many times a day–to achieve this goal. We must allow Christ to love through us. Those around us are blessed and we get the benefit of having and feeling His love flow through us!

11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Laziness is selfishness. See Proverbs 18 7-18-20 

12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. These commands are imperative action verbs. We are to do them continuously.

13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Let’s look for opportunities to help with our hands, with resources, with a listening ear; let’s be available with our time, our talents, our finances, and our hearts.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Here’s where compassion comes in. See them through God’s eyes. We knew persecution was coming when we signed up-if not, then someone didn’t share with you the whole truth!

15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Let’s be sensitive to others. Why are they happy? Rejoice with them. Why do they weep? Feel their pain; encourage them; instruct and correct if necessary, but in time. Grief is a process. Don’t rush it.

16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Wow! I think the LORD knows us all too well! Humility is taking the lower seat at the banquet table. See Luke 14:8-11.

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. This command is Christianity 401. It’s the most difficult one and also the most public one. We can die fulfilling this command! It is the most graphic way to show Christ to an unbelieving world.

18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. We are to ingratiate ourselves with everyone we meet, especially those who live around us, but always in a truthful and Christ-honoring way. “Peace at all costs” is NOT biblical. HIS peace at HIS cost is.

19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Deuteronomy 32:35  Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Proverbs 25:21-22  Reiterated and amplified from verse 14.

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. We could easily have begun with this verse. It sums up the entire passage and our entire daily life. We conquer evil in this world by being obedient to the Holy Spirit and responding in love. We may lose possessions, money, jobs, and even our lives, but God uses our testimony to reach the hearts of unbelievers. Do you REALLY want to be like Christ? He gave His life so that we could be united with the Father. We must be willing to do the same.

Our Motto:
FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST

Abba, I take my own words and apply them to my life. May I be willing to live each moment crucified to myself and living for You. May I always be on the lookout for ways to promote You to the world around me. Give me opportunities to be You to others, both in Your family and in the world. Whatever it takes, LORD. For Your sake. Amen.

 

Proverbs 22 7-22-20

Fear is a great motivator–if used correctly. It’s why we fear the LORD above anything else.

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.
“Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear. Luke 12:4

Continuing:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept.
Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts.
Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas in which we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, and Fear, to name a few. Yesterday, we looked at Gluttony. The last one we will cover is Fear.

Fear- We serve Who or what we fear the most. If forced to make a decision, we will choose that which we fear every time. In the case of heroes, they fear someone else getting hurt over the fear for their own lives. It’s why firemen rush into burning buildings, policemen stand in the way of evil, and soldiers fight for liberty and justice for all.

In  the case of our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, His followers fear the price for our sin being paid for nothing, the cross of Christ borne in vain. In our lives, we fear not the LORD’s wrath, for we have been saved from it. What we learn to fear is this: Not living up to the name we have been given, the family name of God Himself. More than money, more than security, more than success or power or health or long life, we want to live for Him, stand for Him, and, if He asks us, die for Him. KNOW THIS: If it ever comes to that, He walks the veil with us. Beth Moore puts it like this: “Sometimes He delivers us by the fire straight into the arms of Jesus! Our faith is finished (perfected).” With this knowledge, we no longer fear what can happen to these bodies of ours, to our loved ones, even to our nation–or the entire world! We know that God’s got this and us, and we literally have nothing to truly fear. We will always have feelings, but we know better than to trust our feelings. We trust our faith, which is believing what Jesus has told us about Himself, His Plan, and what He has in store for us.

We could spend all day talking about His Plan and what he has in store for us, so suffice it to say that He will in our daily Bible readings reveal His plan to us and confirm it by His Spirit within us. Really, we only need to know one verse about fear, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.

  1. God gave us His Spirit.
  2. His Spirit brings peace, not fear.
  3. His Spirit gives us both the desire and the power to do what God asks us to do. We love God, therefore, we obey Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Our self-control is really His control in and over us. We willingly submit to His Spirit; it’s the only way to be truly free and to truly know our Savior.

Today, let’s put all our eggs in His basket. Let’s place all our money–our very lives on Him. Our goal must not be to live long and happy lives–that’s the world’s goal. Our goal is to be pleasing to the Father regardless of any hardships, any conflicts, and any suffering we do on this earth. IT’S NOT OUR HOME! Let’s act like it’s not, okay?

