Proverbs 19 10-19-21

It all seems to come back to us needing/having the mind of Christ. Godly wisdom is seeing from His point of view.

2 Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way.

Axiom: No one should seek his/her own good,
but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:24

Put another way, each of us should seek others’ good over our own. It’s not a matter of neglecting ourselves, but of making sure that our good does not overrun someone else’s. It’s putting others first.

Jesus put it this way, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” Matthew 7:12. When we put others before ourselves and think about their good rather than our own, we come close to thinking like Jesus. He left heaven for us. Why? Because we needed Him. Still do. More than ever.

In Jesus’ last instructions to His disciples before He went to the cross, He gave this charge:

34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

When we put others first, we are showing the love of Jesus. It’s His signature move, so to speak. When we do, people will know that we belong to Christ, for they see Him in us. The greater the contrast, the greater the display of love. We need to be ready to display His love in extravagant ways–but, this will mean higher stakes. It may even mean that we face dire circumstances. Are we willing to show His love in the face of grave danger? We will be if we know that love intimately, up-close and personal. Daily. Hourly. Continuously. It’s what He’s always wanted! Can you imagine the God of the universe wanting a close and intimate relationship with you? It’s true! Getting us back was always the plan.

He wants to help us with every decision. His view is much bigger than ours and He can see what’s coming. It fulfills two objectives:

  1. Keeping us safe from the evil one, and
  2. Spending quality time with us. It’s a good thing that He lives in us!

Today, let’s be like Jesus and put others ahead of ourselves. Ask Him what to do; He knows just the right way to do it.

Abba, I want to be just like You. By being like Jesus, I can! May I continue to learn how to put others before myself. I’m going to need the mind of Christ to do it–thank YOU that I have it through the Spirit! Amen.

Proverbs 18 10-18-21

“God of Grace and God of Glory” — we need both! How do they work?

10 The name [His character] of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it [anytime] and are safe.

Axiom: God gives us grace when we give in to sin.

Axiom: God receives glory when we resist temptation in submission to Him.

Let’s backtrack a bit. We know that Christ died for our sins so that they cannot be held against us anymore. That’s what the cross was all about: Dismissing our sins. So, He offers us grace when we sin so that it no longer breaks our relationship with Him. It DOES hinder our fellowship, but not the relationship.

Paul says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase [in our lives]? By no means!” The whole idea of having Christ in us is to live like Him, which is us being godly. Jesus glorified God when He went to the cross (John 12:27-28 tells us that). We, too, glorify God when we are obedient. When temptation rears its ugly head, we are to “submit ourselves to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God receives glory when we submit to Him in obedience. It is then that we have His power available to us via the Holy Spirit to resist the devil.

For most of us, we usually fight a feeling. We have a desire for something we are not supposed to have or do. The temptation is to give in to our feelings and desires. What we NEED to do is turn to the Father and say, “Abba, I direct my attention to You. Fill me with a sense of Your presence.” I practice this “discipline” routinely, and I promise it works! He fills us with a sense of His presence, from which flow love, joy, peace, hope, thanksgiving, and life. We, then, no longer have the desire to please ourselves, but to please Him. I’m not gonna say it’s easy to resist the devil, but it’s no longer an intense struggle when I practice this discipline.

The glory that God receives is not something that we can produce on demand. It comes as a by-product of our obedience. We can say, “I give God the glory,” but it’s really our obedience and our attitude, even our intention, that produces glory for Him. The same goes for the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit we grow is deeper than our conscious minds can fathom. When we are patient, it is our desire to be patient that bears fruit. In fact, it is our desire to be like Christ that bears much fruit. The same goes for gentleness, forgiveness (faithfulness), kindness, goodness, and self-control. Christ uses this fruit to be appetizing to lost folks. It’s not a lure, but a prize. They really can have that same fruit in their lives if they will give their lives to Jesus and obey Him.

So, we get grace when we give in to sin, but we produce glory for God when we submit to God and are obedient. Sounds pretty straight-forward, doesn’t it?

Abba, I want to be like You. I strive to be obedient to Your Spirit. May You impress upon me first Your love, then Your will. Inspired and empowered by Your love, I will do Your will. May You receive all the glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-21

Jesus is greater than everyone and everything. I know it’s obvious, but it’s worth saying. Did you know…

24 A discerning person keeps wisdom [Jesus] in view…

For Christians, Jesus is our Beginning and our End–and everything in the middle! He is our sole Authority on who God is, namely because He Is God. When we want to know something about God, all we have to do is look at Jesus.

With that said, there are a few times in the Gospels when Jesus corrects what was written down in the Old Testament. One of those times was concerning the Sabbath. The Pharisees were questioning Jesus why the disciples were picking heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath. Jesus used it as a teaching moment:

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions— how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath, and yet are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means: ‘I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:3-8

We actually get two quotes here:

  1. Jesus is greater than the temple. WHAT? That was HUGE! No one but God is greater than the temple, which is the whole point. Jesus even tore it down and rebuilt it (spiritually) in three days (John 2:19-22).
  2. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. This was another BIG one. Jesus was saying that He is over Scripture and has the right to interpret it. In this case, He was saying that the law concerning the Sabbath was never intended to be used as a hammer, but as a guide to rest, celebration, and communion with the Father.

Later in that chapter, Jesus also includes Jonah (and, therefore, prophecy) and Solomon (and, therefore, all the kings of Israel):

41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

In Matthew 17, we have the account of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus as He is glorified. Peter would have them all on the same level of importance, but a white cloud (the Holy Spirit) covered the mountain top and God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” When they looked only Jesus was standing there. The implication is that Jesus is above the Law, as represented by Moses, and the prophets (as represented by Elijah).

In Peter’s second sermon, he says that God has glorified Jesus and identified Him as the Prophet that Moses said would come and bless everyone (Acts 3:11-26). In Acts 7, Stephen identified Jesus as the Righteous One (Messiah) and saw Him standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:52-56).

John the Baptizer had this to say about Jesus:

31 “He who comes from above is above all; the one who is only from the earth is of the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of this He testifies; and no one accepts His testimony. 33 The one who has accepted His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God sent speaks the words of God; for He does not give the Spirit sparingly. 35 The Father loves the Son and has entrusted all things to His hand. John 3:31-35

  1. Jesus came from above and is above all;
  2. Jesus testifies what He has seen and heard from the Father;
  3. Jesus speaks the words of God and has the Spirit in plenty (NIV says God gives [Him] the Spirit without limit);
  4. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted all things to His hand.

We can trust Jesus. He is our Authority on everything. Let’s praise Him this morning for loving us!

Abba, I praise You for Your unending love. Thank You for sharing the Father with us. Thank You for providing a way for us to know the Father intimately and for all time. We lift up Your name today. Praise You, Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 16 10-16-21

In case you ever questioned whether Jesus is God, here’s what the first-century Christians thought:

20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.

As I was reading in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul began to talk about food sacrificed to idols. Let’s look at 4-6,

Therefore, concerning the eating of food sacrificed to idols, we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods [idols] and many lords, yet for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Paul was dipping back into Jewish Scripture with his two statements:

  1. “an idol is nothing at all in the world” comes from Psalm 135:15-18, 15 The idols of the nations are nothing but silver and gold, The work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; 17 They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will become like them, Yes, everyone who trusts in them.
  2. “There is not God but one” comes from Isaiah 44:6, “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

He then follows a logical thought process concerning what he knew about Jesus Christ. As he does so, he gives us a foundational precept on the Person of Jesus Christ in verse 6. There are other passages, so I will list them here together (you might like to highlight and string them together in your Bible–it’s called, “stringing pearls”):

yet for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 1 Corinthians 8:6

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: 16 for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, to the extent that He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:2-4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him. John 1:10

13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13 (see Revelation 1:8 for the tie-in concerning Jesus’ deity)

Want to know who you are serving? He’s the King of the Universe! He is Lord, our Lord. We serve Him. Why? Because He loves us, He’s forgiven us, and He wants to spend time with us–in fact, He wants to spend eternity with us!!! WOW! What a mighty God we serve!

Abba, I praise You and exalt Your name! You Are GOD! Thank You for being my Savior and my Lord. It boggles my mind to think that You would want to be with me. May I bask in Your Presence even as You participate in my life. “I worship You, Almighty God! There is none like You!!!” Amen.

Proverbs 15 10-15-21

We must choose our words wisely because life is a journey along which we learn new things. Our views change as we go.

