Proverbs 12 9-12-22

Salvation: What will you do with Jesus? There are near and far consequences…

1 John 5:12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The Baptist Faith & Message is the Southern Baptist doctrinal statement. If we had a party line, this would be it. Today, we look at the subject of:

IV. Salvation

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification.

There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.

B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ.

Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.

Yesterday, we ended with 1 John 5:12, “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Today, we started with it. This verse sums up salvation like no other. Having Jesus is having God live in us loving us, encouraging us, and empowering us to live godly lives, something we cannot do on our own. To walk with Him now means we walk with Him forever. It’s that simple and that important.

Abba, sharing You is easy when we are walking in step with You. You guide us through every step as if we were blindfolded and only You know the way—which is exactly our spiritual state! We trust You, Lord, to lead us to those who are interested in knowing You. Lead on! Amen.

Proverbs 12 8-12-22

Bones–God’s Living Girders. Make no “bones” about it. We need them!

3:7-8 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear [reverence, take seriously] the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

I had previously thought of bones as solid. Not So! As we look at their amazing structural design, we will definitely see a Master Designer.

From, “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body, page 49-51

The adult human skeleton consists of about 206 bones. However, the number varies with age. At birth, the human body has about 300 bones, but as the body ages and matures, many of these bones fuse together. The adult skull (without its lower jaw), for example, appears to be one bone, but in fact is made up of 22 fused bones: 8 in the skull proper and 14 in the face. The clavicle (collar bone) is the last bone to completely fuse, about the age of 25.

The mature skeleton has two basic types of bone, compact bone and spongy bone. One offers brute strength, while the other has a sophisticated design that provides strength with the least possible weight.
The strong tubular shaft of long bones, such as our thigh bone (femur), is made of compact bone. Compact bone itself appears to be completely solid, but is actually permeated with many blood vessels running lengthwise within hollow tunnels, called Volkmann’s canals. Surrounding each of these canals are concentric rings, or layers, of bone that form osteons. This architecture helps give compact bone its great strength.

Spongy bone occurs mostly inside each end of long bones. Spongy bone receives its name from its appearance, not because it can be squeezed like a sponge.
The surface area of spongy bone is vastly greater than that of compact bone, so it is mostly in this type of bone that calcium and phosphorus are stored and removed to maintain mineral balance in our body fluids. Each of the little beams of spongy bone is oriented precisely to impart the greatest strength for the load placed on the bone. Amazingly, when the load placed on bone changes, such as during pregnancy, the spongy bone can change its shape to best accommodate the new load.

And, we’re just getting started! Tomorrow, we will look at a bone’s functions. For today, let’s take our Proverbs verse seriously and be wise in how we live. May we depend upon the Spirit’s guidance at all times as we walk life’s road with the Lord.

Abba, the structure You have given us is amazing! It’s strong, but flexible, and can heal itself as well as provide essential nutrients for our bodies. Your Word works in just the same way. What You say to us, either through our Bibles, prayer, circumstances or others, makes us strong and flexible, it heals us even while we provide essential “nutrients” for the body of Christ, like love, comfort, help, advice, and fellowship. You are amazing, heavenly Father! We praise You. Amen.

Proverbs 12 7-12-22

Everything Jesus did has significance. Even riding into Jerusalem on a donkey was important!

2:6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Sunday in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School), we discussed the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem that fateful week. But, before we actually read the passage in Matthew 21, we had some Old Testament reading to do:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey
.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
    and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
    His rule will extend from sea to sea
    and from the [Euphrates] River to the ends of the earth.

There are several things to note in this passage:

  1. Daughter Zion is Israel, specifically, Jerusalem.
  2. The text proclaims that the person riding on the foal of a donkey is King of Israel.
  3. The Jesus Way is Peace. Eventually, Jesus will do away with war. His Church is proclaiming His peace to the nations even today!
  4. The imagery in the boundaries of His rule projects to the entire world. The kingdom of heaven is growing like a mustard seed, like yeast in dough.

Another passage to look at before reading about the Triumphal Entry is Daniel 2:34-35,

34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

What can we glean from this passage?

  1. The Rock was cut by God and is Jesus.
  2. Jesus struck the worldview of His day and completely overturned it.
  3. The rock is a picture of the Church that became a huge mountain over three centuries and is now in the process of filling the whole earth.
  4. Though this passage does not directly speak to the Triumphal Entry, that Entry is the beginning of the Passion Week in which the “statue” of the age is brought down.

Daniel prophesied this event and even gave us the timing of this event:

24 “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city [Jerusalem] to finish sin, to set an end to sin, to wipe out lawlessness, to atone for wrongdoings, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.” LXX

What weeks? Finish sin? Atone for wrongdoings? Bring in everlasting righteousness? What’s it all about? We will discuss this verse and the following two verses tomorrow!

Abba, Help us to comprehend the magnitude of Your accomplishment that week–or, at least, to begin to start to comprehend (I have the feeling that we will be discovering the magnitude of what You did for us for eternity). Speak to our hearts, O Lord, and help us know and experience the width, length, depth and height of Your love. Amen.

Proverbs 12 6-12-22

When a person’s drive to know God overcomes all other drives, we know the Spirit is close to winning him over.

26 The appetite of laborers works for them;
    their hunger drives them on.

The key to the Christian life is the in-dwelling Spirit. He gives us the desire to know, to experience, and to share that experience with other believers. If a person is missing this desire, I see two possibilities:

  1. He doesn’t have a clear understanding of what is available to him;
  2. He has been misled through events, circumstances, teaching, temptation that leads to sin, pride, etc.

The Spirit knocks; will people answer? Jesus has declared amnesty for the entire human race, but people are still infected with the venom of sin; they have scales on their spiritual eyes and veils on their hearts. Jesus wants to heal them, to rescue them and to restore them. If they don’t let Him, they will experience all kinds of hell: A feeling of separation and isolation, anger, bitterness, disappointment and dissatisfaction with life. But, if they do let Him, they will experience all that the Father has planned for them since the beginning:

  • His love, joy and peace that come with His presence;
  • Spiritual insight, knowledge and understanding that come from listening to Him;
  • Wisdom, discernment and prudence that come by walking with Him;
  • Goodness, self-control and perseverance as we become like Him;
  • A Cause worth living and dying for as we strive to demonstrate His love to others.

Tomorrow, we will talk about what I think is the Number One reason people don’t believe in God.

Abba, as You continue to call people to turn to You, may they turn to You in droves. As we reveal to them how beautiful You are by virtue of our lives, may they want You even as You want them. Pursue them, Lord, even as You pursued us. Amen.

Proverbs 12 5-12-22

We don’t have to work for salvation. That work has already been done on the cross. Our work starts after that.

22:17 Open your ears, and hear the words of wise people,
    and set your mind on the knowledge I give you.
18 It is pleasant if you keep them in mind
    so that they will be on the tip of your tongue,
19 so that your trust may be in Yahweh.
    Today I have made them known to you, especially to you.

There seems to me to be two kinds of holiness. One is the noble holiness of God, who is set apart from and above humanity in His greatness and goodness. The other is the practical holiness of us setting ourselves apart from that which the Lord has made out-of-bounds for us. Trusting that He has our best interests at heart is key to obeying Him. Satan got Eve to doubt God, that He was hiding something from her, and that He did NOT have her best interests at heart. Let’s look:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6

  1. The fruit was appetizing; it appealed to her senses.
  2. She wanted what Satan said that God was holding back from her: The knowledge of good and evil. The wording says that she desired wisdom, but in actuality only knowledge was mentioned.
  3. The desire to be like God and thus making her own decisions was offered by Satan, but wound up being the deathtrap that God said that it would become.

