Proverbs 18 9-18-21

Seeing each other as eternal beings changes our perspective. All of a sudden, every word and every deed makes a difference!

24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother [it is your Christian brother and sister].

I have always wondered what is so special about meeting with other Christians. I was helping my son-in-law put up a metal building yesterday when he made the comment that there is probably a spiritual lesson in the way that welding binds two pieces of metal together. The flux on the outside of the stick of metal gets so hot that it melts the surfaces of both pieces. They meld together so that they are one piece of metal from then on. It got me to thinking about it, and I see a parallel between the two pieces of welded metal and the bonding of Christians by the Holy Spirit:

  1. The baptism of fire that we receive upon salvation is the Holy Spirit, and He continues to work in our lives throughout our lives.
  2. Our worship joins our hearts in one accord as we worship God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  3. The fellowship we share comes from the confession, repentance, accountability, and the binding of our hearts together in sorrow, tribulation, and grief.
  4. The fire of the Holy Spirit is what causes the fusion of Christians, the welding of their hearts and lives together.

There is joy to be found in fellowship, the joy of the Father in meeting with us, the joy of the Savior as He leads us, and the joy of the Holy Spirit as He lives with us. Here are three verses that tell us about this joy:

26 so that your rejoicing for me may overflow in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. Philippians 1:26 AMP

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy1 Peter 1:8

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Whether we are meeting one-on-one, in a small group, in a Bible study, as a youth group, or in church, we are meeting with the Body of Christ, His Bride, His collective temple.

Whether we are meeting for coffee and conversation, prayer, Bible study, or a service, we are meeting with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore share this overflowing joy.

Whether we are meeting at a restaurant, a ball field, someone’s home, or at the church, Jesus is with us in Spirit binding our hearts together with cords that cannot be broken.

Whether we are meeting for a five-minute quick-start, a thirty minute discussion, an hour-long service, a weekend retreat, or a week-long revival, we are being welded together by the fire of the Holy Spirit as He forms us into one building and temple for our Lord.

Let’s make the most of these opportunities.

Abba, thank You for Your presence and participation when Your children get together. May we always honor You in what we say and do, remembering and acknowledging Your ever-presence in our lives, our conversation, and even our thoughts. You prayed that we may be one as You, Your Father, and the Holy Spirit are one (John 17:22-23). May it be so every time we meet! Amen.

Proverbs 17 9-17-21

What do virgins, bags of gold, and livestock have in common? Read on and see…

2 A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share in the inheritance as one of the family [it’s what happened to the Gentiles who believed in Jesus as opposed to the Jews who didn’t].

The last teachings of Jesus that Matthew recorded are in chapter 25. In that chapter are three parables–actually, the last one is different than the other two in that it describes a specific future event. Let’s look at each one and see the theme that runs between them.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Bridesmaids)

Matthew 25:1-13

Of the 10 bridesmaids, only 5 of them brought extra oil to trim their lamps. The other 5 were unprepared. So, I take the meaning of the parable to be, “Be prepared.” Preparation.

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

Matthew 25:14-30

Of the three servants, two of them were faithful to invest their master’s gold in productive markets. The third servant did nothing with his. I take the meaning of the parable to be, “Be faithful to invest what the Master has given you.” Investment.

The Future Account of the Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31-46

The sheep lived according to the instructions given them by their Shepherd. The goats did not. Their reward was based upon their service. So, I take the meaning of the parable to be, “Serve your Shepherd according to His instructions.” Service.

Taken together, what conclusion can we draw from these parables?

  1. Jesus was nearing the end of His earthly ministry prior to the cross. These parables represent all that His disciples needed to do in His “absence” (He sent the Helper back to be with them after His ascension; see John 14:16-17).
  2. These three categories describe the Christian experience: Salvation (preparation), sanctification (investment), and reward (service).
  3. The persons that were absent in all three parables are: The Bridegroom, the Master, and the King.
  4. Taken together, Jesus was pronouncing Himself as the Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15, John 3:29), the Master (Matthew 6:24, 10:24, 24:50), and the King (John 18:36).
  5. The last parable really sealed the deal:
    1. He called Himself the Son of Man, referring to Daniel 7:13-14, thus claiming Himself the Messiah and equal to God.
    2. Jesus refers to His Return with all the angels with Him, which is another direct reference to Daniel 7:13-14.
    3. The throne is the throne of Israel. He is proclaiming Himself as the King of Israel.
    4. The fact that all the nations are gathered before Him indicates that He is Ruler of the entire world!
    5. The sheep will be blessed by His Father, God Almighty. Only God can rule the nations (Psalm 22:28).
    6. He claims eternal sovereignty: “(My) kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
    7. He is Lord over hell: “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Matthew was pulling out all the stops* in declaring Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. From that point on, it was about the Passion (Jesus’s Garden experience, arrest, trial, beating, crucifixion, and resurrection). We would do well to remember these three aspects of chapter 25: Preparation (are you prepared to stand before Almighty God? Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ?), Investment (are you using what God has given you to serve Him in partnership with the Spirit, holding nothing back, and committing your entire life to Him?), and Service (Do you serve for reward or out of gratitude? Is your motive right?).

Abba, I know that I am prepared to stand in Your presence through salvation, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I know that I am investing my life in kingdom works according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my daily life. I pray that my life of service has been, and will continue to be, with an attitude of gratitude. I look forward to the Day when You say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Anything else will be gravy. Amen.

* The “stops” in this instance originally refer to the stop knobs on a pipe organ, which are used to regulate the instrument’s sound by selecting which sets of pipes are active at a given time. Each pipe plays a note, and the organ’s pipes are arranged in sets (called ranks) according to type and quality of sound. An organ might have ten ranks, or it might have 100 ranks; in most cases, each rank will have a pipe for each note of the keyboard. (Some ranks have pipes that correspond to the organ’s pedals).

The stop knobs control which ranks will have air flow—that is, which ranks will sound. A key (or pedal) plays all of the pipes for that note in whatever ranks have been selected by the organist’s pulling out or pushing in of one or more stop knobs.

To pull out all the stops literally, then, is to pull out every knob so that air is allowed to blast through every rank as the organist plays, which creates a powerful blast of unfiltered sound.

“Bach was famous in his time not just as a great organist, but also as a great organ tester, and whenever he tried a new organ his practice was to start off by playing with all the stops pulled out, that is, with every rank of pipes on-line at once.”
— Miles Hoffman, The NPR Classical Music Companion, 1997

Proverbs 16 9-16-21

“What is it that prevents this intimacy [with God]? What is this most difficult sacrifice I speak of?” The sermon continues…

3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans [according to His will as we align our wills with His].

As we conclude the sermon preached in, Heathersleigh Homecoming, by Michael Phillips, I will now tell you about Charles, the author of the sermon. He was a Liberal and on his way (in the 1890’s) to becoming Prime Minister when the Lord got a hold of him through the pastor who is reading the sermon. Charles became a Christian and over a period of time decided to drop out of politics. He devoted himself to helping those in his little home town near the south shore of England and was loved by all–except his eldest daughter who held it against him that he withdrew from society, for which she clamored. At 17, she left home to join the Suffragettes (pushing for women’s voting rights). When the war broke out, he was called back into the navy and was on the same ship as his son. When the ship was torpedoed and sunk, they were last seen directing men to lifeboats and going back in to rescue others. The funeral was for Charles and his son, and this sermon was written by Charles several years before as he struggled to learn all he could about God and how to know Him. Here is what he concluded:

“It is not primarily sin in the world, nor the wickedness of the ungodly. It is not poverty nor cruelty, not injustice nor inequality, not war nor killing nor greed. I speak rather of the sin which prevented me for most of my own life from entering into intimate relationship with my heavenly Father. I speak of the great invisible enemy of God’s highest purposes—nothing more nor less than prideful independence of heart, that determination which says—I am my own. None other shall control me, none other shall dictate to me, none shall be over me… I shall bow my knee to no one.

This is the spirit that rules in the far country to which we modern respectable prodigals have given our citizenship.

Do you hear me, men and women—simple independence…that quality so admired by modern culture is in fact a mountain ten miles high and impossible to cross between that land where we have built our impoverished dwellings and the home of our Father.

Independence is the great silent evil, not because its sin is so perfidious but because it keeps otherwise good and moral people ruled by their Selves. It keeps them eating spiritual swine husks rather than the meat of fellowship with Jesus and His Father. People like you, good listener…and me.

The Self—that region of thought and deed, of motive and attitude—keeps me on the throne of my life, and God off it. It keeps you on your own throne too, my friend. As long as you are on the throne where your own will rules supreme, God cannot exercise His true Fatherhood in your life because there can be only one Father and one child. Self-rule says—I need no Father over me. Self-rule is the god of the far country.

We are all prodigals together, my friends. We have made self-rule our god. As a result we have become a prodigal humanity. Thus we do not know intimacy with our Creator and our Father. But we can know it. Jesus came to show us how. But we must return. We must leave the land where pride and self-rule reign as gods. We must be reconciled with our Father.

“How?” you ask.

God will show you. But first we must say, as Jesus taught, ‘I will leave this country. I will return to my Father’s house.’