5 A fool spurns a parent’s [teacher’s, mentor’s] discipline [wisdom, guidance, knowledge], but whoever heeds correction [new truth, expanded wisdom] shows prudence.

I am currently reading through 1 Corinthians (you’ve probably noticed). Yesterday, I read 8:2-3, which says,

Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

Verse 2 reminds me that I don’t know everything, and I won’t know everything in this lifetime (probably not in heaven, either). The all-knowing God that lives in our hearts wants to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), so as we walk with Him, we must remember that others are on a journey with Him, too, and that we all are in different places in that walk. Some of what we have been taught must be passed down to the next generation; some of what we have been taught needs to be discarded and replaced with new truth that the Spirit gives. How do we know the difference?

  1. We study the words of Christ and those whom He chose to lead the movement. These people would be, according to 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Peter, John, James, and Paul. We also trust Jude’s letter (he was Jesus’ half brother and James’ full brother), and Luke’s Gospel because it is based upon the disciples’ (many) testimonies. If you’re wondering about Mark, he was dictating Peter’s memoirs.
  2. We get confirmation from the Spirit in our hearts. We are at peace and we are in a state of humility. Any time we get arrogant about what we know, we are in the flesh. Trust me–it’s easy to do!
  3. We get confirmation from other Christians; many times it is outside of our regular sources.
  4. Time. If what we have learned is true, then it will stand the test of time.
  5. We’ll never know everything. Get used to it.

Verse 3 is a great verse to grasp onto and hold on! It’s the key to our lives in Christ. Isn’t it wonderful?!

There is another translation of these verses (a case in point that we are in process):

Those that think they have knowledge do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves truly knows.

What can we draw from this other translation?

  1. We have incomplete knowledge. We each hold one piece of a BIG puzzle. It fits in with others. It takes all of us.
  2. The key to knowledge is LOVE. To really learn what Christ intended on any given point is to view it from the viewpoint of LOVE.

At this point, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 comes into play,

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

So, as we all process new information from the Spirit, let’s show grace to to each other. It’s important. There are only two points that are fellowship-breakers:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).
  2. Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 9:22). Of course, this one includes His life, death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Our best attitude is that of Paul’s as he finishes his discourse on knowing Jesus, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, and pressing on for the prize awaiting us,

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:15-16

Peace…Peace…Peace…

Abba, You are our Head and we are Your Body. May we always remember that You are the brains and we are Your muscle. May we always take our directions from You, and remain teachable and loveable. Amen.

Proverbs 14 10-14-21

Being Christ to each other is not as difficult as it may seem. He works through us in very practical ways.

21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

As we continue our study of love, we find that God’s love for us is unfathomable, yet we know Him. He wants us to share His love with others by being like Him. Today, we look at one verse in a list of ways for us to be like God to each other. It is found in Romans 12:9-21; we will be looking at verse 10:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

What does it mean to be devoted to one another? “Devoted” means to be zealous in loyalty and affection. It means that we are all about the other person. Paul was specifically talking to the church in Rome, but we know that to be this way with people who don’t know Christ makes us highly attractive to them, which makes Christ highly attractive to them. The more we practice devotion, the more Christ-like we become.

Honoring one another above ourselves means that we give preference to one another. Preference is when we give a practical advantage to others over ourselves. I look at it as if the other person is a little higher-ranking than myself, therefore I treat that person with the respect I would a VIP. Imagine that: Everyone is a Very Important Person to me! Is not that how God sees us?

Today, let’s rest in the knowledge that God loves us and treats us as VIP’s; then, we are free to treat each other as VIP’s.

Abba, thank You for Your love and for Your attention. Knowing that I am important to You gives me everything I need to treat others as VIP’s, too. Even as I am devoted to You, help me be devoted to others. May I show honor above myself to everyone today. Amen.

Proverbs 13 10-13-21

Abiding in Christ may not be as difficult as it may seem…

1 A wise child heeds his father’s instruction…19 a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul…25 the righteous eat to their heart’s content…

What we read in the Bible is designed to make us pray–to go to God for clarity. Mere words cannot convey the truths that God wants us to learn and know. His Spirit wants to use what we have read to start a dialogue with us. He will guide us into all truth:

  1. He is our guide, Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel,  and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:23-24
  2. He will guide us, But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13
  3. Jesus is the Truth, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Otherwise, we become entrenched in our own interpretations, which, if not Spirit-led, leads to pride, arrogance, intolerance, and spiritual abuse.

1 Corinthians 8:1 gives us some clarity into what happens when we read without the Spirit’s guidance:

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

  1. The Example– Eating food sacrificed to idols; Paul understood that this food was fine, considering that the gods don’t really exist, but many were afraid because of their upbringing, and some used it as a manipulation tool.
  2. The Assertion– “We all possess knowledge.” This saying was what some were claiming; they either got their knowledge from their own minds (pride and delusion) or from a spirit (demon worship). Some even claimed to have secret knowledge from God–as if Paul wouldn’t know.
  3. The Truth– Knowledge puffs up while love builds up. This lesson teaches that knowledge without the guidance of the Holy Spirit brings a puffed-up attitude, which is pride. Pride leads to all the things mentioned earlier, including consequences on down the road.

As an example, let’s take John 15:9-12:

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

There are two commands:

  1. Remain in My love;
  2. Love each other as I love you.

There are two results:

  1. Closeness with Christ;
  2. Complete joy!

Folks, I can’t think of anything better, can you?

Abba, as I think about Your love, I relax. You have no expectations of me. You simply enjoy our togetherness. Where we move from here will be the outcome of our being together. Thank You for that. So THIS is what it means to abide in Your love… Amen.

Proverbs 12 10-12-21

Oh, what wondrous things the Father has in store for us–and right now, too!

2 Good [righteous] people obtain favor from the LORD. 28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

One of the greatest descriptions of God’s love for us is given to us by the Apostle John. He was especially qualified because of his close relationship with Jesus. John references himself four times in his Gospel (13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 21:20) as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was likely the youngest disciple. Here’s what John said,

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3

Let’s break down the passage:

  1. “Great” and “lavished” are two descriptors that give the idea of abundance, even over-the-top. The love God has for us that He pours out on us (Romans 5:5) is great and lavish. And, how is that love displayed? In us being called His children!
  2. What does it take to be a child of God? We must know Him personally. It’s all about the relationship. The world may know about Him, but until they come to know Jesus Christ personally and have Him in their hearts, they will never know Him.
  3. Even though we are children of God, we are not finished products, yet. When Christ appears, meaning His Return, we shall be like Him both in body (1 Corinthians 15:49) and in maturity. The phrase, “see him as he is” means seeing Him as the person He is–and we will be just like Him!
  4. We have already begun the process of becoming like Him. It’s what the Spirit is doing in us (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our goal is to be just like Jesus: Whole, Complete, Secure, Mature, and Holy. Pure.

I cannot stress enough the importance of staying in touch with the Spirit. It needs to be the first thing we do in the morning, all through the day, and the last thing we do as we go to bed. Everything revolves around our relationship with Jesus (the Spirit and Jesus are one, and Jesus and the Father are one).

Our obedience only counts when we do it in partnership with the Spirit.

Let’s stay close to His side today and receive that great love of God as He lavishes it on us!

Abba, I sure want that kind of love. Thank You for the way You bless me. May I never take Your love for granted. May I never keep it, but share it with everyone around me. I love You, too. Amen.

Proverbs 11 10-11-21

The love of God for us is immense. Look at the lengths He went to get us back: Jesus and the cross!

8 The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead [because of their bad choices]. 19 Truly the righteous attain life [in Jesus], but whoever pursues evil finds death [because of their bad choices].

As we continue our study on the love of God, let’s look at one of my favorite passages–well, one of them, anyway. It is Galatians 2:20-21,

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

There are several truths to draw from this passage:

  1. Being crucified with Christ is both metaphoric and spiritual. It might be better to understand by saying that we died in Christ as Christ died for us. He is our Representative, our second Adam (Romans 5:15). Because of Jesus, we no longer need to be afraid of death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
  2. Christ lives in us. We are His temple, mobile temples, at that.
  3. Now that we know Christ, we build our whole lives around Him. The Holy Spirit never sleeps, and we have Him living in us. We are to be honing in on His voice and promptings so that we will be successful when it comes to godly living. His desires are our desires. The faith mentioned is our belief that Jesus holds the best plan for our lives, both here and in eternity.
  4. He loves us! It’s in past tense because it is talking about before the cross. We know He loves us because of what He did for us. God died on the cross through Jesus to show His love for us.
  5. Grace is what we are given in our time of need. Mercy, too, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  6. The Law was designed to show us our need for a Savior. If it could save, then Jesus never needed to come to earth and make a way back to the Father (Romans 3:20).
  7. God the Father gave up His Son for us; the Son gave up His life for us. It was NOT for nothing!

