Proverbs 14 11-14-22

Jesus told us like it is, but He quoted a lot of the Old Testament. Maybe we should go take a look…?

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. Matthew 7:28-29

When reading Scripture, the thing to remember is, “keep the main thing the main thing.” But, what is the main thing? How do we find it? The best way is to look back into the Old Testament and see if there is a reference to what is going on in the New Testament. One fulfills the other, right?

Take John 2:13-22, for instance,

[13] When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. [15] So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. [16] To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
[17] His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
[18] Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
[19] Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
[20] The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” [21] But the temple he had spoken of was his body. [22] After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus called the temple His body and His body the temple, which is “biblical topology” (the study of how passages relate to each other). He gave us the true spiritual connection of God and mankind. It was never about a building, but about the relationship. 

Originally, when David sought to build a temple for the Lord, God answered,

[5] “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? [6] I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. [7] Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’” 2 Samuel 7:5-7

God didn’t need a building, and the disciples knew this. But, because the disciples remembered these words of Jesus to the Pharisees, they believed the Scripture—as Jesus interpreted them, as well as all the words that Jesus had spoken to them (John 14:23, for example), which leads us to:

Rules for reading the Bible:

  1. Typology is a key factor; look for a correlation in the Old Testament to the New Testament.
  2. We are to interpret OT according to Jesus. He IS the Word. Whatever He says, goes.
  3. It’s all about relationship; let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

Abba, Your Word is deep–deeper than we can ever fathom–but it’s also straightforward. You don’t obscure truth; it’s there for us to find. I can’t help but think of Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” It’s something You do with us: We discover truth as You reveal it to us. We should never forget that we are very small children to You. Thank You for loving us as a Father. Amen.

Proverbs 14 10-14-22

Knowledge by itself doesn’t save us. We need the Person of Jesus Christ in our lives.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word [personal contact] and believes him who sent me [trusting God] has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life [by the receiving of His Spirit into our hearts]. John 5:24

Knowing the Jesus is God in the flesh and that the Holy Spirit is Jesus in the Spirit, we can trust the Holy Spirit to speak to us because we are hearing the heart and intent of first, the Father, and then the Son, who are in complete agreement. Sound complicated? Not to them. It’s our limited minds that have trouble grasping the concept of the Trinity. We either think of them as one God or three distinct gods. But, from the very beginning, we have the concept of a Triune God. In the first verse of the Bible, we are told, “In the beginning, God [Elohim-plural] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). We must understand that Jesus was not created when He was born, but has always been with the Father. He left His throne to come to earth,

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:4-6

There are several things to learn from this passage:

  1. There was an appointed time, one that fit all the requirements of His coming:
    • Israel was a nation and positioned in just the right geographical position,
    • Rome had built roads in order for the Gospel to be spread,
    • The Romans had perfected the execution form of the cross,
    • The stars were in the right place in the heavens,
    • All the people were in place and the stage was set.
  2. God sent His Son. God didn’t create Him; God didn’t assume a mortal body or appear as a human. Christ was born of water and of blood (1 John 5:6-8). Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He is King and God at the same time. He fulfilled both roles of priest and king.
  3. Jesus met the requirements of the law so that He could fulfill the law. When He died, He took the penalty of breaking the law with Him into the grave for us. Then, He rose from the grave so that we could “die to that penalty” and live through Him. He has given us the privilege of being adopted as children of God! Jesus is our Brother (Romans 8:16-17)!
  4. God has sent His Spirit into our hearts. What a concept! He can now cry out like Jesus, “Abba!” which means, “Daddy!”

This Triune God, the Trinity, invites us into their fellowship. Once we accept God’s offer and the Spirit comes to reside in us, we die to ourselves and live a new life in Christ. We are transformed and we are never the same! Speaking for myself, I’m glad!

Abba, thank You for coming to live in me. Your Presence is all the encouragement and confidence I need to know that I am Yours. May I continue to learn to act like a child of the King, King Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 14 9-14-22

Why do you go to church? Or, why do you NOT go to church? Relationships make a big difference.

1 Peter 1:22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.

Article six of the Baptist Faith & Message is about:

VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Matthew 16:15-1918:15-20Acts 2:41-42,475:11-146:3-613:1-314:23,2715:1-3016:520:28Romans 1:71 Corinthians 1:23:165:4-57:179:13-1412Ephesians 1:22-232:19-223:8-11,215:22-32Philippians 1:1Colossians 1:181 Timothy 2:9-143:1-154:14Hebrews 11:39-401 Peter 5:1-4Revelation 2-321:2-3.

The two ordinances listed are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, both of which will be covered in tomorrow’s post. The biggest challenge for the local church is unity, not so much in every specific belief, but in fellowship and spirit. Christ is our center, then establishing core beliefs (dogma) as the inner ring, doctrine as the next ring, and opinion as the outer ring is essential in order to maintain fellowship and unity.

The local church is where we come together for fellowship, worship, service, Bible study, and ministry. It’s also where Christians get to practice their Christianity on each other. Verses like Romans 12:10. Philippians 2:3, and Ephesians 4:2 come to mind, and especially,

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

Let us not give up on each other. Relationships come first.

Abba, if our churches could reflect Your love by showing love to one another, it would change our world. I know it did in the first two and a half centuries. Guide us as we meet together in Your name. May the world take notice and say of us, “See how they love one another!” Amen.

Proverbs 14 8-14-22

Cartilage, the wonder of the human body.

30:18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
    four that I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a young woman.

We could certainly add the human body to this list!

Did you know that we all started out with most of our bones being comprised of cartilage? It starts in the womb… (From, “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body,” pages 52-54)

Most bones in our body began as cartilage while we were still in the womb (cartilage is a rubbery-like material that gives the flexibility to our nose and ears). The advantage of cartilage over bone in the early stages of growth is that cartilage can grow from within as well as at its surface. Bone, on the other hand, can only grow by adding to its surface, much like the way we make a snowball grow to make a snowman.
During growth, cartilage is gradually replaced with bone by a process called endochondral ossification. First, calcium infiltrates the cartilage with calcium salts, forming a very brittle calcified cartilage. Then this temporary form of cartilage serves as a framework on which bone will form, much like applying plaster to chicken wire. In time, bone replaces the cartilage except at the ends, where cartilage is retained to form joints.

Tomorrow, we look at bone-makers and bone-breakers.

Abba, as we worship You together in our respective churches and houses, may we remember every time we stand, sit or kneel that You have made us by Your great power and in Your love. We love You, too, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 14 7-14-22

Why didn’t Pilate arrest Jesus when He first rode into Jerusalem? Good question…

2 He whose walk is upright fears the LORD, but he whose ways are devious despises him.

Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey probably on the first day of the week (Sunday). He spent Monday and Tuesday (and possibly Wednesday and Thursday) teaching in the temple court, probably Solomon’s colonnade, which was a covered, stepped area popular to rabbis. The Roman guard was never mentioned until the night of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. Why not? Wasn’t He claiming to be Israel’s king?