Abba, may we take very seriously the commitment we have made to You to love You, to serve You, and to follow You wherever You lead. In the words of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68). Lead us today, LORD Jesus, and we will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 21 7-21-20

The things in which we indulge are telltale signs of where we are spiritually. Our DEFAULT buttons are stuck in the ON position.

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

Continuing:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept.
Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts.
Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas in which we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, and Fear, to name a few. Yesterday, we looked at Hate. Today we cover  Gluttony.

Gluttony- Literally, excessive eating and drinking. Spiritually, overindulgence. Anytime we get too much of a good thing, have it at an inappropriate time, or assume that we are exempt from the rules leads to trouble. You might ask, “What rules?”

  1. Too many calories makes us fat.
  2. Too much sugar ruins our endocrine system (insulin production, pancreas activity, blood sugar and salt balance, etc).
  3. Too much caffeine ruins our adrenal gland and restricts blood vessels.
  4. Too much alcohol renders us incapable of controlling our actions. It puts us out of control.
  5. Eating before we go to bed slows down our digestive system and causes the body to store that food/energy as fat.

There is another facet of gluttony that we need to cover. Treats are just that: Treats. If we “treat” ourselves too often, then our treats become something other than treats. We fight gluttony with prudence. We must ask ourselves, “I know I can eat this treat, but is it prudent.” Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.” Proverbs 16:22.

  1. Prudence– Caution, wisdom, judgement, sagacity (making intelligent decisions).
  2. Those who make wise, sagacious choices will discover a fountain of life-giving benefits.
  3. Folly– lack of understanding or sense. Foolishness.
  4. Fools know better, but do it anyway. It’s that way it is when I eat an apple fritter. Occasionally, I can get away with it, but if I make a habit of it, I will pay the penalty of poundage. Our punishment is the consequences of our actions.

The spiritual correlation between gluttony and our spiritual lives is wrapped up in a synonym of gluttony, “Libertinism.” It means: disregard of authority or convention in sexual or religious matters. If we hear ourselves saying, “I deserve it,” watch out! These words usually come from the enemy. When it comes to our spiritual life, there is NO ROOM for “taking time off.” In fact, if we feel like we can take time off from being like Christ, then we have a whole other set of issues! Being like Jesus comes from being WITH Jesus. Being with Jesus brings all that He embodies: Love, joy, peace, hope, grace, truth, life, wisdom, insight, understanding, prudence, discernment, and a whole lot more!

If we are going to indulge, let’s do it with something that will benefit us, like the Word of God, prayer, fellowship with other Christians, and wholesome things, like spiritually uplifting movies and shows. We’ve been watching the Kendrick Brothers movies lately: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, and will watch soon their latest one, Overcomer. Also, on Youtube, are the “I Met Messiah” testimonies, and on Youtube is the series, Drive through History. There are lots of good alternatives out there for worldly television. May we “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).”

Abba, reorder my day to be what You want it to be. Renew my mind to think like Yours. May I be Christ to all around me. I pray this for my brothers and sisters in Christ, too. Help us to indulge in YOU, LORD. Amen.

 

 

Proverbs 20 7-20-20

Hate is at the core of our human nature and is the basis for how we treat people–and God! We need the Spirit!!!

9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?”
8 When a king [the LORD] sits on his throne to judge, he winnows out all evil with his eyes. [Proverbs 15:11]

Continuing:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept.
Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts.
Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas in which we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, and Fear, to name a few. So far, we looked at Anger, Spite, and Rage. Today we cover Hate.

Hate- Hate (hatred) is a strong emotion. It is the expression of what is at the core of our hearts. People think that the opposite of hate is love when in actuality apathy is. Hate and love are really very close together on the emotional scale. They both are expressions of passion, which is what we feel the most strongly. Love turns to hate when a person is wronged; hate turns to love when a person is loved. One we feel strongly for; the other we feel strongly against.

Jesus changed the Pharisees’ editorial of the Law in His Sermon On the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Here’s what He said,

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

What can we glean from Jesus’ command to love?

