Proverbs 3-17-23

If our church is going into building-mode, then we need to set some ground rules; those rules start at the foot of the cross.

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. John 14:15
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

There are always deep feelings associated with any building project within an established church body. We must proceed with extreme tenderness and compassion–wait, I’ve read something like that before: 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” Ephesians 4:32. Jesus made it very clear how He wanted us to live and treat each other,

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in youMay they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23

You’ll notice two types of highlighting in those verses. The underlined ones are the way we are supposed to see each other and treat each other. The bolded ones are the result of us doing the underlined parts. Our best witness is done not by what we say to outsiders, but by how we treat each other inside the doors of our church. “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” is our song; it speaks our mission on both sides of the coin:

Love each other, care about your neighbor.

Even as we consider others before ourselves, we are to treat each other with kindness, tenderness and compassion. In this way the world will know that we are His disciples. Our goal should be for those who know us but don’t know Christ to say, “See how they love one another!”*

Abba, our–Your–reputation is on the line. How we treat each other over the next few months will tell the tale to the community of whether or not we take seriously our commitment to Christ and His mission. There is another set of folks that we must consider during this time, and that is our children. How we react/respond to each other will make a difference in their view of You, Abba, Your church, and in their involvement in church life when they are adults. May we weigh everything we say against the weight of the cross upon our shoulders as we take up our cross and follow You daily. Amen.

*”See how they love one another,” from “Let People Say of Us…” In the early Church, Tertullian tells us that pagans were struck by the witness of Christian love. “See how they love one another!” they would remark.

Proverbs 2-17-23

Future scientists are being born every day. Many will come to know Christ who will open their minds to new discoveries!

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?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their 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.

As we continue in, “Person of Interest,” we see evidence that Jesus had a great impact on science.

From page 196-200,

Whatever your fascination with science, your area of interest was probably founded by–or owes a huge debt of gratitude to–a Christian who worked during the scientific revolution. These founders and “fathers” transformed the landscape of scientific discovery, and many of them established the first scientific societies and academies. These societies eventually started issuing awards for excellence in science, and this continues even today.

The number of Christ followers who founded or pioneered scientific disciplines in the late modern period (and later became known as “fathers” of their areas of expertise) is staggering. The science “fathers” are too numerous to label here, and most of them earned the world’s most prestigious science awards. These award-winning “fathers” and “mothers” of science were raised as Christians and saw no contradiction between their Christian identity and their scientific endeavors, even though Darwin’s work was familiar to them.

And Christians’ enthusiastic involvement in the sciences continues to this day. This latest group (still living) is on pace to be the most awarded group of Christian thinkers (by percentage) in any area. They are founders of new disciplines and international award winners, such as:

Christ followers are still initiating, elevating, or perfecting every major field of scientific study. Christians excel in scientific disciplines, devoutly studying new chapters in the “book of nature” and, as Kepler said, serving as “priests of the highest God” and “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”

I was going to list the fathers of all the scientific disciplines including mathematics, philosophies, regional sciences, evolutionary theory, medicine, electricity- energy- and electromagnetics, driving-and flying, computer, engineering-and technology, and other cool stuff (the fathers of hydrogen peroxide, the barometer, the laser, the pendulum, the modern parachute, etc), but there were 230. You’ll have to look in the book on pages 200-207.

We have one more day on the subject of science on which we will discover why Christian scientists trust Jesus.

Abba, it amazes me how You open our minds to Your world when we trust You. Thank You that You inspire all of us to know You and Your universe better. May we not be afraid of new ideas and concepts as long as they stay true to the truth of You as we know You in Scripture. May Your Spirit lead us into new discoveries even as we spread the knowledge of You in our world. Amen.

Proverbs 1-17-22

Who doesn’t love a good story? We usually call a true story an “account,” but it’s still a story, just a true one.

63 The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. John 6:63

Jesus loved telling stories. They are the best way for us to get our minds around concepts. When Jesus described salvation, it was always with a metaphor or analogy. When He spoke to Nicodemus, He said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” Jesus was telling Nicodemus to start over with his ideas of the kingdom of God. Nicodemus needed spiritual eyes to see the kingdom about which Jesus was talking.

Here is another one:

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Matthew 13:44

We might word His analogy this way: Inside each man and woman, boy and girl is a treasure chest, in which resides a wondrous treasure. If we dare to open the chest, we will find all of God’s treasures awaiting us.

This treasure is the Holy Spirit. He awaits every person to open the chest and allow Him to fill every nook and cranny.  In the words of Trevin Wax, we are “a wretch and a masterpiece bundled into one.” We describe Jesus as on the outside looking in, waiting for us to open the door so He can come in (Revelation 3:20–another analogy), but the kingdom of God is within us,

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, [21] nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21

Again, the Gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) is like a seed planted. With a little water, it germinates and grows into a beautiful life (John 12:24). Paul also uses the illustration of the seed:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

Notice the last two metaphors: God’s field and God’s building. Everyone in Paul’s day knew about fields and buildings. His descriptions helped them understand what he was saying.

The best description to me for salvation is this: We are held in chains, but we unknowingly hold these chains around our own hearts (our hearts are the treasure chest of which we spoke before). If we would let go of the chains that bind our hearts, His Spirit would be free to join us in the dance/journey/adventure of life (metaphors). We were never meant to live life alone; we are only complete when the Spirit is walking with us and we are in full cooperation with Him.

May I remind us that it is not how we tell the story of the Gospel; it’s about Him speaking to those with whom we share. Pray that they would hear His voice when He speaks to them.

Abba, thank You for speaking to me. We have had great conversations along the way. Your presence and participation in my life is what makes life worth living. It truly is like coming to life, or being born again! Teach me to tell stories like You, Lord. I want to share Your story. Amen.

Proverbs 17 11-17-22

People who know Christ have the Spirit of Christ in them. Listening and heeding that Spirit is a learned thing. Let’s get busy!

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

God is Spirit (John 4:24) and God is love (1 John 4:8). God and Jesus are one (John 10:30) and Jesus is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). So, when Paul says that Christ’s love compelled them, he was saying that the Spirit in them (1 Corinthians 3:16) was compelling them,

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

How shall we live? As Christ did: Loving God and loving others even when they are unlovable–especially when they are unlovable!