Had Jesus come riding in on a white stallion, which was the symbol of a conquering king, King Herod would have taken immediate action, as would have Pilate. Instead, the first we hear of them is when the religious leaders present Jesus to them. Here is the conversation between Pilate and Jesus:

John 18:33-38 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

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

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

Did you catch what Jesus said? His kingdom was not political. It isn’t even of this world. There was no political reason to execute Jesus, which is why Pilate tried to release Him. We would do well to look to the advancement of Jesus’s Kingdom. How do we do that in today’s political climate? By releasing the Holy Spirit to work in people’s lives regardless of what happens politically. Instead of trying to make Christianity cultural, let’s pray for opportunities to share Jesus and how to be part of His Kingdom.

Abba, have we lost sight of Your Kingdom on this earth? Remembering that it is a spiritual one and not a political one is difficult. May You give us discernment and wisdom, O God. We are trusting You no whatever happens. Amen.

Proverbs 14 6-14-22

I see two reasons the same people get called on to do things. Read on…

20:6 Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?

The first reason is that they are really, really good at something. People will put up with a lot in order to get quality service. We should all strive to be excellent at whatever we do, but we must understand that someone is always going to be better. It’s just the nature of things. Also, we can’t be good at everything; better to be good at a few things than fair at many.

The second reason is availability. I learned a long time ago that just being around when a person needs something creates opportunity. Also, because your face is seen often, your name has a better chance of coming to the person’s mind when he needs something.

A word of caution: be ready to do WHATEVER they ask. If we become selective, we will lose their trust. Once that trust is gone, so is the opportunity.

Here are some verses that might help us to have a willing attitude:

Mark 9:35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Go get’em, tiger!

Abba, being a servant is not everyone’s goal—but it could be. If we accept Your attitude as our own, we will learn how to be self-giving, too. Lead us; humble us; make us like You, Jesus. You came to be the Servant of all. We pledge to follow Your example. Amen.

Proverbs 14 5-14-22

We don’t need to see the whole picture to hear Jesus and respond to His directions.

Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.

Yesterday, we learned that freedom in Christ frees us from following rituals and rules. We are already pleasing to God because we believe in Jesus. Today, we will look at the fight inside of us that goes on every day. It’s the fight to relinquish control to Him.

Galatians 5:13-14, 16-18 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

The Spirit in us reveals to us what is the next right thing to do. We don’t have to know why or how, especially the complexities of how each decision links with other decisions in our lives and the lives of others. Nor do we need to know what is wrong for others. We just need to hear from the Spirit for ourselves today. What we learn tomorrow may change the way we view things today, but that’s tomorrow. Leave it there. I am reminded of Jesus’s words,

Matthew 6:33-34 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The Bible is a great resource for learning how to be godly, but it is the Spirit within us to whom we must listen and obey. We cannot trust our gut or our intellect; only Jesus knows the right thing to do or say at the right time in accordance with all that connectivity I mentioned earlier. Still, we must decide to follow His leadership. That part is up to us.

Tomorrow, we look at putting off our old ways and putting on His new ways.

Abba, thank You for wanting to be intimately involved in our lives. Your Spirit makes all the difference in us knowing what to do and say from moment to moment. May we learn to live our lives walking in step with Your Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 14 4-14-22

Put yourself in Thomas’ shoes: The other disciples say Jesus is alive and visited them. Do you believe them?

15:30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
    and good news gives health to the bones.

Yesterday, we talked about our “sin nature” being our ability to choose, but as “children,” we are stuck in selfish mode. Jesus gives us both the desire and the power to break the cycle. The first thing we must do is make the Confession of Thomas. You’re probably going, “What’s the Confession of Thomas?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s read it,

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28

When Jesus told Thomas to feel the scars in His hands and to place his hand in Jesus’ side, Thomas changed what he believed about Jesus’ resurrection. We must do the same. Look at Thomas’ confession:

My Lord- “Lord” means, “Master,” “Chief,” “Ruler,” who has authority, power, and dominion.

My God- Thomas was confessing Jesus is God incarnate, in the flesh, and thus was above all religious rules and codes, covenants and commandments. Jesus’ New Covenant wasn’t just God-ordained, it was God-initiated.

Think about this confession in your life. Have you made the confession? What would it look like if you did? What would it mean to you? It starts with a personal word from Jesus: A basic invitation for you to walk with Him. He has you surrounded. He wants to reveal to you who God really is; up until this point, our view of God has been limited at the least and twisted at worst. He wants to correct that view upfront and personal. Can He do it? Don’t forget Thomas’ confession: Jesus IS God.

As for perceiving Him as Lord, that’s the learning part. We don’t make Him Lord; He IS Lord, in fact, He is King of the universe, but He is also a loving Father and we are His little children. He has perfect patience, kindness, love, and gentleness. He interacts with us and teaches us to have success with our ability to choose wisely. Remember, we were never meant to go it alone; we were created for interaction with Him.

Let us praise Him for who He is, our Lord and our God!

Abba, I praise You for being my God and for being my Lord. I trust You implicitly with my life. May we continue to walk side-by-side and hand-in-hand. I want to walk instep with You, Lord Jesus. May the Spirit speak to me and may I respond quickly and completely. I’m lovin’ it! Amen.

Proverbs 14 3-14-22

The key to understanding the book of Matthew is wrapped up in today’s passage. Let’s look:

2 Whoever fears the LORD walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

In yesterday’s Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School), we studied a passage of Scripture that has always fascinated me. Here it is:

43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” Matthew 12:43-45

This passage, in my opinion, holds the key to reading the entire book of Matthew. It’s tied up in the term that Jesus used concerning Israel, “this evil generation.” Your translation may say, “wicked;” both indicate a generation that basically lives without God’s direction in their lives. In fact, that generation rejected God’s direction for their lives when they rejected God the Son, Jesus Christ.

The verses about the unclean spirit may be a parable, but it sounds more like a lesson on demonology. It certainly described what happened to Israel once Jesus ascended into heaven to His throne. Note the downward spiral:

  1. The persecution of the Church
  2. Several false messiahs
  3. The Great Rebellion in 66 AD
  4. Three major factions within Jerusalem according to Josephus
  5. The corruption of the system
  6. The corruption of the people
  7. The fall of Israel in 68 AD
  8. The fall and total dismantling of Jerusalem in 70 AD
  9. The fall of Masada in 74 AD
  10. The dispersion of Israel for nearly 1900 years

Later in Matthew, Jesus told His disciples that “this [same] generation will not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34). A generation is counted as 40 years, so everything through the fall of Jerusalem came true! They had missed Jesus!

Tomorrow, we will look at the danger of trusting in the sacrificial system both then and now. Today, let’s not miss Jesus in our lives. Let’s look to Him for everything, even the air that we breathe. He wants more than anything to have a personal, ongoing relationship with us.

Abba, do not let us miss the importance of having You lead us. Only You know the true way to life, and it comes to us through You with each step we take with You. May we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, the peace that comes through a personal relationship with You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 14 2-14-22

HEARing God is not as difficult as it may seem. All we need is willing hearts and open minds.

4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
“Clean” doesn’t necessarily mean “godly.” Consider Luke 11:24-26. Let’s fill our lives with all things Jesus.

We started a new discipleship program at our church yesterday. We are breaking off into groups of 3 to 5 people and learning how to lead others in what is essentially basic training for Christians. We are using a book by Robby Gallaty called, “Growing Up,” and are treating it like a handbook.

Gallaty teaches the “why” and the “how” of basic discipleship. One of the tools he teaches is how to H.E.A.R. God. The acrostic stands for Highlight, Explain, Apply, and Respond (see Proverbs 1-29 for details). Let’s take a passage and H.E.A.R. it together,

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you [c]always, to the end of the age.”