That is something we can do in our own hearts. Now…today. We can say to Him, ‘I am sorry for being a respectable worshiper of Self. I am sorry for thinking myself capable of living my life with no Father over me. No more do I want to rule my own life. I want a Father. I am ready to be a child. I am eager to become a true son, a true daughter. I ask You to be my Father.

He is fashioning of us people of character and virtue. He is building the fiber of mature spirituality within us. He desires to make us into men and women capable of carrying out His commands and walking in this world as individuals recognized as our self-reliant, self-motivated wills, if only we will turn those wills over to Him, lay them down on the altar of chosen self-denial…and become children.

This process of humble growth into sons and daughters begins by turning around and setting one’s face toward home, toward the Father’s house, where He rules. We must return to Him and say, ‘I choose for You to rule now, not me.‘ It is a journey to be made in the heart. He is waiting along the roadside to welcome us…but we must go to Him, we must return to our Father’s house and say, ‘I will be Your child.’”

Charles’ daughter, Amanda, as she listened on the steps of the church, heard God speaking to her. She went home. It was too late for her to run to her father, but it was not too late for him to reach her through his sermon. It’s not too late for us, either. Today, let’s tell the heavenly Father what Charles did, “Abba, rule my life. I am Your child.” It’s what He’s been waiting for.

Abba, I certainly do ask You to rule my life. Again. Today. Tomorrow, too, although, I will ask You again tomorrow. Your presence and the peace that comes with You are worth more than all the gold in the world. I rest in You even as I labor for You in Your power and with Your direction. Holy Spirit, let’s go! Amen.

Proverbs 15 9-15-21

The speaker continues, “And, you may rightfully ask, what about me?” The aristocrat continues…

3 The eyes of the LORD are everywhere… 8…the prayer of the upright pleases Him. 9…He loves those who pursue righteousness. 26…gracious words are pure in His sight. 29…He hears the prayer of the righteous.

As we continue with the sermon preached in, Heathersleigh Homecoming, by Michael Phillips, let me tell you more about the pastor who is reading the sermon. It is the funeral for the writer of that sermon who died at sea during WWI. The deceased writer’s estranged daughter was sitting on the steps outside the church listening to the sermon, not knowing that it was her late father’s words! Let’s read some more:

“What about one who has given his professional life to combating the evils of our society through government? That is why, as I said, there was a time when I had to ask these questions first and foremost to myself. And as I asked them, I had to face at length the primary question: What is the calling to which we should aspire if it is not to rid the world of evil? Many would consider this the highest calling of man—especially politicians—to rid the world of wrong. But I say no. I say it is elsewhere we must look for the summum bonum, the highest thing of life.

Where then? What is the highest of life’s ambitions, that worthiest goal to which the human creature may strive? Intimacy, my friends, a personal and daily walk of trust and reliance upon God our Father, and with His Son Jesus, our Savior. That is the highest thing.

I speak not only to the so-called sinners among you, but to you, Christian man, to you, good believing woman, to you, young person raised and trained in a gospel-believing church, to you, good citizen who have dedicated your life to worthy causes and to the elimination of inequality and injustice and evil in our society. I speak to you as well as to the thief and adulterer and murderer—and I say to you, Your Father desires to live with you in intimacy. And because for years I did not know this intimacy either, I speak to myself.

Salvation may be all that is required for entrance into the heavenly kingdom, but alone it will not produce the abundant, fruitful life Jesus came to reveal to His brothers and sisters. The Son of God came that we might walk in close fellowship with His Father. Such He became a man for. Such He died for.

He did not die on the cross only to save us from our sins, though of course He did do that. He died on the cross also that we might be drawn into and thus share in the relationship He had with His Father—that we might too become fully sons and daughters of God.

Yet that intimacy between God and His sons and daughters, is not easy to come by. Indeed, it is far easier to fall on one’s knees in remorse for a life of evil, and pray a prayer of salvation for one’s sins—this is far easier, I say, than to lay down what must be sacrificed in order to enter into intimacy with the Father.

What is it that prevents this intimacy? What is this most difficult sacrifice I speak of?”

Oswald Chambers said, “Never allow anything to divert you from your insight into Jesus Christ. It is the true test of whether you are spiritual or not. To be unspiritual means that other things have a growing fascination for you. ‘Since mine eyes have looked on Jesus, I’ve lost sight of all beside, So enchained my spirit’s vision, Gazing on the Crucified.’”

Another aspect is to never substitute knowledge of facts for first-hand knowledge of the person. Knowing Jesus personally is far greater than what we know about Jesus or what we do for Jesus. Spend time with Him right now. He is waiting.

Abba, even though You walk with us and never leave us, there are times that You want us to stop and have a private conversation with You, a time when all of our focus is on You. I have come to crave these moments with You in solitude. I pray; I read Your Word; I listen, and I study. You are constantly leading me into truth. Sometimes, I can’t write fast enough! Other times, I simply sit and enjoy Your presence and Your peace. May I always protect this time with You, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 14 9-14-21

“The great crying need of our time, my friends, is intimacy with God, our Father and Creator and Maker.”

32 When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God [because they sought Him in life].

The beginning quote is from a sermon preached not by a preacher, but by a layman–who is a character in a book! That book is, Heathersleigh Homecoming, by Michael Phillips. It is the second of a set of four from the era of the turn of the 19th Century and went through WWI. The author took the prevailing thoughts of the day and wrote them into his characters’ stories. The surprising thing is that this sermon is every bit as relevant today as it would have been then. Let’s read some more:

“What prevents this intimacy we so desperately need? Many evangelists of our day will say it is sin, and then proceed to rail against this or that evil of society. They are right, of course—sin is the great curse that prevents us from what God would give, and especially all that He would have us to be.

But what about otherwise good people, even Christian believers, whom the world would look upon with favor? Perhaps some of you men and women listening to my voice are such. And before I gave my own heart to the Lord, such was I—respected and admired by all…but far from God in my heart. I do not say that evangelists ought not to preach to sinners who need to repent. Their hellfire messages and salvationary fervor are perhaps much needed for some. But they did not rouse me out of the complacent and contented stupor I supposed was my goodness and respectability. Something else was needed.

So, I find myself compelled to ask—what of good people who are in church many a Sunday? Good people, as was I myself? What about young boys and girls, teenagers, young adults with believing parents, who have been in church Sunday after Sunday throughout their lives and who are well familiar with the gospel, perhaps even who believe in its message? Does the heavenly Father not desire intimacy with such individuals just as greatly as with the worst sinner in the land? Does He not desire intimacy with you—believer that you are—no less than with a thief or a murderer? Yet it may be, though we are unaccustomed to think so, that this intimacy is actually as lacking in the hearts of good respectable Christians as it is lacking in the hearts of the worst sinners listening to a rousing message about the dangers of hell.

I know that such intimacy can be missing in the midst of outward respectability. How can I say such a thing? Because I was just such a one myself. I was a contented, respectable prodigal. I had no idea what I was at all. I would have recoiled from the merest suggestion.

‘What—me a prodigal! Outrageous,’ would have been my reply.

You see, my friends, I had no idea that my prodigality was not evidenced by wicked crimes against society…but rather lay in my own prideful independence. Thinking myself a fine man, I was in fact living in my very own private far country just like the young man who went to eat with pigs. But I knew it not.

Intimacy, therefore, may be lacking in your heart as you sit listening to my words this morning. I cannot know such things, nor do I judge any man or woman. I only say that perhaps the Spirit of God has drawn you here because He has been calling your heart to deeper intimacy with Him. What is to gained by condemning this or that evil, if we neglect that region where lies our first business of life? Indeed, one of the greatest of the last century’s preachers said that we could rid the world of every single one of its wrongs and still neglect that most important of all life’s callings. What will it accomplish if we set all the world’s evils right, if we rid it of poverty and alcohol and inequity, if we bring justice to every creature, if we give every man and woman the vote, if we eliminate the scourge of war—what good will it do, I say, to remove all these from the world…if we as a people yet in our hearts remain distant from the God who made us?”

We, indeed, must ask ourselves these questions, “Am I content with my Christianity the way it is or do I desire more? Does my soul seek more of Him: His presence, participation, peace and power in my life? Do I really want to know Him more, as Paul did, in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10)? Is knowing Him intimately more important to me than life itself?”

Let us spend a moment with the Savior right now. I promise you that if you do, you will want to know Him more deeply and more intimately than ever before!

Abba, I find myself wishing that I could just go on to heaven to be with You, but I know that even though I would rather be “absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8),” my time is not yet. In the meantime, I want You to use me up for Your kingdom, and while You do it, reveal Yourself to me more and more. I want to go “higher up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis put it. I look forward to today and all You have for me, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 13 9-13-21

What is the world looking for in Christians? What they need to see is the love of Jesus shining through us!

7 One person pretends to be rich, but has nothing [ those whose treasure is here on this earth]; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth [those whose treasure is in heaven].

To answer the question, the world is not looking for anything in Christians; they are either afraid they might find truth or they simply aren’t interested in what we have to offer. There ARE those in the world who are looking for truth. They will find it in Christians who are genuine in their faith. Who are those who are genuine in their faith? Those who are seeking and sensing:

We seek the face of the Father
We enjoy fellowship with the Son
We sense the presence of the Holy Spirit

When we spend time with the Father, we reflect the Lord’s glory. This glory is what people see and smell of Christ.