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

Note: the perfection mentioned here means, “whole, complete, well-rounded.” We would be putting on the “new self that is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

  • Responding in a loving manner when being attacked verbally is showing godly love;
  • Not striking back when physically attacked is showing godly love;
  • Refusing to get angry with someone who is confrontational is showing godly love;
  • Treating others–even our children and spouses–like we would like to be treated is showing godly love!

I’m sure we could fill the page with examples of showing godly love. The idea is to do it. In order to do it, we must be in touch and in step with the Spirit. He is the One who gives us first the desire and then the power to do His will, which is for us to show godly love. It’s our goal, anyway.

Abba, showing Your love takes great self-restraint and maturity–both of which I have little. May You increase both of them even if it means having opportunities to practice them. I want to be like You, Lord. May it be so. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-22

Learning to love outside of oneself is the crowning achievement of mankind–but, it takes God to do it!

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

As I was pondering how Christians are to be different than the world, I realized that Christianity has a culture of its own, the culture of God. I began to consider what the culture of God might be. The first passage that came to mind was the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. In this chapter are the attributes of God which are to be the attributes of His followers, Christians. Let’s look.

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

What do these verses tell us about God? God considers love for others above all else:

  • Above smooth speech, the ability to sway people, and even leadership;
  • Above knowledge, prophecy, and the ability to discern and discover all mysteries, be they spiritual, physical, medical, biological, astrological, or sociological;
  • Above sacrifice, even to the point of death.

What kind of love? For the answer to this question, we must consider what Jesus thought to be the greatest commandment(s),

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

The interesting thing is that the teacher of the law gave the best and most succinct commentary on Jesus’ answer than anyone,

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This kind of love is the self-giving kind, the kind that Jesus demonstrated on the cross for us. The Greek term is AGAPE, which translates,

  • Pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good–
  • Goodwill, benevolence and willful delight in the object of love–
  • Selfless, giving, non-emotional [not motivated by emotion] love–

It is AGAPE love that we are to learn to have, to incorporate, and to foster in others. What does AGAPE love look like? We will discuss that tomorrow.

Abba, Your love for us is all about us, but the best for us. If I were to want that for You, I would want all of Your creation to love you back. It would be the absolute best for everyone. So, that is the desire of my heart, O Lord. May You grant it in Your time (Ephesians 1:9-10). Amen.

Proverbs 17 9-17-22

The kingdom of heaven is among us. Wherever Jesus is, there is the kingdom of heaven. Is He in you? Then the kingdom is, too.

“The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” Luke 17:20b

As we continue looking at the Baptist Faith & Message, today we look at:

IX. The Kingdom

The Kingdom of God includes both His general sovereignty over the universe and His particular kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King. Particularly the Kingdom is the realm of salvation into which men enter by trustful, childlike commitment to Jesus Christ. Christians ought to pray and to labor that the Kingdom may come and God’s will be done on earth. The full consummation of the Kingdom awaits the return of Jesus Christ and the end of this age.

Genesis 1:1Isaiah 9:6-7Jeremiah 23:5-6Matthew 3:24:8-10,2312:25-2813:1-5225:31-4626:29Mark 1:14-159:1Luke 4:438:19:212:31-3217:20-2123:42John 3:318:36Acts 1:6-717:22-31Romans 5:178:191 Corinthians 15:24-28Colossians 1:13Hebrews 11:10,1612:281 Peter 2:4-104:13Revelation 1:6,95:1011:1521-22.

The kingdom of God is also the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is wherever its King is, so if the King rules in our hearts, then the kingdom has come to us, and we are part of His kingdom. Peter calls us “living stones”:

So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 2:4-5

Paul implies the same when he says that we are a holy temple in the Lord,

19 So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

So, we don’t have to wait to get to heaven to join Christ in His kingdom, although we will receive glorified bodies when we do,

20 But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:20-21

Let’s rejoice that we are part of His kingdom right now!

Abba, thank You for not waiting for us to die to be with us. Having You in my life is greater than anything this world has to offer. Besides, You have promised something so much greater than this world. In fact, You have already “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son You love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). Hallelujah! Praise You, Lord Jesus! Thank You, Abba! Amen.

Proverbs 17 8-17-22

Melanin–Umbrellas of Our Skin, Part 1

22 A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones [another verse about bones].

Melanin does give us the color in our skin, but it has another very specific function: Protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body,” pages 67-69.

Like all good sunshades, the umbrellas in our skin are darkly colored. The dark pigment in our skin, called melanin, is typically black or brown [everyone has melanin]. This protein is produced by special cells, called melanocytes, which are located in the lowest level of our epidermis. They produce the melanin for our skin, in the form of tiny granules called melanosomes.
Then they transfer the granules to certain epidermal cells [stem cells] in the lowest layer of our epidermis, where they block the damaging UV that penetrates our skin. In other words, melanocytes are like pigment factories that ship pigments (melanosomes) to other [stem] cells where the pigment is needed.

Melanocytes and the distribution of melanosomes

The mechanism to transfer the granules is itself amazing. The melanocyte is a highly branched cell with long, slender projections, or processes. The melanocyte makes the melanosomes which then move out to the tips of the cell processes. The epidermal cells then “bite off” the tips of these processes, bringing the granules inside their cell. Once inside, the melanosomes are moved and arranged to form a dark “cap” over the epidermal cell’s nucleus. This pigmented cap serves as a tiny umbrella for the nucleus, specifically blocking the most damaging wavelength of the UV light.

How do the melanocytes know which cells to attach to? How do the cells know what to do with the melanosomes? They were programmed by the Master Designer.

How does melanin determine the color of our skin? We will answer that question tomorrow.

Abba, You formed Adam from the dust, added water and Your breath, and Adam came to life! The instant formation of all of the processes in our bodies and them coming to maturity all at the same time is a miracle! Our skin is a perfect example of irreducible complexity. Do things go wrong with our skin? Sure, but it’s the after-effects of sin in the world. We all die and return to dust. May we “count our days,” Lord, and determine to live for You while on this earth. You will lead us to Your country soon enough–or come again to our country! Either way, so be it (amen)!