HIGHLIGHT- This passage is the last three verses of Matthew, chapter 28.

EXPLAIN- Jesus is giving His final charge to His disciples. They have trained for three years and they will soon be ready to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus explained what would happen next in John 16,

But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you
13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take from Mine and will disclose it to you.

So, Jesus is leaving, but He promises that He will be with them. How? By the in-dwelling of His Spirit.

APPLY- This promise extends to us, as well. In Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17, He says,

20 “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word21 that they may all be one; just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

We are to help each other grow in spirit and in truth; we are to help our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, and our friends to grow, as well. We are to befriend our co-workers, our bosses, our neighbors, and anyone else that the Lord brings into our path. Then, because they are now friends, we help them grow spiritually!

The biggest application is for me to be a disciple of Christ myself. Then–and only then–will I be ready to lead others.

RESPOND- Abba, it’s a tall order that You have given. I don’t want to do it myself–I CAN’T do it myself. I need You to give me the desire and the power to do Your will. I trust You and will follow Your lead. Amen.

Proverbs 14 1-14-22

This widely-held view of wealth in Jesus’ day is still held today. Jesus said it was a hard view to change. He wasn’t kidding!

(12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death, and (11) the house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.

The second example of extreme story-telling has to do with the rich having a difficult time learning to trust Jesus instead of their wealth:

18 A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”

Even as far back as Job, who is thought to be a contemporary of Abraham around 2,000 B.C, people thought that wealth equaled righteousness. It certainly equaled power! Jesus set the record straight:

Righteousness is first bestowed by Him and is then wrapped up in a relationship with Him.

In Mark 10:21, it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Wow! Jesus knew exactly what was keeping the young man from following Jesus with his whole heart: His wealth. What if the young man had said, “Okay, Master. I’ll do it and catch up to You. Where will You be in a week’s time?” How would his life have changed? Who says it didn’t? All the Scriptures say is that he went away sad, but it doesn’t say that he didn’t change his mind. Who knows? He may have trusted Christ after the resurrection, or at Pentecost, he may have been one of the first converts.

Enough positing. Here’s what we do know: People who have riches have a very difficult time letting go of their riches and following Jesus up close and personal. In the Proverb at the beginning of this post, the rich lived in a house, but the upright lived in a tent. We would do well to set limits on ourselves and then give the rest away. Speaking of which, here is a little-known fact about Saint Nicholas:

Nicholas, born in Patara, which is now Turkey, was the son of wealthy parents who
raised him to be a devout Christian. Taking the words of Jesus literally when He told the
rich young ruler to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas did just
that. He took his entire inheritance and assisted the needy, the sick, and those who were
suffering.
After dedicating is life to serving God, in time he was made the Bishop of Myra,
becoming known as one who gave generously to people in need as well as for his love
for children and his concern for sailors. He was persecuted for his faith by the Roman
emperor Diocletian and was subsequently exiled and imprisoned. Upon release he
attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.
“Business People Who Gave Generously” pg.10

The key to the passage is not so much Jesus’ extreme statement, but what He says right at the last, The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Jesus can save anyone, even the rich. All they have to do is turn and follow, just like us. Cool, huh?

Abba, thank You that I am not rich in worldly wealth. I don’t want anything to keep from coming between You and me. Even now, Robin and I pledge to give up any and all of our earthly wealth if You so desire. We are much more interested in knowing You more intimately and following You more closely. Whatever You want, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 14 12-14-21

Knowing the purpose of our relationship with Jesus is important. It’s more than just going to heaven.

33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a person of understanding…

“Follow me”

Jesus wants us with Him. His call to His disciples was specific. He is still calling people to follow Him. Here are the verses where He called people to follow Him. Some did; some did not.

The best verse is John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Based upon Jesus’ call to His disciples and His subsequent call on our lives, we can conclude that:

1. Jesus pursues us and calls us to follow Him.

The next passage that reveals God’s heart is, 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” Based upon Jesus’ revelation that we can have fellowship with the Trinity,

2. We come to love Christ through relationship.

The third set of verses tell us how to love God. One of God’s love languages is SERVICE.

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. John 14:23-24

If we believe God, then we believe Jesus’ teachings and the Holy Spirit’s promptings. If we believe, then we trust Him and act on that belief. Our obedience is our belief in action. Based upon my faith and trust in Jesus’ testimony,

3. We show/reveal/display our love through obedience.

The last set of verses shows the kind of relationship that God wants to have with His children.

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. John 14:16-17a

26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. John 15:26

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:13-15

Jesus will reveal to us what we need as we need it. He longs to reveal more and more of Himself and our fellowship in the Trinity (time is another one of God’s love languages). As we grow, He unveils more and more truth to us. Based upon our ever-growing relationship with the Father/Son/Spirit,

4. Our obedience opens the door ever wider to knowing and enjoying the Fellowship of the Trinity.

Listed together, here is what we learn from John, specifically in chapters 14-16:

1. Jesus pursues us and calls us to follow Him.
2. We come to love Christ through relationship.
3. We show/reveal/display our love through obedience.
4. Our obedience opens the door ever wider to knowing and enjoying the Fellowship of the Trinity.

May we give ourselves to Him daily as He pursues us, may we experience His love, may we love Him through our obedience, and may we enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity on an ever-upward basis. Amen

Proverbs 14 11-14-21

Forgiveness…who doesn’t want it? How about feeling forgiven? How long does that take? Well, we are already forgiven in Christ!

30 A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy [and a whole lot of other things, like unforgiveness] rots the bones.

Jesus gave us specific instructions that when we pray, we are to include forgiveness. In fact, He said that if we don’t forgive, then we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). What’s that about? Let’s begin with the Model Prayer and Jesus’ instructions:

“And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Let’s use our model for Scripture examination:

Literal- Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray. This is not a mantra, but an example that includes several key components, one of which is forgiveness. The timing of this teaching is during His earthly ministry, so the cross was yet to come (it may even give extra weight to the phrase, “Thy kingdom come…”). The key that makes this prayer work is in verse 8, “Do not be like them (babbling pagans), for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him [implying that He will provide what we need, asked-for or not). We are simply agreeing with God for the things we want and the things we need.

Moral- Why forgive? Does the Father need for us to forgive? No. WE need us to forgive. Forgiveness releases negative emotions of anger, rage, bitterness, and malice, all of which will kill us. Jesus went first. We find Him early in His ministry forgiving sins (Mark 2:5). He also knew what He was going to do on the cross (although, no one else did, especially Satan and his horde), which was to forgive the world! This teaching was a foretaste of the forgiveness to come. It’s good for us to confess our sins. Confession is cathartic. It is not necessary for God, but it is for us. Our peace is wrapped up in forgiveness. Want to feel the forgiveness of God? Then forgive everyone everything. It empties our arms and allows us to receive His love and mercy, His grace and His peace. How long does it take? About as long as a good breath.