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

We have an excellent example of the reflection of the Lord’s glory in Moses. Let’s read it:

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

Paul interprets this account in 2 Corinthians 3:7-13.

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 waswill 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! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 2 Corinthians 3:7-13

Paul goes on to say that when a person receives Christ, the veil over our hearts is taken away (v.14). So, we Christians have no veil over our hearts. Instead, “we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (v.18).” Our radiance is continuous because of His love in our hearts (Romans 5:5). What shall we do with this love? We find the answer in 1 Thessalonians 3:12,

12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Christ comes into our lives and takes up residence.
  2. He removes the veil so that others can see Him in us.
  3. As we become more like Him, we radiate and then overflow to others. They see our love, joy and peace through our patience, kindness and goodness, and want our faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in their lives.
  4. They receive Christ and have their veils removed.
  5. They, then, reflect the Lord’s glory, and the process continues.

This process is what Christianity is all about. Let’s do it!

Abba, I pray that You will fill my heart with Your love so that it overflows to others, to both Christian brothers and sisters and to lost folks who need Jesus, particularly to those who are searching for His love. I really do want my life to be all about You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 12 9-12-21

The Spirit is forming Christ in us. Is that something you want? If so, then do everything you can to help Him along!

22 The LORD detests lying lips [those who say they want to be like Christ, but don’t ever allow Him to lead them], but He delights in people who are trustworthy [those who trust Christ as Lord and mean it].
29 In the way of righteousness [the Christ-Way] there is life; along that path is immortality [with Christ for eternity].

Galatians 4:19 tells us that Paul agonized over the people at the church of Galatia like a woman in childbirth until Christ was formed in them. Let’s read it:

19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Paul was upset with them because false teachers had come in among them and told them that they had to follow the Jewish Law in order to serve Christ. Somehow, they made it sound right and the people bought it. Paul wrote them a letter tearing down the false teachers’ arguments and in the process, made some pretty sound doctrinal statements for us. The one in verse 19 is a big one: Christ is being formed in us!

What does Christ look like in us? Among other things, He is patient and kind. How do I know? Because that’s what love is.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

He is also steadfast. Check it out:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance [steadfastness]; and to perseverance [steadfastness], godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.

Another synonym is long-suffering. Perseverance, steadfastness and long-suffering…do you see it? Jesus is in for the long haul. We don’t ever have to worry about going one step too far and then Him hammering us. He just takes us wherever we are when we turn back to Him and helps us down the road to His place. I don’t think He’s nearly as concerned with this world as we are, although, I do think that He can help us avoid a lot of trouble and heartache if we listen to Him and do what He says.

Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus does everything for us at His own expense? His intention is always for the benefit of others. The cross was certainly that way. How about us? Do we always do everything for the benefit of others? Here’s an example verse:

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

How about this one:

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Easy to say, hard to do, right? The key is not practice, but privilege. Spending time with the Father in private communion, trusting in the Son for strength and endurance, and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit all the time is what being a child of God is all about. When we do these things, we find ourselves being like Jesus. We don’t have to try to be like Him; we already are!

Communion with the Lord leads to living life for the benefit of others. That’s the Christ-Way. As we worship in our respective churches today, may we commune with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Life in Christ is awesome, isn’t it?

Abba, as we worship You today, may we catch a vision of Your selflessness. It cost You setting aside Your glory to come to earth and die for us. Thank You for loving us that much! May we return that love as we commune with You and walk with You as You lead us to others who need You. Lead on, O King. We are at Your command. Amen.

Proverbs 11 9-11-21

To serve Christ, we must be convinced that He is who He says He is, did what He said He’d do, and will do what He said He’d do.

1 The LORD detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with Him [God sets store by truth].
3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity [The Word = Truth = God = Jesus Christ].

We are convinced. Of what? That Jesus is who He says He is.

13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:13-14

How? We have experienced Him first-hand in our hearts and lives.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joyfor you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.1 Peter 1:8

52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:52

11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:11

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. Romans 5:5

Why? If Jesus is right, then we will be going to live with Him when we die. For right now, we have Him living in our hearts. Our relationship is ongoing for eternity!

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21

29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8 (Pure in heart = single-mindedness, i.e. convinced)

What is our goal? To be like Jesus, to trust Him and obey Him, to imitate Him and serve Him.

10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

Knowing Christ takes precedence over every relationship we have, every thing we do including work, hobbies, recreation, and even ministry.

F.A.I.T.H.
Forsaking All, I Trust Christ

We must be willing to forsake all and trust Him. We must be CONVINCED.

Abba, I am convinced. I have staked my whole life on Your promises and Your presence in my life. I have been saved for 54 years out of my 60. I’m pretty sure! May I continue to grow in my intimate knowledge of You in every area of my life and in every way. Make me completely like You, Jesus, no matter what it takes. Amen.

Proverbs 10 9-10-21

Wanna know why we do things? “For the love of Christ compels us.” Is it His love for us? or, our love for Him? or, both?

22 The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it [for millennia, it was believed that wealth equaled the blessing of God; we now have something that is much greater than material wealth: the indwelling of the Spirit].

God’s love for His creation, mankind, is greater than the universe. When sin separated us from Him, He had already set in motion His Plan for getting us back. We must remember that free will is paramount to Him: He wants us to love Him with no manipulation, no strong-arming, and no presets. He came to earth as Jesus to buy us back; He paid the debt that we could never pay.

There are two verses that we will look at today to confirm these truths:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died15 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

God, not wanting any to perish, created the way for all mankind to come back to Him: The cross. When Jesus died, He took every person’s sin to the grave. Spiritually, we all died with Him. Actually, we were already dead spiritually because we did not have the Holy Spirit in us. The Spirit is life, and without Him, there is no spiritual life. But, because of Christ and His finished work on the cross, everyone who accepts Him as God and commits to serve Him as God of their lives receives the life-giving Spirit, which is Jesus Himself (1 Corinthians 15:45).

Now, to answer the question:

  1. Yes, the Spirit compels us to follow Christ in obedience. He is our driving Force now.
  2. Yes, our love for Jesus is driven by our thankfulness and gratefulness for all He has done for us.
  3. We are compelled because of our commitment to Him and because of the encouragement of the Spirit to no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ. He’s the One who died for us and was raised again.

Are you grateful? I AM! Let’s follow the Spirit’s leading and serve our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Abba, I surely am grateful for You saving my soul. I look forward to shedding this old sin-ridden body and taking up residence in my new body in my new home–Your home! I know Your kingdom is in me now, and I can hardly wait to step into Your kingdom whole and complete! May my life and my death bring glory and honor to You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 9 9-9-21

Seven pillars: Wisdom, knowledge, instruction, understanding, insight, prudence, and discretion. These don’t come naturally.

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

We don’t come by wisdom naturally. It is offered to us by the Holy Spirit. Here’s what the Spirit said in chapter 1, “Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you and make my heart and teachings known to you.” Wisdom requires that we turn to the Lord and ask for it,

indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:3-5

How do we get wisdom? God gives it to us, “For the LORD gives wisdom; out of His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (v.6). It’s not something that comes naturally to us because we naturally want to do things in our own power and according to our own intellect. That’s the problem with mankind: We don’t want the Lord’s help; we want to do it ourselves. One of our Proverbs members sent me this yesterday:

I choose whether I will trust the flesh or I will trust the Spirit.

Romans 8:6
New American Standard Bible
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,

Good News Translation
To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace.

I have just recently been appreciating what it means to have the mind set on the flesh. “Sarkos” is the Greek word for flesh and it is not just bad or negative thoughts, intentions, or actions. Even my good intentions or striving in myself to do good can be in my flesh. Any natural ability or function apart from God or trusting in ourselves or our abilities could also be considered setting our mind on the flesh. It happens almost automatically unless we make a decision to continuously turn to and rely on the Holy Spirit within us as grace to live and abide in Him receiving our life supply through His life and power within us. There’s no need to get discouraged or upset when we realize we are off, just turn to Him and reset and go on with our minds set on the Spirit. Praise the Lord for His life in us and as sons of God, we are led by the Spirit of God. We can choose to set our mind on the Spirit today.

It’s not a matter of God “catching us” functioning in the flesh, but of Him helping us break the habit. It’s a lifelong fight that doesn’t end until we leave these bodies. It is at that time that we strip off the corruptible and put on the incorruptible; we remove the mortal and put on immortality, and “death [which is embedded in these bodies] is swallowed up by life.” We find these promises taught in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:35-54.

If we truly want to think like God, then we need the mind of Christ. The only way to get it is to give our minds over to Him and allow Him to guide our thoughts, which guide our actions, which are determined by our obedience. It really is simple: Jesus comes to us each day saying, “Do you trust me?” We answer, “Yes, Lord!” And then we follow Him.

Trust and obey for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey

Abba, it really does come down to us trusting You in everything. I categorically give myself over to You. Now, help me with the specifics. Work in me and through me, Lord. I am Yours; do with me as You will. Amen.

Proverbs 8 9-8-21

It’s not what you know, but who you know, namely Christ Jesus. He is the Key to everything.