Proverbs 17 7-17-22

Loving people the Jesus Way can be tough. We won’t feel like it at the time, which is why we practice, practice, practice.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests [teaches, and purifies] the heart.

Yesterday, we began a study of Romans 12:9-21 and covered verses 9-13. Today, we will look at 14-18. In these verses, Paul said the same thing three different ways,

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

The three ways:

  1. Bless those who persecute you.
  2. Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
  3. Live at peace with everyone.

These three commands describe how we are to love our enemy. Jesus’ command to do so has a promise with it:

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

The promise is that we will be like our heavenly Father. More than that, we will be His children! What it boils down to is this:

  • IF we believe that God is the Father of all mankind, and
  • IF He loves everyone and can use any circumstance to demonstrate His love to lost souls, and
  • IF we give ourselves over to Him to be His witnesses to a lost world no matter what,
  • THEN we are doing what Jesus said to do, which is to love our enemies.

Jesus told His disciples, ‘If anyone loves me,’ Jesus replied, ‘they will keep my word. My father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23). When it comes to doing His will, He Himself comes as God the Spirit (of Jesus) to empower us and to guide us as we go. When that happens, we enter into a special relationship in which Jesus tells us to call Him, “Abba,” which is “Daddy” in Aramaic.

Tomorrow, we will deal with revenge and its opposite approach.

Abba, You are so gracious and kind. I want to reflect Your attributes. Please shine through me to others. Whatever circumstances I am in, may I be a true and faithful witness for You, with You. Amen.

Proverbs 17 6-17-22

Our pre-conceived ideas lead to expectations; expectations lead to misunderstanding and disappointment.

A wicked person listens to deceitful lips;
    a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

This verse has a double meaning, a lot like a double-edged sword or the tongue. The most obvious meaning is that wicked people attract wicked people. The other meaning is about intention: If we expect to hear deceit, then we read into conversations innuendo; if we expect lies or destructive criticism, then we “hear” it whether it’s there or not. A lot of it depends upon our raising and our home life. Even more depends upon our temperament; some people really are wired to be more trusting than others. We must learn to acknowledge our filters of raising, culture, time in history, temperament, and our own expectations and hear what the other person is trying to say. They may not be very good at saying it, especially concerning tact. It may take some clarifying questions, but it’s worth the effort.

There’s a great verse in Romans 12 that sums up how we should enter every conversation:

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

If we will keep this verse in mind, we will go a long way in “hearing” our brothers and sisters.

Abba, You are devoted to us, so we want to be devoted to each other. It’s just hard to do because we are self-centered, like 3-year-olds. Help us to “grow up” and love each other like spiritual adults, honoring one another above ourselves. By Your Spirit, O Lord, we can! Amen.

Proverbs 17 5-17-22

The call to follow Jesus is individual and universal. We each must hear His voice and respond to Him.

29:1 Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed [by the natural consequences of his actions]–without remedy.

After Jesus reinstated Peter into His ministry, He prophesied to Peter the kind of death by which he would glorify God. “Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19). This call is the same as when Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John at the beginning of His ministry (Matthew 4:19). Jesus is quoted using this same call several times in Scripture,

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:89-60

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

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

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

As we can see, the call is universal. But, Peter had not yet been empowered by the Holy Spirit. He asked Jesus about John, “‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.'” (John 21:21-22). From Jesus’ response, we see that the call is individual as well as universal. Each of us must:

  1. Hear the voice of Jesus calling;
  2. Choose to obey His voice;
  3. Follow Him regardless of what anyone else says or does (or does not do).

Our resolve comes from His call, and His love flows through us along with His peace and joy. His call gives us hope of better things to come, a hope that is based upon a relationship with the heavenly Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Have you heard His voice and chosen to follow Him? Thank Him for calling you to be His own!

Abba, I thank You for calling me 55 years ago to follow You. As much as any 6-year-old can, I determined to follow You with all my heart. I got a little side-tracked in the 7th-8th grades, but I heard You calling me back to You at Falls Creek the summer of my Freshman year. I have much in common with Peter in this respect. I sure am glad that You are a God of second chances (and thirds, and fourths, etc.). You never give up on us, do You? Praise You, O Lord! Amen.

Proverbs 17 4-17-22

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! This greeting has been shared for two thousand years. Let’s share it today.

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

This video says it all.

He Is Risen

Abba, we praise You for keeping Your promise. Thank You for rescuing us from death and from ourselves. Rise in our hearts even as You rose from the grave on this day so many years ago! Amen.

Proverbs 17 3-17-22

“Christ’s sacrifice once for all.” What does that phrase mean? Let’s look at how it was used.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.

Doctrine (biblical foundation) is not built upon one verse, so in order to understand, we must look at several verses where this concept is addressed.

10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. Romans 8:10

27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7:27

12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12

26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Hebrews 9:26

Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. Hebrews 10:2

10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10

18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18

In each of these verses, the main point is that Christ died for everyone. The debt was forgiven. The stain of sin has been washed clean. No one need pay for their sins themselves because Christ has set us free and has brought us near to the Father. What keeps people from coming to Christ? Unbelief, which springs from fear:

  • Fear of a preconceived idea of who God/Christ is;
  • Fear of not being in control of their own lives;
  • Fear of not getting to do what they want to do;
  • Fear that comes from not knowing;
  • Fear caused by believing the enemy’s lies.

Distrust is what got us into this mess. Eve believed the serpent’s lie that God was holding back on them. She distrusted God and chose to see for herself. We all have chosen poorly. God knows us; we are small children to Him. It is why Jesus died once for all. He knew that we would fall and would need His help getting back on track with Him. In fact, this entire life is one big lesson in TRUST. The separation that we feel is in our heads; we feel it when we look into darkness. God has always been there with us coaxing us, even wooing us to Himself. He wants our attention. He wants our TRUST. What greater way could He show us His love and His trustworthiness than to give His life for us?

Let’s turn to Him with gratefulness in our hearts and give Him our lives today.

Abba, I’m amazed that You love me. I’m amazed that You care–but You do! We are Your children, and as our loving Father, You care for us as a Father cares for His children, as a shepherd cares for His sheep. May we BELIEVE You, O Lord. Amen.