Spiritual- The purpose of forgiveness is to put everyone back on the same plane again. Through forgiveness, Jesus raises us back up to “accepted-son” status (in our unforgiveness, we were like the older brother in the Prodigal Son story). We can now enjoy the Presence of the Father at His throne, the Presence of the Spirit of Jesus in our lives, and the presence of our fellow Christians. What happens when we don’t forgive is that we take on a type of entitlement. It’s “you owe me” or “I deserve an apology or recompense.” Neither case is true. All that we have is from the Father’s hand. Any offense is against Him, not us. The neat part is that no matter the offense, it is already forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ!

Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”
The Father answered, “Done.”
Luke 23:34, John 19:30

Let’s begin our day with a clean slate by praying, “Father, I forgive my offenders; thank You for forgiving me.”

Abba, thank You for Your forgiveness. May each day bring me greater insight into Your love and what You did on the cross. I’m beginning to think that it is much greater than I ever expected! May I reflect Your love to everyone around me through forgiveness. Amen.

A word of thanks to Scott at Mammoth Baptist Church for his devotional yesterday. It was inspiring.

Proverbs 14 10-14-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 14 9-14-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 14 8-14-21

Where is your righteousness? Is it evident? Is it hidden? Is it there at all? It is a gift from God that comes through grace.

4 Where there are no oxen [in this case, the Spirit], the manger [our heart] is empty, but from the strength of an ox [the Spirit] come abundant harvests.

Righteousness is the gift of God that comes through His grace. In other words, there’s no way to earn righteousness; it must be given.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:17

So, who gives it? God gives it in the Person of Jesus Christ, “God made him who had no sin to be the sin sacrifice for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21. In order to have righteousness, we must have Christ. Again, in order to receive righteousness, we must receive Christ into our hearts and lives.

Tell me, when someone comes to stay at your house–at your invitation–do you just ignore him, never talk to him, and pretend he’s not there? Of course not! In the same way, if Christ is in your heart and life, you will know it because He talks to you and you talk to Him. His way of talking is a little different, so we must learn to discern what He is saying. Still, He gets His point across to us.

This righteousness is something we work on a little at a time. We have it, but we don’t really know how to handle it. Jesus breaks us in quickly in our relationship with Him, but slowly when it comes to transforming our lives. There may be some things that change immediately while others take the rest of our lives to change. Jesus may start with an attitude or small routine, and then move up to ways of thinking and our way of talking (usually, the language, but also critical speech, gossip, slander, giving our opinions, etc.). He may then jump to our habits and idiosyncrasies, all the while teaching about who we are as children of God.

Here’s a great verse by which to live everyday:

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

What does righteousness look like on a daily basis? LOVE! His love, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:5, 8

What is our responsibility?

So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. 12 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace. Romans 6:11-14

Key phrases:

  1. Dead to the power of sin and alive to God;
  2. Do not let sin control the way you live;
  3. Give yourselves completely to God;
  4. You have New Life;
  5. Do what is right for the glory of God;
  6. You live under the freedom of God’s grace.

Let’s let our righteousness shine as we figure out-with the Holy Spirit’s guidance-how to use this righteousness that we have been given.

Abba, thank You for the gift of righteousness in which I am clothed (Isaiah 61:10). May I learn how to display Your righteousness to all around so that they may give You glory, just like a city on a hill. To You be the glory, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 14 7-14-21

What is the first lesson that a new Christian needs to learn? It’s about where his power to change comes from.

12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death [destruction].

Lesson One

A Christian’s power comes from the person of Christ, His in-dwelling. The Holy Spirit is the one who lives in us and empowers us. Therefore, our greatest weapon is prayer: constant, intentional, conversational interaction with the King of the universe. We can’t surprise Him, nor can we disappoint Him since He knows all about us: past, present, and future.

This power is going to manifest itself in our ability to overcome sin in our lives. It first comes as desire; then we figure out how to beat sin. Don’t worry about failing; the Lord changed our relationship with sin so that now, instead of separating us from Him, He uses our failings as tools for our training in righteousness. Pretty cool, huh?

Here are some verses to chew on:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, Ephesians 1:18-20

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

I particularly like this last verse because it describes the perfection (completeness, wholeness) of Christ, yet He gives that perfection to us through His Spirit. “In this world we are like Jesus” (1 John 4:17). Through His power working in us, we can love like He did, and we can practice self-discipline just like He did, which was perfectly. The Great American Hero (an old tv series) was given the ability to fly, but he had to learn as he went; consequently, he wasn’t very good at it, but we must remember one thing: He Could Fly! We can, too, because we have His Spirit in us.

Let’s walk with the Spirit and keep in step with Him as He grows in us the fruit that perfects us: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Abba, may You grow all of these fruit in our lives. Help us to keep our eyes focused on You as we walk with you day by day. Keep transforming us into Your image, conforming us to the image of Your Son, Jesus. I’m lovin’ it! Amen.

Proverbs 14 6-14-21

Trusting the Lord with our lives happens when we believe His promises. But, we must first know His promises!

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways [not believing in God’s one and only Son], and the good rewarded for theirs [believing in the promises of God].

Who we trust reveals in whom we believe. If we only trust our own decisions, then we don’t really believe in Jesus Christ. He either knows the best for us or He doesn’t. Trusting Him requires walking with Him and listening to what He tells us. It’s usually much more than just commands; He tells us He loves us and gives us hints of what He has in store for us.

Let’s look at some of the promises that He gives us:

16 For God so loved the world [us] that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes [and trusts] in him shall not perish [self-destruct] but have eternal life. John 3:16

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

27 Christ in us, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for youAnd if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2-3

These are but a few of the many promises that Jesus gave us on which to build our lives. With His Spirit in us, we have the desire to please Him, to get to know Him, and to commune with Him continuously. It’s what God wanted all along! Along with that desire is the power to resist the urges and the draw of our old nature. Praise the Lord that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Today, let’s determine to trust the Lord like we never have before. Let’s take Him at His word that He knows what is best for us. He also wants to include us in His plan to reach the world–often, one person at a time. Let’s join Him in His work!

Abba, I want to join You in Your work. I want to feel Your Holy Spirit and know Your love, joy and peace that emanates from You. I want them to spill out onto others! Use me for Your glory, Lord Jesus. I am Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 14 5-14-21

Is your desire to grow in Christ? To be everything that He wants you to be? To be just like Him in character? I pray it is!

1 The wise woman [and man] builds her ]spiritual] house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.
4 Where there are no oxen [no commitment], the manger [spiritual content] is empty, but from the strength of the ox [a strong connection with the Father] come abundant harvests [the building up of souls].

The final category in the stages of spiritual growth is Parent. The characteristics are:

  • Intentional
  • Strategic
  • Reproduction-minded
  • Self-feeding
  • Mission-minded
  • Team-minded (unity matters to them)
  • Dependable

These are the people we want as leaders of our church. They keep the main thing the main thing in their lives, which is the mission of Jesus. They know Christ personally and walk with Him daily. They lead by example and look for opportunities to share Christ in soundbites or in a full-fledged teaching or even an evangelistic appeal. Whatever opportunity is there, they’ll take it. They lead classes, Bible studies, and prayer groups; they mentor and disciple, along with other responsibilities. Sharing Christ is not a duty, but a passion for them.