22 The LORD chose Me, appointed Me, anointed Me, and sacrificed Me as the first of His works [of salvation], before His deeds of old [creation];

If we want to know God, we must get to know Jesus. Colossians 2:9 tells us that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity [God the Father] lives in bodily form.” Jesus IS God. John 1:1-3 says that Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God, therefore Jesus is God. This “Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” He was God, but also the “Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. “Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough.’ Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been with you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father...Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?'” John 14:8-10. We have been given fullness in Christ. Fulness of what? Christ Himself! Colossians 2:10.

We come to understand the love of God and the full riches of complete understanding of Christ through experience. We must experience life with Christ. Doing things for Christ doesn’t qualify. We must do these things WITH Christ. His Spirit within us IS Christ. He is the One who reveals everything as we go through everything with Him. If He is not in charge, then He remains quiet and we miss the opportunity to learn from the experience. He will have to take us through it again WITH Him so that we may learn the lesson He has for us, the wisdom we are to gain, and the experiential knowledge of Christ that He wants to reveal to us.

Colossians 2:2-3 and 6-7 give us all this information. Let’s read it:

How I long that you may be encouraged, and find out more and more how strong are the bonds of Christian love. How I long for you to grow more certain in your knowledge and more sure in your grasp of God himself. May your spiritual experience become richer as you see more and more fully God’s great secret, Christ himself! For it is in him, and in him alone, that men will find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. J.B. PHILIPS

Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it [experientially], and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.

Hint: Reading Colossians 2:1-15 in several different translations and paraphrases will give the reader a fuller grasp of the text’s meaning. What else will we find?

  1. Our whole self that was ruled by the flesh was put off [discarded] when Christ circumcised our hearts upon salvation.
  2. God made us alive WITH Christ. That’s HUGE!
  3. Jesus canceled our debt by nailing it to the cross.
  4. He disarmed the powers and authorities of Satan, triumphing over them by the cross.

Powerful passage! It’s worth spending a few days soaking up the meaning of each truth given in it. Let’s see: Encouraged hearts, knowing the mystery of God (which is Christ), hidden treasures of experiential knowledge, strengthened faith that is overflowing with joy and thankfulness, having the fullness of Christ dwell in us, made alive WITH Christ, and having our sin debt completely erased…it doesn’t get any better than these! Aren’t you glad you know Christ personally? They are all yours through and with Him!

Abba, what wondrous works You have wrought! Thank You for making Yourself available to each of us through Your Spirit. May I learn each of these wonderful truths and learn to manifest them in my life. I’m ready, Lord! Lead the way. Amen.

Proverbs 7 9-7-21

The Bible has some intriguing promises in it for us. Want to check out a few? Read on…

18 “Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! [the problem is that what she is calling love is really an addiction to lust; real love comes from the Father]

There are several verses that promise us that we will overflow with certain qualities and attributes. What are these special verses?

Hope- In what is to come. “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. Joy and peace flow from our hope.

Love- His love in us. “May the Lord make your love [that He has given you] increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” 1 Thessalonians 3:12.

Joy- Knowing Him and being part of His plans. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and [amidst] their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” 2 Corinthians 8:2

Peace- Resting in the knowledge that we are safe. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

Grace- What we have received, we give. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:14. His love gives us faith. We feel it; we know it deep within us. It is foundational.

Thankfulness- A continuous attitude. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7

Life- Springs of living water flow from us. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of [living] water welling up to eternal life.” John 10:10, 4:10, 14.

A person might ask, “How do I partake of these promises?” They are found in the Person of Jesus Christ. Colossians 2:6-7 says it best, “Continue to live your lives IN Him.” How do we do that? By establishing Him as the foundation of our lives and then building our lives on Him. Here’s how that works:

  1. With our mouths confess Him as Lord of our lives. It’s important to say it out loud. There’s something concrete about the words leaving our mouths. It’s why the courts have us sworn in; it’s why we say vows in marriages, and it’s why we “confess with our mouths, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead” and we are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
  2. Start a list of all the important things in our lives: people, money, houses, job, cars and other possessions, fame, belonging, power, influence, etc. Now go over each one asking the Lord what He wants you to do concerning each one. It’s not easy and it takes a while. He usually won’t ask us to give up everything at once–but sometimes He does! Are we willing to give Him all?
  3. Ask someone to help you. We all need mentors, someone who can kickstart us in our walk with Christ by giving us verses, pointers, and guidance, but will also encourage us to seek the Father in prayer and Bible study, and will pray for us and with us.

Most people see their lives as a pie that is cut into several pieces, each piece representing a segment of our lives: Work, family, entertainment, church, etc. The problem is that Jesus wants all the pieces. It makes better sense to see our lives as a target with our relationship and fellowship with Christ at the center, our family and close relationships in the next concentric ring, then our work in the next ring, our entertainment in the next, etc. We always go to the center before going to any of the other rings. It’s called, “Hitting the mark,” which is the opposite of sin (“missing the mark”).

Want to know why many Christians don’t serve Jesus with all their hearts? It’s because they live their lives by the “PIE” illustration. It’s also why they don’t experience the promises listed above, or at least not with regularity or intensive measure. Let’s take Jesus up on His promises. I know He wants us to!

Abba, thank You for Your promises. I strive to experience them every day. I admit I am hooked on Your love, joy, peace, hope and grace. I am, indeed, overflowing with thankfulness. Now, I ask that You overflow me with life so that I can share You and Your grace with others. I am truly grateful, Lord. I am Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 6 9-6-21

Jesus is King of the Universe. He knows all things intimately. What would you like to know? Ask Him. Then start reading!

20 My child, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching [concerning the Lord and His Word]. 21 Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Here’s how my morning has gone:

  • I got my coffee and my Bible stuff and sat down in my place (a reclining couch with a tv tray beside it).
  • I got my notecards and went through the daily cards* and then the weekly cards.
  • I then journaled a prayer to the Lord. This morning’s was one of thanksgiving for such a powerful morning at church yesterday.
  • Then came my Bible study. I read the Proverbs chapter for the day and then wherever I am studying, which is 1 Corinthians. As I read the passage (6:12-20), I realized that these are sayings that were popular at Paul’s time. I googled the passage and learned that people were using that saying to justify sexual sin. All of a sudden the entire passage came into focus!

Each morning as I go through this routine, I am conscious of His presence with me. I don’t necessarily feel Him, but I know He is here. What I do feel is my mind being fashioned to see new concepts and accept new knowledge. I ask Him to open my mind to the knowledge I now have, and open my heart to apply this new knowledge to myself. Then, I ask Him for the wisdom to teach this knowledge to others.

This daily process has become not only my favorite time of the day, it is vital in keeping me fresh concerning worship, ministry, teaching Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School), my relationship with Robin, my kids, my grandkids, friends, etc. It’s like I’m being made new each day–wait; I AM!

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

May you create your own routine to spend time with the King of the Universe. He has SO MUCH to share with us.

Abba, thank You for calling me into a time of fellowship with You. When I focus on You, I can sometimes sense Your presence, but I always know You are here with me, in me. I enjoy Your participation, I catch a reflection of Your love, joy, and peace, and I learn so much from You! I truly feel prepared to meet the challenges of the day. I’m saddled up**; let’s ride! Amen.

*These are notecards of verses I use to prepare my heart for fellowship with Jesus, and verses that I am memorizing. There is also a prayer card of people for whom I pray every day. The weekly cards are more of the same. I have cards I memorized that I go over, and groups of people for whom I pray.

** The Great Adventure by Steven Curtis Chapman

Proverbs 5 9-5-21

What are we willing to lose to gain Christ? Is He even our goal in this life?

8 Keep to a path far from her [temptation], do not go near the door or her house…21 For your ways are in full view of he LORD, and He examines all your paths.

2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.

I ran across a passage in my daily reading that made me ponder. Here it is:

11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. 1 Corinthians 4:11-13

We know that the “we” is Paul and Sosthenes, and maybe others (see 16:19-20). This is the same person who met Jesus personally and had several “talks” with Him. Paul even went to heaven and was shone the whole picture, some of which he was not allowed to talk about (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). Yet, Paul endured such hardship for the Lord. In fact, Paul counted it quite an honor to “fill up in his flesh the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24).

How about us? Christ gave His life for us. Paul lived his life in abject poverty for His Lord. What are we willing to lose to gain Christ? Are we willing to suffer pain, heartache, loss, or poverty? If not, then we really don’t understand what He did for us on the cross or what He has in store for us. We believe in the idea of heaven, but we haven’t grasped the reality of it, yet.

Just wait. We will. It’s one of the advantages of growing old. We learn not to overcome, but to stick close to our Savior’s side (we are already overcomers in Christ-Romans 8:37, 1 John 5:4). When Peter was most successful in walking on water was after Jesus caught him and raised him up. Then they walked back to the boat together (Matthew 14:25-33). That’s us! In our pain, in our heartache, loss, or poverty, we stick close to Jesus. We know that eventually we will make it to the other shore (v.34), and heaven will be all the sweeter. Great is His faithfulness.

This morning, let’s worship together in our respective locations.

Abba, thank You that You promise to catch us when we begin to sink. Thank You for walking us back to the boat and for getting us all to the other side. I know that Your kingdom is beyond words! In the meantime, may You remind us that this world is NOT our home and that we are just a’passin’ through. To You be the glory. Amen.