God is a loving Father and He cares for His children. Sin destroys us, so He warns us to stay away from anything that is out-of-bounds (other people’s stuff), excessive (indulgent), for another time (when we’ve grown in maturity), or warped (twisted from its God-given use). Why does the idea of God limiting us chafe us so? We do it for our children all the time. When we boil it all down, what we have is children (humanity) not wanting to be thought of as children, like a young teen who wants to act all grown up. All of a sudden, Jesus’ insight makes great sense:

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change (repent) and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

The old hymn says,

“Trusting as the moments fly,
trusting as the days go by;
Trusting Him whate’er befall,
trusting Jesus, that is all.”

Tomorrow, we will look at Galatians 5 and how setting ourselves apart from worldliness will help us to be like God (godly) the right way. Sorry, Eve.

Abba, we are Your children and You love us. May we not think too highly of ourselves and come to You as little children, ready to trust You at Your Word. Amen.

Proverbs 12 4-12-22

Some teachings are very old. Is 1700+ years old enough? Let’s look at one of them.

24:20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you [3,000+ years old], sayings of counsel and knowledge…

We ended yesterday’s post with this statement, “Since Jesus is life, to walk with Jesus is to have eternal life.” Later in John, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). John tells us in 1 John 5:12, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” The verse that we will discuss today is John 3:36, the last verse in that chapter:

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

The big question to me is, “What is God’s wrath?” In order to answer this question, we go back to Genesis 2:16-17,

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The wrath of God, otherwise known as God’s judgment, is death. We could look at death as a punishment, but I see a redeeming quality in it. It’s wrapped up in Genesis 3:22, “…he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Death confines sin to this life. When we die, we are freed from its grasp. It used to hold mankind in Hades, but Jesus broke the power of death and took control of Hades when He died on the cross, went to Hades and took the keys of death and Hades away from Satan (Revelation 1:18). He then led a triumphant train out of Hades to His kingdom. There are multiple Scriptures supporting this statement (, as well as the Apostles’ Creed, written and spoken universally even before AD 300. Here’s what it says,

The Apostles’ Creed – Traditional version

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic (universal) Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The point is that Jesus has defeated death for us. When we die, we proceed straight to His throne (2 Corinthians 5:8). We have what we refer to as eternal life, which is life in the Son (we’re already in it). Those who reject the Son* remain in darkness and suffer the “wrath of God,” which is life without Christ (they’re already in it). What about those who never get to hear about Jesus or are taught a wrong image of Him? Well, that’s a topic for another post sometime.

Abba, thank You for revealing Yourself to us so that we can believe in You and have Your life. We pray for those who don’t know You that You would reveal Yourself to them. May we be ambassadors of Your Good News, all the while basking in Your love, light and life. Amen.

*The Son of God, Jesus Christ, i.e. the Anointed One who came from God and IS God

Proverbs 12 3-12-22

“What’s one little white lie?” Well, it’s DANGEROUS, that’s what it is!

14 From the fruit of their lips [truth] people are filled with good things, and the [righteous] work of their hands brings them reward.

I had a conversation the other day with a young person who didn’t see anything wrong with telling a little, white lie. The goal was one of convenience. The problem is that in the long run, continued practice would cause problems in this area of the person’s life, not to mention the habit bleeding over into life in general.

I DIDN’T want to say that God doesn’t like lying; it’s more than that. So, I explained it like this:

We don’t lie because we have to remember what we said, then people always find out the truth, and we get hurt. God doesn’t want us to get hurt, so He doesn’t want us lying.”

Notice three things in this explanation:

  1. We remember truth better than we remember what we said is the truth.
  2. We not only face consequences, the people to whom we lie are hurt, too. The trust between them and us is gone, or, at the least, damaged. It’s hard to love when we don’t trust.
  3. God knows that sin destroys. He doesn’t want us destroying ourselves.

What does sin destroy? Our trust. Ask Eve. The enemy lied to her and got her to distrust God. The enemy lies to everyone and we all fall for his deceptions, traps and snares sometime in our lives. John said,

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 1 John 1:8

The neat thing is that God has already forgiven us for all our sin. He has erased the debt and wiped it–and us–clean. We don’t avoid sin to make the Father love us; we avoid sin because He loves us. He wants the best for us, and since sin destroys (trust), He wants us to avoid it.

So, the next time you’re tempted to lie, twist the truth, censure it, or recreate it, just remember that more is at stake than convenience. Trust is on the line.

Abba, please help us to trust You enough to tell the truth even in awkward situations. Not everything is pertinent or shareable (ours to share), so give us discretion. Amen.

Proverbs 12 2-12-22

God’s ways are so much higher and bigger than our ways, and His thoughts higher and greater than our thoughts.

15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice [from the Spirit].

We continue looking at Jesus’ claim to be God in the flesh. In chapter ten, He declares His sovereignty over death,

17 ‘That’s why the father loves me, because I lay down my life, so that I can take it again. 18 Nobody takes it from me; I lay it down of my own accord. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to receive it back again. This is the command I received from my father.’ John 10:17-18

The willingness for Jesus to die for us takes us back to the Garden of Eden when God prophesied to the serpent (Satan), “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” For Satan, it was a fatal blow at the cross. For Jesus, it “bruised His heel.” In other words, the most that Satan could do to Jesus was to kill the body–and that’s where Satan’s problems started! Jesus descended into hell (Matthew 12:40, Acts 2:31) preached (1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6), and then led a procession out of hell , unlocking the doors and flinging them wide open (Hebrews 2:14-15), and into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13). It was His plan all along!

Paul, when writing to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:9-10, talks about this amazing plan of Jesus:

God saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace. He gave us this grace in King Jesus before all time and ages10 but has now made it visible through the appearing of our savior King Jesus, who abolished death and, through the gospel, shone a bright light on life and immortality.

Jesus is the only One who had the authority to abolish death. God’s plan “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10) was in place and working outside of time (before all time and ages). Do we know what that looks like? No! But, we can trust Jesus to accomplish the Father’s will.

Abba, Your plan is mind-boggling. I cannot grasp it. At the same time, Your Spirit continues to reveal bits and pieces of it as I read, study, pray, and talk with other believers. All I can say is, “To God be the glory!” Amen.

Proverbs 12 1-12-22

The three parables in Luke 15 show God in a new and exciting way. They are the lens of Jesus for us to view the Father.

28 In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.

The first parable is The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7).
The second parable is The Lost Coin (Luke 15:8-10).
The third parable is The Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32).

Comparisons:

  • Each is lost and Someone goes to look for them.
  • That Someone looked until He found each one.
  • There is much rejoicing when each are returned.

Contrasts:

  • The sheep wandered off.
  • The coin was lost (it did not jump off the table).
  • The son chose to leave.
  • The sheep and the coin were rescued; the son chose to go home.

What do these parables tell us about the Father?

Before we answer that question, there is a matter that needs to be addressed. In Eastern culture, relationship is valued above all rules and regulations. There are ALWAYS exceptions to the rules where family is concerned. As we study these parables, let’s remember that Family Trumps Law.