And it’s all because of love! Love died for us so that we could experience God’s love up front and personal. We end today with this verse from Romans 5:5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” With this kind of love in our hearts, let’s share that love to all around us!

Abba, You are wonderful! Thank You for putting not only the feeling of love, but also Your compassion (Agape’ love). May we trust You enough to share that love with those around us. We will leave the conviction of their souls up to You. Amen.

Proverbs 10 10-10-21

We are to be light bearers. The best way for us to do that is to demonstrate God’s love for everyone to everyone.

1 A wise child brings joy to his father…11 the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…

This past week, we did a study of 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. In it, we discovered that Christ’s love compels us to be ministers of reconciliation. In order to fulfill our role, we will be looking at this amazing love that the Father has for us that is displayed in Jesus Christ. We begin, not with John 3:16, but with John 15:9,

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love.

We find that the heavenly Father, the King of the universe, loves His Son. We also see that the Son loves us. Does that necessarily mean that the Father loves us as the Son does? No, unless we look back in the evening’s conversation and discover this, “It is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work [loving you]” (14:10). If we read verses 9-11, we find that Jesus was telling Philip and the guys that He and the Father are one,

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves.

Just in case we missed the point, let’s look at John 10:28-30,

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

When we say, “Jesus,” we are saying, “Father.” To say, “Father,” is to say, “Holy Spirit.” They are three in one. We tend to forget that point, especially concerning the cross–but, we will save that discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that Jesus is the Father extending His love to us. NOW, we can read John 3:16,

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He [loved us so much that He] gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish [be utterly destroyed by the consequences of their actions,] but have eternal life.

Want to know the real mission of Jesus here on earth? It’s in the next verse: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Jesus’ mission was to save the world. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Ever. Not before, not during, and not after. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), and we know that God is love (1 John 4:8).

If we want to know the love of the Father, we need to get to know Jesus. The Scriptures are a great place to start, but He Himself is the best place to learn about His love. Go to Him and ask Him. He will reveal the Father to us. He will give us His love.

Abba, thank You for loving me and for giving me Your love. I feel it in my heart, and I act on it every day. The assurance of Your love gives me the strength to stay on task. May I be a light/love bearer for You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 9 10-9-21

On this day, a certain number of years ago, Robin and I were on our way to the hospital…

9 Instruct a wise person and she will be wiser still; teach a righteous woman and she will add to her learning.

Today is Hillary’s birthday! We are so proud of her.

This week, Robin and I got to attend a Double Honor Minister’s Retreat in Red River, New Mexico. We met with three other couples and the host couple:

  • Two pastors and their wives,
  • a Director of Missions who started out as a music minister, then pastor, then missionary, and now a DOM, and his wife,
  • and the host couple, Andy and Becky Dietz, with whom I was on staff at FBC, Borger, TX, many moons ago.

We had a great time together strengthening each other in the Lord and learning about each other’s ministry, encouraging each other and praying for each other. One of the most fun things we did was talk about our families. Since Andy and Becky knew my girls, it was fun telling them about how they follow the Lord and sing/play with me at church on the Praise Team and in choir. We told them how proud we were of Hillary:

  • Her flute-playing ability and the two orchestras of which she is a part,
  • Her participation in the Singing Churchwomen of Oklahoma,
  • Her position in administration at EPIC schools,
  • The fact that she is nearly done with her doctorate in (some kind of degree concerning) Education,
  • and her two cats, plus one outside cat of which she takes care (she was left by a neighbor who moved).

Andy and Becky rejoiced with us in the girls’ close walk with the Lord. We were reminded of the verse,

Train up a child in the way that she should go, and when she is old she will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Hillary, you make your mom and dad very proud of you and very humbled at the same time. May God continue to bless you as you seek Him.

Abba, thank You for such wonderful children. Hillary and Hayley have been a great blessing to us–as well as good friends. May You bless both of them, and particularly Hillary today on her birthday. Amen.

Proverbs 8 10-8-21

The message of reconciliation is based upon God’s love for us. He wants us to show the world His love.

35 For those who find me find life and receive favor [blessing, love] from the LORD.

Yesterday, we ended our passage in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, but there is one more thing I would like to share concerning verse 21,

God made him who had no sin [became the Representative of] sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus didn’t have to die; He chose to die. God did not kill Him; the world establishment did (don’t believe me? Read Mark 15:1-15 and especially Acts 2:23). Jesus chose to take our sins to the grave. He showed how much God loved the world (John 3:16) by willingly laying down His life for all of us, even those who killed Him (John 10:17-18, 12:31-32).

When we look at His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, we find that He was asking God for another way (Matthew 26:39, 42), yet, we know that He knew that He had come to earth for the very purpose of showing God’s love to everyone and expressing that love in His sacrifice on the cross,

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28

That voice was heard by everyone around, but it was misinterpreted by the crowd. Jesus’ next statement clears up the matter,

29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.

What they heard was God confirming His love for His Son, and His participation in the coming events. God the Father was going to receive glory through the Son. How? By Jesus allowing Himself to be killed by the world establishment in order to take on Himself the consequences of sin for all mankind. What God was showing was His love for His Son, and His eternal love for His creation, a love so strong and so deep that He was willing to die for them. A good way to put it is, “Lose my children? Never! I would rather die first.” He even put off the consequences of all sin that happened before the cross so that they could participate in that forgiveness (Romans 3:25).

What does this love mean to us? It means that we can trust God. He will always give “good and perfect gifts from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). It means that the bad things that happen to us are caused by sin in this world and by our own choices. God doesn’t cause those bad things, but He promises to walk with us through them (Hebrews 13:5) and to bring good from them (Romans 8:28). It means that the church and the Gospel are triumphant and will continue to be triumphant until Christ comes to rule His kingdom that is growing within us and in the world.

We are now righteous. Let’s be His ambassadors to this world and increase His kingdom.

Abba, thank You for calling us to be part of Your kingdom. Thank You for growing Your kingdom within us. May we share the good news of reconciliation to those around us, so that they, too, can have You and Your kingdom within them. “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.” Amen.

Proverbs 7 10-7-21

We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us: Be reconciled to God!

13 She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen [uncovered, painted] face she said, “Today I fulfilled my vows [probably at a pagan temple], and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!”

With the same enthusiasm that this woman looked for and appealed to this man, Jesus wants us to continue His mission, although we will do it with unveiled faces and with ourselves being the temple of God! As we finish our study on 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, verses 18-21 are about the ministry that God has given us,

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 

  1. We are reconciled to God through Christ. God loves us so much that He came as Jesus to reconcile us back to Himself. We now can have sweet, intimate fellowship with Him. One of the best verses in the Bible is Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and he/she with me.” Dinner was a near-sacred time for Jewish folks. To eat with them was to temporarily become “one of the family.” Jesus wants us to become part of His family–He wants to adopt us!
  2. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. In the same way that we were reconciled to God (we accepted His love and His kingdom into our hearts and lives), we are now to tell others what happened to us and how they can have it happen to them. That’s what sharing the Gospel is: Sharing good news with others.
  3. What is this good news? “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins again them.” This is big, folks! It means that even the people who put Jesus on the cross were included in this reconciliation (not just the Roman soldiers, but the people in charge who ordered the execution). The kingdom–Jesus–is now available to anyone who receives it (Him).
  4. This message of reconciliation is what we are to take to the world. We are ambassadors for Christ. We are to implore people to receive the reconciliation that the Father offers through Jesus.

Verse 21 has a lot packed into it. Here it is:

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The first thing we need to know is that Jesus is our Representative. Just as Adam was our first representative, which is why we are all born with a sin nature, Jesus has become our second Representative, which is why we all can be reconciled to God through Him (C.S. Lewis refers to it as “the deeper magic).

The second thing we need to know is that all sin was laid on Him, and then He took it to the grave. Sin died with Jesus Christ. The good news is that Jesus rose up out of that grave, leaving death behind.

The third thing is that now we can become the righteousness of God. How? By having Christ in us. HE is our righteousness, and because He is in us, we become that righteousness, too.