  1. To love is a decision of the will. Hate is our beginning emotion. We hate because someone hurt us, because they are different, because we didn’t get our way or someone is keeping us from getting our way. We need to learn to hate hate!
  2. Actions not only speak louder than words, they have the power to change our minds. God asks us to act out of His character rather than our own. He gives us both the desire and the power to do it [Philippians 2:13]. If we can change the way we act, it will change the way we think, which will change the way we feel. Here’s the promise, “Don’t copy [actions] the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing [feelings] and perfect.
  3. We become like God, who always acts out of His wholeness and goodness. We become mature, complete, whole, and adult when we act on God’s command to love. We are most pleasing to the Father when we love.

Did you know that hating can actually be a good thing? “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26. In our relationship with Jesus, everything else, everyONE else must take not only a backseat to Him in our lives, but we must die to them. We must love Jesus SO MUCH that how we feel about anything and anyone else seems like hate. Can we do this? Not without MAJOR HELP! The Holy Spirit of God is the Answer to our dilemma. Here’s what it looks like to have to choose between our friends and God, “Jesus turned to Peter and said, ‘Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.’” Matthew 16:23. We must ask for this same passion to do God’s will in our lives.

There’s one more thing about hate that we should know: Hate leads to malice, which leads to bitterness, which leads to death–of a relationship and of our health. Sin destroys us. Give it up. Let it go. Throw it down. As I said before, we must learn to hate hate. Turn to Jesus and ask for His love and compassion to flow through you. Die to self and how you feel [Galatians 2:20]; dead men don’t have feelings. Instead, seek first His kingdom [Matthew 6:33] and love will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over [Luke 6:38–a great verse!].

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will learn to recognize hate in their hearts and use it as a catapult to take them straight to Your throne. May they give it to You as quickly as they can, and may You replace their hate with compassion. May they act out of love for the person they are feeling so strongly against and may You turn their hate into love for that person. LOVE THROUGH THEM, JESUS! In this way, the world will know that we are Your disciples, as You told us in John 13:35. Love through us today, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 19 7-19-20

Get angry easily? Got a quick fuse? Have trouble controlling your physical reaction? Get in line!

19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue him, and you will have to do it again.

Many don’t realize that anger (wrath) is a godly emotion. The problem is that we humans cannot express it in a holy fashion.

Continuing:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept.
Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts.
Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas in which we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, Fear, to name a few. So far, we looked at Selfishness and Sloth. Today, we cover Anger, Spite, and Rage.

Anger- Anger, which is also known in the Bible as wrath, is what we feel when things don’t go the way we think they should. In many cases, they ought to go the way we think they should, but in a whole lot of other ones, we get angry because we don’t get our way, we are frustrated, caught off-guard, embarrassed, trapped, tired, impatient, or out of control. As we can see, there are many ungodly reasons for our anger. Getting angry is not a sin; allowing our anger to control us is. Anger moves us to action, but we must make sure that we are acting according to the LORD’s direction. Also, going to bed angry is harmful. In fact, Paul tells us, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27. God wants us to come to Him when we are angry. We should never try to get even or to seek revenge, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 and also Deuteronomy 32:35. In fact, Paul and James both tell us to be kind and tenderhearted to our enemies. I’m sure they learned it from Jesus, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45. The best weapon we have against anger is prayer. The moment we feel angry, we need to run to the Father. Tell Him about it and ask what we are to do. In the physical, we may need to separate ourselves from the situation for a moment or two until we have done this. To keep our eyes from betraying us, we probably should bow our heads while we pray. Also, we should try to not express our anger by getting physical: hitting the wall or someone, kicking the trash can, etc. Going for a walk/run is acceptable, as long as we pray while we do it. 

Spite- A type of revenge.

Rage- Out of control anger.