  • The heavenly Father is the Searcher in the first two parables and the Father in the third parable.
  • He considers each one valuable and worth saving.
  • He searches until He finds the first two, and continues to watch the road for the return of the third.
  • There is no chastisement of the lamb, the coin, or the son–in fact, just the opposite. The Father throws a party for each of them.

What can we learn about our relationship with God from these parables?

Luke wrote his Gospel around 60 A.D. (before writing the book of Acts , which was written before Paul’s execution in 67 A.D. and before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). This is 27 years after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Luke had plenty of time to gather stories, interview people (like Jesus’ mother, Mary), and get his facts right. We can trust the Gospel of Luke to be accurate.

This being said, we can gain quite a few insights into the mind of believers in his day. Consider:

  • Everyone identified with one of the three prodigals (lost ones).
  • The heavenly Father loves everyone–even those who choose to leave.
  • He searches for some (those who lost their way are are waiting to be rescued). Others, He waits for them to “come to their senses.” In fact, I believe that it is God the Spirit who calls to mind their bad choices and the subsequent consequences. He is the One who urges them to turn for home.
  • Much rejoicing is in store for each soul that is rescued and returns home (Luke 15:7).
  • He continues to search and to wait. How long? That conclusion depends upon how we read the Scriptures. The Old Testament is about the law; the New Testament is about the relationship. Let’s keep this truth in mind as we consider these parables.

As in all things, seek the Lord to open your eyes to His truth. Scripture is like peeling an onion, which has layer upon layer all the way to its core. Let’s keep peeling those layers back through prayer, study, reading and discussion.

Abba, You have so much to show us and we have so little time on this earth. I can only think that our education continues into Your kingdom. May we learn to trust You more, love You more, and follow You more closely every day. Amen.

Proverbs 12 12-12-21

We sing, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” but what do we know about the birthplace of Christ?

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge…

The Christmas narrative centers around the little town of Bethlehem. The trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem is a long one if the route by the sea is taken (see Proverbs 10 12-10-21). We get the story of Mary riding a donkey from a “book” written in 145 AD, Protoevangelium of James, :17. I read a little of it and found it to be unrealistic; even so, that’s probably from where the legend came.

Bethlehem (Hebrew for “house of bread”) was the birthplace of King David (1 Samuel 16:1-4). An unwalled village about five miles south of Jerusalem with little more than a hundred persons during the Herodian period, it was, nevertheless, the prophesied place of the Messiah’s birth (Micah 5:2-4).

The phrase “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7) may better be rendered “because there was no space in the room,” indicating that Joseph and Mary may have found shelter in a relative’s home at the time. Although the New Testament does not mention a cave, a second-century source states that Jesus was born in one. Many homes in Bethlehem were built in front of caves, so we can easily envision Joseph and Mary seeking appropriate privacy in a home’s back area that was used for stabling and storage. Matthew indicates that they remained in Bethlehem for some time, as Jesus Christ is not described as an infant but as a child when the Wise Men visited Him (Matthew 2:11-14).
From 1st Century Bethlehem

In the narrative, the language is such that Mary probably wasn’t in labor as she came into Bethlehem, “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,” (Luke 2:6). Again, the legend from the Protoevangelium of James provides this immediacy. Although none are mentioned, the social customs of the day plus the added family inclusion allow for us to envision several women cleaning the stall and providing Mary with all that she needed for the birth. The Protoevangelium of James even mentions a midwife.

The next aspect of the story is one that is lost in most nativity scenes. We are provided with clues that confirm that Jesus was older when the Magi visited Him.

  1. House- The Magi found Jesus in a house (Matthew 2:11a)
  2. Young Child- Jesus was probably about six months old (Matthew 2:11b)
  3. Conjunction- The third and final conjunction of Jupiter and Venus with Jupiter being in full-grade retro-motion (looked to stand still) happened on December 25, 2 BC, six months after the first conjunction, which was the brightest star in history at that point. See Bethlehemstar.com

The last aspect of Bethlehem is a sad one. The baby boys in the area two years and under were killed in an attempt to kill Jesus. There may not have been many in a town of only 100 (a few more in the outlying area), but it is still considered a massacre. Joseph was warned in a dream to go to Egypt–God even funded the trip!

Satan did his best to keep Jesus from coming and then tried his best to kill Him before His ministry could get started. He finally succeeded in killing Jesus, but it backfired! More on that tomorrow.

Abba, I don’t know how You work when You allow mankind to make their own choices, but You’re God and You are big enough to take everyone’s choices and work them into the beautiful tapestry of Your will. Thank You for the gift of Your Son–when You came to earth as Jesus–and for what You did for us on the cross. We praise You and worship You. Amen.

Proverbs 12 11-12-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 12 10-12-21

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

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

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

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

Let’s break down the passage:

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 12 9-12-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He is also steadfast. Check it out:

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

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

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

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

How about this one:

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 12 8-12-21

When turning a conversation to the Gospel, we may do well to begin, “When I met Jesus, I was…” and identify with the sinner.

3 No one can be established through wickedness, but the righteous cannot be uprooted [we don’t have to worry about our reputation; we belong to the Lord].

It is scandalous what people are doing out there. It’s downright sinful. One would think that the world is made up of sinners…! As you read these verses, notice that Paul is talking to church members:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  1. What does it mean to inherit the kingdom of God? It is the Holy Spirit who makes us heirs of God and co-heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). Those with the Spirit (see verse 15) will inherit the kingdom of God; those who do not have the Spirit will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 John 5:12).
  2. Is this a complete list of sins? Of course not. Not even close. But, it hit four of the 10 Commandments: #7 Thou shalt not commit adultery (adulterers), #2 Thou shalt not worship hand-made images (idolaters), #8 Thou shalt not steal (thieves), #9 Thou shalt not bear false witness (slanderers and swindlers). The key is in the next line:
  3. And that is what some of you were. Paul pulled the punch a little here. In Romans 2:1, he let them have it, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” In Titus 3:3, Paul even includes himself, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
  4. He goes on to say, “he [God] saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,” which goes along very well with verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 6.

If we could get our minds around the fact that our sins are separated from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), we would be desperate to tell others how to have their sins dealt with like ours! So, when we come across a subject which we know too much about, we might try using it as the springboard into a Gospel conversation. It takes being a bit transparent and even vulnerable, but like I said, we’re desperate. People need to know that we were sinners, too (still are). Anything else is either pride or fear–or a little of both!

Abba, give us the courage to be transparent and vulnerable when it comes to sharing the Gospel. I know we don’t have to share every detail, but just letting someone know that we are human (sinners) puts us all on the same playing field. All of a sudden, the Gospel is accessible and Jesus is reachable. Move mightily in us and then move mightily in them, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 12 7-12-21

Yesterday was discernment. Today is discretion. “Think about what you’re going to say, and then don’t say it.”

18 The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

One of my biggest challenges is keeping my mouth under control. It’s like it has its own little motor that turns on and runs all by itself! Of course, what I’m facing here is habit. I’ve done it so long that it feels unnatural to try to control it. What do I do?

First of all, I must confess that I have a problem. I tell the Lord about it–I’m not fooling anyone. He is the one who prompted me to face my habit! But, confession is good for the soul. It gets it out there on the table.