*I wrote this song many years ago, and it still speaks my heart today:

I will trust You, Lord,
I will trust You, Lord,
I choose now this day whom I will serve,
I will trust You, Lord.
believe, love, serve

Proverbs 17 2-17-22

We talk about a relationship with the Father–and then use logic to persuade people to serve Jesus (in their own power).

1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet [with relationship] than a house full of feasting with strife [no relationship].

Our relationship with the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit is all-important. Enjoying the Fellowship of the Trinity is our highest goal. Let’s rephrase a famous passage from 1 Corinthians 13,

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

The apostle Paul also talks about our connection with the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 2,

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 
 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
    so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.

Key phrases:

  • Revealed to us by the Spirit;
  • The Spirit searches all things;
  • Taught by the Spirit;
  • Discerned only through the Spirit;
  • the Spirit makes judgments (moral calls according to the Spirit’s discernment);
  • We have the mind of Christ (which is the Spirit).

Let’s impress upon people to listen to the Spirit on all occasions, to read the Word listening for His voice, and to practice obeying His promptings as we relate to others. Let’s all ask, “Jesus, what do You think about _______?” In doing so, we will fulfill the Great Commission AND enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity all at the same time!

Abba, may I be first on this bandwagon. I want to learn how to respond quickly and completely to Your promptings. Knowing what You will and won’t say/do is a great start; reading them in Your Word is a great way to hear You more clearly. Open my eyes and ears, my heart and my head, O Lord, to what You are saying to Your children. Amen.

Proverbs 17 1-17-22

We must be willing to view things differently. Jesus wants to expand our perspective.

8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers [it’s not the stone, but the bribe; perspective].

As we begin looking into what type of offering Jesus made on the cross, I have four statements, one by Jesus and three by Peter, that I allow to guide me. They are:

17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” John 10:17-18

23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. Acts 2:23

14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. Acts 3:14

10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. Acts 4:10

These passages help shape what I read and put things into perspective. Jesus allowed Himself to be killed. Why? In that death, He took all of man’s malice and aggression toward Him, everything that the venom of sin had cultivated in mankind, and took it on Himself, and then died. The guilt, deceit, and the consequences for every wrong went with Him into the grave. Only God could do that!

With this perspective in mind, we turn again to our Hebrews 10:5-7 passage. David knew that sacrifices and offerings in themselves were not what pleased God–contrary to the gods of his day–but relationship. David then speaks prophetically for Jesus, “I have come to do Your will.” It is at this point that we might make some assumptions based upon what we have been taught for 500 years. Isaiah 53:10 tells us this,

10 But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

From this verse, we might conclude that it was God’s will to lay the punishment of the world on His Son. Somebody had to take the blame, right? The problem is that this conclusion does not reflect what David said in Psalm 40, which is quoted in Hebrews 10. Let’s look at more of the text,

Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened; [LXX “a body You have prepared for me”]
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”
I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You know.
10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.
11 You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.

Jesus did the will of God by:

  1. Proclaiming glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
  2. Not restraining His lips and not hiding God’s righteousness in His heart (keeping it to Himself);
  3. Speaking of God’s faithfulness and salvation;
  4. Not concealing God’s lovingkindness and His truth from the great congregation.

Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, God did not withhold His compassion from Him, and God’s lovingkindness and truth preserved Him. But, wait. I thought that the Lord was pleased to crush Jesus. How do we reconcile these two passages? For that answer, you will have to wait until tomorrow.

Abba, learning about Your Word is such fun! It’s exciting! As I discover things I didn’t know, it makes me wonder what else I don’t know. May I be open to Your Spirit, O Lord. Stretch and grow me according to Your truth. Amen.

Proverbs 17 12-17-21

Young Earth #3: All geological findings need to be run through the Great Flood filter. It kinda explains everything!

24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth [looking to justify his actions and his dogma].

No matter what the earth was like before the Great Flood, we certainly know what it is like now. There are super mini-movies that demonstrate how the earth was affected by the biggest geological event in history. Here are a few:

  • The gigantic crack in the earth that runs through the mid-Atlantic and goes both directions from the Indian Ocean around the earth.
  • The 50,000+ volcanoes that ring the earth along this giant crack.
  • Water droplets on the face of the moon from water being jettisoned into space.
  • Asteroids on an away-from-earth trajectory that have our mantle in them.
  • Asteroids orbiting asteroids that left earth so close together that they continue to “hug” each other.
  • Multiple meteorite valleys around the earth from the same time period (about 5,000 years ago).
  • Less than 10,000 years’ worth of sediment at the mouths of all the major rivers in the world.
  • Less than 10,000 years’ worth of ice in the tails of comets.

Those are just a few of the evidence that is available to everyone–including scientists who are in the process of putting it all together! They have agreed to a model of Pangea, which is the way the earth used to look like according to the way the Continental Shelf goes together.

What would the world be like if it was still Pangea? - Quora

For a YouTube video of the Flood and particularly the breaking up of Pangea (2:10-2:25), watch:

Noah’s Flood and Catastrophic Plate Tectonics (from Pangea to Today)

There is a passage that I want to point out concerning our present earth.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:18-22

It is my belief that nature will one day be restored to its pre-flood disposition. When will that be? It could be when sin is completely done away with, and that is when Jesus returns. It could also be that earth will be “swallowed up” into heaven; its spiritual companion may be receiving all of life on earth even as we speak (except humans; we are the only “animals” that choose whether or not we go–C.S. Lewis). What we CAN look forward to is the fulfillment of the Romans 8 passage in whatever form it comes.

By the way, we can blame the Great Flood for the weather we have today. It’s part of the “fall-out.”

These did-you-knows may help us to break into spiritual conversations with people. Just remember that we are to speak kindly and with great patience and gentleness. If they want to argue, don’t waste your breath (or your reputation if they get under your skin). But, if they show true signs of interest, move to the reason for the Great Flood* and God’s Great Rescue Plan through Jesus.

Abba, Your world is beautiful. But, as beautiful as it is, I want to see it in its pre-flood state. May You come, Lord Jesus, and restore what is Yours to its former glory. I look forward to the day. Amen.