Proverbs 4 9-4-21

1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” How do we know we are in bad company?

14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. 15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. 16 For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble [you!]. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

From Northpoint

Five Signs of a Toxic Friendship

Here’s how to spot the warning signs of toxic friendships…

1.   When it dawns on you that your core group isn’t moving in the direction you want your life to be moving in.

2.   When you catch yourself pretending to be someone other than who you really are.

3.   When you feel pressure to compromise.

4.   When you catch yourself thinking, “I’ll go, but I won’t participate.”

5.   When you hope the people you care about don’t know your whereabouts.

From Kelly

How should we treat those who are toxic to us?

[9] When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. [10] But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. [11] What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Jesus said to treat them like tax collectors—wait, how did Jesus treat tax collectors? He told them about His kingdom (Matthew 5:27-31). They were not followers yet, so Jesus ate with them. We are to reach out to the lost, but we are to avoid those who profess Christ but do not follow His ways. We are to treat them kindly, but at arm’s length. Are we strong enough to do it? No. That’s why we walk in the Spirit and do it with His strength.

Even when we know the answer is, “yes,” the Holy Spirit will prompt us to ask the questions above. Why? Because it helps us to stay on track. One of my guys was telling me that in one of his training videos, he learned that train drivers in Asia have someone just behind them that point every few seconds in order to make sure the driver’s attention is on the road. That’s what the Spirit does for us in helping us keep on track (or get back on track).

Verse 25 tells us to “let our eyes look straight ahead; fix our gaze directly before us.” On what–or Whom–shall we fix our gaze? On Jesus!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer [author] and perfecter [finisher] of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2

Abba, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You. When we gaze into Your face, we have Your attention; we receive Your love, joy and peace; we have hope, and access Your mercy and Your grace. Why would we ever want to look anywhere else?! Amen.

Proverbs 3 9-3-21

The point of the cross was for us to miss the Great White Throne judgement where people get judged by their works.

11 My child, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a father the child He delights in [this training is while on earth; when we go to be with Him, “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He truly and entirely is.” 1 John 3:2].

I said yesterday that we would look at a 2 Corinthians 5:10. Here it is,

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad [this is the great white throne judgement; remember that Christ is seated BESIDE the Father at His right hand].

It sounds like we all will spend some time with the Savior going over our lives. Not so! Jesus said that He would raise every person and judge them according to their works (John 5:28-29). But, in verse 25, those who hear the voice of Jesus will live. The implication is that Jesus pulls us out of the pack and keeps us to Himself. We will see this implication in action when we read Revelation 20:12-15.

We are judged by grace. Plain and simple. Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us so. Let’s read it:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Basically, what we have here is the law of grace. The only thing we “do” is receive if from Jesus’ hands. It is also called the law that gives freedom (James 2:12) and the law of the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2). This law of grace means that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. We are not judged according to our works, but according to the fact that our names are in that book! The dead that are standing before the throne in Revelation 20 are those who are spiritually unprepared to stand in God’s presence. We have these promises:

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. Revelation 2:11

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die [physically]26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die [spiritually]. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

12 And I saw the dead [spiritually unprepared], great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life [not, “was judged according to their works and found wanting”] was thrown into the lake of fire.

As we can see, God’s children are not judged according to their works, but by the law of freedom and the Spirit. So, what happens to us at this point in the narration? For that answer, we must go to Matthew 25 and look at two parables:

  1. The Parable of the Bags of Gold-“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” verse 21
  2. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats; “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world,'” verse 34

When we get to heaven, yes, we will receive a reward (1 Corinthians 3:11-15), but it’s in a ceremony, at which I believe we will then turn around and cast our crowns at the Savior’s feet! If the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:10 are representative of all believers in both the old and new covenants, then we are represented in them as they lay their crowns before the throne of the Lamb. Whether I am right or not, we will see. The point is that we never have our sins brought up again. They have been cast from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 1-3:12). “Rejoice, for your names have been written down in heaven!” Luke 10:20.

Abba, thank You for taking care of my sin so that I no longer have to carry it, answer for it, or even have it brought up against me ever again. You are a mighty God, and Your Son is the bravest Man ever! Jesus, You bore my sins to Calvary. Blessed be Your name! Hallelujah!!! Amen.

Proverbs 2 9-2-21

Knowing the future is easy. All we have to do is read the Bible. Jesus told us, John told us, and Paul told us. Do we trust them?

10…knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. 6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Yesterday, as we studied 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, we discovered that this life, along with our sinful bodies and even death itself, is being swallowed up in life! Eternal life. We will have bodies suited for eternity in the Lord’s presence. What hope can we find in such a discovery? Let’s look at the next four verses and find out.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

  1. “Always confident”- There is a sureness here that transcends any trial or tribulation. That sureness is that no matter whether they are alive or dead physically, they are safe in the truth that God has them in the palm of His hand either way. They have a sure hope.
  2. “We live by faith, not by sight”-. Paul talks about this type of faith twice more in Scripture, Romans 8:24 and Hebrews 11:1 (if you are a believer that Paul wrote Hebrews). The idea is to take Jesus’ word that He has a place for us (John 14:2-3) and that we will be with Him upon the death of these natural bodies (Luke 23:43). We believe Jesus for salvation; why not believe Him about heaven, too?
  3. “We make it our goal to please Him”- Ephesians 5:10 says, “and find out what pleases the Lord.” Upon the entry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we gain His innate desire to please the Father. Pleasing the Son pleases the Father. How do I know this? Because of John 5,
    1. Verse 19, “I can do only what I see my Father doing.”
    2. Verse 20, “The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.”
    3. Verse 21, The Father and the Son give life to whomever they are pleased to give it.
    4. Verse 22, The Father has entrusted all judgement to the Son.
    5. Verse 23, All who honor the Son honor the Father. Those who do not honor the Son dishonor the Father.

In conclusion, we no longer need to worry about pleasing the Father because we please the Son. We give Him our lives and live each day in accordance to the Holy Spirit’s guidance within us. We no longer fear death because we know that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” In the meantime, we rejoice in each day because of the hope in us that He will fulfill His promises to us.

Tomorrow, we will look at verse 10: The Question of the Ages, “Will Christians be judged for their works?” (I’ll give you a spoiler alert: NO!). Stay tuned…

Abba, thank You for the promises You have given us concerning our future beyond these bodies and this life. Thank You for the assurance we have in You and the Spirit within us Who is our guarantee and the seal of Your promise. Teach us what pleases You, O Lord. We will do it! Amen.

Proverbs 1 9-1-21

Many Christians act like they don’t know what to expect when they die. They live in fear of death when Jesus has conquered death!

22 How long will you who are simple [someone who doesn’t know right from wrong, but is prone toward evil] love your simple ways? How long will mockers [those who know right from wrong but doesn’t care–in fact, will ridicule and even get angry at the righteous] delight in mockery and fools [those who know right from wrong, but choose wrong anyway] hate knowledge?

We have been given wonderful instruction in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 concerning our current bodies and the bodies waiting for us in the kingdom of God. Let’s read it:

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

  1. We live in an earthly tent. It’s also called a vessel (2 Timothy 2:21), a building, and a dwelling. In 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, our bodies are referred to as natural and perishable bodies, bodies of dishonor because of sin.
  2. Our heavenly dwelling and the process of getting there are described in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’”
  3. “Clothed instead of naked” comes from a description of us in the throne room of God. The best illustration is in Matthew 22:11-13, “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” We cannot stand in the presence of God in our birthday suits because it has been tainted with sin. It’s not that God cannot look upon sin, but that we will feel utterly out-of-place. Indeed, we will seek to hide from the Holy One (Revelation 6:16). Only by being clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ are we suitable for eternal living (Romans 13:14).
  4. The Spirit teaches us about what is to come and reminds us that we cannot conceive all that He has planned for us. Knowing what we know, we long to be out of these bodies and in our heavenly bodies–or, at least, we should.
  5. Making the transition from these bodies to our eternal bodies is something that the Holy Spirit does for us. He fashions us for this very purpose, and is our deposit, our guarantee of what is to come.

The conclusion that I draw from this passage is that drawing close to Jesus/the Holy Spirit is the best way to be fashioned and prepared to make the transition from this world to the next, from this kingdom to His kingdom, from this tent to our heavenly dwelling. We should take great comfort in the phrase, “what is mortal is being swallowed up by life (v.5)!”

Tomorrow, we look at verses 6-10 and what awaits us.

Abba, thank You for loving me and for preparing me to exit this world and go be with You in Your kingdom. I can think of nothing greater! May my life and my death bring glory and honor to You, O Lord.

Proverbs 31 8-31-21

Is there ever a reason to speak harshly to someone? Strongly, yes, but unkindly, no. I think Scripture backs me up.

5 lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights [we must always be in our right mind, accessing the mind of Christ].