How does a person get to this stage of his Christianity? I can offer some clues:

  1. Determine in your heart to know Christ. Without that inner fire, there’s no motivation. If you don’t have much, ask the Lord to give it to you. Pray for that higher desire; Robin calls it “the want-to to want to.”
  2. Realize that becoming a Spiritual Parent doesn’t happen quickly, but over time. Consistency is key.
  3. Although experience in trusting Christ through difficult times is a great teacher, walking through hard times doesn’t give us a sure spot on the team. HOW we walk through those times matters greatly. Our faith is based upon the promises of God through Jesus Christ. How we exercise that faith shows how much we believe what we know–and sometimes exposing what we don’t know. It’s also about trusting; our walk with God is put out there for the world to see when we go through those difficult times. Do we trust Him? It will show.
  4. Be ever-learning. We can never know it all this side of heaven (and not there, either!). Read, read, read your Bible. Finished? Start again, but from a different angle. Read it from cover to cover, then read it chronologically. Read it in its categories. Read it with a lexicon handy. Read it with a commentary in-hand. Look up the history of a book and author. The BEST way to learn a verse or truth is to TEACH it.
  5. Pray, pray, pray. Our connection with Jesus is what it’s all about. Praying connects us with others. Praying for people releases the Holy Spirit’s power and participation in that person’s life. Praying with a person who is in a battle encourages him and points him to the Father. Praying with a group unifies the group. If prayer is distasteful to you, I suggest you examine your commitment to the Lord. It may be based upon works rather than a relationship. If praying out loud makes you uncomfortable, get over it. Do it often enough that you don’t even think about it anymore. It’s important.

One thing I have noticed when praying in a group is that I pay attention much better when I vocally take part in another person’s prayer. I try not to get in his way as he prays, but I echo what he says, agree with him, confirm him, and join him in his travail. It energizes me when others do it while I am praying. Let me go ahead and say that prayer can be interrupted to ask the name of a person that was mentioned for prayer, or for any reasonable reason. Prayer is sacred, but it’s also conversational. Let’s keep it real.

My prayer for you is that you will want to grow up in Christ and become a Spiritual Parent. Passing our faith on to others, especially training them to pass their faith on to others, is paramount. It’s one of the things they live for. It’s what puts the “parent” in Spiritual Parent.

Abba, may You place in each of my readers the desire to become a Spiritual Parent. It’s a long, tough road–You said it would be when You said that the gate is small and the road is narrow and only few continue on it (Matthew 7:13-14). May we put in the time and effort. May we allow You to work Your way into every area of our lives like leaven in a loaf (Matthew 13:33). May we read, memorize, and teach Your Word; it’s the only way to really know You and what You desire. Do whatever it takes, O Lord. We are Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 14 4-14-21

Heaven is real. Heaven is concurrent. Earth is what we see in the viewscreen; heaven is everything else!*

11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.

We will follow two themes today. One deals with verse 11, and the other concludes our study on the New Covenant and its ramifications (not that we have dealt with all of them).

First, a wicked person is one who is self-made. In other words, he has no room for God’s opinion. Even the good things he does have a wicked core, which is his own opinion of himself and what he considers good. Anything done outside of the direction and participation of the Holy Spirit is evil and will not carry into eternity. We are to store up for yourselves treasures in heaven;” the wicked person does not do that; instead, he stores up treasures on earth.

The second thing is the reference to a house. A house is a symbol of permanence. By building a house, a person is saying, “I’m staying right here. I am investing in my life in this house.” Notice that the upright uses a tent. Why? Because he can then use what he saved by not investing a house for heavenly investments. Also, he is making the statement, “I am not investing in this world because even though I am in this world, I am not of it (John 17:14-16). I have my sights set on the place my Father has in store for me in the kingdom of heaven.” Why do the upright flourish? Because they are spending their lives, their time and their resources wisely according to God.

Which brings us to the conclusion of the New Covenant ramifications. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” John 18:36. So, where is His kingdom? Let’s look:

It’s not with the religious rulers of the temple, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Matthew 21:43

Many of Jesus’ disciples got to see Jesus come in His kingdom, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Matthew 16:28

Jesus brought His kingdom to each believer at Pentecost, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:3-4

Why do I think such a thing? Because Jesus said, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst [within you].” Matthew 17:20-21. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” Colossians 1:13.

The kingdom of heaven is wherever Jesus is, so if Jesus is in our hearts, then the kingdom of heaven is within us! In view of this revelation, what does it mean concerning the coming of the kingdom? It means that the kingdom of heaven comes to earth as the people of earth receive Jesus into their lives. Want His kingdom to come, His will be done? Then pray that people will receive Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach!

* The beginning statement needs explanation. When COVID 19 hit, we went to an online service. That Easter, we had one scene for the music and then a living room scene for the sermon. People saw the scenes as the cameras focused on them. I was standing just off-camera as Bryan and Luann finished up the sermon when I realized that Bryan and Luann were “standing on earth” while I was “standing in heaven.” What we perceive on this earth is only what we can see through the lens of the camera. Heaven is everything else: the scene where Robin and I sang, the rest of the stage, the empty seating, the tech area, etc. We should think of heaven as something just outside of our perception. Think about it: All Jesus did to show up in the upper room with His disciples was to step into the scene. He stepped out of the scene when He was with the two disciples at Emmaus. Where is heaven? It’s right beside you–just off-camera. The threshold of death is just that, a threshold, a doorway into the spirit world.

We finish with one more kingdom of heaven verse, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven [Jesus] has come near.’” Matthew 10:7.

Abba, I know these are difficult concepts, but it’s time for us to put away childish things and become spiritual adults–or, at least, leave the nursery. We want spiritual meat so we can share weighty stuff with those in need of real answers to life–not to impress them, but to offer them something other than “junk food and pat answers.” You live in our hearts. You reign in our lives. You give real peace and real joy and real purpose, and You love with an everlasting love. These are the truths we need to be sharing as well as experiencing them in our own lives. We can’t share what we do not have. So, move in us, O Lord. Shake us until there is nothing left but that which is eternal. If we’re not ready, then get us ready. Move across our land with renewal for Your people and then revival for our potential brothers and sisters in Christ. May it be time, Abba. Amen. So be it.

Proverbs 14 3-14-21

Believing Jesus is important. If we believe what He says, then we will do what He says.

6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning [those who are looking].
35 A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful [disobedient] servant arouses his fury.

As we continue viewing Matthew’s account of Christ’s ministry, we read in chapter 9 about two events which include the teachers of the law being both mockers and shameful servants.

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it [but not the leaders], they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8

There are several things to note concerning this passage:

  1. Jesus was in His home town of Nazareth. He more than likely knew all the players.
  2. We know from Mark 2:4 that they cut a hole in the roof and let the man down in front of Jesus.
  3. Jesus knew the thoughts of the teachers of the law. He knows all our thoughts!
  4. Which IS easier? Are they not both impossible for man? “But with God, all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.
  5. The man was obedient. Wouldn’t you be?
  6. All the glory went to God (v. 8).

I’m sure that it would seem that Jesus was blaspheming, but the proof that He is Messiah was proven by His healing the man. Only God can do such things. How did they respond? Eventually, they would conspire to kill Him.

Jesus went on to Capernaum and called Matthew to follow Him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice [Hosea 6:6].’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  1. Jesus was comfortable with those whom the religious leaders considered “sinners.”
  2. Jesus broke a lot of the pharisaical rules, not to mention the societal ones.
  3. The religious leaders did not consider themselves sinners, nor sick and in need of spiritual health.
  4. Hosea 6 is an indictment of the religious leaders and their poor leadership. Surely they picked up on it.
  5. Jesus was not there to call mockers, but those who realize they need a Savior–THE Savior.

