Proverbs 4 11-4-22

Opening our minds requires looking beyond our customary boundaries. But, everything needs to run through the filter of God’s Spirit and His Word.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

How do we test the spirits? We compare them to Jesus. What we know about Jesus determines how we compare what we hear and read. For instance, John says to see if what we are testing confesses that Jesus came from heaven and God to earth in human form. Is He Emmanuel, which means, “God with us?” Or, do they posit that Jesus was a man who became God through righteous acts and the sacrifice of his life? It’s a big deal foundationally, because Jesus was God on earth who gave His life for us. We couldn’t save ourselves, so He did it for us. God is good, all the time. We need not worry about His wrath because He stepped in and took the consequence of our sin on Himself, i.e. death. There IS no wrath (spiritual death) for those who trust Jesus.

To take the erroneous position to its end would be to say that we all can save ourselves if we live right and give our lives for something good. Sounds “Old Testament,” doesn’t it? What did Paul have to say about that?

20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. Romans 3:20

We can’t be saved by our works, so their argument doesn’t hold water. Jesus (God) coming to free us from the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23); this is what we believe and in Whom we place our trust.

Tomorrow, I will share with you what I am learning by reading Jeremiah from both the Septuagint and the Masoretic texts at the same time. Neat stuff! In the meantime, immerse/bathe/submit yourself to His Word in your daily reading time. If you are not reading anywhere right now, I recommend Ephesians or Colossians. The first half of each is doctrine and the second half of each is practical application.

Abba, You are amazing. You have so much You want to show us! May we continue to fill our minds with You and Your Word, and may we consciously listen to Your voice as You speak to us. It may not be audible, but in the words of my brother, Jimmy Cox, “it’s louder than that.” Learning to trust Your voice is what life is all about. “Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, speak that my soul may hear.”* Amen.

*Hymn, Speak to My Heart

Proverbs 4 10-4-22

We may have a standing invitation to come to Christ, but the Spirit must open our eyes to our need for Him.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. John 6:44

The objection could be raised that if we need the Spirit to reveal our need, then there is no free will. Not so! Once the Spirit reveals our need, there’s our choice. The question really is, “Does the Spirit reveal to everyone his need?” To answer this question, we must go to the Parable of the Sower found in Mark 4:1-20. It’s also in Matthew 13:1-15 and Luke 8:4-15. We will look at Jesus’ first sentence in His explanation of the parable, 14 The farmer sows the word.

What?! Is that it? Pretty much. If Jesus is the word (John 1:1-3), the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), and the word is sown in people’s hearts, then the Spirit IS revealing to people their need of Jesus. Jesus said, “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them‘” (Luke 16:29). Then, He said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Paul said, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).

The first three seeds fell on different soils. The soils represent the hearts of people. The seed is the same–there’s nothing wrong with it. The problem is that the soils are not ready to receive the seed. It’s a wonder that anyone is ever saved! It’s actually by God’s grace that the Spirit reveals our need to us. Let’s praise the Lord for His bountiful gift of grace!

Abba, thank You for revealing to me my need of You. I would like for everyone to be in a place to recognize Your voice and allow You to reveal their need of You to them. Please give me opportunities to work the soil of hearts so that Your word can be planted in good soil. May the harvest be to Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 4 9-4-22

Magic vs. Christianity- Part 2: How can we escape the trap of expectation?

19 Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. Galatians 4:19

Yesterday, we looked at what could be entitled, “Faith-Magic,” where if we have enough faith, miracles happen. We just don’t know enough about any situation to know what or when a miracle is truly needed. It’s up to God’s overall plan to reach the world with the Gospel.

Today, we are looking at “Performance-Magic.” This kind of magic is really based upon the credit/debit system. If we live a certain way, do a certain number of good deeds, perform certain religious rites, or meet certain expectations, then our prayers will be answered the way we want them to be answered. We can already see the flaw in this kind of magic. God is not obligated in any way, shape or form to “come through” for us. His ways are much higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). We cannot even begin to expect to know what kind of miracle is needed, when, how, or even to whom. We must face the fact that God does not answer to us just because we followed a certain format or lived a certain way.

Actually, knowing this fact can be quite freeing, especially if we learn to lean into Christ rather than panic. One of my favorite songs that ministered to me when I was going through vocal issues (that led to surgery) is, “Sometimes He Calms the Storm.” Here are the words.

All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong

Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control

(refrain)
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

He has a reason for each trial
That we pass through in life
And though we’re shaken
We cannot be pulled apart from Christ

No matter how the driving rain beats down
On those who hold to faith
A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet peaceful place

(refrain)

As long as we remember that many of our circumstances are of our own devising, and many others are of other people’s bad choices, we can trust God to work all things in our lives for good because we have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28), which is to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Let’s forsake the old ways and reach out for His new ways. All we have to do is:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

It really is that simple–easy to say, hard to do! It’s a daily struggle, but remember, He is with us all the way.

Abba, if we would relax and let You lead us, we would find that You have everything under control. Even when our lives seem not to be, You have us in the palm of Your hand. It’s a wild ride, Lord, but I know that eventually, this rollercoaster will stop and we will get off and step into Your kingdom. I can hardly wait! Amen.

Proverbs 4 8-4-22

As we continue our journey through the human body and its intelligent design, we look again at the human eye.

20:12 Ears that hear and eyes that see–the LORD has made them both.

Yesterday, I listed the main parts of the eye: the cornea, the iris, the pupil, the lens, the liquid, the muscle, the cleaning system, the retina, and the optic nerve. Let’s look at each of them.

  • The Cornea- the thin covering over the front of the eye. It is about four times more powerful than the lens in bringing light into focus.
  • The Iris- the colorful part of the eye. It has two sets of muscles that work together to open and close the iris diaphragm thus controlling the size of the pupil. One muscle within the iris constricts the pupil in bright light (full sunlight, for example), and another iris muscle dilates (enlarges) the pupil in dim lighting and in the dark.
  • The Pupil- the window of the eye, it is how light enters the eye and focuses on the retina.
  • The Lens- flexible like rubber, it can quickly focus by changing its shape. Like the cornea, it is derived from embryonic skin and is marvelously transparent.
  • The Liquid- There are two kinds of liquids in our eyes, the Aqueous Humor and the Vitreous Humor. From Georgiaeyephysicians.com,

The Aqueous Humor- Inside the eye are several compartments, or chambers.  Two of those chambers, the anterior (between the cornea at the front of the eye and the iris) and the posterior (between the iris and the lens) are filled with a thin, watery fluid called the aqueous humor.  After being produced by the ciliary body, the fluid flows through the pupil to fill the anterior and posterior chambers, after which it drains out of the eye through a structure called the trabecular meshwork. 
The Vitreous Humor- About eighty percent of the space inside the eye, the area behind the anterior and posterior chambers and between the lens and the retina, is filled with a clear, gel-like substance called the vitreous humor.  Consisting mainly of water, with small amounts of collagen, proteins, salts, and sugars, the vitreous has a firm, jelly-like consistency and helps to maintain the eye’s spherical shape. 

I know it’s a lot of information, but we’re not done, yet. Tomorrow, we will cover the muscles, the self-cleaning system, the retina, and the optic nerve. And to think that this visual system is contained and controlled by the DNA in every person’s body…definitely a Master Design!