*God may have used a naturally occurring event to “judge” the people of the earth. Genesis 3:17 tells us that the ground (earth) was cursed. The earth may have been a ticking time-bomb, which makes the Ark and 120 years of preaching the Great Rescue Mission of mankind!

Proverbs 17 11-17-21

Having God in our lives is the best! We have the Creator of the universe living in our hearts: Jesus Christ!

8 A bribe is seen as a charm by the one who gives it; he thinks success will come at every turn [we know that charms are deceptive; eventually, they fail and the person pays the price for putting his faith in elusive ventures. Only Jesus is completely trustworthy].

I read a verse yesterday that I have read a hundred times, but this time it stuck out at me as I read. Here it is:

26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Let’s use our study technique or literal, moral and spiritual inspection.

Literal– Jesus is having a conversation with His disciples. He has just invited a rich young ruler to join Him, but the ruler turned Him down. His statement was that it is difficult for rich people to choose heaven because of their investment here on earth. The disciples were astonished because the thought of the day was that material blessing equaled spiritual blessing. They asked, “Who then can be saved?” Thus, Jesus’ reply.

Moral– This whole encounter is good news for us regular folks. If material blessing does not equal spiritual blessing, then we have an advantage over those who are wealthy. At the same time, we should take note of the fact that physical possessions and the desire for them can cause us to lose spiritual blessings. Staying true to Jesus is extremely important. We learn that in the next few verses where Peter says, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus gives them great encouragement, for He tells them that they will sit on twelve thrones with Him at “the renewal of all things.” Since that renewal did not happen upon His resurrection and ascension, we must assume that it is either a future event or a heaven event. Since we are already seated with Him in heavenly places (but not necessarily thrones), we, too, will be blessed on that Day.

Spiritual– To me, Jesus is indicating two things here:

  1. God is capable of all good things; we have Him as our heavenly Father; He will do for us whatever is needed.
  2. We were never meant to be alone; God has always wanted to be with us, and later on, for us to be with Him.

This verse exposes the heart of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is that the kingdom of heaven has come in human form (Him) and is headed for our hearts. He made it possible by what He accomplished on the cross, and then, He accomplished heaven in us, which is Him in us, at Pentecost. I thought it interesting that He had them wait 10 days in Jerusalem for that particular feast. It was the ingathering celebration of the barley harvest. Jesus made a great ingathering that day, didn’t He?

We are to be about our Father’s business, but WITH Him, not FOR Him. Otherwise, we’ve missed the point of what Christ did on the cross and then at Pentecost. Let’s enjoy His Presence and Participation in our lives today.

Abba, I enjoy You. Thank You for the promise that You will provide everything I need for salvation, my walk with You, and then being with You in Your kingdom. Keep teaching me, Abba. I want to learn all I can before I get to where You are. I’m sure it will come in handy somehow. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-21

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

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

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

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

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

We actually get two quotes here:

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

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

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

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

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

John the Baptizer had this to say about Jesus:

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 17 9-17-21

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

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

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

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Bridesmaids)

Matthew 25:1-13

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

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

Matthew 25:14-30

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

The Future Account of the Sheep and the Goats

Matthew 25:31-46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 17 8-17-21

The cleaning agent for our smoked glass is our obedience, and is what aligns us with the Father. We feel His pleasure.

10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool [we want to learn; we want to please].

Most Americans cannot conceive being a slave with no rights whatsoever. Even those whose ancestors were slaves have likely never been a slave or the son of a slave. Yet, we are either slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness. Jesus said,

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

We have it on good authority (the Word of God) that every person who ever lived has sinned, which means that all mankind is a slave to sin,

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless [gone astray];
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.” [Psalms 14:1-3, Isaiah 53:3]

But, those who are in Christ have been set free from the yoke of slavery through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have been given His righteousness! We have been given a new nature! We have been given His Spirit! Our fellowship with Him should be enough for us to realize that we are free to serve our Lord even as we converse with Him. On top of that, He teaches us how to be righteous and holy. What master does that?! God does!!! Paul exhorts us:

Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. Romans 6:19b

In the vernacular, “Just as you threw yourselves into wickedness and revelry, use that same energy toward righteousness. You will become holy in the process.”

How do we “produce” this energy and zeal? We don’t; the Spirit does.

13 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the desire and power], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Philippians 2:13 AMP

We must connect with Him daily through His Word and constantly throughout the day. Thank You, Jesus for Your Spirit!

When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit. Romans 7:5-6 NLT

Walk with Him today. Hear what He says. Do what He says and go where He directs. I promise you that the reward of His presence and participation in your life is worth far more than anything else you’re doing today! In fact, here are three analogies for trying to explain this process:

  1. An air duct: When our vent is open, He fills our rooms with the fragrance and aroma of Christ;
  2. A conduit: When our valve is turned wide open, He floods us with living water;
  3. A smoked glass: As we obey the Spirit, our glass becomes a little clearer. We see Christ a little better, and recognize what righteousness is, along with holiness. In the process, we realize the amenities of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) far outweigh anything in this world.

Let’s be happy slaves to Jesus!*

Abba, may we open our lives to You in all ways so that Your Spirit can flow through us in the form of love, joy and peace. As we revel in these feelings, may we be obedient as You teach us to be patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and to always use self-control. May Your righteousness and truth be our foundation. Teach us and grow us, Abba. Amen.

*Exodus 21:5-6 Pierce My Ear

Proverbs 17 7-18-21

Learning to respond as Jesus would requires walking in step with the Spirit. We must first defeat our own wills–our flesh!

24 A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Lesson one was over where our power comes from.
Lesson two was over how to access and wield that power.
Lesson three is over why we need the Spirit in order to handle that power.