As we go to church this morning either in person or online, let us consider: Do we need a Savior? Were we sinful enough for Christ to have to die for us? If we believe we do and that we are, then we will get much out of church today. We will go with grateful hearts and dry sponges ready to slurp up spiritual truths. We will sing praises to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we will give our lives–once again– to Him with humble hearts.

Abba, I surely do! I praise You for loving me and doing what it took to reinstate me as Your child. Thank You for wanting me; Your presence in my life and your interaction with me makes life worth living. The fellowship we share means more than I can express. I bless You and praise You today, Lord Jesus. May my life honor You. Amen.

Proverbs 14 2-14-21

Want a love story? How’s this: “‘How much do I love you? This much…’ And He stretched out His hands and died…”

8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is [self] deception. Also v.15, 18, 24 and 27

Things go wrong. They have ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden. We need to be prepared for when they go wrong for us. God works within the framework of our own making: a sin-riddled world. He may not protect us from injury, disease, and attack; instead, He asks us to trust Him with what is beyond this life. Do we?

In the hands of our loving heavenly Father, every event becomes an opportunity for us to learn trust and discipline, and to turn our eyes to the eternal. Every day, we are faced with our own mortality. The problem is that the enemy gets us to focus on our health, our security, and the longevity of our lives. Think about it: Why would we strive so hard to live in this world of pain, loss and heartache when we can go to be with our heavenly Father, our loved ones who have already gone on, and receive our glorified bodies that will last forever–without the sin nature!?

Our lives exist to bring glory to the Father and to Christ Jesus. Everything that happens to us can be a glory-giver. Are we willing to allow Him to use the failures, the accidents, and the unfortunate circumstances–as well as the good times–in our lives for His glory? No matter how we live or how we die, our success is in our faithfulness. If we really believe that He goes to prepare a place for us and that, when it is ready, He will come back for us, then we can focus on Him and on His plan for us today and not worry about tomorrow. We know that it’s not about heaven; it’s about Him–His will, His glory.

Would you give your life to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The only way we’ll answer yes to this question is if we are in a continuous and intimate relationship with Him. I pray that you are.

Abba, dying to myself is the hardest thing I do, yet you call me to do it daily–even moment by moment. I want to act like You, Jesus, therefore I want to think like You. Please transform my mind and my thoughts. Help me to overcome my will and my “wants.” I can be pretty selfish…okay, a lot selfish! Keep renewing me, Abba. I need it badly. I need You! Amen.

Proverbs 14 1-14-21

Does the world hate you? Have you been mistreated because of what you believe? No? Then maybe we don’t look enough like Christ…

Whoever fears the LORD walks uprightly [despite what it costs them], but those who despise Him [the LORD] are devious in their ways [against His followers].

Listen to the words of Christ:

18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as it loves its own. But I have chosen you out of the world, so you don’t belong to it. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: A servant is not greater than his master. If people did wrong to me, they will do wrong to you, too. And if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours, too21 They will do all this to you on account of me, because they do not know the One who sent me.

There are three things we need to take away from this passage:

  1. We belong to Christ!
  2. People are not our enemy; Satan and his horde are our enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” Ephesians 6:12. Are they deceived? Yes. Willfully rebellious? Yes. Beyond redemption? Not until death. It is our job to pray for them.
  3. We will be treated like the world treated Christ. It is an honor. “They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” Acts 5:40-41.

How can we expect to be treated better than our Master? than God Himself? Jesus continued,

23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father. 24 I did works among them that no one else has ever done. If I had not done these works, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen what I have done, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. John 15:23-24

I am immediately reminded of John’s passage about people loving darkness rather than light,

19 They are judged by this fact: The Light has come into the world, but they did not want light. They wanted darkness, because they were doing evil things. 20 All who do evil hate the light and will not come to the light, because it will show all the evil things they do.  John 3:19-20

Our callings are individual. We each take a stand for Jesus’ sake. It doesn’t matter if no one listens (like Jeremiah and Ezekiel); it doesn’t matter if we see no effect at all on those we are trying to influence. There is an accumulative effect that happens beyond our ability to perceive. We must trust the LORD in each matter. Take courage in doing what He has asked you to do, wherein there is certain satisfaction in our obedience. Let’s just make sure that what we do is Scripturally based and according to what He is leading us to do.

Abba, keep us on task as we follow You. Since we are “in the game,” we know that we cannot see what is happening on other parts of the field. We will trust You to know what’s going on and even what will happen in the future. Ours is to do as You say, when You say, and how You say. Make us good soldiers for You, Lord Jesus. Amen.

We are Servants of Our Savior
Let’s be faithful ones

Proverbs 14 12-14-20

Do you believe in angels? That they stand in the presence of God? That they deliver His message to people? Then, you can believe the entire Bible!

35 A king delights in a wise servant [one who believes what His Master has told him], but a shameful servant [one who acts on his own knowledge] arouses his fury .

The best illustration for this verse is Jesus’ parable of the three servants who were given a certain amount of money to invest (Matthew 25:14-30). Two servants took Him at His word and did what He told them to do. The third servant did according to what he thought was best, “‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’” Jesus called him a wicked servant (“wicked” means that we act on our own rather than with the Spirit).

Now, let’s look at the Christmas narrative and see two different faiths:

  1. The angel, Gabriel, appeared to Zechariah and proclaimed God’s message to him (Luke 1:11-17). Zechariah didn’t believe him based upon what he thinks according to his experience. Gabriel’s reproof was strong, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Gabriel’s prediction certainly came true and ended just as he said it would (Luke 1:63-64).
  2. Gabriel also appeared to Mary, who questioned the “how,” but not the power behind the “how” (Luke 1:34). Gabriel explained the “how” and then said, For nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

Here’s where it gets interesting (as if it already wasn’t!). My version of the NIV and my computer version of the NLV both say, For no word from God will ever fail.The Amplified Version says, For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. So, not only is nothing impossible with God, whatever He says is going to happen WILL HAPPEN! The same goes for the entire Bible. “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21.

Therefore, beginning in Genesis 1:1, we can believe and trust in God’s Word to be true and accurate. In fact, I have collected some 58 verses/passages throughout the Bible that reveal God’s creative power and refer to His creation of all things. If we don’t believe how God said He did it, then we can’t trust any of the other passages, either.

Which faith will you have? The faith of Zechariah, who believed only what his experiences in life taught him? Or the faith of Mary, who took God at His word? The fun part of Mary’s faith is that she walked with the Spirit and watched God’s plan unfold. We can do the same if we believe first and then ask God to reveal truth to us. It is happening all the time in the medical field, in archeology, in astronomy, in biology–in every area of science! It is even happening in today’s current events. Let’s believe God and allow Him to reveal to us how He is working in our world!

Abba, I pray that You will increase our faith, that You will enlighten the eyes of our hearts, and give us spiritual wisdom and constant revelation. May You do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to Your power that is at work within us. May You receive all glory in Your church and in Christ Jesus through this generation and the next, and forever and ever! Amen. (based upon Ephesians 1:18, 3:16-21).