Abba, the eyes with which we see are strictly physical. You look with Your spiritual eyes at our hearts and minds. May we learn to trust You to help us adjust, fix and censure what we see with our physical eyes along with the “eyes” of our heart and mind. Amen.

Proverbs 4 7-4-22

Jesus had one theme: His Father’s love for us. Everything was borne out of that theme. “For God so loved the world…

Proverbs 4:1 Listen, my children, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

The Father’s love for us is demonstrated through Jesus when He died on the cross,

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus was God in the flesh here on earth. If we want to know what God thinks of us, we need look no further than Jesus. Here are a couple of examples:

Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Jesus loves us and has compassion for us. Since He is God, then God loves us and has compassion for us. If we want to be like God, then we must learn to love and be compassionate, too. Here’s what Jesus said,

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

In fact, Luke 6:36 gives it to us straight,

Luke 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

We know from Romans 11:32 that, “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.” If God has mercy on everyone, I reckon that we should, too, don’t you?

Loving, compassionate, merciful…sounds like a tall order. Aren’t we glad we have His Spirit in and with us?

Abba, You have said that humanly speaking, it is impossible for us to fill this order, but with You, all things are possible. Please work in us Your love, compassion and mercy. Then we will be known as children of You, O God. Amen

Proverbs 4 6-4-22

Know anyone who has walked away from church? Religion? Jesus? Many are in America.

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

There seems to be a shift going on in America concerning how Christians view what truly pleases the Lord. For many, Christianity had been reduced to rules and pleasing those in power, so they decided to deconstruct their faith, which was supposed to allow them to hear more clearly the Spirit’s voice, but instead, they left Christ behind with the rules. I pray that they will hear His voice again and turn back to Him; He is waiting on them–no, He is pursuing them with a burning heart of love!

The truth was supposed to set us free from rules and regulations. We are to be free to love Jesus and follow Him wherever He leads. Let’s look at a passage where Paul warns the church at Colossae about listening to anyone but Jesus about what is true and what is not:

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23

While these commands could be said to apply to the Law, I believe that Paul was referring to rules that were being made up by people who were wanting to control the churches. It would be like saying, “We don’t allow women to wear pants to church,” or, “Guys must remove their caps inside the church building.” These customs may have been relevant to society at one time, but there’s nothing about them that makes us godly–other than having a humble spirit by trying not to offend. They have nothing to do with our becoming like Christ, being strong in the Spirit, or living exemplary lives.

How do we live exemplary lives? Let’s look at the next verses in the letter:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:1-3

Our journey is one of relationship with Jesus and companionship with like minds. If that journey leads people away from organized religion for a season, I cannot judge them. I have heard it said that in order to make an abrupt change of direction, there must be a cessation of movement. Our society is changing so fast that many people are having to come to a standstill in order to hear directions from Jesus. I pray they do not leave their faith; that road is quite bumpy and long. Instead, let’s pray for each other that we would all hear from Jesus about what is essential. Let’s work together. Anything else is counterproductive.

Abba, I noticed that in the first passage, I am dead with You to the elemental spiritual forces of this world. Thank You! I noticed in the second passage that I have been raised with You and am now seated with You in the heavens. Thank You, again! I realize that there is nothing on this earth that shakes my relationship with You. May I also realize that much of our rules we live by have to do with getting along with each other. Figuring out which ones are beneficial and which ones are harmful is where we need Your guidance day by day. Help us to determine Your truth, O Lord. You ARE Truth. Amen.

Proverbs 4 5-4-22

People think salvation is about going to heaven. It’s not. It’s about heaven living in us. His name is Jesus.

10 Listen, my child, accept what I [Solomon, son of David] say, and the years of your life will be many. 11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.

The apostle Paul sure had a way with words. Let’s look at one of his one-liners that pretty much sums up the Gospel,

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

This verse is the very definition of grace. Jesus knew what we needed: We needed a fresh image of God, a renewed image, a clear image. In fact, to see Jesus is to see God (John 14:9). He knew we were impoverished; He tells us as much in Revelation 3:17, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” He knew we wouldn’t turn to Him, so He came face-to-face with us. He cleared every obstacle out of the way so that we could see Him clearly–even the obstacle of death!

How do we become rich? By hearing of His forgiveness and believing it. He is waiting to pour out all kinds of spiritual blessings on those who will let Him. He wants to give us life in Him, with Him. I know what you’re thinking, “This sounds like a salvation pitch.” Actually, it’s for Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s an everyday decision. To walk with Jesus IS salvation. To trust in Him–daily–is to have life eternal. Martha didn’t have to worry about the Resurrection because Jesus IS the resurrection; He IS life (John 11:23-27).

That goes for us, too.

Abba, thank You for leaving Your throne in heaven to come to earth as a man. Thank You for sharing in our poverty so that we can share in Your riches. May we do so every day. Amen.

Proverbs 4 4-4-22

Where was God when Jesus was crucified? He was right there with Him! The Spirit, too!

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter [He continuously reveals His light to us] till the full light of day.

The anointing of Jesus in Matthew 26:6-13 is an Integral part of the Passion of Christ. It is the official beginning of the end, so to speak. Up to this point, Jesus had

  • turned His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51);
  • Healed Lazarus (John 11:1-46);
  • Ticked off the chief priests and Pharisees to the point that they planned to kill Him (John 11:50-53).

Let’s look at the passage combining Matthew’s point of view and John’s point of view:

M- While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

J- 12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

M- When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

J- But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

M- 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

J- “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Comparing the two accounts, we find that the woman was Mary, the objector was Judas, his motives were selfish, and the perfume/oil was for Christ’s burial. Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit (Oil as Symbol). We now have the entire representation of the Trinity (the presence of the Father is stated by Jesus in John 8:29). The willingness of God the Father to lay down His life through God the Son, Jesus Christ, shows the great, great love of the Trinity for mankind, His creation. The Spirit is in agreement, and is present on the cross through the entire process. The last words of Jesus were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” All three of the Trinity are represented in that statement.

What is so important about the Trinity being present on the cross? Their presence turns what might be considered as a punitive (punishing) action into a rescue mission of mankind! The wrath of God was poured out, not on Jesus, but on sin and death. Jesus took them both to the grave and left them there. We have nothing left to fear! Now, THAT’S good news!

Abba, the degree of love You showed us through the Passion tells us just how crazy You are for us. You showed us Your “self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love*.” May we believe in that love, receive that love, and then share that love with everyone around us. Amen.

*A More Christlike Way pg. 57

Proverbs 4 3-4-22

Learning from experience makes us smart. Learning from others’ experiences makes us wise.

4 My children, listen when your father corrects you.
    Pay attention and learn good judgment,
for I am giving you good guidance.
    Don’t turn away from my instructions.
For I, too, was once my father’s son,
    tenderly loved as my mother’s only child.

My father taught me,
“Take my words to heart
.
    Follow my commands, and you will live.
Get wisdom; develop good judgment.
    Don’t forget my words or turn away from them.