Here’s the deal: We’re all good at justifying our anger, wrath, spite and rage. We might even justify our “flying off the handle” with someone, even hitting him/her. The problem is that this type of behavior is OC (Old Covenant). It’s what lost people do. Jesus has put us to death to this way of living. We are resurrected to walk a new way and a new path. His Spirit is in us so that we can learn to NOT act this way. If you’re wondering what God likes concerning how we interact with people, let’s look at Ephesians 4:29-32,

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

  1. No unwholesome talk…only what is helpful for building other up according to their needs. Wow! That’s a pretty tall order. WE NEED HELP! WE NEED THE HOLY SPIRIT! It’s a good thing we have Him!!!
  2. Grieve- choke, strangle, cause anguish, quench (1 Thess. 5:19). He is our salvation. Listen to Him.
  3. Get rid of- Leave at the throne. Receive His love, joy and peace; give forgiveness, kindness, and gentleness; serve your adversary instead of fighting him/her.
  4. Remember that Christ forgave us, therefore, we have what it takes to forgive them. In fact, we can go beyond just forgiving our adversaries to serving them. It gives the Spirit the opportunity to convict them of their sin.

Take it from someone who has an explosive anger–me! It CAN be done over time and with much agonizing. But, it’s worth it. Just to feel the Father’s pleasure makes it worth it! Other things we gain: Closer family and friends, respect, self-respect, and brothers instead of enemies.

Abba, I pray for all of us that we would see the dangers of anger and apply ourselves to ridding our lives of its toxic effects. May we run to You and depend on You every time we get angry. I know that You will guide us in what to do about the situation. May we be Christ to those around us especially during times of strife and discord. May You be praised and glorified in all we think, say and do. Amen.

Proverbs 18 7-18-20

Living a Christian life is an uphill battle. Is it worth it? It depends upon how well you know the Savior!

3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.

Most of us don’t see what we do as wicked. We have categories of wickedness and we usually stay away from those particular categories. The problem is that wickedness is anything that is not God-led and God-empowered. Oops! That’s MOST of what we think, say and do! Yet, God loves us and has entered us to give us hope: We CAN become like Him more and more; we WILL be like Him in glory!

Continuing:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept.
Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts.
Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas in which we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, Fear, to name a few. So far, we looked at Entitlement and Lust, Pride, Vanity and Impatience. Today, we cover Selfishness and Sloth.

Selfishness- This is where we live. All of our thoughts are self-centered. We are the center of our universe. The day we received the Holy Spirit into our lives is the day of The Great Invasion. God broke through our selfishness, brought our spirits back to life and filled us with Himself! Yet, our flesh (our sinful nature) still wants to rule our lives. It’s habit. It feels natural. But now, we have His Spirit within us and He has begun the process of transformation: He is shaping us, molding us, carving us, and chiseling us into the image of Christ. All we have to do is be willing–willing to do what?
1. Ask Him what He wants us to think.
2. Ask Him what He wants us to say.
3. Ask Him what He wants us to do.
4. Ask Him all the time, every time.
The biggest two verses in the Bible are Mark 12:30-31, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” In order to obey these commands, we must set aside our own wants and desires and focus on His wants and desires. When we follow Him in what we think, say, and do, we love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and we do it with all our strength. We begin categorically and then move to the specific. We get up in the morning and give Him our heart, soul, and mind. Then we ask Him to guide us in all we think, say, and do. We remind ourselves of this pledge throughout the day and come back to it whenever we stray, all the while conversing with Jesus and enjoying His Presence, Pleasure, and Power as He enables us to be successful, even if our success is only in identifying selfish areas that need work. It’s a process. He knows it. We know it. Best verse: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20. Let’s live it!

Sloth- Sloth is laziness. It is rooted in selfishness. Shortcuts, unfinished projects, and clutter are all evidence of sloth. Anytime we are about to commit the sin of sloth, there is a split second where we realize what we are about to do. In that split second, two things are happening:
1. Jesus is calling to our attention that we are about to commit sin. He is showing us the better way and calling us to do it.
2. We must decide to heed His voice and do things right or to ignore what we know to be right and do things our way.
Taking the easy road means that we are coasting–when we coast, we are going downhill! “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep them from going down to the grave.” Proverbs 15:24. Life is going either up or down. Jesus gives this word picture: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14. We have heard these verses before, but have we ever applied them to daily living? Let’s follow Jesus on the narrow road. Let’s stay close to His side and do what He says to do the way He says to do it in the time frame that He gives us. I know it’s hard, but it’s the best thing for us, the best way to do it, and the most pleasing to the Father, which is our highest goal, right?

Blessings on you today as you walk with Jesus learning how not to be lazy and selfish, but to become more like Christ, being pleasing to the Father.