One morning, as I was reading through my Scripture cards, I began to play the “What If” game. What if I were to assume the attitude given in the verses I was reading each time I entered into a conversation with someone? How would it change the way I talk and operate? The verses I was reading were:

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 4:28-5:2

If I were to consciously quote these verses to myself each time I began a conversation with someone, I would be prepared to put them into practice in the conversation. I know this: My flesh rebelled flagrantly at the idea. “It’s too much work!” “They might not be nice back.” These were a couple of the arguments my flesh made. The Spirit made some good arguments, too, though. “You will be viewed as a godly individual.” “You will be spreading the fragrance of Christ.” “You will be like Me.” The first two were good, but the last one got me. It is my highest goal to be like my Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I was contemplating the idea, other verses began to come to me,

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:2-3

What might happen to all of us if we were to adopt this way of thinking? What would happen to others? Do you think that Christ might be honored and that people would want what we have–or, Who we have? I do, too! Let’s try it, shall we?

Abba, may I make it a habit to mentally run through these verses as I enter into conversations with others. Please remind me, Lord. I need Your power and Your participation to do it! May You be honored. Amen.

Proverbs 30 8-30-21

When we walk with Jesus, He talks to us about everything. It usually sounds like us, but there’s a difference–and we know it!

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

What I have noticed is that people who follow Jesus up close and personal encourage those around them to follow Jesus up close and personal. In fact, they can’t help it; it’s just what they do.

Conversely, people who follow Jesus from a distance are not able to encourage others to follow Jesus up close and personal; ignorance, fear, accountability, and pride step in and prevent them from saying anything or looking for ways to show His love. They can show love, but it can easily be interpreted as a natural love rather than a godly love. I’m not saying that we have to say something about Jesus every time we help someone or show love to someone; it’s just that Jesus oozes from those who follow up close and personal. People see it.

The passage that Jesus uses to describe these two sets of people is Mark 4:1-20. We will look at verses 18-20,

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

One set of folks wants Jesus as Savior, meaning that they don’t want to go to hell and don’t mind living a kinda-sorta righteous life–just as long as they don’t get too radical with it. Their eyes are on what the world is offering. There’s not a lot of room there for Christ.

The other set of folks has found a hunger and a thirst for Him. He smells good to them (2 Corinthians 2:14) and they desire to be close to Him. They will do whatever it takes for Jesus to run their lives. The first thing they do is:

  1. Start talking to Him. Not so much a “Dear Heavenly Father,” although there’s nothing wrong with that approach, but I’m talking the “He’s right there with you in the moment” kind of prayer: “Hey Jesus, I’m feeling a nudge to go talk to that person. Is that what You want me to do?” or, “I hear You, Lord. I told You that I wanted to get up a little early and read with You, but thirty minutes early? Okay…”
  2. Speaking of reading, the Bible can best be described as a treasure chest that a person finds buried in a field. He re-buries it, then goes off and sells everything he has to have the cash to buy the field, and then goes and digs it back up. Sound familiar? It’s Matthew 13:44. These people are willing to give up anything they have in order to find the treasures in knowing Jesus. He’s in the pages, folks! He is wanting to share with You great and unsearchable (can’t find it on your own) things. Don’t believe me? Take HIS Word for it, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” Jeremiah 33:3 (God’s phone number).
  3. They can’t wait to meet with other Christians and share what they have learned.
  4. They look for opportunities to meet with younger Christians and encourage them in their walk with Jesus.

Jesus loves us right where we are. We don’t have to clean up to come to Him. At the same time, He loves us too much to leave us where we are. He has great plans for us:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:11-12

However, as it is written: “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—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Let’s work at being the set of folks that loves Jesus up close and personal. Trust me, you will not regret it!

Abba, thank You that You even want to have me close. Thank You for walking with me through every day and every night. Thank You for Your Spirit who resides in my heart. May He rule there, as well. Thank You for revealing Your wonderful truths to me. Keep’em comin, Lord! Amen.

Proverbs 29 8-29-21

When will we realize that we cannot trust anything this world teaches? It’s all smoke and mirrors. We trust only the Lord.

16 When the wicked thrive, so does sin, but the righteous will see their downfall [both on a personal and global scale].

In this world, power and wealth prevail, influence and manipulation are the name of the game, and the fulfillment of dreams (no matter how evil) is the goal. As bad as these can be, the worst thing is that humans are not the ones pulling the strings; Satan and his horde are! All it takes is a suggestion from them and we are off under our own power running to sin. Because we begin this life with no Holy Spirit in us, we are bent toward evil. We desire it and approve it. We were enemies of God (Colossians 1:21, Romans 5:10, Romans 1:32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Ephesians 2:1-3, and Titus 3:3).

So, what happened? We trusted God and called upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to save us. What did He do? He placed His Holy Spirit in us as a seal, a guarantee, and a foretaste of what is to come in the kingdom of heaven. Let’s look at Titus 3:4-8,

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

  1. It is the kindness and love of God that we even have the opportunity of salvation.
  2. This kindness and love appeared as Jesus Christ. He is our Savior!
  3. It’s not because of us, but in spite of us; He saved us because of His mercy. When we are merciful, we are most like Him.
  4. We have been justified (just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned) by His grace. He even erases the evidence! We are made new.
  5. We have been made heirs, co-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17).
  6. We are to be careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good (according to God).
  7. Trusting God and obeying Him is excellent and profitable for everyone.

My own paraphrase of Proverbs 3:5-6 is,

Trust the Lord with all you are and have;
Lean not on your own knowledge and abilities;
In all your ways acknowledge and acquiesce to Him,
and He will guide you with His counsel and direct your paths
.

As we worship together today, let’s pledge ourselves anew to His love and grace, His mercy and His kindness. Let’s set our hearts on devoting ourselves to doing what is good according the the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.

Abba, thank You for loving me and for pouring our Your kindness, mercy and grace on me. I was Your enemy, but You called me and I answered. I am Your humble servant; use me as You see fit, O Lord. As we go, I will enjoy Your presence, and participation in my life, Your protection, power, and Your promise of even better things to come. I trust You, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 8-28-21

Seeking God with all our hearts: Are we doing it?

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully [for it is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)].

One time, Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus answered,

30 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. Look at the following verses:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Do you hear the passion? They are to consume us. Why is the Word of God so important? Because God thought enough of us to write down truth so that we can trust Him. The Word of God has always been important for people to know what holiness and grace are. It is particularly important in identifying the Messiah when He came, for “everything that was written in the past [the Old Testament] was written to teach us” [about Christ] Romans 15:4.

There is a passage in Jeremiah 29:13-14 that speaks to us today as well as it did to the people in Jeremiah’s day,

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

I will ask again, are we seeking God with all our hearts? We have His promise that we will find Him if we do. Is knowing God intimately your passion? Are you consumed with walking with Him, sensing His presence, feeling His love, joy and peace? Do you experience His mercy and grace routinely? The place to seek Him is in the Scriptures–both Old and New Testaments–and in prayer. We connect with God in prayer. We connect with the divine in other people when we pray with them. Prayer is the link to the mind of Christ and the Body of Christ.

Let’s assume that God is really GOD, that Jesus is coming back, and that our lives are really short compared to all eternity. Let’s make knowing Him and obeying Him our top priority. Let’s abandon everything else and seek Him. This is the road to godliness and holiness. Nothing else matters, because if we get this right, then everything else in life falls into place. It may not be like we expect, but it will be what is best according to God. Let’s trust Him to know what He’s doing.

Abba, I trust You. I realize that I won’t get out of this world alive, so I am putting all my treasures in Your bank (Matthew 6:19-21). I know that as I seek You, I will be filled with wisdom, knowledge, discernment, prudence, insight, instruction, discretion and understanding. These qualities will make me into a godly man. They will make me just like You, Jesus. I want more than anything for people to see the qualities of Jesus in me. I love You. Amen.

NOTE: Tomorrow’s Sunday’s Cool lesson is on the Beatitudes. Here is a LINK to a really cool website.

Proverbs 27 8-27-21

Our outlook concerning others determines how we treat them. Christ has a specific way He wants us to view each other.

3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation [when we let people anger or irritate us] is heavier than both.
5 Better is open rebuke [by a loved one] than hidden love [when loved ones shield us from the truth about ourselves].
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses [tells us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear].

How are we to regard each other? Are we brothers and sisters in Christ (Romans 8:29)? Are we to spur each other on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24)? Yes, but it’s more than that. Let’s read 2 Corinthians 5:17,

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

We are all new creations in Christ. We are not like we were. Each of us is now growing in godliness according to the amount of trust we have in the Holy Spirit as He works in our lives. We must not regard each other as we were before Christ. That person is dead. We are all now part of the Body of Christ, the Bride of the Bridegroom, the Building of God.

Let’s look at the three previous verse 16:

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.

Verse 16 tells us not to regard anyone from a worldly point of view, which means that even sinners hold eternal value. That value is the price Christ paid on the cross for each one of them. We need to begin looking at them as potential brothers and sisters in Christ rather than as heathens and “pieces of trash.” That attitude holds contempt for the ones for whom Christ died!

How should we live? For that answer, let’s go back two more verses:

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.

If we live for Christ, then we live to win those who are lost in sin. We accomplish this feat by being obedient to the Holy Spirit as He leads us. HE will lead us where to go; HE will tell us what to do; HE will put the words in our mouths. If we are following Christ, then we don’t need people telling us what God’s will is (including people who tell us that we need to be telling people about Jesus and witnessing on street corners; that job is reserved for those He calls to do that specific task). We live our lives for Christ to reach the one that He has lined up for us. It may be our child, our sibling, our neighbor, our friend; it’s usually someone with whom we have a relationship. As we grow more mature in Christ, He leads us into new relationships for His sake and His glory. Did you catch Who does the leading? Christ does!