We know to listen to the Spirit’s voice throughout the day. Many of us have learned it since our time in the nursery at church. We are taught to read His Word and listen for His voice. We learn to discern what is His voice and NOT His voice. This process is the Practice of Christianity and our defense against the accusation that our churches are full of hypocrites. Hypocrites are people who wear two faces, and yes, our churches have our share of them, but followers of Christ are NOT hypocrites, but people practicing implementing their faith in their daily lives. Walking with the Spirit is the only way to do it.

When reading about the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-28, I am struck by the phrase, “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling” (21). The “her” is Jezebel, which may be a real person or a representation of a group of people, much like the followers of teaching of Balaam (2:14) and the Nicolaitans (2:15) in the church in Pergamum. Either way, “she” was unwilling to repent. She would not change the way she was thinking, which would change the direction of her life. So, she experienced the consequences of her deeds.

Learning from our own life experiences will make us smart, but learning from Jezebel’s failure to repent will make us wise. Are we willing to put everything in our lives on the altar for Jesus to tell us whether it is for us or not? It may even be a good thing, but if it is not for us, then it will lead us away from Him rather than draw us closer to Him. I am for everything that draws me closer to Him!

We need to be thinking long-term, as in the kingdom of God. We are in it for the long-haul.

Abba, I’m preaching to myself today. May I get over how I feel and get on with following You through today. I vow to quit listening to the generalities of Satan who tells me, “What’s the use? You can’t make it long-term.” Instead, I will set my focus on You, Lord, as You say, “Come to Me, and I will help you be what you need to be right now. Stay with Me and I will share your load. In fact, I’ll carry the lion’s share of it (Matthew 11:28-30).” I am definitely taking You up on Your offer! Amen.

Proverbs 4 2-4-22

Caterpillars vs. Butterflies and Dead Men vs. New Creations; what do they have to do with each other?

18 The path [learning] of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

Each is a metaphor/illustration/example of how we are spiritually before and after we believe Jesus. Let’s look at Dead Men vs. New Creations first.

Jesus said that we were born physically and that we need to be born spiritually (John 3:3-7). I think that He was not speaking of a process as much as He was giving an illustration of the drastic change in us once we believe Jesus. To believe Jesus is to take Him at His word: “I am the Source of living water (John 4:14, 7:37-38).” I am the light of the world (John 8:12).” “I am the door to God (John 10:9).” “I am the good Shepherd (John 10:11).” “I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).” We believe Him and trust in Him. What really happens to us is this,

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24

Notice that our faith in Him comes by hearing Him speak to us. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him (by the Spirit)” (John 6:44). Our belief is actually an act of trust in which we turn to Him in our minds and give Him our lives (I could have said, “hearts,” here, but it would have been another metaphor). His Spirit does the rest:

  • He cleans us up (helps us accept His forgiveness),
  • dresses us up (helps us put on the garment of praise and His righteousness),
  • hooks us up (to the Fellowship of the Trinity), and
  • catches us up (on being holy and righteous, like Him).

Paul calls us “new creations” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). It’s as if we were born again (John 3:7), or brought from death to life (Ephesians 2:1-6). The best illustration is the caterpillar vs. the butterfly–which we will look at tomorrow. The lesson for the day is this: It’s all about the relationship. Whether we were unborn spiritually, dead spiritually, or simply hiding in darkness (John 3:19-21), everything changed when we trusted Jesus and began a personal relationship with Him.

Abba, thank You for calling me out of darkness and into Your marvelous light (1Peter 2:9). Thank You for Your gift of mercy and calling me one of Your people (v.10), even Your family (Romans 8:15-17). Thank You for setting me free from the chains of my sin and setting me free to follow You (Galatians 5:1, 25; I like this metaphor). May I lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race that is set before me (Hebrews 12:2). I will fix my eyes on You, Jesus, for I know that You are the Author of my faith and the Finisher of my faith. To You be all the glory. Amen.

Proverbs 4 1-4-22

The mercy of God has been poured out on all mankind. All we have to do is turn to Him and receive it.

22 For [these words] are life to those who find them, and healing to all their body.

Mary’s song of praise which is recorded in Luke 1:46-55, called The Magnificat, really grabbed my attention while reading it yesterday. As a reminder, Mary had just been greeted by Aunt Elizabeth,

46 And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond-servant;
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is to generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
51 He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has given help to His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 Just as He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

There are several things to point out:

  • Verses 46-47 are words of praise; she calls God her Savior.
  • Verse 48 tells us the reason for her praise and then prophesies that all generations will call her blessed, which they do.
  • Verse 49 is more testimony along the lines of King David (her ancestor).
  • Verse 50 speaks of God’s mercy toward those who fear Him (to fear God is what they were taught). Jesus changed their viewpoint about God by referring to Him as their Heavenly Father.
  • Verses 51-53 reveals God’s strength as He humbles the proud and lifts up the humble. Jesus referred to this process as “the last will be first and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).
  • Verses 54-55 talk again about God’s mercy remembering back to Abraham and his offspring, referring to herself and to all Israel, past, (her) present, and future. This mercy is that which Jesus refers to twice when He quoted Hosea 6:6 in Matthew 9:13 and 12:7.

The Magnificat is a powerful song of praise that speaks of Jesus’ mission of mercy. Our prison bars and our shackles are of our own doing, and Satan holds us in bondage to the fear of death. Jesus came to strip Satan of his keys to death and Hades–keys that WE gave him in the Garden. God reconciled Himself to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection (2 Corinthians 5:18). Yup, God was there with Jesus on the cross! We can’t separate the two because they are One (John 10:30). God never left Jesus (John 8:29).

God’s mercy was poured out on all mankind at the cross. Amnesty (a full pardon) was given to everyone. Now, all people have to do is turn to Jesus and receive that pardon. His Spirit brings that pardon and then stays with us. Mankind is once again united with the Father! We can now enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity forever.

Abba, thinking of You as my Heavenly Father is pretty easy because I had a great dad. I know that lots of people don’t have that privilege. Thank you. I trust in Your love and I respect Your discipline. You love me as Your son. May all my readers realize that You love them and have their best interests at Your heart. You are trustworthy, and You are worth getting to know.
Reveal Yourself to me, Abba. I love You. Amen.

Proverbs 4 12-4-21

Jesus is the revelation of God to mankind. Believing that statement is the foundation of Christianity.

When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.

As I was reading this morning in 1 John 2, I realized that it was talking about the Trinity! I had read this passage many times, but just now saw the connection. Let’s read it,

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

Literal- John is warning his flock about the danger of antichrists. They sneak in and undermine the apostles’ teachings with lies and twisted truth. He reminds them to trust the Spirit that is in them. These antichrists are just that: Anti-Christs. They do not believe that Jesus is the Christ (v22). In doing so, they deny the deity of Christ and His oneness with the Father. In fact, in a circuitous manner, John states that Jesus and God are one and the same (vs 23).

As the destruction of Jerusalem loomed (the last hour), persecution became fierce. The Emperor Nero burned Rome and blamed the Christians. Then, he went on a torturing/killing spree. There were those who entered into the fellowship and tried to turn people away from Christ. Maybe they told them that they could worship God and the Emperor, too. Or, maybe they told them that they could partake in the temple orgies and still worship with the fellowship of believers. Christ deals with these subjects in the seven letters to the churches in Revelation 2-3. John was writing to them from possibly Patmos–or, at least, prison–to help them (and us) not be deceived.