Summary of the entire passage:

  1. We fear the Lord, but not as the world fears their leaders. We fear out of awe and respect.
  2. God is concerned about what is in the heart, so we must be, too.
  3. Christ died for all so that all who live should not live for themselves, but for Christ.
  4. We view everyone who doesn’t know Christ as prospective brothers and sisters.
  5. All who are in Christ are new creations; they are brand new!
  6. This great message has been given to us to share to others. We are His ambassadors.
  7. The message is: We have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. You can be, too!”
  8. God makes His appeal through us as extensions of Him on planet earth.
  9. God took our sin to the grave and left it there so that we could receive and become His righteousness.

May we recognize our new relationship with God the Father, our new position as Christ’s ambassadors, and our new Companion, the Holy Spirit.

Abba, may we recognize who we are in Christ (Your ambassadors) and get excited about sharing what You have done in our lives. We are new creations! We got that way by being reconciled to You. You live in our hearts. THAT’S GOOD NEWS! Thank You for being my Representative and for taking my sin to the grave. Now, I walk in Your righteousness even as You live in me and walk with me. Please give me opportunities to share this good news. Amen.

Proverbs 6 10-6-21

We all died in Christ. Now, the only thing left to do is be born again! Sin is dead; now we get to be dead to sin.

9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids.
23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction [repentance] and instruction [in the way of the Lord] are the way to life.

We continue this morning with our look at 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, specifically verses 16-17.

Allegorically, we are in a dungeon because of Adam’s sin. Chains are around our wrists and ankles, but the door is now standing wide open because Jesus opened all the doors to our cells when He died on the cross as He our Representative, the New Adam (Romans 5:15). Everyone is “dead” to the sentence that holds us in the cell. Since everyone on earth is dead concerning sin because of Christ’s death, we all need now is a resurrection. Fortunately, Christ has also provided that for us, too. Paul tells us in Romans 6:4,

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

Jesus said, “You must be born again. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” John 3:3, 6. We all must come to Jesus for life. He offers it to us freely if we will just respond to Him. He does the rest:

  1. He picks us up from our position outside of the Father and places us beside Him;
  2. He breathes new life into us by placing His Spirit in us;
  3. He restores us spiritually, mentally/emotionally, and, in many ways, physically;
  4. He places the ring of sonship on our finger (ladies, you, too) and gives us the robe and sandals of sonship;
  5. He signs adoption papers and gives us a throne near His!

In our dungeon allegory, Christ comes to us and says, “Arise!” The chains fall off our hands and feet, we take His hand and get up, and walk right out of that cell (it’s actually a grave).

Paul continues,

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 

Paul gives a little insight into his past. He had regarded Christ as just a man who was leading his nation astray, but now He views Him as his “great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Nor does he regard people from his former point of view, but now as potential brothers and sisters in Christ. We should, too. In fact, we should view our spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ as new creations, not holding their past against them nor allowing ourselves to judge them according to their past. “The old has gone, the new is here!”

Anyone can now respond to Christ, and everyone’s invited. All they need is an invitation, which we will cover tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for making me a new creation in Christ. My old desires and perspectives are gone and now I see things from Your perspective (at least, that’s what I am working to attain). May You and I work together to make me more like You. I would like that very much! Amen.

Proverbs 5 10-5-21

Yesterday was a matter of the heart concerning pride. Today is a matter of the mind. What do we want to do?

7 Now then, my children, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 9 Keep to a path far from her [temptation], do not go near the door of her house…

The next verses in our study of 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 are 13-15. Let’s look at verse 13:

13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 

There will be times when we will be considered out of our minds for following Christ. The decisions we make are based upon the Spirit’s prompting in our lives. We spend time reading the testimonies of the Apostles and other Christians in our New Testament; we discuss what we know with each other, asking the Spirit to guide us into more truth, even all truth; we spend time in conversation with Jesus seeking His face and pledging ourselves to Him for right here, right now. The decisions we make are based upon His kingdom and not this kingdom (world), or our health, wealth, control, fear, etc.

In this case, Paul and the others were in their right spiritual minds for the Galatians. Paul had their needs in mind and what was best for them. This next statement was specifically for them, but is also a universal truth:

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

The love of the Christ who is in our hearts guides our thoughts and is our highest motivator in our decision making. In following Christ, we first must believe that He is who He says He is and that He did what He said He would do (John 12:23, 32). Paul then states the spiritual fact that in Christ, all died to sin. It’s what the Law did on a limited basis (the Jews died vicariously through the death of their sacrifices). We know that the Father postponed judgment for all sin until the cross (Romans 3:25) and then Jesus took that sin to the grave–then He rose again while leaving sin in that grave! Now, all who choose to walk in His light walk out of their graves and into eternal life with Christ.

If we will remember this truth each day, we will “no longer live for ourselves” but for Christ. We are His; He has a wonderful plan for us. He has shown us the love of the Father. Let’s be about the Father’s business.

Abba, thank You for loving me. Thank You for Jesus conquering sin and the grave and giving me new life. May I be enthusiastic about sharing such good news with others. Amen.

Proverbs 4 10-4-21

Getting people in Christ is our goal, even as we are in Christ. What does it mean to be “in Christ?”

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

Today, we begin a walk through 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. In this passage we find that not all brothers believe the same things about God, Jesus, the Spirit, the Bible, faith, and mission. It’s okay. Our job is not to persuade them to our way of thinking, but to engage them in conversation and study, seasoned with prayer, so that the Truth of Jesus’ intent is made clear to all. At the end of the discussion, we may still not agree on all points, but there are a few on which we can already agree:

  1. Jesus is God’s Word to us.
  2. Jesus lives in us via His Spirit.
  3. He will make known to us what we need for today.
  4. Our job is to follow Christ and help others follow Christ, not convince people to think like we do.

Verse 11 opens with a Pandora’s Box:

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

What does Paul mean by “fear the Lord?” Paul has met with Jesus several times; what fear is he talking about? Paul is very good to refer to the Lord Jesus as God (Titus 2:13) and to keep Him elevated in stature (Philippians 2:9-11). In the previous verse (v.10), he makes reference to the throne of Jesus, which is to the right-hand of the Father (Ephesians 1:20). This type of fear is one of respect for the office and of loyalty to his King. At the same time, Paul understands the Plan to bring all things under the authority and unity of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:10). Hence, Paul’s mission is to persuade others to see Jesus as he sees Jesus.

Paul then begins a defense of his ministry to the Corinthians.

12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.

Because of some fleshly opinions, Paul feels the need to defend himself and his brethren to them. He appeals first to God as their Witness, and then to their consciences, meaning that the Spirit would be confirming what he is saying to them. Then he states the real problem: Pride has reared his ugly head. Pride always brings an “us against them” attitude to any situation, which destroys the unity that we are supposed to have in Christ,”

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

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

We must always strive to “keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Being one in Christ does NOT mean that we see eye-to-eye on everything. Here’s why:

1. We are all in different seasons of our lives with different goals, ministries and people.

2. We have different temperaments and personalities through which we see the world and Christ.

3. We have different backgrounds and experiences, therefore our interpretations are different according to our individual views and where we are in the process of sanctification.

4. Christ shows each of us a different facet of the Diamond (who He is), therefore, we get a bigger picture of Christ collectively than we do individually.

Paul explained in his first letter that we are all parts of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are designed to be different. Let’s celebrate our uniqueness in Him!

Abba, thank You that my uniqueness is not just weirdness. I celebrate the “different” perspectives that I seem to have from the usual. May I always seek Your face and interface with others in order to get a clearer picture of You. Amen.

Proverbs 3 10-3-21

Christians are in training. Christ wants us to be like Him today. Let’s get busy!

1 My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, 2 for they will prolong your life many years [spiritually, for eternity] and bring you [inner] peace and prosperity.

As a minister, I see what the average person fights. Here are three areas that hinder Christians:

  1. Romance-includes dating, sexual activity and porn addiction;
  2. Gaming-overstimulation of the adrenal glands, time hog, addiction;
  3. Social media-judgmental attitudes, sharing beyond personal bounds, addiction.