Let’s quit guilting each other into being something we are not. What we ARE is followers of Jesus Christ. HE will “work in us what is pleasing to Him” (Hebrews 13:21). Let’s see people as Christ sees people. WE ALL NEED JESUS!

Abba, I only want to go where You lead me, when You lead me, do what You want me to do, and say what You want me to say. I don’t need to do anything FOR You, just WITH You. It’s the whole point of our relationship. Keep me by Your side, Lord. It’s the highest and safest place I can be. Amen.

Proverbs 26 8-26-21

God is love, but He is also just. The law of love begins and ends with Him. Anything outside of it comes under judgement.

27 Whoever digs a pit [intending malice] will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone [intending harm], it will roll back on him [boomerang justice].

Our salvation is like two sides of a coin:

  1. We get to have a relationship with the God of the universe!
  2. We need a Savior because of our sin; we need Jesus!

God imparts to us His righteousness because of our reconciliation to Him through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18, 21). From that point on, He sees us as righteous. Our sin and its debt are blotted out–it’s not even legible anymore! A person may ask, “Does God choose who comes to Him and who doesn’t?” The answer is YES–and NO.

It is YES in that Jesus makes known the Father to whom He chooses,

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Matthew 11:27

It is NO in that Jesus beckons all to come to Him,

28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

What does it take for a person to become one of God’s elect? All we have to do is ask!

Jesus made a very apt point in a comparison story:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, 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 7:9-11

Even as far back as Isaiah, we have this promise:

18 Come now, let us settle the matter,” 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 1:18

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.

Isaiah 55:1

And, just as it is God who saves us, He also keeps us. Wendel Estep once said, “Our fellowship with God is very fragile because it depends on us. Our relationship with God is very secure because it depends on Him.” In the same way that we chose to follow Christ and receive the new life and are adopted by God the Father, we choose to follow Him every day. In following Him, we train in holiness. Sure, it’s dirty work (whoever said that God can’t look upon sin…!), but the Holy Spirit is purifying us (Titus 2:14) to be a spotless bride for the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27).

So, when we present Christ, be sure to present both sides of the coin. Be aware of which side to emphasize according to your audience, but make sure that both sides are presented. It’s important.

Abba, thank You that You chose me. Thank You for all Jesus did to give me the opportunity to respond to His call. Knowing You personally is beyond words! May I share with anyone who will listen. Lead me to them, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 25 8-25-21

The struggle for Christ to be formed in us answers the age-old question of free will; if the Christian life were easy, then it wouldn’t be a struggle!

2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings [the glory in us is something that we must release by releasing everything that is concealing the glory of Christ].

That glory will look a little different in each of us because it is the Holy Spirit interacting with our spirit, thus creating something brand new, but the basic pattern of godliness is there. The principal verse for Christ being formed in us is Galatians 4:19,

19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,

The basic pattern of godliness can be found in many passages, several of which are:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9

As we can see, there is plenty on which to work in our lives. Each day, even each moment, we must decide to trust Jesus. By knowing these passages, we know what holiness and godliness look like. As the Holy Spirit teaches us in these matters, we enjoy sweet fellowship with the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. We feel His love for us, we receive His peace, and His joy overflows in our lives. It’s what makes us irresistible to the world! We are the fragrance of Christ; what can get any better than that? By the way, His aroma rubs off on us; the closer we are to Him and the longer we stay in His presence, the more we smell like Him. That aroma is what seeking people crave. Let’s share it!

Abba, it is our desire that Christ be formed in us. Thank You that we have people in our lives like Paul who cry out to You to do just that: Be formed in us. May they speak truth to us when we need correction, and may we listen no matter how difficult it is to control our flesh. Humility is always the best route. Hammer away, Lord. We need chiseling. Amen.

Proverbs 24 8-24-21

Satan is the father of lies. He is the master liar. What makes us think we can outsmart him? He’s fooled everyone but Jesus!

5 The wise prevail through great [Holy Spirit] power, and those who have knowledge [of the Holy One] muster their strength [from Him]. 6 Surely you need guidance [from Mr. Holy Spirit*] to wage war [against the forces of evil, and against our own evil desires], and victory is won through many advisers [both human and biblical].

This morning, I am giving the message at TNT Chapel. It’s a Homeschool Co-op that meets at our church on Tuesdays. We have a chapel service for them–we even have a worship band made up of the students! I will be teaching about TRUST, particularly what NOT to trust.

Don’t Trust Your Feelings, Your Knowledge, or Your Perceptions.

Each of these categories can be tricked or fooled by nature and by Satan. I will give three examples:

  1. An airplane can be guided in fog by the instruments even though the pilot may be fooled into thinking that the gauges are off.
  2. When traversing through a house of mirrors, don’t bump your nose (like I did!).
  3. There is an exercise for balance where a person stands on one foot and, while looking straight ahead, moves his eyes slowly down, then front, then up, then front, then to the right, then front, then to the left, then front. If he can do it without falling over, he is a very “balanced” individual! Try it with the other foot…

There is a passage, 2 Timothy 2:11-13, that teaches us who we can trust:

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

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

I will ask the youth to give me the end of each phrase, “If we died with Jesus, then we will also ____________” and so on. The trick comes in the last verse where God cannot disown Himself and must remain faithful. In the verse, “deny” means “to refuse, contradict, refuse to affirm or to confess (identify with), to disown.” Using Matthew 10:32-33, we discover that to deny means to deny Jesus as Lord and Savior, to refuse the His invitation for salvation, to contradict His statement of our sinfulness, to refuse to confess Him as Lord and to identify with Him, and to disown Him by refusing the entry of the Holy Spirit. It’s a salvation issue.

Being faithless is what Jesus called the disciples out in the boat in Matthew 14:31, “You of little faith [My little faithless ones], why did you doubt?” It’s not a salvation issue, but a trust issue. Once we trust Jesus for salvation and the Holy Spirit enters our lives, quickening our spirits, and giving us new life (we are born again), there is no denying (disowning) us by Jesus before the Father (as in Matthew 10:33). It’s now a family matter.

Don’t believe me? How about John 14:16,

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor [Mr. Holy Spirit] to help you and be with you forever—

So, we are not to trust our senses (they are easily fooled), our knowledge (it’s always partial), our perspective (it’s always limited), or our opinion, or even someone else’s opinion. We must Trust Jesus and what He has told us in His Word.

Trust Jesus; read your Bible.

Abba, I pray that this lesson will sink into their brains and trigger a hunger and thirst for Your Word and for righteousness. I caught the “bug” so many years ago; may they catch it, too. Amen.

*I use the moniker, “Mr. Holy Spirit,” because the Holy Spirit is a Person and not a Thing. He is just as much God as the Son is, and just as much the Son as God the Father is. They are equals and one with each other. The are ONE. They are the TRINITY.

Proverbs 23 8-23-21

Most people are afraid to allow God to order their steps. He might ask them to do something they don’t want to do.

9 Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn the wisdom of your words.

What they don’t realize is that by doing something that is not according to God’s commands, they are destroying themselves, especially their futures. God doesn’t ask us to do things just to have His way. His ways are always the best for us. When will we learn this simple truth? Even death will be the best thing for us eventually. In the meantime, He wants a special, intimate, loving relationship with each one of us and He will use whatever circumstances we are in to have one with us. I don’t believe that God makes us sick; I DO believe that He knows it’s coming and prepares us for it–if we let Him. He always supplies mercy and grace in our time of need if we will ask Him. So many times, we either don’t recognize His offer or we don’t receive it because of our own stubbornness or because we think we don’t deserve it. Wrong on both counts! If God offers it, take it!

So, how should we live our lives? King David lived his like this:

133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. Psalm 119:133

The NKJV says, “Direct my steps by Your Word.”
The NIV says, “Direct my steps according to Your Word.”
The NLV says, “Guide my steps by Your Word.”
The CJV says, “Guide my footsteps by Your Word.”
The AMP says, “Establish my steps and direct them by [means of] Your Word.”

They each had this plea: “Don’t let any sin rule over me.” Any misstep is a step off the path and into enemy territory. Being off the path is what leads to our destruction. God wants to walk with us on the path. He will even hold our hand! We also have a wonderful promise. Psalm 73:23-24 explains it:

23 Yet I am always with you; [we are walking with Him on the path]
    you hold me by my right hand. [He is holding our hand]
24 You guide me with your counsel, [He knows the way that is the best for us]
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
[our destination is to be with Him in glory]

Why do we struggle so with the simplest disciplines like regular prayer and Bible study? Why is it so easy to come up with a reason not to meet with our fellow believers? Why do we not get involved in other people’s lives for the sake of the Gospel? Do we not believe that He has our best interests at heart? That He knows the best route? That He wants to include us in His work? The sin of unbelief is based upon the rejection of–or ignorance of–what He has told us in His Word. I suggest we read it, study it, memorize it, ponder it, and DO it. Daily.

Paul said it best:

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

Paul knew. He’d been to the other side (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). He had met the Savior (Acts 9:1-6). He was convinced. If we have met the Savior, then we are convinced, too. Let’s show our faith by our deeds (James 2:18).