Proverbs 14 11-14-20

If the kingdom of God is within us, we can never get away from it or Him. Might knowing this truth change our activities?

14 The faithless will be fully repaid for their ways, but the good rewarded for theirs.

Believing that Christ is within us is the basis for Christianity. It’s not about going to heaven—it’s about heaven coming to us! “…the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21. We no longer need to worry about going to heaven because we are already with Jesus. One of my favorite verses is Colossians 1:27, “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

The question then becomes, “How will we live our lives?” Will we live them in sweet fellowship with our Savior or will we ignore so great a gift and live for ourselves? The “good” and the “faithless” fall along these lines. We become that which we follow.

1. If we follow ourselves and disregard the Spirit within us, then we reveal that we don’t truly believe that Christ is in us. In fact, we show that we are not interested in being Christ’s or in following Him. We are faithless.

2. If we acknowledge His presence in us and turn to Him for fellowship, leadership and direction, then we produce good fruit for Him and His kingdom. We are good.

May we begin afresh and anew today with Him, acknowledge His presence in our lives, read His Word, and listen for/to His voice. Let’s do whatever He says and enjoy His friendship.

Abba, thank You for coming to live in my heart and life. Knowing You is worth more than life itself. May I be Your willing and obedient servant today, all the while enjoying Your friendship and becoming like You. Amen.

Proverbs 14 10-14-20

Many have forgotten the depths from which we were saved. Christ gave His life; what are we giving for Him? It would seem as little time and energy as possible…

2 Whoever fears the LORD walks uprightly, but those who despise Him are devious in their ways.
4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.

I like verse four. It basically tells me that God is willing to put up with a “dirty stall” to have “oxen” for the harvest. The key word to this verse is “commitment.” God wants commitment from us, and He’s willing to put up with the “stuff” in our lives to have a relationship with us. He saved us through Jesus Christ from the depths of our sinfulness. We couldn’t save ourselves; we needed Him! We owe Him everything.

Yet, we seem to have forgotten that if left to ourselves, we will revert back to our old ways; we forget that most people in this world are NOT believers and they don’t love the LORD Jesus–in fact, many are hostile to Him, and therefore, us. WE ARE SWIMMING UPSTREAM! The sooner we realize that, the better off we will be. We must work hard for Christ, WITH Christ and with each other in order to overcome, to have victory, and to avoid the traps that Satan sets for us. Actually, they are built into this world; it’s why we must be careful about how involved we get with it. Paul had something to say on the subject:

Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officerSimilarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. 2 Timothy 2:3-6

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

If the question is whether you do it your way or His way, didn’t you settle that question upon salvation? If you are still struggling with it, you may still be struggling with salvation rather than lordship. Consider this: Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Corinthians 13:5.

If your desire is to please Him, but you are still at war with yourself, then get alone with the LORD for a couple of hours; read His Word (preferably 1 John, Romans, and Ephesians); seek Him in prayer as you repent and reflect upon Him and what He might be asking you to do that has you so scared. Our fear comes from envisioning the future WITHOUT Christ; envision it WITH Him and you will find an excitement about it! Try it–DO IT!

Abba, I struggle with sin in my life, but I know that You are the One who is keeping me clean on the inside even as I strive to stay clean on the outside. I pray for my readers that they would rediscover their gratefulness for all You have done for them. May they be willing to pick up a Bible and find out who You are. It’s important–especially as the election draws near. Help us, O God, to seek You with all our hearts. Amen.

2020 Election Guide from Franklin Graham

Proverbs 14 9-14-20

WHAT IF…God put you in your present situation in order to give you opportunity to know Him better?

1 The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Ladies, are you taking time to know God? Are you being a godly example in your home? Are you reading? Praying? Meeting with other Christian ladies and learning?

2 Whoever fears the LORD walks uprightly, but those who despise Him are devious in their ways. Guys, are you walking in the fear of the LORD? Are you careful to be obedient to Him and to defer to Him? Are you Reading? Praying? Meeting with other Christian men and learning?

I’ve been reading Amos. He prophesied against both Israel and Judah. Against Israel, he called them in their wealth and arrogance to humble themselves and to consider their wealth as traps rather than “the blessing of God.” Against Judah, he warned them that God was not pleased with their sacrifices and worship because their motives were all wrong. They lived sinful lives ignoring His laws about daily living and only made sure that their offerings and prayers were done in the proper fashion. The prophet Samuel had warned them long ago that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like (as bad as) the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the evil off idolatry [it’s the worship of self]. 1 Samuel 15:22-23. 

How about us? Is God calling us out of our wealth to scorn our toys and our busy schedules, such as–dare I say it?–

  1. Going to the lake every weekend?
  2. Playing tournaments on Sunday?
  3. Using our toys (game devices, golf clubs, four-wheelers, etc.) to keep us from fellowshipping with other Christians and with the LORD?
  4. Being selective about with whom we associate because of social standing, income (or the lack of), whether or not they drink socially, or for any other reason?

Have I meddled enough? Sometimes we have to ask the hard questions. I’m not trying to do the Holy Spirit’s job here, but I DO want to call into question what just a few years ago would have been considered sinful. Let’s take the hard look.

IF you are in a challenging position right now, could it be that God has made it so you can spend more time with Him in Bible study and prayer? Do you have someone with whom you can discuss biblical topics? Are you taking advantage of the “free time” to do so? Again, I’m not trying to be the Holy Spirit; it’s just that I want you to not waste the time, but to redeem the time!

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants. Consider this post one. Don’t wait for God to have to do it. But, even if He does, consider it a blessing to have such a loving God and Father. “Let a righteous man strike me–that is a kindness; let him rebuke me–that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers [even myself!].” Psalm 141:5.

Start this morning by acknowledging the LORD in your life. Block out everything else for a few minutes and open yourself up to His Spirit. Ask Him to “search my heart, O God, test me and know my anxious [fearful, misdirected, selfish, etc.] thoughts. See if there is any offensive [misguided] way in me [I will repent] and lead me in the way everlasting [Your way].” Psalm 139:23-24. Now, tune into His voice and listen as you read His Word. You’re gonna have a GREAT time with Him!

Abba, You know I do not say these words lightly. I do not hold others in contempt; but I do question their motives. Only YOU know if they are spending time with You and growing in You. Our society does everything it can to draw us away from You. May we NOT give in! Call us out; sanctify us; make us holy unto Yourself. Give us the spiritual backbone to make the hard choices even if it causes others to get mad (it’s usually because it calls THEIR motives into question). LORD, we have wandered away. Come and get us. We need You. Amen.

Proverbs 14 8-14-20

“Every trial that comes will strengthen or weaken our faith. It reveals the source of our faith [it’s foundation].” -Francine Rivers

8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways [in light of their circumstances], but the folly of fools is [their self-] deception [unwillingness to bend in it].

Whether God caused our circumstances or not doesn’t matter. Instead of asking, “Why?” we should be asking, “What now, LORD?” To assume that God owes us an explanation or that He is “punishing us” is a sure sign of EGO. Our ego is at the heart of our sin nature. It’s the very thing that needs to be uncovered and laid bare so that we can give it to Jesus and be rid of it!