The next thing is to acknowledge my desire to change. I may not know how, but having the desire is the foundation to change. I claim Psalm 37:4, “Commit your way to the Lord, delight in Him, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” My desire is to be discerning about what I say.

The third thing I do is identify what I talk about that I know is a problem: Speaking critically about people. Why is it a problem?

  1. The person to whom I am talking does not need the negativity. Also, he may not share my opinion.
  2. Professing negative things about others colors my opinion of them. If I am to see them as brothers and sisters in Christ, I must talk about them as if Christ is standing right there with me. Oh, wait–He is!
  3. Some people don’t need ammunition for their own habit of being critical. Besides, they may talk about me the same way!

The best verse for me to combat this habit is Ephesians 4:29, which says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Two things I draw from this verse is that I am to be about building others up and not tearing them down, and to be a benefit and not a hindrance to those who are listening to me. I must consider both the person about whom I am talking and also the person to whom I am talking.

Well, I’m not perfect, but I am working on it with the partnership of the Holy Spirit. I am sure glad that the Lord enjoys our fellowship regardless of how many times it will take for me to kick this habit. I know He’s rooting for me. I also know that I am “more than a conqueror through Him who loves me” (Romans 8:37).

Abba, we all have “kinks in our armor.” I am so glad that You have given us Your armor. May I take my old armor off and put on the new armor, the one that does not gratify the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:14). Keep working in me so that I may be pure and blameless on the Day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:10). I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17); help me live in that reality. Amen.

NOTE: Monday was the first day in 12+ years that I forgot to write a Proverbs post. Couldn’t let THAT happen!

Proverbs 12 6-12-21

If our lives are short and eternity is long, why not live for the sake of eternity?

12 The wicked desire the plunder of evildoers [temporal goals and security],
but the root [God’s plan and reward] of the righteous endures.

28 In the way of righteousness there is [eternal] life; along that path is immortality.

We all have a calling from God. In fact, it is how we came to Christ in the first place. Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them” John 6:44. This calling is “to believe in [trust in and rely on] the one [Jesus] He has sent” John 6:29. If the Spirit has His way in our lives, our desires will become His desires; we will want what God wants, which is, for “everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.

The apostle Paul felt very strongly for his flock at Galatia. He told them, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” Galatians 4:19. The NLT says it this way,

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.

It boils down to this: Do we know Christ personally? Is His Spirit living in us? If so, then we need to contemplate the next questions very deeply:

  • Do we really want God’s will to be accomplished regardless of how it affects us?
  • Are we really committed to the growth of the Church, “which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way” Ephesians 1:22?
  • Are we willing to be used however God deems is the best way to reach the lost people of this world, to strengthen those who are weary, to give hope to the hopeless, and to lead them to Jesus?
  • Are we willing to commit to do anything, go through anything, go anywhere, and be available anytime for Him?
  • Will we prepare, train, and practice for the next thing that our Lord has for us to do on our way to glory?

God has promised to keep working on us and in us until we are “fully developed” spiritually. In other words, He wants us to be just like Jesus (1 John 4:17). Let’s commit our lives to Him today.

Abba, I commit my life to You today. I pledge my time, my talents, my resources, my money, and even my life for the sake of doing Your will. I promise to listen to You and obey You today beginning with opening Your Word and reading about You and Your mission. Your mission is my mission. When I get up tomorrow, I intend to commit my life to You again–built on my experience of walking with You yet another day. You lead; I will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 12 5-12-21

Raising children is tough, but worth it. Raising spiritual children to be spiritual adults is just as rewarding.

1 Whoever loves discipline [a spiritual adult] loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction [a spiritual child] is stupid.
16 Fools [spiritual children] show their annoyance at once, but the prudent [spiritual adults] overlook an insult.

Children are beautiful. They see things as black and white; most cannot detect subterfuge. Yet, that is exactly what the enemy uses against Christians who are still small children in their spiritual walk. Let’s go over again the characteristics of spiritual children:

  • Self-centered and self-absorbed
  • Idealistic
  • Sometimes prideful
  • Sometimes having low self-esteem
  • Interdependent (depends on others for daily needs)

If a Christian is not careful, he will stay in this stage indefinitely. Satan would dearly love to keep all Christians from maturing in Christ. and, unless a person is actively trying to grow in Christ, the tendency is to stay self-centered, making everything about him. In fact, he will remain so self-absorbed that he doesn’t notice other people’s problems or needs. Children also can have a specific idea of how things should be regardless of facts and circumstances; it’s pretty difficult to argue with a child. He will either strike out at you or pull into his shell, depending on whether he is prideful or has low self-esteem. The fact is, he can’t function in his Christian walk without outside help.

The best thing for a spiritual child is for him to practice the disciplines:

  1. Studying prayer in the Bible and then practicing it;
  2. Reading the Bible to gain overall insights;
  3. Studying the Bible to gain spiritual truths;
  4. Sitting under teachers that can explain mature and complex spiritual truths;
  5. Being with other Christians to practice the fruit of the Spirit so that he can shower them on unbelievers;
  6. Experience struggle;
  7. Experience victory!

The problem with most spiritual children is that they cannot recognize that this stage is where they are. Then, when it is pointed out to them, they dismiss it out of hand because they feel it’s not necessary to grow. They are fine the way they are. I am SO glad that Jesus loves us where we are, but that He loves us too much to allow us to stay there. It’s the same with spiritual children. We must keep leading them, guiding them, coaxing them, and loving them into a closer relationship with Jesus.

It is true that experience is a great teacher, but unless the Holy Spirit is involved, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. Let’s pray for humility, patience and direction as we work with spiritual children. It’s gonna take a lot of each!

Abba, goodness, gentleness and patience are three of the fruit of the Spirit. Please give them to us as we deal with spiritual children. May we never give up on them. When we lose our tempers, may we immediately apologize and begin again. Every time. Give us eyes of compassion–Your eyes, Abba. Jesus, work through us to grow the children You have placed in our care and to equip them for Your service. Humility, direction and faithfulness are more fruit that we will need from You. Thank You in advance, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 13 4-13-21

If we are not counting ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus, then we are not living the true Christian life.

2 From the fruit of their lips [professing Christ as Lord each day and living for Him] people enjoy good things [His presence and participation in their lives], but the unfaithful [those who ignore the Spirit within] have an appetite for violence [wickedness, which is doing things without consulting the Lord].

Paul said in Romans 6:11, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” He was describing what happened to us when we believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior. We were buried with Him and then raised with Him to walk in the new life. This process is pictured in baptism. We go under the water, which represents dying, and then come back up out of the water, which signifies raising to life just like Him.

What makes this process possible? The New Covenant! It is the completion of the Old Covenant, which showed us what we needed (a Savior), but all it could do for our sin issue was cover it until the Messiah came and took care of it on the cross, “in His forbearance, he [God] had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–” Romans 5:25.

Paul then gives a rather graphic example further explaining the ramifications of this New Covenant.