Abba, may our actions show that we really do know You, that we love You, and that we are interested in and even excited about You leading us home. Help us to shed anything in this world that slows us up, drags us down, or leads us astray. We are Your sheep, Good Shepherd. Lead us. Amen.

Proverbs 22 8-22-21

“Everyone who calls on [the name of] the Lord will be saved.” The question is, How does one call on the Lord? Let’s look.

12 The eyes of the LORD keep watch over knowledge, but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful. What knowledge?
9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Conclusion: Those who know the LORD are watched over by Him.

The beginning verse is Romans 10:13, which is a quote from Joel 2:32. It is part of the passage the Peter quotes in Acts 2:17-21. To find out what calling on the name of the Lord meant, we have to go back to Genesis 4:26,

26 To Seth also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

There is a footnote to this verse that says that the word for “call” can also be translated as “proclaim.” I looked it up in the lexicon and guess what? It is! What’s the difference? One gives a framework for the other. The best way to describe it is Hebrews 8:11, which quotes Jeremiah 31:34,

34 They will not teach again, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their wrongdoing, and their sin I will no longer remember.”

What was happening was a type of evangelism. Brothers were admonishing and encouraging their brothers to acknowledge Adonai as the LORD of hosts, King of the universe, and to bow down to Him only. Sound familiar? We see the same language used in Exodus 20:3-6, Joshua 23:16, and 2 Kings 17:35. When it comes to Jesus, I believe Thomas had the right idea when Jesus told him to put his finger in his hands and side, “Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:27-28.

Romans 10:4, 8, 9 and 10 spell it out for us:

For Christ is the culmination of the Law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
But what does it [the word of God] say? “The word[s of the Lord are] near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preachingthat if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

What we profess with our mouths must be what is in our hearts. Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 30:14, and the following verses exhort us to “bow the knee,”

14 On the contrary, the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may follow [obey] it. 15 “See, I have placed before you today life and happiness [good], and death and adversity [evil], 16 in that I am commanding [preaching to] you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, so that you may live and become numerous, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to take possession of it.

What is this land that we are entering to take possession of it? None other than the kingdom of heaven! When we call on the name of the Lord for salvation, He enters us and brings His kingdom with Him. Not only that, we are adopted by the Heavenly Father and become co-heirs with Jesus Christ of this very kingdom! See Romans 8:16.-17.

Who WOULDN’T want to be a part of that?! Well, evidently, there are a lot of people who simply will not bow the knee–right now. We have it on good authority that “at the name of Jesus EVERY knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11.

Abba, thank You that You have saved me by the confession of my mouth concerning what is in my heart. I bow my knee to You, my Lord and my God, my King and my Messiah. Thank You that today I get to worship You in Spirit and in truth with my fellow believers. May we all bow our hearts even as we bow our heads in prayer to You today. Amen.

Proverbs 21 8-21-21

Fear is caused by doubt. Doubt comes from disbelief. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” We must trust Christ in everything.

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence [and righteousness based upon trust] comes to rest in the company of the dead.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

We all play the “what if” game. If we are not careful, we will forecast an ending to our “what if” game that becomes self-fulfilling. If we do not ask because we are afraid that the answer will be no, then the outcome is as good as the person saying, “No.” Instead, we should ask the Lord what He would have us do. If asking is what He leads us to do, then we ask. It may be that the question is really a test of the other person’s faith. Hold on; God doesn’t need to discover the outcome, but the other way around. The PERSON needs to discover whether or not he has faith. Then and only then can a person know what to do next. If his faith is confirmed, then he can move on to other things. If his faith fails, then he can learn from the experience and pass the next trial. The person who asked is either rewarded or consoled by the Spirit, depending upon the second person’s success or failure. Either way, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Now, concerning COVID, we need to make a decision. That decision needs to be based not upon the experts, doctors, our neighbor, the media, or anyone else, but upon the God of our hearts, Jesus Christ. If we ask and He tells us to get the shot, then we’d better get the shot. If we ask and He tells us to NOT get the shot, then we’d better NOT get the shot. It’s not based upon logic, but upon faith in God’s plan for our lives. He has the plan, but it’s up to us to follow that plan. I don’t believe that God chooses for us, but that He leads us to make decisions based upon His guidance. If we get COVID and die (whether or not we got the shot), I’m sure that God has worked our decision and its subsequent result into the fabric of His will.

What we must decide is, do we trust Jesus to tell us? And, If He tells us something contrary to our own opinion or knowledge (or someone else’s), do we trust Him enough to go with what He says? Our decision determines our faith or lack of faith, our belief or unbelief. If we trust Him, then our faith is built and we are rewarded with a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him.

For Christians, our best scriptural example is Martha:

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?27 Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:21-27

If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, then we can trust Him to raise us from the dead if He so desires. But, in the words of the three Hebrews in Babylon, “even if He does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:18. In other words, we will believe Jesus no matter what the world says or tries to get us to believe with our senses, our intellect, loyalty, or duty.

Like I keep saying, “Trust Jesus; read the Bible.” If we trust Him, then we’ll read His Word. The more we read, the more we trust Him. His voice is easier to hear and His words make sense according to the explanation that the Spirit gives us through revelation as we read His Word. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. I’m with Peter.

Abba, hearing Your voice is what I live for. Whatever You say is what I want to do. Give me the capacity to discern and comprehend Your message, and then the desire and the power to do Your will. I trust You implicitly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 20 8-20-21

Rather than base what we do on how we feel, let’s base how we feel on what we know: We Are REDEEMED!

8 When a king [God] sits on His throne to judge, He winnows out all evil with His eyes.
9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”?

Jesus did more than just pay the price we owed because of our sin; He bought us back! We have been redeemed.

Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:14

There’s a new song out whose lyrics I love. It’s called, “Redeemed By the Blood of the Lamb.”

I went down to the crimson river
Left my burdens on the shore
I went down a sinner, came up a saint
Died with Christ, now I’m reborn

Yes, He washed me in His mercy
And He cleansed me with His blood
Now I stand complete, I have been set free
I found life there in the flood

Not the same, I am saved
I’m His child, forever, I am
Hallelujah! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb

Now I have the living water
From the well that won’t run dry
All the pangs of life have been satisfied
By the precious blood of Christ

When it’s time to cross that river
I will shine in glorious light
When He calls me home, I’ll fall at His throne
and forever worship Christ

But, it’s more than that. We have so much more!

  • We have a new citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21)
  • We have an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8)
  • We can approach His throne–Him–for mercy and grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16)
  • We are completely and lavishly loved as His dear children (1 John 3:1)

The old hymn, Redeemed By the Blood of the Lamb, has great lyrics, too:

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed through His infinite mercy
His child, and forever, I am

Redeemed, redeemed
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed, redeemed
His child, and forever, I am

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus
No language my rapture can tell
I know that the light of His presence
with me doth continually dwell

I think of my blessed Redeemer
I think of Him all the day long
I sing, for I cannot be silent
His love is the theme of my song

I know I shall see in His beauty
The King in whose law I delight
Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps
and giveth me songs in the night

The one thing we can count on is that Jesus will work in us what is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 13:20-21) and bring it to completion in our lives (Philippians 1:6). That’s worth singing about!

Abba, thank You for the song in my heart about Your redemption. Thank You that younger generations are writing new songs about it. Thank You for teaching me a new song! Keep it up, Lord; I have lots more to learn. Amen.

Proverbs 19 8-19-21

Living for Jesus, living with Jesus…”What’s the difference?” The difference is huge! God wants a personal relationship with us!

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion [against those who are not His], but his favor is like dew on the grass [for those who are His].

The hymn, “Living For Jesus,” says,

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

“Yielding allegiance” I like; “glad-hearted and free” I like. “Living for Jesus” and “striving to please Him,” not so much. There’s a basic assumption that we are saved to serve as slaves. Yes, that terminology is used in the New Testament, but there’s a different terminology that plays a bigger role in our lives:

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

  1. We are led by the Spirit of God. That in itself takes the “for” out of the equation. He is inside and in charge. He leads and we follow–not out of slavery, but because we recognize His role in our development as sons of God. We live WITH Jesus. NOTE: We all have the same rights as sons. Women in the ancient world could not vote, hold office, or own land, generally speaking. In God’s kingdom, we are all equals in God’s sight. See Galatians 3:28.
  2. Having the Spirit of God is what makes us children of God. We are not slaves, but children. Consider verse 29 just a little further in the chapter, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
  3. Abba” is the equivalent of, “Daddy!” It’s a very personal and intimate term of endearment.
  4. We are siblings with Christ!
  5. Sharing in His sufferings is what happens when we follow Him, look like Him, and act like Him. The world turns on us pretty fast!

Our choice is this: As children of God, shall we operate in the flesh or in the Spirit? Romans 8 addresses this issue, as well, but we will cover that lesson tomorrow. Today, let’s focus on enjoying our adoption and our sonship in the family of God, shall we?

Abba, thank You for loving me, dying for me, redeeming me, and adopting me. It really is ALL YOU! All I did was receive your gift of salvation. And boy, am I glad I did! You are amazing, Abba! I love You. Amen.