Moral- We would do well to focus on the second half of verse 23, “Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” In paraphrase of verse 24, “let the Good News of Jesus and God’s love, that changed you and transformed your life through a relationship with the Trinity, abide in you and keep you in His love. If you believe and trust in the truth of what was shared with you by the apostles, then you can trust that you live with/in Jesus and the Father.” 25 “It is an eternal promise.”

The anointing is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He is the One who teaches us and guides us and protects our minds and hearts. He is the One who abides in us as we abide in the Father and the Son.

Spiritual- Because Jesus was here on earth as a person, we might have a tendency to separate the three from each other, which we should not do. “Emmanuel” means, “God with us.” Jesus is called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). These names were not given lightly! We can see the Trinity here:

God the Father = Mighty God, Everlasting Father
God the Son = Prince of Peace
God the Holy Spirit = Wonderful Counselor

Let’s look at our text:

God the Father = the Father (v.23)
God the Son = the Son, Jesus Christ (v.23-24)
God the Holy Spirit = The Holy One, the anointing (v.20, 27)

The key is in verse 27. The Spirit abides in us and teaches us so that we do not have to fear being led astray from the truth if we abide in Him. Let me qualify that statement. The Spirit teaches us according to who we are and what we know. His revealed truth is always truth, but we will never receive complete revelation this side of heaven. We must always be open to new revelations and new ways of thinking about spiritual matters. We grow as we learn; when we stop learning, we stop growing. Our relationship and fellowship with the Trinity begins to sour. We are warned to not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), nor to quench the Spirit (1 Thes. 5:19). We are to stay open to Him; He will lead the way to truth and righteousness. As we are face-to-face with the Trinity, He includes us in His fellowship. Who could ask for anything more?!

Abba, all my life I have thought of you as three separate beings, even though if someone asked me, I would have told them that You are all three in one. Realizing that I truly can insert any one of You into the Scriptures still blows my mind. And, what this concept does to what happened on the cross changes everything! You love us SO MUCH! I love you, back, Abba. Teach me how far Your love reaches. I suspect it reaches much farther than I can imagine. Amen.

See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God;
and that is what we are. Ephesians 3:1a

Proverbs 4 11-4-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 4 10-4-21

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

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

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

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

Verse 11 opens with a Pandora’s Box:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 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 4 8-4-21

At the end of the day, all we have is Jesus. Beyond everything in this world, we have Him and His kingdom. He is worth everything!

10 Listen, my child, accept what I say, and the [good] years of your life will be many. 11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. 12 When you walk [headed to His kingdom], your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble [see Isaiah 40:30-31].

Drug users know this secret: What we crave becomes our sole desire. A crack user (according to a regular crack user) experiences his biggest high the first time. From then on, he “chases the dragon” seeking a high like the first one. That craving consumes him even beyond his own personal health, to say nothing of family, friends, job, hygiene, etc.

The same is what happens when we experience Christ. The difference is that the more we experience Him, the greater the love, the joy, and the peace that He gives. It truly is never-ending! James, the half-brother of Jesus, eluded to this experience in his letter:

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 NLT

As I read this passage, I see James enduring troubles (eventually, he was martyred). During these troubles, as his faith was tested, he leaned on Jesus for peace and joy. He was rewarded with exceeding love, joy and peace. Thus, his endurance grew as James leaned all the more on Jesus during troubles. It is this kind of training that makes us perfect and complete, needing nothing of this world.

When we face trials of many kinds,
we will know that we have “arrived”

when those trials make us want Jesus.

It’s not that we will go looking for trouble, but we certainly will not run from it, for we know that in our adversity, as we lean on Jesus for peace and joy, He will give it in abundance. In fact, Jesus promised that we would receive life in abundance even as our physical life is being taken from us, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (LB). He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die [spiritually]. Do you believe this?” Of course, Martha said, “Yes, Lord” (John 11:25-27).

EMT, firefighters, police, military, and other emergency personnel train for emergencies constantly so that when one comes, their training kicks in and they respond out of reflex instead of irrational reaction. We should view our Christianity the same way. We need to learn all we can about God, His Son, His Spirit, His mission, and what His “emergency protocols” are so that when one comes, we are not “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). It’s called, WISDOM, folks (James 1:5). Let’s train like our (spiritual) lives depend on it–because they do!

Because, at the end of the day, all we have is Jesus.

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

Abba, may I come to know You more and more so that when the day comes that I give testimony about You at the cost of my life, I will do it with confidence and even excitement as Your Spirit envelops me with Your peace and Your love and Your joy. I look forward to the day, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 4 7-4-21

The word, “kingdom,” brings up visions of kings and of history. Are we part of a current kingdom?

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Cherish her [wisdom], and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. 9 She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.

The United Kingdom is England plus northern Ireland. The United States is not a kingdom, but a republic. At the same time, it fits the historic description of a kingdom, but with a chosen ruler. We do not pledge allegiance to the president, but to the flag, which represents the republic of America. That republic is built upon the Constitution and is protected by the judicial branch of our government. Everyone in America answers to the Constitution in some way: most through obedience, but some through the disciplinary arm of the government.

We Christians, answer to the law of the land (Romans 13:1-7), but we answer to a higher King, the Lord Jesus. He came to establish His kingdom and to reign forever. Let’s look as some of the passages that talk about His kingdom:

32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32-33

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4:17

20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Luke 11:20

21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst [within you].” Luke 17:21

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” John 18:36

We know that God has made us His kingdom (Ephesians 2:19-21, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 5:9-10). We know that we reign in this world on a spiritual basis (Luke 10:17, John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, Revelation 20:1-3). We triumph over Satan and his forces by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11). The rest of that verse says, “they did not love their [earthly] lives so much as to shrink from death.” We must never forget where our true and highest allegiance lies, which is to Jesus Christ and His kingdom.

How does that translate into our everyday lives?

  1. We must be connected and stay connected to King Jesus through prayer.
  2. We must find out all we can about His kingdom, how it works, and what it is like.
  3. We must store up treasures there rather than down here.
  4. We must be willing to do as Jesus asks.

This last one needs some explaining. If Jesus is in control of our lives, then we will be all about His mission. If the best witness to a person or persons is for us to give our time, resources, money, or even our lives, we will do it gladly. The best way for us to be in a position to do so is to be in a constant state of readiness to do just that. The only way to be ready is to be connected and stay connected to King Jesus through prayer–and now we are back to our list.

On this Independence Day, let’s make it our Dependence Day to our Lord Jesus Christ, along with every other day this year.

Abba, thank You for our country. May I love it and serve it, but may I never forget that Your kingdom takes precedence over it. May I be ready to serve You in whatever manner You deem best, knowing that my ultimate goal is to stand in Your presence whole, complete, blameless, and faultless. Wow! Now, that’s worth living for! Amen.

Proverbs 4 6-4-21

To have the Spirit of Christ is to have new life. How can we continue to live as though we don’t have Him inside us?

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter [in our hearts] till the full light of day [when we stand complete in His presence].