Done correctly, all of these areas have merit. The problem comes when we get outside certain boundaries. The main boundary that is crossed is the amount of time spent, but there are other boundaries, which are listed above. The major passage that I use to combat areas in my life that threaten to get out of control is,

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

  1. We live in a fallen world. It is sin-ridden and inhabited by demons. Our bodies are still part of this world, but our minds live in two worlds, the physical and the spiritual. We must learn to feed the spiritual one and hold tight control in areas that tend toward sin.
  2. Our weapons are spiritual. In fact, our best weapon is Christ Himself! His Spirit living in us lets us know when we are slipping into old habits, getting off the trail, or hanging back a little too much. He also gives us the desire and the power to break away from those habits and temptations.
  3. The divine power is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). The strongholds are the things that are particularly interesting to each individual. The word, “demolish,” denotes not only the breaking down of the walls of a stronghold, but of cleaning up the debris and getting rid of any evidence of it. That’s pretty thorough!
  4. Arguments are often the ones in our heads. Scripture helps a great deal when dealing with our own thoughts. We can also substitute phrases like, “She is my brother/sister in Christ,” which works with dating, pornography, and what is shared on social media. For gaming, the timer is our best friend. Set it and live by it. Also, it’s best to game only on certain days–and not in a row. The danger is in the desire: The more we desire it, the greater the danger. Filling our time with godly activities helps.
  5. “Every pretention” is referring to anything that plays “god” in our lives. Whatever it is, it is only pretending. The Lord Jesus Christ is God of our lives (Titus 2:13). Let’s give HIM the honor and praise due His name.
  6. The knowledge of God is what we are after. Intellectual knowledge is good, but experiential knowledge is what Christ wants. He wants us to know the Father personally and intimately.
  7. Here’s the best part: Taking each thought captive. When we have a tempting thought, we grab it by the neck and subject it to the rule of Christ. We don’t need to be concerned about having tempting thoughts; it’s the world we live in. Rather, let’s get really good at taking them captive to Christ. He receives glory each time we do!

As we worship Him today, let’s thank Him for the in-dwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. He is our hope, our shield, our guarantee, our proof, and our Counselor. Rejoice!

Abba, thank You for the ingenious way You turned the tables on Satan (1 Corinthians 2:8). By conquering sin on the cross and taking all sin to the grave, we now have YOU living inside us! WOW! One of my favorite verses is, “I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:23). That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Lord! Bring us to complete unity with You and with each other. Amen.

Proverbs 2 10-2-21

Speaking of proclaiming, who proclaims, and what is it that they are to proclaim?

6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.

I originally thought that I would find a good passage on proclaiming in Matthew 28:19-20, but what it says there is,

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are to:

  1. Make disciples,
  2. Baptize them into the family of God,
  3. and teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded the disciples.

The next passage was a bit more forthcoming. It was Romans 19:14-15,

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The progression is:

  1. It is good to bring good news,
  2. It is good to be sent,
  3. It is good to preach (tell the good news),
  4. It is good that they hear,
  5. It is good that they call on Jesus by believing in Him.

I, then, looked at every reference to “proclaim” or “proclaiming” in the New Testament. In each case, it was someone proclaiming, either Jesus, Paul, or the Gospel in general. So, what does it mean for us to proclaim?

Actually, the term, “proclaim,” is never used as a directive. Instead, it is something that we, as Christians who walk closely to Christ and want to share out of our experiences with Him, want to share with others. Here is what I would like all Christians to understand:

  1. Not everyone is an evangelist (Ephesians 4:11). We ARE called to be witnesses (Acts 1:8).
  2. We are called to give a reason for the faith we have in Jesus, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
    1. We are to revere Christ as Lord,
    2. We are to be prepared,
    3. The answer we are to give is why we follow Jesus,
    4. We are to do it with gentleness and respect (they obviously believe differently than we),
    5. We are to keep a clear conscience through good behavior; may conviction come upon them.
  3. There are times when our actions speak louder than our words. We must be sensitive to the Spirit and allow Him to work in their hearts. (ex. 1 Peter 3:1)

When a Christian is full of the love of Jesus, here’s what happens:

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

Let’s ask the Lord to give us opportunities to share His love with others. Most of the time, it’s with someone with whom He has brought us into contact. “Research shows that, on average, adults must hear the Gospel message about seven times before they come to faith in Christ. So, don’t give up on your friend, but prayerfully continue to look for opportunities to share your faith.” Share Jesus Without Fear. We have to be content with where we are in a person’s process. Generally speaking, I tend to be a #2 or #3; I answer a lot of questions. Very occasionally do I get to actually be there when a person gives his heart to Christ. Oh, what a joy it is! Yet, I am content to simply be part of a person’s story of how he came to Christ. Joining the Father where He is already working is a wonderful activity with Him. Let’s get to it!

Abba, thank You for the fire of the Holy Spirit in me. Thank You that You meet with me daily and direct my paths all day long. Please give me plenty of opportunities to be a witness and even to proclaim You to others. Help me be ready. Amen.

Proverbs 1 10-1-21

“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith…Christ Jesus is in you–unless…you fail the test!

22 “How long will you who are simple [gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil] love your simple ways? How long will fools [they know better, but they don’t care] hate knowledge and mockers [they not only don’t care, they either make fun of or get mad at those who don’t participate with them] delight in mockery?

The opening verse is 2 Corinthians 13:5. It’s an interesting verse because it calls us to do some soul-searching, a bit of introspection. What is the test? That Christ is in us. What does it take to have Christ in us?

  1. We believe He is who He says He is. Colossians 1:15-20 tells us that He created all things and holds all things together with His mighty power. The interesting thing is that no one knows why protons and electrons orbit around a nucleus. There is no accounting for the orbit; they are beginning to understand how, but not why. The answer is found in not what, but who: Christ holds all things together. We also have John 10:36-38 where Jesus tells the religious leaders to believe in Him because of His miracles. The miracles attest to the fact that “the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
  2. We believe that He did what He said He would do. Colossians 1:21-22 tells us that we were alienated from God and enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior, but Christ reconciled us to God through His death and resurrection. Ephesians 2:1-5 says that we were dead in our sins, slaves of Satan, and slated to be condemned to eternal banishment; we were to reap the consequences of our choices. But, God loves us so much and is so rich in mercy, that He saved us through Jesus Christ. His resurrection means that we die with Him and then are reborn with Him. That’s good news!
  3. We believe that He’ll do what He said He would do. Jesus said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and he with me” Revelation 3:19-20. This is the promise of the Son of God! Also, God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 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” Ephesians 2:8-10.

Jesus gave us three things to do:

  1. BelieveBelieve me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. John 14:11
  2. Obey-If you love me, keep my commands16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth…you know him, for he lives…in you. John 14:15-17
  3. Proclaim-To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I labor with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. Colossians 1:27-29

We will talk about proclaiming tomorrow. Right now, let me ask: Did you pass the test? Is Christ in You?

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would know You intimately as their Lord and Savior. You love us so much and You pour out Your mercy on all who trust in You. Thank You for pouring Your love into my heart! Amen.

Proverbs 30 9-30-21

What is prayer? How does it work? Why are we required to do it? How does it benefit us? Continued…

5 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his [God’s] words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Jesus is the revealed Word of God (John 1:1-4, 14). He is with us always (Matthew 28:20, John 14:23). Knowing this helps us to rest secure in His care. When we pray, we are connecting to Him on a conscious level. When we do, there are a few things we need to keep in mind:

  1. We cannot unbind God’s hands because they are never bound. It’s not a matter of asking Him for things. Jesus said, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8). If you, then, though you are evil [in nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). Jesus wants us to focus on one thing and that is to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
  2. God works naturally in a natural world. We can pretty much count on natural consequences happening to us when we do stupid stuff. Also, we live in a fallen world that has some pretty extreme natural consequences going on. God works within His natural world. Getting sick is not God making us sick, but rather it is us catching one of more than 200 cold viruses that are out there. He has determined all things to work in a natural course of action/reaction. Our joy as humans/kings is to figure out the process and live in it (Proverbs 25:2). How? Through prayer and study. We ask God to open our minds; we trust Him to lead us to truth. We read the Bible and other works in order to know, and then we pray asking God to guide us through all the information to the truth. We may never know the full truth while on this side of heaven, but we trust God to know.
  3. God is continuously warning and preparing His people for what is coming. Sometimes, He warns us to change paths; other times, He simply prepares us. Either way, we are interacting with the Father. God is in control of the overall destiny of mankind and this world. Most of His influence, though, is through the Church, His people. What does that influence look like? That depends upon how well we stay connected to the Father in prayer.

We are benefited in several ways through prayer:

  1. We connect with God and each other, thus forming a family and protection.
  2. We “see” where God is working and, to a degree, understand what He is doing.
  3. We join Him in what He is doing.
  4. We are equipped and prepared for what whatever comes.

Asking God to reveal to us what He is up to is a good way to focus on the spiritual rather than the physical aspects of our circumstances. It’s usually a progressive revelation, which is part of the dialogue we have with Him. We don’t have to know the destination or the details, only that we are with God and He is with us. He is good, and we can trust Him.