Here’s another reason that God doesn’t owe us an explanation: His thoughts and ways are beyond our understanding because they take into consideration EVERY person’s life, death, and interaction with family members, friends, and even enemies (Isaiah 55:8-9). Just because WE can’t see it [the reason things happen the way they do] doesn’t mean that He’s making it up. Neither is God capricious (given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior); it goes against His goodness, which is the very fibre of God’s character.

When my grandfather passed away, Robin and I went back to Shawnee to our apartment (we were at OBU). I cried out to God, “Why?!” He didn’t speak audibly to me–it was much louder than that (thanks, Jimmy Cox, for that description). He said, “It’s okay for you to ask, “why?” Just don’t expect an answer.” I replied, “Yes, sir.”

We must remember that it’s not about us, but about Him: “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6. With this in mind, let’s draw as close to Him as we can during our times of inconvenience, frustration, discomfort, distress, and especially during our grief. For, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. In fact, the next verse tells us that everything that happens to us He uses to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Let’s not waste another trial!!!

Abba, I tend to learn the most during a crisis, so, if that’s what it takes for me to become the most like Jesus, then I am willing! Learning to depend on You in ALL circumstances is my highest priority. I have head-knowledge, LORD, but I need experience in order to drive what I know into my heart. May I be a quick learner! Amen.

Proverbs 14 7-14-20

Are you eager to do what Christ desires? Have you allowed His words to dwell in you richly? If not, then when? How can we expect to understand the goings-on in life if we don’t go to the Source of life?

The mocker [resistant person] seeks wisdom and finds none,
    but knowledge comes easily to the discerning [those who go to the Source].

This idea of being eager to please Jesus by allowing His words to dwell in us richly is actually three verses put together:

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

10 and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom…Colossians 3:16

By combining these three verses, we get this:

Those who are eager to do good
find out what pleases the Lord,
which is to let His words dwell in us richly.

Pretty simple, huh? All it takes is TIME. He has given us TIME; now we give TIME back to Him. TIME is one of the Five Love Languages* and it’s a big one for God. So is SERVICE, “Jesus replied, Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23. We’ll cover the other love languages another time.

Let’s not let “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it [us] unfruitful.” Mark 4:19. Let’s find out what pleases Him, which we KNOW is to study His words so that He can make them come alive in our lives–just like this verse!

Abba, I pray that You will stir within my readers the desire to please You, to study Your Word, and to allow Your promises and commands to sink deep roots into them. Speak to us through what You have already said, LORD. Then, apply those words to our hearts and lives. Purify us to be Your people, eager to do Your will. Amen.

 

*The Five Love Languages:

  1. TIME
  2. TOUCH
  3. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
  4. SERVICE
  5. GIFTS

 

Proverbs 14 6-14-20

The best defense is your own story. A person can refute facts, but your own personal story is unimpeachable.

5 An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.

When we give our testimony of how we met the Lord, we are stating three Spirit-useable facts:

  1. How we were before we met Christ.
  2. How we met Christ.
  3. How we are now that we know Christ.

The Gospel is wrapped up in these facts. It’s our account of how the Gospel came to us. We needed the Good News; someone shared it with us; we came to Christ; He came into our hearts and lives; we walk with Him in His love, joy, peace, security, and grace. The Holy Spirit will use your testimony in that person’s life. We pray that it will be unto salvation in this life (if not, then it’s toward his conviction at judgement).

Be thinking about how you would share your testimony. If someone expresses fear, we can share about how walking with Jesus neutralizes our fear of death. If someone expresses disgust with politics, some of you who used to get upset can share about how God raises up kingdoms and brings down leaders according to His plan for history (His story), of which we are a part. You can even share that you are not rattled by all the discord because God is still on His throne, which includes the throne of your heart. There’s your lead-in…

It’s not as hard as one might think; it simply takes intentional forethought and deliberate “coincidences” that put you in places to be able to tell your story. I promise that the more we do it, the better at it we will get.

It goes without saying–but, I’ll say it anyway–that we must be prayed up and read up in order to have any power behind our stories. Lost people can spot weakness really quick. Whether it’s hypocrisy or spiritual weakness, we don’t want to go there. That’s why being at church this morning is really good for us. It gets our week off to a good start. “See” you there.

Abba, may You call us to hone our stories and then give us opportunities to share them. May You use our stories to call someone to Yourself. It’s this beggar showing another beggar where to find bread–the Bread of Heaven!
Looking forward to worshiping with my brothers and sisters today, LORD. Inhabit the praises of Your people. Amen.

Proverbs 14 5-14-20

We tend to focus on what we fear. We need to fear God more than anything–but a healthy fear!

2 Whoever fears the LORD walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways.

The first thing we need to know is that fearing the LORD is NOT about heaven or hell. That matter was decided the day we received Christ into our lives as LORD and Savior. We have the Spirit as our deposit of salvation and all that goes with it:

13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

The second thing we need to know is that we are NOT on the same level as God. We are made in His image, but He is still King of the universe and we are not. He is the creator and we are His creations. Paul reminds us in Romans 9:20 of this, “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” which is actually a quote from Isaiah 45:9.

So, what IS a healthy fear of the LORD? It’s a BALANCE of remembering who He is and what He as done for us and promised us. NOTE: The more we find out about God, the greater we trust Him. This reason ALONE is motivation to read our Bibles!

The best passage to see this balance is Psalm 8, which says:

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?[c]

You have made them[d] a little lower than the angels[e]
    and crowned them[f] with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their[g] feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

  1. Notice that God is recognized as LORD, King of the universe.
  2. He is omnipotent (all-powerful) against His enemies using even infants and children!
  3. David is awed by the works of God’s hands as he considers creation.
  4. Yet, he knows that God has exalted man above creation and directly under Him.
  5. He finishes with the same thought: You are LORD!

David lived in the awareness of God’s majesty and glory, but also His desire to intimately know His children and interact with them. We are to have that same awareness. This awareness requires us to “check our vanity and arrogance at the door” and “enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” We are to Worship the Lord with gladness, and come before him with joyful songs.” 

For His children, His awesomeness is tempered by His love for His children. John describes this mindset in his letter:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1a

All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 1 John 4:15-16

There is no fear in this love, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment [of the old mindset], and this shows that we have not fully experienced [learned] his perfect love. 19 We love each other because he loved us first. 1 John 4:18-19

And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 1 john 4:17

Want to know complete love and have confidence as we stand before the LORD? Then in this world live like Jesus. Impossible? Absolutely–NOT! Jesus was completely dependent upon the Spirit to reveal the Father’s will, for intimate fellowship, and for power to complete His mission both daily and ultimately. WE ARE, TOO! We live each day EXACTLY like Him:

  1. Completely dependent upon the Spirit to reveal the Father’s will,
  2. Completely dependent upon the Spirit for intimate fellowship,
  3. Completely dependent upon the Spirit for power to complete our mission.

Let’s be about the Father’s business, reveling in His love and yet showing our respect for Him as our LORD and God.

Abba, may we live in the light of Your glory and grace–what a matchup! You are King of the universe, yet You made yourself nothing, emptying Yourself and taking human form (Philippians 2:6-8) so that I could be set free and reunited with You through Your Holy Spirit (Romans 8:1-2, 16). You empathize with our weakness, but give us power to overcome. You even invite us to join You at Your throne and enjoy Your presence. You give us mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). LORD, I no longer fear your punishment, but I DO have a healthy respect for who You are. Be Lord of my life today. Amen.