1the law has authority over someone only as long as that person livesFor example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him [Jesus!] who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:1-6

What is this new way of service that that we have? What is the way of the Spirit? John calls it “walking in the light,” “If we walk in the light, as God is [in the/our] light, we have fellowship with one another [Christ with us and us with Christ], and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 Our Christianity can be measured by how much we depend upon the Spirit and have fellowship with Him. In fact, prayer (our conversation with the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit) demonstrates our dependence on God. Our lack of prayer demonstrates our independence from God, which is actually a form of rebellion (sin). Doing anything without consulting God first and being obedient to His direction is wickedness. We must repent and do the things we know to do according to His leadership in our lives–moment by moment. There should be no periods of NOT being connected to the Spirit. There may not be any talking going on, but there is an awareness of each other’s presence. Robin and I demonstrate this awareness all the time when we are driving. We are together and enjoying each other’s company, but we may not be in an actual conversation. It’s this kind of fellowship that John is talking about in 1:7.

May we strive to be aware of His presence in our lives; may we welcome His participation and the fellowship that goes with being in step with Him. His Spirit is our confirmation, our surety of salvation, and we are reminded of the absoluteness of our salvation every time we converse with Him. People who do His will according to the leadership of the Holy Spirit never doubt their salvation; it’s too real to them!

24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:24

Abba, thank You for the gift of Your blessed Holy Spirit. He is Your presence in my life. Through Him, I know You! In fact, since the Spirit IS You, then I am talking to You all the time. For a tangible representation of You, I think of Jesus. Lord Jesus, You walk with me and talk with me along life’s narrow way. Thank You for living in my heart and for me being a part of Your kingdom. Bring Your kingdom, Lord. I welcome it both in my heart and in this world. Amen.

Proverbs 12 4-12-21

To be set free from sin is not so that we can live for ourselves, but for the One who set us free. Let’s live for Jesus!

2 Good people [those who live for Christ] obtain favor from the LORD, but He condemns those who devise wicked schemes [live for themselves without regard for Him].

Jesus made an interesting statement in John 8. He stated a spiritual truth that still holds true today.

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” John 8:34

He had said something similar in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 when He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon [appetite for riches, power, self-exaltation].” Matthew 6:24 Jesus was basically saying that if we are not serving God, then we are serving the other.

This spiritual truth has everything to do with the New Covenant. The Old Covenant showed us what we did not have, which was what it took to conquer sin, “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. As Jesus said, since we are sinners, we are slaves to sin. Paul said,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins [we were slaves]in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 
12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Ephesians 2:1-3, 12

Christ has made it possible to be freed from the chains of sin–to become slaves of righteousness. Read it:

17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sinyou have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:17-18

We must remember that we were not designed to do life on our own. God wants to do life with us. Hence, the cross. Through Christ’s death and atonement for our sins, we can be freed from our bondage to sin as Christ comes to live in our hearts. Our slavery to righteousness simply means that we pledge our allegiance to the Father to live as He directs. Remembering that He is both Great and Good, we can count on Him to deal justly with us NOT according to our own acts, but according to the Righteous Act of His Son, Jesus.

What does this slavery to righteousness look like? Jesus told us,

28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened [with the bondage of sin], and I will give you rest29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

What should we do? Out of gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” Romans 6:20. We now live for Christ and not for ourselves. Any other way is evil. Let’s honor today the pledge we made to Christ; let’s live for Him and not ourselves, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:11-14.

Abba, what a beautiful thing You did for us through Jesus Christ. This New Covenant has set us free from sin and death, and allows us to have both the desire and the power to live righteously as we fellowship with You, learn from You, and trust You for every decision we make, from when to get up to when to go to bed; from what to read in Your Word to what to talk about with our friends; from what to wear to what to say–or not say. It’s all about the relationship! May we trust You more and more each day as we offer ourselves to You as slaves of Your righteousness. Who knew that being a slave would be so good?! I’m addicted, Lord. I need more of You. Today. All day. Amen.

Proverbs 12 3-12-21

Not wanting to change is what got the religious leaders in so much trouble. We can be the same way.

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

As we continue to look at Jesus’ correction of the teaching of the day, we begin to see why the religious leaders hated Him so. He upset their applecart. Not only that, He called into question their motives behind their rules. Take oaths, for instance:

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn [Numbers 30:2].’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:33-37

The passage in Numbers was a clarification that a person should keep his word. Jesus interpreted oath-taking as unnecessary for a person to keep his word. Jesus was taking away the teaching of the religious leaders by specifically listing the things by which NOT to swear: heaven, earth, or Jerusalem. But, it was worse than that. Matthew records Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the teachers of the law in 23:16-22,

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

Jesus summed up the practice of oath-taking with this warning, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Did the religious leaders stop taking oaths? Not at all. They would rather kill Jesus than do as He said.

Next on the list was the binding of an old law and the loosing of a new one. It includes a rebuke of the religious leaders’ passive resistance against Rome. Jesus had something to say about that, too.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:23-25].’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Without actually saying it, Jesus was telling them to love one another as He loved them, a command that He gave His disciples His last night with them ([John 13:34-35]. The closest He got to telling the people this command is in 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” As for the one-mile rule, by Roman law a person was duty-bound to carry a soldier’s pack one mile. I have heard it said that the cities had markers at every mile so that they would know when they had carried the pack exactly one mile. Jesus wanted them to change their attitude toward their adversaries. He was trying to get them to show God’s love instead of national pride. Sounds like a good lesson for today, doesn’t it?

Verses 43-48 are a continuation of this theme. If a person would discipline himself with this knowledge, he would not have to be corrected (see the Proverbs verse for today). Also, he would “be perfect even as his heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Abba, may You make us just like Jesus, who was just like You. We want to be perfect: whole, complete, mature, lacking no good thing in us. Like I said, we want to be just like Jesus! We don’t want to be stupid, Lord. Help us to listen, trust and obey. Amen.

Proverbs 12 2-12-21

Are we right with the Lord? Are we walking in step with Him? Here are some sure-fire signs of a disciple of Christ.

1 Whoever loves [the] discipline [of the Lord] loves knowledge [finding out about our Savior and fellowshipping with Him], but whoever hates correction is stupid.

  1. We want to talk with Him. We have an ongoing conversation that constantly yields to His will and His way. He is the Master and we are apprentices. “Teach me, LORD, the way of Your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.” “Direct me in the path of Your commands, for there I find delight.” Psalm 119:33, 35.
  2. We have a craving for His Word. We hunger and thirst after righteousness [Matthew 5:6]. We see the importance of finding out what was so important that He made the effort to write it down and then keep it safe through the centuries. “Humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” James 1:21.
  3. We have a passion for people: For the lost to know Him as we know Him, and for other Christians to know Him as we know Him. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10.
  4. We desire to sit under godly teaching and to meet for haverim (interaction between believers about spiritual things). “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42.”
  5. Our priorities are different than the world’s. Our desire to know Him and His Word, our passion for people, and our desire to meet together take precedence over the things after which the world seeks. “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” –Jesus, John 15:19.