We’ve only scratched the surface concerning the topic of prayer. The best way to learn is to do it.

Abba, I KNOW I don’t have a very good grasp on the topic of prayer. It’s hard for me to stay in the moment. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not more of being in contact with You than it is focusing on talking to You. May I remain open to You at all times. I know I am tempted to shut You out when I want to sin. I am learning that whatever the payoff for sin is, it’s not even close to the benefits and blessings I receive from staying connected to You! More of You, less of me, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 29 9-29-21

What is prayer? How does it work? Why are we required to do it? How does it benefit us?

25 The fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the LORD is kept safe.

We can trust God. He is good. He always does the right thing. The problem is that we cannot see things from His perspective. We tend to judge according to what we know and expect. He sees things in light of eternity. We must remember that Jesus’ ultimate goal for us is to be with Him beyond this world (John 17:24). We must also remember that He is the God of creation, and His natural laws are the foundation of that creation. Most (if not all) of our present circumstances; the quality of our soil, the type of food we eat, the condition of our DNA, the state of the world, our weather, and our general health are due to millennia of choices and the consequences of sin (the Flood is a prime example of living with consequences, as is cancer and COVID).

What does prayer have to do with all this? We tend to pray for things to turn out according to our expectations and our own benefit. We need to learn to pray according to God’s way of doing things. So, let’s take the questions one-by-one:

  1. What is prayer? Prayer is our connection to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. It is the conversation we have with Him. If we are aware of His Presence in our lives on a daily basis, then we usually have a running conversation with Him. Occasionally, we get together with others to pray. It, too, is connection. We hear each other’s prayers and join them in their requests, praises, heartaches, and petitions. We intercede for each other, which means that we pray for the Lord to work in each other’s lives. Prayer is the POINT of salvation. Jesus wants a relationship with us.
  2. How does prayer work? The best answer is to look at Jesus’ model prayer in Matthew 6:9-13,

This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

  • Notice that Jesus taught them to pray to the Father, recognizing where He is and who He is.
  • To pray for His kingdom to come is to pray for the church to grow and for Jesus to come back. Both invoke His will to be done on this earth even as it is in heaven.
  • Our daily bread is everything that we will need today. It’s a reference to manna in the wilderness and to Jesus as the Bread of Life (See John 5-6).
  • Unity is the key. We have been forgiven, therefore, we forgive. We are most like God when we forgive.
  • We know that God does not tempt, nor is He tempted (James 1:13), so I take this verse to be a cry for His presence and participation in my life everyday–all the time! When I am aware of Him in my life, I don’t worry about what Satan might try to do to me.
  • It’s His kingdom, it’s His power by which He rules, and it’s for His glory always.

I have heard it said that we don’t pray to change God’s mind, but to align ours with His. Trust is the key to prayer. If we trust Him, we are good with whatever happens, knowing that He will bring ultimate good out of every circumstance.

The other two questions we will discuss tomorrow.

Abba, You are my heavenly Father. Your name is holy and sacred to me. May I live my life with You at the foremost of my mind. I want to be like You, Lord, so help me to forgive quickly and completely whether I get an apology or not. As for temptations, help me to honor my own guard rails that You have helped me to set up. Even when I fail, I know You will deliver me if I turn to You quickly. May Your kingdom come, O Lord; may everything be to Your glory. Amen.

Proverbs 28 9-28-21

Nothing is free. If we want a rich life, then we must work for it. To “win the prize,” we must train.

19 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

Notice that I said, “a rich life,” not, “to get rich.” The very next verse reads, “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished [by the consequences of their actions]. What determines a rich life? According to Proverbs 21:21, “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, righteousness and honor.” Proverbs was written about 900 years before Christ. Had this proverb been written by a Christian, it would read, “Whoever pursues Jesus and His love finds life, righteousness and honor.” Now, on to training…

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul used an illustration straight from the Greeks and the Olympian games: Track. A person doesn’t just decide to run a marathon of 26.2 miles. It takes months and even years of training to do it. It takes strict training.

Verse 27 is the scariest verse for me. It would be like me teaching others to run hurdles (my high school claim to fame). But, when I myself run them, I skip one, and I disqualify myself from the race. I would still be on the team, but I would have lost the race. What temptations try to lure me away from running the race honorably? Fatigue, distraction, a desire to win at all costs, and fear all come to mind. For us as Christians, they would be lust of the eyes (what we see, we want), lust of the flesh (what we feel, we do), and the pride of life (we deserve it). See 1 John 2:16. Satan only has three tricks in his bag, but–oh, what tricks they are!

Do we really want excellence? to make a difference? Then Let’s use our competitive nature to push ourselves in our training in righteousness. What training in righteousness? This one:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

We need purpose, focus, and direction for when we train. Here are some tools:

  1. Study– What are you reading and why? If the Bible, why are you reading where you are reading? Pleasure reading is good as long as it reinforces our spiritual growth. If it makes us think, that’s good, but if it makes us doubt, then find out why. If we can find error in it, then reject it as a bad influence. There are too many good things out there to read for us to waste time reading questionable material. How do we know what truth is? We read the Bible. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” John 17:17. It’s okay to have questions. Ask for help, especially from the Holy Spirit.
  2. Speaking of which, prayer is our connection to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Why do you pray what you pray? Don’t be afraid to go to the Father with any question. He will answer; just give Him time. Some things we’re just not ready to hear, yet.
  3. Conversations– Talking with others is how we learn about the other facets of the diamond of spiritual knowledge. Why do you discuss what you discuss? On what do you base your information? Experience? Logic? The internet? Second-hand information? If I tell my wife something that I have learned, she immediately wants to know the source of my information. If it’s another person, she then wants to know where that person got his information. She’s a researcher and I love her for it.

The big question is, how can we tweak each of these tools to help us focus on learning the heart of the Father? We must remember that our goal is not to get rich, but to be rich in life, righteousness and honor.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will strive for excellence. You want us to be righteous, perfectly mature, complete and whole in Christ. I believe we can get there. I am trusting You to lead the way. Knowing that You walk with me, empower me, and protect me is enough for me to trust You all the way. Lead on, my King. Amen.

Proverbs 27 9-27-21

We read the Bible each morning to help us tune in to Jesus’ voice that is within us. It’s that still, small voice.

9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend [Jesus] springs from His heartfelt advice.

The Word of God is the Action of God. God spoke and our universe came into being (Genesis 1:1). The next big reveal was when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). How did that happen?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was GodHe was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-4

Jesus is the Action Person of the Trinity. Here are a few verses that bear that out:

27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
    when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
    and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
    so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
    rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
    and delighting in mankind.
Proverbs 8:27-31

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

When it was time for God to act on man’s behalf, Jesus came. He came with the express purpose of dying for us, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” John 12:27. There are places where the Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead and that He was raised from the dead. It’s an academic matter. Since Jesus is God, then both are true. Jesus Himself said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18.

Let’s keep reading in John 1,

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:9-13

Only God can do that! So let’s review:

  1. Jesus is the Word of God.
  2. Jesus is with God.
  3. Jesus IS God (if this blows your brain, then you’re actually thinking straight!).

What can we deduce from these verses concerning the Word of God and the Bible?

  1. The Word of God is the action of God, and Jesus is that Word.
  2. The Bible is a collection of accounts that verify and confirm the life and ministry of Jesus. The Gospels and Acts give the accounts while the letters help us understand the mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Notice how everything about the Bible points to Jesus. That’s a good thing because it’s all about Him. We don’t worship the Bible; We worship the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ. The Bible is a tool in the hands of God–a very effective tool, one that reveals the Son to us. It’s words are inspired by the Holy Spirit who speaks to us every time we read it. The words recorded in the Bible give testimony to what the writers have seen and heard and experienced (1 John 1:1-3). We listen as we read for confirmation from the Spirit to what we read.

So, we’ve come full-circle: We read the Bible each morning to help us tune in to Jesus’ voice that is within us. It’s that still, small voice, the voice of the Spirit of Jesus saying, “Do you trust Me? Take my hand and let’s walk together today. Tomorrow, we’ll do the same.”

Abba, I trust You. I want to walk with You. Please walk slowly enough for me to stay in step with You. I, personally, don’t think that any of us ever get out of the nursery spiritually, so You’re liable to have to carry me sometimes–often! With the faith of a small child, I trust You implicitly. I love You, Abba. Thank You for loving me. Amen.