Abba, thank You for working in our lives. We can’t be godly without You. I wish that You would instantly make us perfect, but I know that isn’t Your plan. For some reason, You find it enough to be in us and fellowship with us. Now that sin has been taken care of, it is no longer an issue except in the fellowship department. May we strive to keep our lines of communication with you clear as You continue with the process of sanctification–making us more like Jesus! Amen.

 

 

Proverbs 17 7-17-20

Watched “War Room” again, and I was again inspired to be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. I choose hot! May I not be a stumbling block to others because of my spiritual condition (lukewarm is a big turn-off to lost people; it’s called hypocrisy).

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

From yesterday:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept. Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts. Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas that we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, Fear. We looked at Entitlement and Lust yesterday; today, we look at Pride, Vanity and Impatience.

Pride– There is good pride and bad pride. Good pride is rejoicing in another person’s victories, achievements, or place in life (like, a child or grandchild); it always has to do with love for that person and wanting the best for that person. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10. Bad pride is at the expense of someone else. We measure our goodness or abilities by comparing ourselves to others and seeing ourselves as better. God loves all His children and prospective children, and He takes exception to those who look down on them. Both James (the younger half-brother of Jesus and pastor of First Church, Jerusalem) and Peter quoted this proverb: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5. The reference is to a boxer squaring off against an opponent. DON’T TRY TO GO A ROUND WITH THE LORD! We must remember, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than [or before] yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.

Vanity“Vanity, vanity! All is vanity!” Ecclesiastes 1:2. When Solomon said it, he really meant “difficult to understand.” When we say vanity, we mean conceitedness. There is a good bit of pride mixed in with vanity. We must not think too highly of  ourselves. In fact, Paul warns the Corinthians, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12. We must measure ourselves by the grace given us by remembering that grace is given and needed because we don’t deserve it. We bring nothing to God’s table of grace except our humble hearts. Paul redirects our attention from our outward appearance to our hearts, Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds [of obedience], appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 

Impatience– The lack of patience. When we become impatient, we lose God’s perspective on the matter: We get sharp with our words, we take matters into our own hands, and we force situations beyond the Spirit’s leadership. In other words, we SIN! Patience is a discipline, so impatience is a lack of discipline. What happens when we have no discipline? A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3. Learning that discipline is good and worth striving for is the first step in leading a disciplined life. Sounds kinda simple, but it’s true. We must decide that it’s worth having before we will work for it. Here is a banner verse for the impatient person, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2. Want to be like Christ? Be patient.

Let’s not be lukewarm about these human tendencies. Let’s be humble with each other, modest in our dress, talk, and actions, and live disciplined lives, not going off half-cocked, but waiting for the LORD’s instruction. Let’s stay close to our SOURCE: JESUS!

Abba, these tendencies are difficult to overcome. In fact, they are impossible without Your Spirit giving us first the desire to overcome them and then the power to do it. Make it so, LORD Jesus, make it so. Amen.

Concerning End Times

Concerning “End Times,” I have to ask myself this question, “What difference does it make in my daily obedience if I know the particulars of Christ’s return or not?”

I have come to a conclusion that we will not know the details of Christ’s Return until we see Him actually return. I believe that He has left the matter intentionally vague. When we postulate about HOW He will come, we tend to become divisive and argumentative when we are warned that those kinds of arguments are not beneficial:

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 1 Timothy 1:3-5

I’m sure that Paul was referring to something particular, but it can certainly be applied to the “End Times” argument. Whether a person believes that:

  1. Times will grow darker and darker until Christ removes His church from the earth (the Pre-Millennial viewpoint),
  2. Times will grow darker even as the light grows brighter until Christ’s once and final return (the Amillennial viewpoint),
  3. Times will grow brighter as the Gospel spreads over all the earth and eventually overcomes evil, at which point Christ returns (the Post-Millennial viewpoint),

we ALL believe that Christ will come, that the Gospel is going forth, and that we have a job to do. To go beyond these truths ventures into subjecture.

If I were a bolt in the side of a ship, I would not care what kind of ship it was, nor where it was going–I just know that I’m on the Right Ship. My job is to hold the ship together at my little point, along with all the other bolts around me. Regardless of the weather, I am going to hold to the best of my ability, and I have it on good authority from the Builder that we will make it to harbor.