Lesson 3

Has it ever occurred to you that our first response to anything may be our fleshly response? It’s enough to question any opinion we have! Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (also Mark 10:27 and Luke 18:27). In verses 23-25, Jesus was talking about the rich having trouble getting into heaven. The problem with rich people is that they don’t see their need for Christ. Their material blessings appear to be all they need for this life. What they forget is that it is impossible to live a godly life without God in us. Again, Jesus said, “they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:2, 5, 16. They can expect no reward in heaven because they didn’t store any up.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

Let’s look at a rich man who died and what he was told about his wealth:

23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. Luke 16:19-21 NOTE: Many people consider this story a parable, but I think it was a current event. The fact that Lazarus was mentioned by name is different than other parables. If it is a real account, then we have a window into what happened to people when they died in the Old Testament.

Whether a parable or a real account, we get the picture that we are to abandon the trappings and lures of this world and cling to all things godly, namely Christ. Before we speak, let’s consider if it is god-honoring; before we watch something, let us consider if Christ will want to watch it with us; when our minds wander into dangerous territory, let us “take each thought captive and make it obedient to Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Remember, our reaction will be fleshly; our response needs to be godly.

Abba, make us like You. As we study the life of Christ, may Your Spirit recreate Him in us. We want to be just like Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 17 6-17-21

How we talk and what we say reveals our heart. It’s kind of like squeezing a tube of toothpaste…

9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.

20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble.

27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. 28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Taking a more positive approach, Paul addressed the matter this way, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” Colossians 4:6.

This is a verse I read every morning. It helps me to put on gracious speech: Words that build up rather than tear down, tone that disarms rather than putting people on the defensive, and spiritual nuggets that draw people’s attention to the Lord.

Jesus is my hero. He used gracious speech, “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.” What had He just finished saying? He was inaugurating His ministry by reading Isaiah 61 and pronouncing that it was the year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25:10 and Jesus, True Jubilee). If we take our cue from Jesus, we will use our conversations to impart spiritual knowledge, nuggets of wisdom, and seeds of the Gospel.

The people with whom we converse are usually within our sphere of influence. These people see us often and know us on a moderate to intimate level. Occasionally, we get outside this sphere, but the sphere is where we are to minister routinely. In the Great Commission, most translations read, “Go ye therefore…” when the actual interpretation should read, “As you go…” The difference is profound. If we share with those who are in our sphere of influence, then our words take on the weight of our testimony, our witness, and our moral authority. We must begin to see the people around us in our lives as being placed there by God Himself. He has connected us. Let’s be participants in the Great Commission by reaching out to those around us with gracious words and speech.

Abba, may You be honored and glorified by our speech. The only way I know how to control my tongue is for You to control my heart. When I am tired is when I usually fail, so I am going to lean on You all the more in those times. Rather than excusing myself, I want to “shine like stars in the universe” because when I am weak, then I am strong according to Your Spirit. Thank You, Abba, for Your abiding Spirit. Amen.

Proverbs 17 5-17-21

Being Christ’s representatives to the world may not be as difficult or daunting as it may seem. He will show us how.

17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

Love is a feeling and an action. In many cases, our feelings of love for someone results in actions of love. In other cases, our actions of love result in feelings of love. The biggest problem we (I) face is inertia.

Inertia– “the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest or its velocity along a straight line so long as it is not acted upon by an external force.”

Each of us struggles to set aside our own desires and do what Christ is calling us to do. He is that external force. The interesting part is that He lives in us, so He’s really an internal force. It’s what I call “the fight inside.” Peter and Paul both deal with this fight,

Peter- “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

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

A favorite verse of mine is Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The choice to love is one we make everyday toward those with whom we live and work. We even find that decision occurring when we drive, go to the store or to a restaurant, the doctor, the bank, or anywhere we might be called upon to choose between our way and what is best for others. Let me give you some for-instances:

  • You are sitting at a light and the person ahead and to the right of you turns on his blinker.
  • The parking spot you want is available, but you notice someone behind you looking for one, too.
  • You are standing in line at the bank and you notice that the person behind you is impatient, even anxious.
  • You are in line at the grocery store; a new checker opens up a register; you can make it before anyone else can, but there’s a woman behind you with several children in tow.

Are you seeing the pattern? Paul gives us our marching orders concerning godly love:

Love must be sincere. We must make sure that our motives are true and right. We do it for our Lord.

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Here is our precedent. Let’s do it!

11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Serving how? by doing verses 9 and 10.

12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Consider any imposition an opportunity to be Christ to the recipients of your generosity.

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. We consider everyone to be potential brothers and sisters in Christ, so we share as God leads us. He knows; we don’t.

Let’s be Christ to those around us. We never know when or how the Spirit might move in someone’s life with whom we come in contact. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ, as well as His spokesmen. We are


Abba, may we be You to our world today. Give us opportunities. May we stay close to You and attentive to You so that we won’t miss any opportunity. Advance Your kingdom through us today, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 17 4-17-21

Is Jesus worth following? Who is He, really? What did those who knew Him have to say about Him? Let’s see…

What NOT to do: 4 A wicked person listens to deceitful lips; a liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. The key is to regularly read God’s Word and run everything through the filter of His truth.

Who is Jesus Christ? The apostle Paul tells us very descriptively in Colossians as well as Hebrews (many people believe Paul to be the writer of Hebrews; the styles are very similar as well as the content).

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:15-20

  1. He is the image of the invisible God
  2. He is the firstborn over all creation
  3. In Him all things were created, and they were created for Him
  4. He is before all things and holds all things together
  5. He is the Head of the church
  6. He is the firstborn from among the dead
  7. He is reconciling all things to Himself by making peace through His blood

Let’s jump over to Hebrews now and see the similarities:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:1-3

  1. God speaks through His Son. See Matthew 21:37
  2. He is heir of all things. We are co-heirs; see Romans 8:17
  3. The universe is made through Him
  4. He is the radiance of God’s glory
  5. He is the exact representation of God’s being
  6. He sustains everything by His powerful word (which is why we read the Word that He has given us)
  7. He sits at the right hand of God, who is the Majesty of heaven (to read more, go to Ephesians 1:19-23)

There’s more, so we will continue tomorrow. For today, let’s be awed by His majesty, acclaim His great name, and bow to His will for our lives. To me, it all comes into focus with one verse, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15. We will learn more tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for sending Your Son to us. Thank You for calling us friends. Thank You for making a way for You to come and live in my heart and life. May I live my life with that very thought in mind: You in me and I in You, just as You are in Christ and He is in You (John 17:21, 23). Make us all one in the Spirit, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 17 3-17-21

Jesus demonstrates His unlimited patience with us as we discover who He is. Learning to trust Him is key to transformation.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests [and knows] the heart.