Proverbs 26 9-26-21

We are new creations in Christ. So, what were we and what are we now?

12 Do you see a person wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool [one who knows what is wrong, but does it anyway] than for him [he can’t see his folly].

So, what were we like? We were egocentric, self-absorbed, and wise in our own eyes. We were entitled, proud, vain, impatient, selfish, angry, arrogant, spiteful, full of rage, gluttonous (these were pulled from Romans 13:13, Galatians 5:19-21, Titus 3:3]. We lived to serve ourselves or we focused on someone who we thought could give us what we needed. Either way, it was about us.

What happens when we receive the Spirit of Christ? He begins to transform us into selfless, abandoned, humble, kind, self-denying, compassionate, diligent, pure-thinking, forgiving, gentle, loving, and even-tempered Christ followers (see Ephesians 4-5 and Galatians 5:22-23).

Which list do we find ourselves seeking to be and do? It lets us know where we need work. In fact, right now you are thinking, “I really want to be the second list, but it looks impossible.” True, but the fact that you want that list shows that you have the Spirit of Christ in you! Also, we were never meant to do the list by ourselves. HE gives us first the desire and then the power to do it–He wants to do it with us. We are partners with Christ (He’s the senior partner).

If, by chance, you don’t have the pull to be the second list and some of the first list hits you between the eyes, let’s go over the basics:

  1. Has there ever come a time in your life that the Spirit revealed to you that you were dead in your sins, that there was nothing good in you, and that you needed Him? If we were to go to the morgue and pull out one of the drawers, we would find a dead body. There is not a cell left in that body with any life in it, and therefore, there is no way it can help itself come back to life. That body needs the spark of life put back into it. Spiritually, we all start the same way, dead. Jesus wants to put the spark of eternal life into us.
  2. Have you asked God to give you new life with Jesus at the controls? He wants to be “senior partner” in a partnership with you.
  3. Has the Holy Spirit come into your life and made His home in your heart? This is how we are made into new creations where the old life with its sinful habits passes away and the new life in Christ comes! The change that has begun in us may be slow in revealing itself, but it’s sure.

The nice thing about following Christ is that He really just expects us to do the next right thing. That’s all. He will direct us in that right thing. All we have to do is obey Him. He will even empower us to do it as He does it with us. All of the changes in that second list come by walking in step with the Savior (Galatians 5:25). He rubs off on us! By focusing on Jesus and His character, we begin to emulate Him in character. Pleasing Him pleases us. He is always pleased with us, but we find peace and joy when we are obedient to Him. The camaraderie we share with Him is out of this world!

As we worship in our respective houses of worship, may we align ourselves with Him. May we praise Him and worship Him and pledge our lives to Him. May we do the next right thing according to His direction and His participation in our lives. THAT’S how new creations live!

Abba, thank You for making me a new creation. Having You in my life is worth everything to me. And Your promises–WOW! You will never leave me nor forsake me, and You will be coming back for me real soon to take me to where You are. It doesn’t get any better than that! Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 25 9-25-21

Paul defines two ministries, The ministry of the Law and the ministry of the Spirit. Let’s look at the differences.

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out the matter is the glory of kings [in our case, the sons and daughters of the King].

2 Corinthians 3:7-18 gives us a side-by-side comparison of these ministries. We will look at verses 7-11:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

The “ministry that brought death” is a reference to the Law. In verse 6, Paul says, “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The description of being engraved in letters on stone confirms that he is referring to the Law (Exodus 31:18). What Paul is trying to get us to see is that the Ministry of the Spirit is beyond comprehension! He goes so far as to say, “’What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him—” (1 Corinthians 2:9). In verse 18 of our text, he says, “We…are being transformed into His [Jesus’] image with ever-increasing glory [from one glory to the next], which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” Those who follow Christ and walk in/with the Spirit are on an upward journey!

I want to insert right here in our discussion a teaching from Tom Eliff,

We have assurance of salvation by having:
1. An upward walk–becoming more like Jesus in character as the Spirit transforms us;
2. An outward appearance–we look more like Jesus in word and deed, countenance and character;
3. An inward peace–a continuous walking, talking relationship with Jesus through the Spirit.

Tomorrow, we will discuss the ramifications of not having to follow the Law-(Old Covenant)- anymore. Exciting, right? Today, give glory to God for such a great salvation and for the in-dwelling of His Spirit.

Abba, I give You glory for my salvation. The great lengths You went to in order to buy me back amazes me. To think that Your intended purpose was to fill me with Yourself* blows my mind! May I always remember that You began my salvation and You will carry it to completion (Philippians 1:6). I am forever grateful. Amen.

*Jesus is God in the flesh (John 1:14) ; the Lord Jesus is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) = The Trinity.

Proverbs 24 9-24-21

Can Christ use us? Absolutely, but we must realize that it is Him working in us from the inside out.

1 Do not envy the wicked, do not desire their company; 2 for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble. Instead, 3 Allow wisdom to build her house in you, establishing its foundations through understanding, and filling its rooms with rare and beautiful treasures of the intimate and first-hand knowledge of God, His Love and His Plan. (paraphrased)

In the same way that Christ took people’s sin and transformed it into godly compassion for them, we can do the same if we are “hooked up” to the Spirit. When we are walking with Him and centered on Him, even the most heinous of crimes can be converted into compassion toward our aggressor. Thus, “Hit me again and my prayers for you will become even more fervent.”

So, again I ask, if we are like Christ, and He works in us and through us, can we be agents of change for sinners? Consider this: If someone attacks me and I am led by the Spirit to respond rather than react, then I take their sin and give it back as compassion. I am more like my heavenly Father right then than ever before. I become a sin-transmuter: I take their sin against me and transform it into compassion and give it back. My definition of “agape’ love,” God-love, is compassion. It’s what Jesus had on the masses (Matthew 9:36, 14:14, 20:34). Because I am being obedient to the Spirit, I don’t have to worry about retribution on my enemy. In fact, my hope is that my faith would lead him to faith in Christ. Neither do I have to worry about my family. The God who takes care of me is taking care of my family.

I realize that in America, we don’t get much of a chance to die for the sake of Jesus, but we ARE called to die daily to ourselves. It is in that daily death that we reach the capacity to give our lives when called upon (Luke 16:10). This way of daily living keeps us from experiencing Proverbs 24:10, “If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength [faith].” In fact, if we die daily to ourselves, we will have the mind of Christ, who was all about “rescuing those being led away to death, holding back those staggering toward slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11-adapted).

Here are two verses I am committing to memory:

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:11

2“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

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

Let’s die to ourselves and live for Christ today, right now. It’s important–no, it’s VITAL!

Abba, I give You my life today. I count myself dead to sin and its influence on me. Help me to see things through Your eyes and from Your perspective. Give me everything I need to do Your will as You direct my path. I am Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 23 9-23-21

Can God use us to transform others? Yes, if we realize that it’s not us, but Him working in and through us.

19 Listen, my child, and be wise, and set your foot on the right path…”

Here is a bold statement: We, collectively, murdered Immanuel.

Several years ago, I was part of the cast in “Heaven’s Gates/Hell’s Flames,” a production that acted out scenarios of death and the afterlife. Some of them were funny, but others were scary. Everyone approached the “pearly gates” and waited while St. Peter checked the book for his name. If he found it, the lights came up, the angels rejoiced, and Jesus came out and welcomed him into heaven. If St. Peter didn’t find it, then the lights went to red, the angels hid their faces, and I came out to get them–I played the role of Satan. Twice. The point of this story is actually at the beginning of the drama. The music to Via Dolorosa began to play as “Jesus” carried the cross down the isle toward the front. When he was about two thirds down, the music changed, the lights went crazy, and people (the cast) came out of the audience to drag “Jesus” up onstage and crucify him. The concept was that we all, audience included, crucified Christ. It wasn’t our sin, but us, that put Jesus on the cross.

What happened next was true genius. Jesus took upon Himself all sin. When He had it all, He died, and sin died with Him. There are several verses that attest to this theological view:

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

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The other part of my statement was the use of the term, “Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.” It comes from Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” The ramifications are huge. Jesus wasn’t LIKE God, He WAS/IS God. The best explanation can be found in Philippians 2:7-8,

rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature [form] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

He was human, born of Mary, He grew up like we all do, and He lived and died as humans do, but He was also God in the flesh. He experienced everything we humans do, even temptation (Hebrews 4:15) Three of the four Gospels mention it, two of them going into great detail. Yet, He was God. One of the most interesting verses in the Bible to me is John 3:34,

34 For the one whom God has sent [Jesus] speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.

As Christians, we believe that Jesus was sent by God to us. It is to Him that God gave the Spirit without limit. That same Spirit is available to us in the form of the Spirit of Christ. Another favorite verse of mine is Colossians 1:27,

27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

So, can Christ use us? Yes. In what way? We’ll find out that answer tomorrow!