I believe that our society has reached a point where it is not going to tolerate the god of Christianity as it is generally being presented to them. In other words, they see through the façade that is presented to them by religion: We serve Christ because it serves us, or because it is our culture, or out of fear (faith is treated like a talisman, a charm). Jesus said that the only reason to follow Him is because He called us to follow Him. We respond to His call and follow Him the rest of our lives. Many people prayed a prayer for the forgiveness of their sins with no intention of following Him the rest of their lives. They wanted fire insurance! These people are NOT true Christians. They have believed in a god that doesn’t exist, one that offers salvation of sin without commitment. Not only that, they use the name of Jesus as a weapon against the very people that Jesus came to save! Demanding our rights “in Jesus’ name” is tantamount to blasphemy. Do we forget that dead men (and women) don’t have rights? Do we ignore what Jesus said about being His disciple:

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

Folks, let’s set aside our arguments and focus on what is true. We are called to be lights in a dark world. We are to exemplify Jesus in every area of our lives. Are we studying, striving, and struggling to make our lives just like Jesus’ life? Paul says,

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! Galatians 4:19-20

I feel like he is talking straight to me! The struggle is real, people! I am perplexed about my own life and the areas in which I can’t seem to have victory. How about you? Let’s not give up the fight! Instead, let’s “press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.” Philippians 3:12.

Abba, the world seems to be getting darker when it doesn’t have to. Instead, help us to lift our eyes to You and to involve ourselves in Your plan to reach the world. We have Your promise to be with us and lead us, and eventually to take us home to be with You. Why are we so taken with this world? Increase my faith, O Lord, to include everything that goes on, whether it is considered good or bad, as being brought under Your authority (based on Psalm 110:1 and Ephesians 1:10). I am Yours, Lord. Light me up! Amen.

Proverbs 12 1-12-21

How has knowing Christ personally changed your life? Do you have the desire to know Him better? to serve Him?

3 No one can be established through wickedness [acting out of our own will with no regard to God’s will], but the righteous cannot be uprooted.

To place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, to pledge our lives to Him forever, is a permanent commitment. Yet, if we are not careful to follow closely, we can be drawn back into the ways of our old life, our old self. It doesn’t fit anymore and we are miserable after tasting eternal life and the goodness of our Savior, but the draw is still there. Jesus spoke to His disciples about this subject their last night together:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

What is He talking about?

  1. Israel was known as the Vine (Psalm 80:8-11, Isaiah 5:2, 7). Jesus was telling them that HE is the TRUE VINE. HE is the TRUE ISRAEL. The Gardener is God Himself. What an awesome revelation!
  2. The phrase, “cuts off,” is a secondary meaning for the Greek word. It’s primary meaning is, “to raise, take up, lift.” The meaning changes from removal of a non-producing branch to the tender care of one that has dropped down into the dust. The vinedresser picks it up, washes it, and ties it back up onto the vine trellis where it can be pruned and made even more fruitful. Jesus said that He had made them clean through the word spoken to them. We, too, can be made clean (our feet-see 13:6-10) through the word provided for us!
  3. Verse 4 is the part we tend to forget. We were never designed to do anything on our own, but with the Holy Spirit. It’s a fellowship, a partnership, a RELATIONSHIP. When we try to do things our way (the very definition of wickedness), it only messes everything up.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

  1. Verse 5 is a reiteration of what He just told them. Anytime in the Bible that something is repeated, it means that it’s important.
  2. “…like a branch that is thrown away and withers”- This phrase is a metaphor. We might get a clearer picture using coals in a fire. If we remove a coal from a fire and set it to the side, what happens to it? Eventually, it cools and goes out. But, what happens when we take the coal and put it back in the fire? It catches fire and glows again! This process is how we are when it comes to listening to the Holy Spirit.
  3. What was He expecting them to wish for? Verse 18 says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” He promised that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit (see 14:25), who would never leave them and would guide them into all truth (16:13). They would know for what to ask, which leads us to the next verse.
  4. The fruit that they would bear is the manifestation of Jesus in them. What is Jesus like? He is loving, peaceful, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and has perfect self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). He is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). He is “zealous for His house,” (Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17) which is now us (1 Corinthians 6:19). Get the picture? Our mission is to find out what Jesus is like and be like Him. It’s called sanctification. It’s what the Holy Spirit does in us.

There is one more idea that I want us to consider. If the disciples didn’t remain with Jesus’ teaching, to what would they return? You guessed it: Judaism. The apostle Paul chastised the Galatians for doing just that:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:1-2, 6

Do we not do the same thing when we return to the vises and “securities” that we had before we came to Christ? Is our hope in our money, our family, or our health? NO! All of these things will pass away–or we will. Either way, only our relationship with Christ Jesus is eternal, so let’s put all of our time, effort, and resources into our heavenly account by remaining connected to the True Vine, which is Jesus.

Abba, may our hunger and thirst for You and Your Word become a mighty fire in our bones! Amen.

Proverbs 12-12-20

“Know my heart” is the same as “I give you my heart.” It’s an acknowledgement that Christ knows our innermost thoughts.

22 The LORD [Adonai] detests lying lips [those who deceive themselves], but He delights in people who are trustworthy [those who trust in Him].

Let’s be honest with ourselves and with our Lord. We know what is in our hearts. Why would a holy God want to delve the depths of MY heart? It’s pretty ugly in there–okay, it’s a LOT ugly in there. He even tells me how ugly it is: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9. Yet, King David tells the LORD,

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

David gives God permission to lay open his heart. It’s a whole lot like open-heart surgery. We know from Hebrews 4:12-13 that, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword [a scalpel], it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” What is it that David wants God to do with his heart?

“See if there is any offensive way in me.” When I consider what “offensive” is in my heart, I see:

  1. Self-centeredness- I see things from my perspective, and my perspective is the most important one to me. I come first in all things and everyone else takes a backseat to me. I like being right, but I like even more having things my way–even if it isn’t the best way.
  2. Selfishness- Sometimes I want just to want. I don’t need something, but because I want it, I must have it. This attitude is evident in Amnon and what he did to Tamar, his sister (read about it in 2 Samuel 13). It’s also in every heart. Jesus tells us as much in Matthew 5:28.
  3. Pride- Sometimes I like the way I am because it makes me feel powerful. I am my own person–never mind that I am a BAD person, a DEAD person. On my own, I am a wayward sheep (Isaiah 53:6). THANK YOU, JESUS, FOR SAVING ME FROM MYSELF!

The Spirit within me has given me a new nature. I have a higher desire that goes above my base desires. I want what Jesus wants. The problem is that it’s a process, and this process takes time. It is built one teaching upon another, the base being the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 and Ephesians 5:9). Some of it we grasp very quickly while some of it must be rooted out of our selfish nature. That’s the “offensive” part.

Today, let’s allow Him to show us what can be offensive in our lives. Realizing that He cannot be offended by His children does not change the fact that we can be offensive to others. We can demonstrate His love in us by loving His Body, His Bride, His Church, His–and our–Family. It gives Him great joy when we let go of an offensive part of our hearts and allow Him to transform us into more of His image.

Abba, search my heart today. Show me what’s there and then urge me to give it to You. YOU are the only One who can transform my life into a radiant and beautiful one that glorifies You. Make me into a faithful servant, O LORD. I am Yours; do with me as You will. In the words of Mary, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Amen.

Proverbs 12 11-12-20

Becoming like Christ is our goal. His Spirit lives in us and leads us, but it’s still hard work. Our sin nature rebels.

1 Whoever loves [the LORD’s] discipline loves knowledge [from the Word of God], but whoever hates correction is stupid [spiritually ignorant and rebellious].