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows that they are desperately wicked in that our hearts are all about doing what WE want rather than what anyone else wants, even God. But, Jesus is in the business of transforming hearts into hearts that love Him. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone [dead] and give you a heart of flesh [living]” Ezekiel 36:26. That’s good news! There is even better news: “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” Ezekiel 36:27. That last part may not sound like good news, but as we study Jesus’ life and ministry, we find that He redefines what those decrees and laws are for us. More on that later. Right now, we are watching Jesus reveal Himself as Lord of the Sabbath–and therefore, God.

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Matthew 12:9-14

Jesus just redefined the Sabbath rules for everyone. The Pharisees didn’t like it, so they showed their true colors and plotted to kill Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus withdrew from that place, but drew a crowd. Evidently, the Pharisees followed, because when a demon-possessed man was brought to Him…well, read the account yourself:

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul [Satan], the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

The people saw Jesus’ healing, which was the work of the Father (John 10:38), and began to ask The Question, “Could Jesus be who He claimed to be: the Messiah?” The Pharisees, though, resorted to slander. Jesus, in His infinite patience, explained the error in their thinking. But then, He cut their feet out from under them, 30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Jesus was drawing the proverbial line in the sand. Who would stand with Him? Who would scatter? The answer to this question separates households still today. Jesus warned us:

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6].’” Matthew 10:34-36

We’ll pick it up tomorrow with verse 31. Good stuff! As we are about to see, Jesus really was in charge! He didn’t mince words with those who didn’t take Him seriously and those who set themselves against Him.

Abba, as I read and learn about Jesus, I see more and more that He really is You in the flesh! Thankfully, Your Spirit lives in me and I have Your peace living in my heart and I don’t have to be afraid. Thank You for exchanging my old, dead heart for a new and living one, one that desires to follow You and keep Your commands. Your yoke truly is easy and Your burden light (Matthew 11:28-30). Amen.

Proverbs 17 2-17-21

Used to doing things your way? Do you ever seek the Lord’s opinion or would that mess with your plans?

24 A discerning person [of the Spirit] keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes [left to his own imaginings] wander to the ends of the earth.
16:25 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.
22:3 The prudent [those who seek the Lord] see danger and take refuge, but the simple [those who refuse to ask the Lord for His help and guidance] keep going and pay the penalty.

We were not designed to be loners. It has always been God’s plan to do life with us. After sin broke the relationship between God and mankind, God went out of His way to be with His people. He walked with Enoch (Genesis 5:24); He sealed Noah in the ark (Genesis 7:16); the Lord met with Abraham (Genesis 18); He appeared to Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and wrestled with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-30); the Lord met with Moses at the burning bush and traveled with the Israelites in the desert as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22); He plopped Himself down in their midst by inhabiting the tabernacle (tent) that traveled with them (it was set up in the middle of camp in a shape similar to a cross; see Numbers 2). There are many more times that the Lord reached across the divide to interact with His creation. All this to say that He was desperate (to use a human term) to be with us again.

Enter Jesus! He is Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” Jesus is God in human form. Jesus left His throne in heaven to limit Himself to humanity. He grew up as one of us and lived a perfectly sinless life–how? The same way we do: By the leadership of the Holy Spirit; the difference is that He has no sin nature; He was our Sin Substitute. He died on the cross and then rose again so that we could experience God on the same level He did. Pentecost was the Day that God entered mankind again. Since then, everyone who believes that Jesus is God’s Son and pledges his/her life to Him receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s talk about going it alone:
Anything we do without the Holy Spirit’s consideration and partnership//leadership
is sin and considered evil in God’s eyes.

Romans 7:18 tells us everything we need to know about ourselves and our decision-making abilities, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” In other words, even Christians must admit that we have no power to do good in us without the aid and support of the Holy Spirit. Even our desire comes from the Holy Spirit living in us. If we do not have the desire to do what is right, then we’d better spend this day and night in prayer entreating the Lord to save us! The most practical verse I know is Philippians 2:13, “for it is God who works in you [through the Holy Spirit] to will [the desire] and to act [the power] in order to fulfill His good purpose.” Did you catch that? He gives us even the desire to do His will, and then the power to actually do it. Partnering with the Holy Spirit is what Christianity is all about!

Let’s go over it one more time: If Jesus lives in us, then we will have the desire to follow His commands and the power to do them.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would, indeed, have the desire to listen, heed and obey the Spirit within them. If they don’t have that desire, I pray that they would plead with You until they DO have it. May I always be willing to set aside my own opinion, desires and agenda for Yours. Keep me honest, Lord; keep me humble. Amen.

Proverbs 17 1-17-21

We are free to worship the LORD Jesus whenever we want. No one can take that privilege away from us. NO ONE!

20 One whose heart is corrupt does not prosper; one whose tongue is perverse falls into trouble. Let this verse be a guide in your next conversation about politics. Watch your attitude and your tongue!

Whoever gives heed to instruction [from the Spirit] prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD. Proverbs 16:20 Our instruction and blessing come from the Spirit who lives in us.

I am getting a picture of why people in our churches are upset; they have the wrong focus. Many are worried that we will lose our “freedom.” The true freedom with which we should be concerned is our freedom in Christ to worship Him. We have that privilege due to the indwelling Holy Spirit, so we are good!

In Romans 8:18-25, Paul is telling us to quit focusing on this world and all its goings-on and focus on what is to come:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There are two future truths here to which we look forward:

  1. Our completed, renewed, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:35-49);
  2. Our world renewed and transformed into Eden (Romans 8:19-22).

The timing and procedure for these events are not nearly as important as our looking forward to the realization of these events. Let’s not get too comfortable here in this world. It is dominated by Satan and his horde until Christ comes back. Until then, we wait for it patiently.Christ has moved into our hearts (Galatians 4:6), so, for us, eternity has already begun. For now, let’s serve Him and live as followers of the Way (Acts 22:4) and as children of light (Ephesians 5:8) as we look forward to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Christ will draw people to Himself through our righteousness and purity (John 12:32–Jesus is in us; when we live the crucified life, He uses our lives to draw others to Himself). The interesting thing is that as we strive to live separated from this world and become more like Jesus, the more our thoughts turn to seeking the lost, and the more opportunities we find to share the Good News of Jesus and why we live differently.