Sometimes, I think we take our relationship with Christ for granted. We tend to forget that the Spirit of the living Christ now lives in us. Doing things our way should be a thing of the past, or at least, as a way of life. Walking with the Spirit means that we rest in Him, listen for His voice, and follow His lead. The First Century Christians had only the spoken words of the apostles and teachers for the most part. They certainly didn’t have the New Testament right away, and then only circulated letters. What good was the Old Testament to them? Much! It told them who God is (Exodus 3:6, Numbers 14:18-19) and His plan for mankind (Ezekiel 36:25-27, Zechariah 3:9). The Psalms and Proverbs give instruction for daily living. There was PLENTY there for the new Christians to learn about serving the Lord.

But, the most important factor was the receiving of the Holy Spirit. With Jesus in them, they were taught first-hand about God and His plan for them. Add to that His continuous presence: the love, joy and peace that flow from Him to us, the hope that comes through His mercy and grace that are available to us at His throne anytime we need them (Hebrews 4:16), and the security of His Plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11) and the whole world (2 Peter 3:9, John 1:16).

Why is it such a big deal to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh? Let’s look at the flesh first. When Paul uses the term, “the flesh,” he is referring to our physical bodies, our natural person, the part of us that is not transformed by God, but is part of the original covenant and has been infected by sin. It represents us before we came to know Christ; we lived for ourselves and were slaves to sin and the one who deceived us into rebelling (Ephesians 2:1-3). To depend on our flesh, our own intellect and desires, is to deny the Spirit within us. Doing so leads to consequences, both natural and spiritual; let’s be wise and listen to the Spirit.

Speaking of which, let’s read what Paul says we should focus on:

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. Romans 8:4-5

More on this tomorrow. For today, let’s focus on what the Spirit desires. Let’s turn to Him in our minds and ask Him to lead us–we will have to set aside our own plans and allow Him to reshape them; are we willing to do that? If we are not, then we are living according to “sarka,” which means “the flesh: apart from the Spirit.” To do so leads to destruction. Let’s not go there!

Abba, speak to us; convict our hearts. Let us feel Your presence in our lives and know Your love, joy and peace as we commit our way to You. Lead us and we will follow; direct us and we will obey. “Where else would we go? You have the words of life (John 6:68).” You are our Lord; be Lord of our lives. Amen.

Proverbs 4 5-4-21

Our connection to the LORD must be constantly renewed. Otherwise, we believe only what we see. There’s SO MUCH MORE!

Proverbs 4:20-22 (NIV)

My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.

The Holy Spirit helps us to reach out with an awareness of His Presence all around us. It’s interesting to me the movies that deal with this awareness, but in a worldly fashion.

Star Wars emphasizes the force that connects all living things, but doesn’t have a consciousness of its own. We, as Christians, know that Jesus is that consciousness and much, much more.

Hebrews 1:2-3 (NIV)

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Another movie that comes close is The Matrix where everyone is in beds and having their dreams controlled by sentient machines. The analogy is that there is a higher consciousness and reality, and some choose to rise above the dream-state while most people choose to continue in their dreams.

We can see how closely the analogy comes to describing Christianity. We live in a world that tries to convince us that this physical world is all there is, for instance, evolution. Jesus came to us through His Spirit and has invited us to come alive in Him and be born into the kingdom and family of God the Father,

Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV)

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Let us praise our Heavenly Father for His wonderful grace! We are thankful for Him making us aware of Him and His kingdom—and then inviting us to be members of that kingdom!

Abba, we praise You today for the reality of heaven. Make us aware of Your presence around us and the kingdom that is all around us, as well. Give us spiritual eyes, Lord, and raise our awareness of all that is going on around us spiritually. We will watch for You. Amen.

Proverbs 4 4-4-21

It’s Resurrection Sunday! What will you do today to show your gratitude for all the Christ has done for us?

20 My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. 21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Imagine yourself leaving Jerusalem with a friend that Sunday morning. You didn’t go to the temple yesterday because you were afraid of the leaders and the mob. You two are talking about all that had happened over the past week and what could have been when you notice someone walking beside you. He asks, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” Your faces are downcast as you answer him with a question, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Evidently, he is, because he asks, “What things?” You answer with a short version about Jesus, the trial, the crucifixion, and the death of a dream. You even tell him about the women’s testimony about Jesus being alive, but the doubt is evident in your tone…

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:25-30

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem [seven miles!]. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

This is the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Your part was Cleopas, who narrated the story. Even as Cleopas was telling their account, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” After some demonstrations that He was real, He brought everything together for them:

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” It’s a summary of what He told the two disciples in verse 27.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high [the Holy Spirit].”

What a day that was! Since we were not there, we can only imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus in His resurrected form. What we CAN experience is that same “Power from on high,” the blessed Holy Spirit, who opens our minds so that we can understand the Scriptures. Tomorrow, we will delve into the ramifications of some of these Scriptures, but today, let’s enjoy the wonderful celebration of His resurrection.

Lord, we are grateful! We are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, the kind Peter talks about (1 Peter 1:8). May You be resurrected in our lives every day, Lord Jesus. May we be resurrected in Your love each day. Amen.

He is risen.
He is risen, indeed!

Proverbs 3 4-3-21

Does serving a risen Savior scare you a little? It should at least make us seriously consider anything He asks of us!

5 Trust the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

Tomorrow, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach. Let’s read it:

Jesus Has Risen

28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Matthew 28:1-8

There are several points that come into play concerning the resurrection of Jesus.

How are we at following directions? How well do we listen to the Holy Spirit? Do we always reserve final judgement on any orders we are given? I call that attitude, “Selective Service.” Not Good. It’s a whole lot like putting your hand to the plow and then looking back at your old life where you did things your way. Jesus said that such a person is unfit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Also, delayed obedience is disobedience. We would do well to remember that we serve a RISEN Savior, one who beat death! He is our Sovereign Lord. He deserves our undying gratitude and our unquestioning servitude.

  1. Each gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) has a version of the event. Illustration: in a bank robbery, the detective might ask several people if there was a get-away car. Each person might describe a vehicle in a number of colors, makes and models, and even types of vehicle. The conclusion the detective draws is that there WAS a get-away car because no one said there wasn’t; they all described something. In this case, there were several points of view: Mary Magdalene, the group of ladies, and Peter and John. What was the conclusion that a detective might draw? That there WAS a resurrection!
  2. In reading the other gospels, there was one angel who was sitting on the stone; there was an angel in the tomb; there were two angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus had been laid. Here again, what’s the conclusion? There WAS at least one angel!
  3. The first day of the week actually begins on Saturday evening as the sun goes below the horizon. Jesus rose sometime in the night. The angel didn’t roll the stone away until the ladies got there. Of course, He wasn’t there; He had risen!
  4. The angel said that Jesus would go ahead of them to Galilee and for the ladies to tell the disciples to join Him there. They didn’t. In fact, Jesus showed up that night in their meeting room! Then, He did it again the next week! THEN, the disciples went to Galilee.
  5. Key in on the ladies’ emotions: “Afraid yet filled with joy.” When we think of the resurrection, what emotions are stirred in us? The mystery might be unsettling–how does one explain the unexplainable? The ramifications are astounding–He really IS God! He really IS the Passover Lamb! We really ARE free in Christ!