Abba, may You drive the truth of Your Godhood/Manhood deep into our souls. I know I will never truly understand it until I reach heaven–and even into eternity–but I can begin to grasp it with the help of Your Spirit. I ask that You give me the faith to receive and access the Spirit without limit, just as Christ did. I’m open to extremes, Lord. Whatever it takes. Amen.

Proverbs 22 9-22-21

If there’s a monster out there, it’s not God; it’s us!

10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended [we must kill the mocker in each of us].

Some people think that God is an angry God and that Jesus shields us from Him, that God required blood and violence to appease Him. Not So! The consequences of our sin are natural. In other words, we get what we deserve by creating the very situation that destroys us. God told Adam what would happen if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that he would surely die. Why? Because God was insulted that Adam didn’t believe Him? No. The reason Adam died is because he was not ready to handle temptation; he couldn’t even handle the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. The result was that Adam–and all mankind–were drawn into the devil’s snare of temptation and became unholy. Look around us: Does anyone (generally speaking) resist temptation anymore? Have they ever in the history of mankind? The best we can do is create a culture that inhibits mankind’s more dastardly tendencies.

Author and pastor Brian Zahnd makes this statement in his book, “At the cross we violently sinned our sins into Jesus, and Jesus absorbed them, died because of them, carried them into death, and rose on the third day to speak the first word of the new world: ‘Peace be with you.’
When I say ‘we’ violently sinned our sins into Jesus, I mean that all of us are more or less implicated by our explicit or tacit support of the systems of violent power that frame our world. These are the very political and religious systems that executed Jesus. At the cross we see where Adam and Eve’s penchant for blame and Cain’s capacity for killing led us–to the murder of God! At Golgotha human sin is seen as utterly sinful. God did not require the death of Jesus–but we did!
So let’s be clear, the cross is not about the appeasement of a monster god. The cross is about the revelation of a merciful God. At the cross we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies. The cross is where God in Christ absorbs sin and recycles it into forgiveness. The cross is not what God inflicts upon Christ in order to forgive. The cross is what God endures in Christ as he forgives. Once we understand this, we know what we are seeing when we look at the cross: We are seeing the lengths to which a God of love will go in forgiving sin.”

Jesus is the sin-transmuter, changing the form and nature of sin into that which God uses to make us righteous. Sin no longer destroys us; instead, God uses it to shape us into the image of Christ. Are there consequences, yes, but God even uses the consequences to transform us. Paul says as much in Romans 8:28,

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

So, when someone has trouble comprehending that God is not angry and in need of appeasement, gently explain to them that if anyone’s a monster, it is us. We required the death of God; He willingly laid down His life for us so that we could then be made alive in Him. Here’s how it works:

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

We died in Christ so that those who believe that He is God can be born again, not living for themselves, but for Jesus because of what He has done for us. Simple, right?

Abba, may You reveal to us Your love, the love You were willing to share with us by coming to earth in human form–Jesus–and laying down Your life so that we could have eternal life. Wow! That’s some crazy love, Lord! Teach me how to love like that. I’ll bet it requires letting go of everything in this world. I pray I’m not too stuck in my ways to learn. Amen.

Proverbs 21 9-21-21

Hearing God’s voice requires an act of faith, but it is evidenced by His Presence.

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love [God] finds life, prosperity and honor.

22:4 Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life [Isaiah 33:6 explains to us that it is our relationship with Him that unlocks the storehouse of salvation and wisdom and knowledge].

What is it like to read God’s Word and hear His voice? to feel His presence? to fellowship with Him?

It is His invitation to us every day:

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

[18] “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 55:1 (NIV)

[1] “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Revelation 3:18-20 (NIV)

[18] “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

[19] Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. [20] Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

We have all heard the phrase, “To have a friend, be a friend.” The concept works here, too. If you want God, our Heavenly Father, to be your Friend, then be a friend to Him. Accept His invitation to “come and dine” at His table. Moses did:

Exodus 24:9-11 (NIV)

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

And to think that the God of the Universe lives in our hearts!!! Let’s bless Him and praise Him today as we go about our lives.

Abba, I bless You and praise You for who You are and for coming to live in my heart. To fellowship with You is my highest goal today. As we walk together, May I become more like You in love and compassion because I know that it is in these qualities that You work good works in me. May You be forever praised. Amen.

Proverbs 20 9-20-21

A daily advantage of being a Christian is the hope we have in Jesus.

27 The lamp of the LORD searches the Spirit of a person; it searches out his inmost being [He knows what we need and amply supplies it].

Our hope is what we have been promised that we have yet to receive. We KNOW we will have it; it’s either not time or it is not available yet. We are all in a process of transformation. Let the process continue at His rate.

A good example of hope is when the tire store called me and told me that my car was ready. Robin took me down there to get it in the hope that it truly was. Indeed, it was! How did I know? Because they called and told me it was ready. During my trip to the store, I was living in the hope that it was ready. My hope was fulfilled when I got there and my car was ready.

The same goes for us. We are promised eternal life with God. We have hope that it will be so. God even gave us a guarantee, which is the Spirit of God, as proof and assurance that it is so [Romans 5:5, Titus 3:5-6]. In fact, because we have the Spirit, we have already begun our eternity with God!

As we go through this day, I pray this for you:

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

What is so special about this prayer? Let’s look at it:

  1. We are overflowing with hope for the future. See Proverbs 4:18.
  2. That hope fills us with joy as we look forward to being in the kingdom of heaven!
  3. That hope also gives us peace as we wait for our Savior to either take us or come and get us. See John 14:3 and Philippians 3:20-21.
  4. The power of the Holy Spirit is what drives us.

Let’s plug into His power and be about the Father’s business as we “await a Savior from there!”

Abba, I pray for my readers today that they would know the hope they have in You, that You will fill them with joy and peace as they trust in You, and that they will follow the leading of Your Spirit as they overflow onto the people around them. May our lights shine ever brighter as we move toward You and our heavenly home. Amen.

Proverbs 19 9-19-21

People are lonely, empty, and guilty, but don’t know it. Satan keeps them blinded. What are we to do about it?

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.
11 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

A few years ago, there was a popular band-bracelet that had WWJD on it, which stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” It was about trying to be Jesus to those around us. Not a bad slogan. The best way to figure out what He would do was to know how He responded in the Gospels. It took interpretation and application that, without the Holy Spirit’s leadership and sometimes intervention, could have gone south pretty quick.

The main component missing from that line of thinking was Jesus Himself. It always seemed to me that it should have been JWWYHMD, “Jesus, What Would You Have Me Do?” I know, it’s a little long and there’s no ring to it. I reckon that’s why it didn’t catch on. But, when dealing with people, we need the insight of the Holy Spirit because we simply don’t know what’s going on in their heads. Here are some things we can do to be ready when someone invites us to help:

  1. Be ready to listen. If we’re quiet long enough and ask enough questions, the person will usually give enough information for us to get a feel for the situation.
  2. Be ready to speak. What they want to hear and what they need to hear may be quite different. The Spirit will tell us what to say in the hour of our need (Mark 13:11), but He usually bases what He tells us on what we have read and studied in His Word and what He has already spoken to us in our times with Him.
  3. Be ready to give. People don’t so much need our money or material things as they do need our time. If they are hostile, they may take our stuff, or hurt us, or even kill us. Jesus is aware when we are in trouble–He’s right there with us. In fact, what they do to us, they are doing to Him (Matthew 25:40, 45 implied). He has promised that His Spirit will be with us forever (John 14:16), which means that He will walk the veil with us to Heaven’s shores!

Are we really ready to deal with people who are lonely, empty, and guilty? Only through the Spirit of Jesus! Even though we can get good general knowledge from the Scriptures, only the Spirit can lead us to say and give what they really need. Hey, sometimes, the answer is “No” to whatever they’re asking. It’s all up to Him.

Today, let’s avail ourselves to Him and seek to be ready to be Christ to those around us.

Abba, I ask that as I go to church today, You will equip me to meet peoples’ needs according to Your riches in glory. I am Your servant to do with as You please. I trust You to lead me in how to lead others to Your throne. Amen.