This illustration is how I see the End Times. God has kept the future vague on purpose, therefore let us not worry about the details, but remain focused on the task at hand, which is to be obedient to the Spirit in making disciples.

There is one other warning I would like to give, and that is concerning expectations. To settle on one of the above-mentioned viewpoints gives expectations that God doesn’t have to meet. These expectations can get in the way of us seeing what God is doing. They can also cause us to second-guess what God wants us to do or to interpret His commands wrong. Peter wove his way through the expectation-minefield in Acts 10 in the salvation of Cornelius:

  1. Peter had never eaten anything considered unclean (v.14), but God told him not to call anything (anyone) unclean that HE considers clean (non-Jews; v.15).
  2. He entered the house of Cornelius, who was a non-Jew (an Italian Roman), which was forbidden by Jewish law (v.25-28).
  3. The Holy Spirit fell on that household even as it did at Pentecost (v.44-46).
  4. Peter, who had no expectations at this point, took the next step and had them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (v.47-48).

Our attitude should be the same as Peter’s when it comes to ministry. Let’s just do the next thing that we are asked by the Spirit to do. We can let God take care of how He will save His own and judge evildoers, thus we avoid polarizing controversies among Christ’s family members. We can take Paul’s own opinion on such matters:

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [reaching for the prize He has for each of us]. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you [on an as-needed basis]. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:15-16

And, what is it that we have already attained? A pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Let’s get on with the business at hand of making disciples!

By the way, there is a fourth viewpoint and that is the “Pro-millennial” view, which is:

Whatever Jesus wants to do I’m for it!

In the words of an old professor, “If Jesus chooses to do things differently than I believe, I still want to go, don’t you?” [not an exact quote, but close]

 

Proverbs 16 7-16-20

Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept. Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts. Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
3 Commit to the LORD whatever [all] you do, and He will establish your plans [according to His will].
32 Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.

We have a progression in these verses:

  1. Verse 2- motives = thoughts. They are our rationale for what we do.
  2. Verse 3- We must use our will to tame our feelings; our hearts will amplify whatever is going on in our minds. If we establish protocols, guard rails, and accountability, we are committing to the LORD’s will for our lives.
  3. Verse 32- When we align our thoughts with God’s Word and tame our feelings according to the parameters set by Scripture, we will find that we have self-control. Patience is outlasting the feeling when we are tempted.

There are quite a few areas that we humans are susceptible to sin. Let’s look at a few–don’t worry; we won’t look at ALL of them today: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, Fear.

  1. Entitlement- “God owes me.” “I can act with impunity.” The problem here is who is at the center of attention. If we will turn our attention outward, we will find that God loves us all equally, that justice is based upon His standards and not ours. We fight entitlement with selflessness. Philippians 2:3-5, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus [humility]…”
  2. Lust- Out-of-control passion for blood, for sex, for vengeance, for anything that dominates our hearts and actions. In being chaste, we must keep our thoughts pure. When Jesus spoke about adultery, it also applies to the other passions, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30. In other words, it would be better to do without whatever is ruling over us than to fight the temptation to go too far and sin. Whether it is video games that give a rush of adrenaline, pornography and all it leads to, vengeance and the certain satisfaction of getting even (or ahead), they all are works of wickedness and the Christian should fight them tooth and nail. We should do whatever it takes to remove them from our lives. We need to keep removing temptations until they no longer have a hold on us. We fight lust with pure thoughts, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8.

There is one more verse that we would do well to memorize:

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It [He] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, Titus 2:11-12

The only way I know about the Grace of God is because God had Paul write about it; then, He kept it safe by having people copy Paul’s letter to Titus and distribute it to other Christians who kept it safe through these many years. God wants us to live chaste lives before Him and with Him.

Do you want to please God? Is obeying the Savior your heart’s desire? Then, live chastely before Him today. He will show you how, empower you to do it, and bless you with the knowledge that He is pleased. We’ll give Him all the glory!

Abba, I pledge to live chastely before You today. May I turn to You for every decision and follow Your lead in every thought, word and deed. I am Yours, LORD; I am bought and paid for by Your precious blood! May I live up to Your name as You live in, with, and through me. Amen.