Abba, You are our King. May we, who have never lived under an earthly king, grasp the magnitude of Your call on our lives. We have given You our hearts, but we must also give You our lives to be lived as You see fit. Make us fit for the kingdom, Lord. Whip us into shape. Trim our fat and tone our spiritual muscles. May we answer immediately when You call on us even as Moses did, “Here I am” (Exodus 3:4), as Samuel did, “Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10), and as Jesus did, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees His Father doing” (John 5:19). May we see You at work and join You in Your work. Amen.

Proverbs 4 3-4-21

Matthew was a Jew. Through what lens did he view Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? I’ll bet it’s different than our view!

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

A devout Jew kept several things in mind. One was that he was part of God’s chosen people and was called to be separate from the nations. He could expect other nations, especially the ruling nations, to despise him and treat him with contempt. Another was that the temple was the center of worship. Everything revolved around the temple. Still another was the Law. Being a devout Jew required living by the Law, even the extra laws that the Jewish leaders imposed on the people.

Jesus came to fix a broken system. The Law itself wasn’t broken; it was designed to show us our sin (Romans 3:20). It was the system that was superimposed by the leadership that was broken. In fact, He came to fulfill the Law so that we could move beyond laws to love (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus explained the Law according to how God intended it to be. Let’s look at Matthew, chapter five:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

This sermon came early in His ministry. He already had disciples and He taught them, but everyone was welcome to listen.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The word for “poor” means “beggar.” Any self-respecting Jew would be offended by this statement. Those who saw with spiritual eyes would see that there is no way for the blood of bulls and rams to wash away sin. The Jews needed Messiah!

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

The nation of Israel was a vassal state to Rome. They longed for their freedom and independence. Jesus’ promise gave them hope, but not the kind that He intended.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

They knew that they were promised that Messiah would redeem the land that was taken from them. Jesus promised much more! The meek part would have been confusing to them. They wanted to fight!

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

Generally speaking, every Jew hungered for the Law and the righteousness that came from following it. The problem was that no one could keep the Law perfectly and they were therefore condemned by it. How could they hunger and thirst for a righteousness that could not be attained? Yet, Jesus promised that those who did would be satisfied as in filled to the full. He said that He had come to give life in abundance, or, to the full. Their interest was piqued!

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

This one I’ll bet would have grated on them. They had not been shown mercy, so why should they show mercy?

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

Here, again, is another impossibility. Yet, Christ promises that they will see God if they are pure in heart. The Law could not achieve a pure heart; how was He going to accomplish this task? Was He speaking for God?

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

Again, Jesus calls them to seek peace rather than war. Many would be for peace, but many would be for war.

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

The Jews were familiar with persecution because of their religious beliefs. The difference comes in His definition of righteousness: HE is righteousness. HE offers them the kingdom of heaven. He IS the kingdom!

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here, Jesus gets specific and points all persecution His way. People would assume by His statement that those who oppose Him would persecute Him and his followers. Jesus promises great reward in heaven. In order to fulfill this promise, He had to be Messiah! Many put their faith and trust in Him. Why? Because He called them. He called us, too. Jesus referred to the prophets who were persecuted. He even made a sarcastic remark about no prophet being allowed to die outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). Most Jews knew about the prophets, so they would certainly get the reference. Understanding it was another matter.

As we can see, the Jews had a frame of reference for every statement that Jesus made. Tomorrow, we will delve into the passages on salt and light, and the fulfillment of the Law. “I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Abba, as we study the Scriptures, may You open our minds to what Christ was talking about to His fellow Israelites. Knowing the context helps us to interpret their meaning for our day and our circumstances. Grow us, Lord. We hunger and thirst after righteousness, Your righteousness. Make us pure in heart, O God. Amen.

Proverbs 4 2-4-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 4 1-4-21

What divides us ultimately separates us. Let’s focus on what we have in common as Christians.

24 Keep your mouth free of perversity [that which is contrary to Christ’s nature and commands]; keep corrupt talk [topics said in ways that are not godly, i.e. derogatory remarks, defaming character; blustering] far from your lips.

Yeshua (Jesus) intends for us to be one even as He and the Father are one; in fact, He said that our unity is how the world will know God’s love (John 17:20-23). That’s a pretty tall order! It’s going to require some coordination–but, I know just the Person to do it: the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 4:3-4). Here’s what we need to remember:

I used to think that hate was the opposite of love. Then, I moved up to thinking apathy was the opposite of love. Now, I’m beginning to understand that FEAR is the opposite of love. Knowing that God loves me, that I am an eternal being, a child of the Light, and that Christ is in me and I am hidden in Christ helps me to understand that fear is doubting any of these biblical truths. Fear of pain, fear of rejection, fear of people, fear of loss, fear of hunger or security or relationships, and even fear of death are reactions to any doubts I have about who and Whose I am. So, who am I? WHOSE am I?

  • I am a child of the King of the Universe. I am an eternal being created to be LIKE Christ IN Christ. I have been rescued from fear and darkness and brought into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). I am Christ to all around me–His light, His fragrance, His aroma, Him!
  • I am God’s. As His possession and child, I am His to do with as He pleases. The neat–and comforting–thing is that I know I am of great worth to Him, therefore, I can trust Him to have my best–and eternal–interests in mind. Worth is established by what a person is willing to pay to get it. The Father gave the Son so that He could have ME. He did for you, too, and this is why we can trust Him: We are of the greatest worth to Him.
  • The Spirit connects us. We all talk to the same Spirit, and He guides us with His counsel (Psalm 73:23-24, John 16:13). When we get together to worship, His Spirit in me connects with His Spirit in you and forms a bond that goes beyond natural bounds. It’s why we are commanded to meet together regularly, even if it’s just two or three at a time (Matthew 18:20).

Rather than focusing on topics that divide us, let’s focus on what unites us. In doing so, we make His joy complete in us.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit [full accord] and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2

We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. 1 John 1:3-4

Abba, You know my heart. I want what You want. I have asked, and Your Spirit has been changing my perspective. Even so, I have a hard time maintaining this new perspective. Help me, O LORD, to untether myself from the things of this earth and to set my eyes on Your Prize, which is a place at Your feet. Help us be united in Your love, Father. I know it’s important. Amen.

Proverbs 4 12-4-20

A wasted relationship–that’s what we have when we trust Christ for salvation, but then live our lives as if He is not in us. We have forfeited all the benefits of knowing Christ: The joy of His continuous presence, His boundless love and peace that emanate from Him, His wise counsel and leadership, our growth and usefulness to the kingdom, not to mention all the bonuses of deep friendships and experiences that we miss out on because we are not in step with the Spirit.

1 Listen, my children, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. 2 I give sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
18 The path of the righteous [when walking with the Savior] is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

How often do we remind ourselves that we are sojourners on this planet? It is no longer our permanent home, nor are the things of this world our permanent goals. Jesus Christ is our LORD and Master. He is our Messiah, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. We are preparing for His kingdom, not this one, even as His kingdom grows within us and links us to His kingdom in other Christians.

Jesus gave a parable in Luke 16 about the shrewd manager who was caught being “unwise” with his master’s finances. All of the wealth that was at his disposal was no longer going to be available to him. So, he called in his master’s debtors (those who owed him money) and lowered their debts so that they would welcome him and give him a job when his master fired him. Jesus commended the manager because he changed his viewpoint concerning that wealth from a goal to a means. This lesson is one that He would have us learn for everything from our jobs to our free time, from our necessities to our niceties. Everything must go on the table to be used as the LORD asks us to use them. To hold onto them as our end goal will tarnish them and we will miss the blessing and the reason with which we were entrusted with them.