To keep from being stupid (spiritually ignorant and rebellious), let’s learn from the Word of God:

19 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 all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. James 1:19-21

  1. Brothers and sisters- we ALL are to take part in this exercise.
  2. Quick to listen, slow to speak- we have been given two ears and only one mouth; use them accordingly.
  3. Slow to become angry- James gives us the reason immediately after: “Because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
    1. It’s OUR anger and not God’s, so don’t claim a righteous anger;
    2. It produces, but not what God wants;
    3. God desires us to have His righteousness, the righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  4. Moral filth- Thoughts and actions that are not Spirit-led.
  5. Prevalent evil- the enemy is always lurking, seeking those lambs who wander away from the Shepherd. STAY CLOSE TO THE SHEPHERD.
  6. Humbly accept the Word planted in you- The Spirit has planted His Word in our hearts and lives; cultivate it. Why?
  7. His Word- Because it can save you from all kinds of pitfalls, temptations, hidden snares, heartache and damage. “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I [Christ] have come to give life in abundance.” John 10:10

STEPPING BACK

In order to give ourselves time to respond rather than react, we must step back mentally so that we can get an objective perspective to the situation. Stepping back requires maturity and patience, so don’t think that it’s easy or that you will learn it quickly. At the same time, it will bring great rewards to those who choose to practice it. We need some tools, though. We will talk about those tools tomorrow.

For today, let’s ask the LORD to reveal to us evil and filth in our lives, whether it is on us or simply around us. Then, let’s read His Word and humbly accept His message for us today.

Abba, I humbly receive and accept Your message concerning anger. May I be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to get angry. I will leave judgment to You, LORD, and I will focus on being kind and compassionate. May my words be full of grace, seasoned with the salt of Your teaching, O LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 12 10-12-20

How do we keep our love for God from growing cold? It’s hard to sustain a one-sided relationship…

15 The way of [arrogant] fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice [from the Holy Spirit].
24 Diligent hands will rule [our own hearts], but laziness ends in forced labor [in bondage to sin].

Jesus made a comment in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) that applies to today’s times,

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13

We tend to be influenced by our surroundings, be it work, TV, internet, books, those with whom we hang, media, etc. There are a thousand voices out there, but there is only ONE to which we are to listen, and that Voice is the Holy Spirit who is within us.

A one-sided relationship is one that only one person in the relationship is trying. One is a giver and the other is a taker. What makes a relationship work is when both parties are givers. In order for us to determine who is the giver and who is the taker in our relationship with the LORD, let’s read:

In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:4-6

You will notice that we are BOTH givers and takers. We are in a partnership with the LORD. Our relationship is symbiotic. The problem comes when we don’t recognize when He’s giving to us. Let me set your mind at ease: We don’t have to work so hard at our relationship with the LORD; we just have to work diligently. In other words, let’s be steady in our walk with Him.

Most people think that praying to God, reading our Bibles, and going to church is the extent of our responsibilities as a good follower of Jesus Christ. Yes and no. HOW we do these things makes ALL the difference in the world. If you’ll notice, praying to God and reading our Bibles are seen as two different things. NOT SO! Reading our Bibles is God talking to us! When we open the Scriptures (the Bible is what we call the collection of God’s love letter to us), we open a line of communication between God and us. The Spirit speaks to us through God’s Word. For instance, when we read about King David, we “realize” (via the Holy Spirit talking to us) that we are capable of great love, but also great failure; when we read of King Solomon, we “realize” that the things of this world, in his case his many foreign wives, can lead us astray; when we read of Paul, we “realize” that a true encounter with the LORD Jesus will change our minds and hearts in an instant.

If you want to know what God thinks, ask Him and then read His Word. He wrote it down for us so that we wouldn’t miss it! He even instilled the Holy Spirit to interpret His Words. Do you really want to know? It’s a question of Lordship.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would choose You to be LORD of their lives today, and then tomorrow to make the same choice. I know that if I do it categorically, then I am much more likely to make every decision based upon that first decision. May they find this truth for themselves as You call us to our commitment. If we listen, You are calling us into a permanent, lasting, intimate conversation with You: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and wondrous things that you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3 (God’s phone number). I’m calling, LORD. Let’s talk.

Proverbs 12 9-12-20

We are comprised of our thoughts. They reveal who we are.

8 A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised.

The ability to think is our greatest evidence of the existence of God. “I think, therefore I am.“ Christ calls us to take every thought captive to Him and for Him.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

[3] For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. [4] The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. [5] We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Is this task even possible? Not without the Holy Spirit! What we must learn to do is to take every thought and run it through these filters:

1. Is it true? According to the facts, is what I am going to say or what I am thinking lining up with what I know to be true?

2. Is it verifiable? Is there proof either in scripture, in evidence, or by testimony for what I am thinking?

3. Is it prudent? Does it need to be said? Will it help or hurt the person or situation?

4. Is it the right time? Timing is everything. It needs to be the right place, right time, right people, and the right moment.

There is a hack for this exercise. It is in knowing the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will call to our minds verses that give us God’s opinion on every matter. Right now you are either thinking, “that’s a great idea,“ or,“ that’s impossible,“ or, “that’s too much work.” Each of these thought responses tells us something about ourselves. They even reveal our temperaments. Knowing our tendencies will help us to work through our initial reaction and enable us to respond in a godly fashion. Each godly thought builds our character and makes us more like Jesus.

Let’s use these filters today in our conversation with people, as we are driving, as we watch TV or surf the Internet, and even as we read God’s Word (why this one? Because we may have been taught something that the Holy Spirit may question).

Abba, help us to stop and consider a godly response rather than reacting with a natural (fleshly) response. Our desire is to be like You (which comes from the Holy Spirit). Make it so, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 12 8-12-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 12 7-12-20

What will it take for you to be desperate for Jesus? How bad do things have to get before you’ll come to Him?

9 Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food.

Let’s be honest: We aren’t honest by nature. Our flesh wants to boast, so we pretend, we lie, and we create bubbles of illusion in order for people to think more highly of us. I’ve done it before–and how humiliating it is to have to ‘fess up to the truth. At the same time, isn’t it liberating once the truth is out there? All of a sudden, we are free of the tangled webs of deceit and we can now worship the LORD in righteousness and truth.

King David is a prime example of the freeing nature of truth. When David is confronted by the prophet Nathan for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, pregnancy, and subsequent “murder” of her husband, David repented publicly. Even so, the consequences of his sin extended to his family beginning with the child dying and culminating in the rape of his daughter by another son, the murder of that son by Absalom, and then the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 12:1-18:17). Yet, David knew to come clean with God, and God forgave him. Their relationship was restored.

David wrote psalm 51 out of meekness of heart and true repentance. His honesty brought him close to God once again. Here are some key verses from that psalm:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast [right] spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me [we have His promise on this one].
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

As we can see, honesty is truly the best policy with the LORD. Let’s be honest with Him this morning as we head into worship. He KNOWS our hearts, so there’s no need to hide anything or to pretend. He wants to help us, to heal us, to guide us, and to be with us. It’s our pride and our strong wills that keep us from being set free to fellowship with Him. TODAY’S THE DAY. LET’S GET RIGHT WITH GOD.

“Give it up; Let it go; Throw it down.”

Abba, even as You asked for Moses’ rod, You ask for my life and for the rights to my life. I willingly give them to You. All I do is make a mess of things. Not only that, I’m never happy when I’m in charge: Things go differently than I want them to and I get mad; then I start lashing out at people. It’s ugly–I’m ugly. I need You. “Take my life and form it; take my mind, transform it; take my will, conform it to Yours, to Yours, O LORD.” Have Your way in me today. Amen.