Do you trust the LORD that much? Could you do it? Thankfully, our LORD is patient and kind, full of mercy and grace. He wants to walk with us and counsel us. He will show us what to do and give us the desire and the power to do it. But, the first thing we must do is commit ourselves to Him RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait. Do it now. Then, get in His Word and listen for His voice. If you read Luke 16, pay close attention to verses 10-15. It’s important.

Ponder this passage as you go about your day:

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

I reckon the question is, do you belong to Christ Jesus? Then, get with it! Let’s not waste our relationship with Him.

Abba, You know that crucifying my flesh with its passions and desires isn’t easy and that I fight it all the time. Thank You for Your Spirit who encourages me, consoles me, empowers me, and helps me try again and again. I know that I am in training. May I, after I have “preached” to others, not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27). May I be personally diligent in all matters WITH YOUR HELP AND GUIDANCE. Amen.

Proverbs 4 11-4-20

If there’s one thing I have learned through the years, it’s that God has a plan that cannot be thwarted. Trust in it. In Him.

26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Here is Luke’s description of the time of John the Baptist and, thus, Jesus’ ministry, “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar–when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene–during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” Luke 3:1-2 That’s a pretty specific description. When plugged into the historical records, the best that the historians can tell is that it was sometime during 26 A.D.

Why go to so much trouble to get it right? Because, “When the set time had come (in the fullness of time), God sent His Son [Jesus Christ], born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law [us], that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Galatians 4:4-5. This is the redemption of the eternal covenant! It began with Abraham and was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He offers to all His redemption through adoption into God’s family. The hard part is that in order to be adopted into God’s family, a person has to relinquish all rights and privileges of his former life, even Jews. It’s not that they become non-Jews; it’s that they become a new creation in Christ.

If any person is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, and, behold, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

His (Christ’s) purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:15b-16

In Christ, we are now all “fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household…” Ephesians 2:19.

Here’s the point: If God is so specific about the birth and ministry of His Son, we can count on Him being specific about our lives and the future of His church, His Bride. Whoever wins the election, we can trust God to give us everything we need to do His will. Making His will our priority may be what He’s up to with this election! Consider it.

Abba, I want to be all about Your will and ministry. Help me to set aside my preferences and feelings and be about my Father’s business–Your business. I want my life to count for You, LORD Jesus. Let’s work together to make it so. Amen.

Proverbs 4 10-4-20

Pray like you’ve never prayed before. Our nation is on a precipice. We have the blood of millions on our hands. As God did with Israel because of the blood of their children they had sacrificed to idols, God will judge our nation because of children sacrificed to the god of convenience.

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.

31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. Jeremiah 7:31

God will be calling us to pray. He will remind us often. When we think about praying for someone in particular, our leaders, and/or our nation, we must remember that His voice sounds like our voice in our heads. The fact that we thought of it is Him reminding us.

Also, God will not ask us to pray unless He is working. He is inviting us to join Him in His work. But, there’s a catch: We must be righteous in order to pray with power,

1Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16

Our nation is sick, sick with the blood of children, with hatred and bigotry, with immorality and licentiousness, and with complacency. Let us pray for ourselves; let us confess our sins to one another. Let’s intercede for our leaders, especially those who are not in God’s will. Let’s pray for our nation that we would turn back to God before it requires something drastic–again–to get our attention.

James gave us the procedure for repentance in chapter 4:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10

We are not in a good place with our nation, nor are we in a happy time in our country. Pray that the pandemic would ease. Pray for our president that he recover. Pray that every leader would feel the conviction of God and repent. Pray that every member of Brookwood would feel that same conviction and repent! I pray that every reader of this post would feel His conviction and repent, as well.

It’s not too late for America, but it may be close. 40-60 million lives requires a lot of repenting! God takes those lives seriously. We had better, too!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would have their spiritual eyes opened to the truth of Your justice, but also Your love and mercy. May You move mightily and help us to rid America of our Topheth, LORD. May You move in Your mighty power, in a way that we will stand in awe of Your mighty deeds. Call us to national repentance, Abba, just as soon as we take care of our personal repentance. Amen.

Proverbs 4 9-4-20

Deciding to follow Christ–from that first time until now, it is a conscious, determined decision. Emotions are fickle.

1 Listen, pay attention…4 Take hold of my words, keep my commands…5 Get wisdom, get understanding, do not forget or turn away…6 do not forsake, love her [wisdom]…7 get wisdom, get understanding…8 cherish her, embrace her…13 hold on, guard it well…15avoid the evil path…20 turn your ear…21 do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart…23 guard your heart…24 keep your mouth from corrupt talk…25 look straight ahead, fix your gaze…26 give careful thought, be steadfast…27 do not turn, keep your foot from evil.

Did you notice how many decisions are made in this chapter? 31 (2 are repeated). Yes, we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we feel relief and gratefulness when we come to Him, we receive His love, joy and peace, hope and grace–many times, with tears and shouts of thanksgiving! But, we should never equate tears and emotions with salvation. True salvation is that conscious, determined decision to follow Christ, to open our lives to His Lordship and leadership. It is a transaction, much like a marriage.

When I married Robin, we had a beautiful ceremony in Ardmore, Oklahoma, with many friends and relatives attending. It was a joyous occasion. But, it wasn’t until Dr. Hopper, Robin and I filled out and signed the marriage license that we were officially married according to the state of Oklahoma. The same is true with Jesus. He stands at the threshold of our hearts waiting for us to give Him the deed to our house and the key to every room. It doesn’t matter how happy we are that we “threw open the door for Him.” It only matters if He steps inside, because once He does, it means that He has taken possession of our “house” and everything in it. The rest is just a matter of settling in.

When it comes to sanctification (becoming like Jesus daily), it means that every day we renew the marriage license. It doesn’t go bad or lose its power; it is a reminder of Whose we are and Who calls the shots. We must remember that, “we are crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. This life we live in the body we live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave Himself for us.” Galatians 2:20. The next verse tells us why, “We do not set aside the grace of God, because if righteousness could be obtained by the law, then Christ died for nothing.” In other words, if we could be saved by good works, following the law, or by any other means, then Christ didn’t have to die on the cross for our sins. But, as He said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:39, 42

Let’s determine in our hearts and in our minds to be like Christ, to allow the Holy Spirit to change us and make us into His image. There are parts of us that will resist, but we will be tenacious and strong-willed in the right sense. We die to ourselves and live for Christ.

Abba, may today be one of complete and total submission to You and Your Spirit. May we look at the life of Christ and emulate Him. May You build in us His characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. May we speak truth and life to those around us. Help us to be all that we can be in You, Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 4 8-4-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 4 7-4-20

What better gift to give America than REVIVAL?  She has seen several before; why not again? Let us PRAY FOR REVIVAL!

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what makes them stumble.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.

Picking up where we left off yesterday, God “is looking for a few good men”–and women, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9a). All it takes is a few people praying to spark a revival. The timing is up to the LORD. We just need to be faithful, willing, ardent, and compliant to the Spirit of God.

If the Spirit were to fall on Brookwood this Sunday, would you be a willing party to it? We must consider the ramifications of revival in our lives. We are talking a changed perspective, here. Any plans that we may have had go out the window as He takes charge of the room–and our lives. Are you good with that?

Why not begin to orient your life to receive “the fire of the Holy Spirit” now? We can:

  1. Increase our time of Bible study and prayer. Ask God to call you to this time with Him. We cannot generate this desire on our own–but I KNOW that Jesus desires us to desire Him, and the Holy Spirit wants to, as well. As the Spirit takes control of us, we begin to desire what He desires, which is time fellowshipping with Christ. It really is that simple. Allow Him to give you His desires.
  2. Re-arrange our priorities, even to the point of suspending some things indefinitely. What is it in your life that if you gave it up for a season, it would free you up for more personal time with the LORD? THAT’S what I would start with.
  3. Begin to talk about revival with others.
    1. Could it come as it has before?
    2. Would we be ready for it or would it catch us off-guard?
    3. Would we like to be ready for it, or are we content with the way things are?
  4. Take on the attitude of determination: Meet, pray, sing, pray, cry out to God, teach, pray, admonish, pray, exhort, beg the Father to send His fire down upon us to move, to stir, to awaken the spiritually sleeping and raise the spiritually dead, to show signs and wonders, to send dreams and visions, and to break down cultural barriers, financial barriers and “racial” barriers.

Revival is serious business. It is heaven on earth. Jesus taught His disciples to pray for revival“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). B.B. McKinney wrote a beautiful hymn about revival:

Send a revival O Christ my Lord
Let it go over the land and sea
Send it according to Thy dear Word
And let it begin in me

Chorus:
Lord send a revival
Lord send a revival
Lord send a revival
And let it begin in me

Send a revival among Thine own
Help us to turn from our sins away
Let us get nearer the Father’s throne
Revive us again we pray – Chorus

Send a revival to those in sin
Help them, O Jesus, to turn to Thee
Let them the new life in Thee begin
Oh give them the victory – Chorus

Send a revival in every heart
Draw the world nearer O Lord to Thee
Let the salvation true joy impart
And let it begin in me – chorus

Revival is the BLESSING of God, which is His presence with and in us: “Immanuel” (God with us).  Included in revival is the HOPE of God, which is what He has in store for us! Let’s get our eyes off this world and back on the Savior.

LORD, may I be first to take my own words to heart. Just writing this post took considerable effort. Thank You for calling me to do it, for empowering me to do it, and for encouraging me to actually sit down and do it! May my readers be encouraged to do the same as they consider spending more time with You. Amen.

Proverbs 4 6-4-20

Here is the second half of #9 of the Top 10 Things I Would Like to Say

See Critique

Their importance is not necessarily rated, but their order has a flow to it. They move from initial contact to ultimate destiny.

  1. Absolute truth is based upon empirical, changeless evidence. When followed to its logical conclusion, it must stand the closest scrutiny.
  2. Debating Evolution vs. Creation does no one any good unless a person is willing to consider that the other person may be right. 
  3. Faith comes by hearing; are you ready to listen?
  4. Why I believe in Jesus.
  5. We are designed to create, but not by ourselves. The Spirit wants to create with us!
  6. Every decision we make shifts our direction, vision, and course. How much depends upon the decision, and how long depends upon our own stubbornness.
  7. Jesus is Jewish.
  8. We owe quite a debt to Israel.
  9. Jesus is coming soon! How do we get ready?
  10. What awaits us in heaven?

24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
    keep corrupt talk far from your lips. [Jesus is coming soon]
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you. [Jesus is coming soon]
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways. [Jesus is coming soon]
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil. [Jesus is coming soon]

#9 Jesus is coming soon! How do we get ready? Part 2

Yesterday, I made the statement that mankind will not know the hour, day, or year when Jesus is coming back, but we can know the season. Today, we look at His actual coming.

The best verses are in Revelation 19 where John describes the Second Coming:

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Let’s break it down:

  1. The doors to heaven were standing open.
  2. Jesus was on a white horse as opposed to the donkey He rode into Jerusalem.
  3. His names are Faithful and True, the Word of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, plus there is a name that only He knows!
  4. His robe is dipped in blood–whose blood, it doesn’t say. It could be His; it could be His enemies’.
  5. The many crowns represent His sovereignty over all kingdoms.
  6. We are with Him! We are dressed in white (the big tell), and we don’t have weapons–we don’t need them. Jesus strikes down His enemies with the sword of His mouth. How? The same way He created the universe with His words. He will pronounce words of judgement and voila! Done.
  7. The beast and the false prophet are cast into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 

If we were to keep reading, it just gets better and better!

There are other clues to the imminent return of Christ:

  1. One world currency
  2. The mark of the beast
  3. Worldwide communication
  4. Treaties and kingdom coalitions

These we all have now. What we DON’T have is a peace treaty between Israel and her surrounding countries. Clinton tried it in 2000, but failed. President Trump initiated a peace plan in 2017 that is still underway. PEACE. That peace plan may be the very thing that allows Israel to build her temple.

How shall we prepare? Peter tells us how:

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… 2 Peter 3:11-12, 14-15

Solomon said it best, though, when it comes to evangelism:

10 If you falter in a time of trouble [don’t look back], how small is your strength [weak is your faith, double-minded is your heart]! 11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37-38). Let’s BE THOSE HARVESTERS!

One more thing: Each year, I get really excited when Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) rolls around. Why? I’m glad you asked! Jesus fulfilled four of the seven Jewish festivals, which, by the way, were instituted by God, with His death (Passover and Unleavened Bread), resurrection (First Fruits), and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost). If He did it with the first four, I believe that He will fulfill the last three just as literally. The New Year is begun with the Feast of Trumpets, then 10 days later is the Day of Atonement, and then the Feast of Tabernacles/Ingathering. These easily translate into The Return, The Judgement, and Heaven. We may not know the day, hour, or year, but we CAN know the season! This year, Rosh Hashanah is Friday, September 18 through Sunday, September 20 (the trumpet can be blown anytime during these days). It seems a bit early according to other prophecies, but–who knows? Christ may surprise us all!

I believe that God is preparing His church for a final push; whether it’s global revival or gleanings, I don’t know. I believe that He is training me for something specific. He has not revealed it to me, and probably won’t until it’s time or close to time to do whatever it is for which He is training me. In the meantime, I am staying close to Him with my eyes fixed on Him; I am writing down everything He is saying to me, and trying to memorize as much Scripture as I can. I am trying to whittle down my testimony and the Gospel presentation to their essential points so that I can share them quickly and concisely. And, I am praying for God’s Spirit to move in your heart and all who read my posts along with those who meet with me for prayer each Wednesday morning.

What is God calling you to do to prepare for what is coming?

Abba, I pray that You will impress upon the hearts of Your children what it is that You want us to do, whether it’s to get up earlier and read more in Your Word, to make lists of people and pray for them, or to talk to our neighbors, coworkers, and even random people to find out what their spiritual needs are–and then to meet them. May we all make ourselves available to You for WHATEVER You have for us to do. We are Yours. Do with us as You will. Amen.