 

Proverbs 12 6-12-20

Bad News/Good News. We are all born on the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.

No one can be established through wickedness [doing things our way, even if it seems right], but the righteous [those who know and listen to God] cannot be uprooted.

We are naturally followers of Satan because we do not know God. In fact, the Law doesn’t make us sinners; it proves to us that we ARE sinners! Here’s how it works:

Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power.At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life,10 and I died. Romans 7:7-10a NLV

Without the Law, I would never have known that I was a sinner. It put a name to my desires and actions. I did not know that I was coveting until the Law told me what coveting was. If not coveting, then we could insert lust, hate, greed, idolatry, and arrogance, for all of these are components of the 10 Commandments; coveting was simply the one that Paul chose to use.

Sometimes, it helps to read it from another translation. Here’s the Amplified Version:

What then do we conclude? Is the Law identical with sin? Certainly not! Nevertheless, if it had not been for the Law, I should not have recognized sin or have known its meaning. [For instance] I would not have known about covetousness [would have had no consciousness of sin or sense of guilt] if the Law had not [repeatedly] said, You shall not covet and have an evil desire [for one thing and another].
But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment [to express itself], got a hold on me and aroused and stimulated all kinds of forbidden desires (lust, covetousness, etc). For without the Law sin is dead [the sense of it is inactive and a lifeless thing].
Once I was alive [through Adam], but quite apart from and unconscious of the Law. But when the commandment came, sin lived again and I died (was sentenced by the Law to death) [through Adam-based upon Romans 5:12].

That’s the bad news. Here’s the GOOD NEWS: Jesus not only paid our death penalty, He arranged for us to be adopted into His family as His brothers and sisters! Here is our SALVATION:

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus Christ] the many [we] will be made righteous. Romans 5:18-19 NIV

So, through Jesus we are declared righteous in God’s sight. We’ve been washed in the blood of Jesus and made clean! The Law pointed out to us what we deserved; Grace gave us what we needed. Watch:

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:20-21 NIV

Now, a lost person doesn’t need to know all of this doctrine in order to be saved. In fact, it would probably hinder more than it would help. What they need to know is:

  1. They are deceived, living without God in their lives, following the deceptive paths of the devil, and slaves to our own passions and lusts–our sin natures.
  2. Jesus wants to save them from their lives of destruction. He will come into their lives, cleanse them of their sin, free them from the bondage of the devil, and lead them into truth and godliness (God-like-ness).
  3. All that is required is that they give their lives to Him, lock, stock and barrel, from this point on, and walk with Him routinely.

The question is, are they willing to do that? Hey, are WE willing to do that?!

Abba, I pray that we would learn so much about what You did for us in salvation that we can share it with others, answering their questions, handling GENTLY their objections, and guiding them to a point of decision. I know that the ultimate decision is between You and them; I just want to make sure that they get the chance to trust You. I know You do, too. Amen.

Proverbs 12 5-12-20

Today, I will share things I learned from the COVID19 Quarantine. I begin with this verse:

20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.

I temper this verse with the next one:

21 No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble. Rephrased: The righteous do not worry about the harmful effects of COVID19 because God is in charge of our lives, but the wicked have no such security and see danger everywhere.

I am not saying that we are to be cavalier about the illness. It’s the difference between a healthy fear and an irrational one.

This next verse makes me tremble:

23 The prudent keep their knowledge [opinion] to themselves, but a fool’s heart blurts out folly.

I have great suspicion concerning the origination of COVID19; I also question the direction taken for curbing it. Those I will keep to myself (prudence). What I will say is what God has revealed to me about me and about the church.

  • I have a rebel’s heart. I hate being told what I can do and what I can’t do, like have physical contact. I resist being told what to do, like wear a mask. I chafe at restrictions.
  • I am not afraid for my own life as much as I am at being a carrier and infecting someone else.
  • My life didn’t slow down; it just got rearranged–especially at work!
  • Regardless of its origin, this pandemic showed me how quickly we can be shut down as a nation and as a church.
  • I believe that Satan will use this tool again. Those in power got a good taste of what they can do. We will be ready for the next one.
  • I have come to see “the assembling of ourselves together” as a privilege rather than a duty. I have also come to see it as vital. We need each other. Physically.
  • It has revealed those who hunger and thirst after righteousness and those who merely attend church as just another part of their lives. It will be interesting–and sad– to see who comes back and who simply drifts away.

As we get back together over these next few weeks, may we seek the Lord’s timing for each of us and not hold each other in contempt for either coming back so quickly or for sequestering longer than most. God is happy with you even when it’s just Him and you. He knows, though, that we need encouragement and interaction in order for us to be emotionally happy and healthy. He created us social creatures.

Some of you introverts are questioning that statement right now, aren’t you? Consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that each of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit. But he had also said in 3:16 that we as a group “are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in our midst.” We are made to be together. Let’s pray for each other that our joy may be complete as we worship together again.

Abba, help me to learn as much as I can during this trying time. May it make me a better minister. Give me compassion, focus, and vision as we move into a post-Covid19 world. I know I need to be more intentional about my flock, LORD. Give me new strategies for keeping up with them and encouraging my readers to seek You daily. Amen.

Proverbs 12 4-12-20

IT’S RESURRECTION SUNDAY!

What does the resurrection mean for humanity? For us? What happened spiritually?

28 In the way of righteousness there is life;
    along that path is immortality.

Jesus took our sin and its punishment to the grave with Him. His body died just like the rest of humanity. The difference is that He had drunk the cup of God’s wrath and it all went with Him to the grave. Don’t you know Satan was shocked and appalled when Christ walked into his domain and demanded the keys to death and hell! John gives this account of his encounter with the risen LORD:

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades [hell]. Revelation 1:17-18

Jesus had kept this part of the Plan a secret until He had accomplished it. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians:

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Now comes the inconceivable part: “before time began.” Why would God go to so much trouble if He knew how much trouble we would be? It was all part of the “made in His image” where we are given the opportunity and privilege to chose to love Him and serve Him–and reign with Him. God is Omnipresent, which means that He is everywhere at once. He fills the universe both in space and in time. He is in all times, which means that He knows the “beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13), yet chooses to live in the present with us. He is ever-present. Choosing to acknowledge Him pleases Him immensely!

When Jesus’ spirit entered His body and he awakened in that tomb, I wonder where He went. The angel rolled the stone away to show that He wasn’t in 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. Matthew 28:2-6

For your listening pleasure: Rise Again – Dallas Holm

My favorite passage is Philippians 2:5-11. It tells the entire story in song format. Many wonder if it was one of the first Christian hymns. It is essentially the song, “Lord, I Lift Your Name on High:

You came from heaven to earth to show the waybeing in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

From the earth to the cross my debt to pay – And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky – Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should [shall] bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge/confess that Jesus Christ is LORD,

Lord, I lift your name on high – to the glory of God the Father.

Because of the Resurrection, we can lift the name of Jesus on high. LET’S DO IT!

Dear LORD Jesus, thank You for having Your plan and working Your plan so that I could have eternal life with You. Thank You for entering my heart and life and giving me everlasting life immediately! From now on, it just gets better and better as I move through this life and eventually to a new and better life with You. May we remember those who have already gone ahead of us, and may we patiently await Your Return. Receive Your church’s praise today, O LORD, amen.