It’s a win-win: Live separately for Christ; have more opportunities to share Jesus.

As seek we worship Christ today, know that He is interested in your life. He wants you to be like Him in righteousness, purity, and godliness. Are you as interested in Him as He is in you?

Abba, this day I pledge my life anew to You. Thank You for Your righteousness; now make me pure and godly (like God). I want to know You in the power of Your resurrection (the victories) and in the fellowship of Your sufferings (the struggles). I want to be crucified in my flesh so that I can, somehow, attain to my spiritual resurrection in this life (from Philippians 3:10-11). I look forward to my physical resurrection, as well, but that’s not where I live. I want to be like You NOW in this life, knowing that I am promised to be made whole and complete in You upon Your return (1 John 3:2). I make 1 John 3:3 my life verse, “All who have this hope [see verse 2] in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure.” Make it so in my life, O LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 17 12-17-20

How is it that we can sense His presence in our lives and yet still act like fools?

9 Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter [continues in foolish behavior] separates [even] close friends.

We need to remember that our POSITION in Christ is permanently set while our RELATION to Christ is dynamic and changes constantly (hopefully, for the better; we have this promise: Philippians 1:6). Our POSITION in Christ is based upon what He did for us on the cross and through the resurrection. It’s ALL HIM POSITIONALLY. It is our RELATION to Christ that we will discuss.

Our POSITION in Christ gives us the foundation for our relationship with Christ. It’s our everyday living, our PRACTICAL HOLINESS, that He wants to teach us. It is the part of us that relates to the Holy Spirit in conversation all day, every day, that He works in us. It is this part that needs to grow and mature–it’s the part that needs help! That help comes through reading, studying, pondering and memorizing His Word, listening to sermons, taking classes, and discussing God, Jesus, the Bible and daily life with others in relation to what we have learned and what we need to know.

Our relationship with God, through Christ, by way of the Holy Spirit, is DYNAMIC; it’s always growing, moving, maturing and developing. It will continue to do so until the day we die–and then beyond! It just takes a major step forward when we step across that threshold of death! Right now, let’s consider Paul’s words to the Colossians in 3:1-4,

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

  1. Raised with Christ- We have been raised from the dead! We are no longer who we were before meeting Christ Jesus. We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)!
  2. Seated at the right hand of God- We are seated there, as well (Ephesians 2:6). Let’s check in up there (set our minds and hearts on Him) rather than have our heads stuck in this world.
  3. Your life is now hidden- We are dead to our old way of life and our old way of thinking. We are hidden with Christ in God. What does that even mean?! It means that Satan no longer has a strangle-hold on us!
  4. Christ…is your life- Whether we meet Him in the clouds or come back with Him in those clouds doesn’t matter. We are with Him from now through eternity! He has become the sole/soul focus of our attention (pun intended).

So, let’s consider every “failure” an opportunity to learn holiness. It’s the redemptive part of the process. Jesus is rooting for us; He wants us to succeed and even knows how many times we will fail until we finally succeed–and He is excited for us to succeed! How can we disappoint a God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 15:57)? Verse 58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Tomorrow: How grace teaches us to be like Him.

Abba, I thank You that You are the ONE who called me. I didn’t generate my passion for You and for Your Word on my own; it is the gift that the Holy Spirit grew in me throughout my life. I pray that You will generate a passion for You and Your Word in each of my readers. May they sense Your call upon their lives right now and answer that call saying,

Yes, Lord, yes, to Your will and to Your way.
Yes, Lord, yes, I will trust You and obey.
When Your Spirit speaks to me,
With my whole heart, I’ll agree
and will answer saying, “Yes, Lord, yes.”

Amen and amen.

Proverbs 17 11-17-20

We have no other recourse than to depend upon the Holy Spirit to change a person. No amount of words can do it.

16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom when they are not able to understand it? They don’t listen to the Spirit—He may not even be present!

10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool. He is listening to the Spirit!

What it boils down to is what a person really wants—or Who. If he simply wants salvation (a reservation in heaven), then he is going to be sadly disappointed. Salvation can only come through a person—not a program or prayer (ritual).

Coming to Christ is about lordship. It’s about walking with Him in constant conversation. It’s about following His every command. The result (benefit) is heaven on earth, even within us! Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Luke 17:21. Why? Because JESUS is in you!

I think it all comes down to desire. What do we want? Do we want to live our lives our way doing what we want to do when we want to do it? Or, do we desire to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and to share in the fellowship of His sufferings? Do we want to become like Him? Right now, the voice within you is resounding, “YES!” If it is not, then you may want to make sure that the voice is even present. “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Romans 8:16.

Lest you think I’m more than I am, I learned to desire Christ by reading Philippians 3:10-11. As I read, the Spirit spoke to me and I began to crave Christ—His presence, His company, His teaching, His wisdom and discernment—you know, Him. You can, too. It’s how we all establish connection with Him: by reading His Word. Try it today.

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

Abba, I know You called me. I know You call others just like You called me. Do it, LORD. Urge them to read Your Word and then explode upon their lives with Your glorious Presence! Just like you did mine. I know this: they’ll never be the same and they’ll never go back. Thank You in advance. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-20

Want to know where you are spiritually? Find yourself in the Parable of the Sower. It’s IMPORTANT and quite revealing!

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

In the parable (story with a point) of the Sower, we find four different soils: The path, rocky soil, weedy soil, and good soil. Let’s read.

 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Mark 4:3-8

What can we learn from Jesus’ teaching? He explains the parable later to His disciples:

14 The farmer sows the word [Gospel]. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

What it boils down to is does a person believe that God has revealed Himself through Scripture? If so, then we accept God’s own testimony about His Son, Jesus Christ.

Everything revolves around our willingness to trust
what He has said in His Word (whether we hear it or read it) and to make every decision in our lives based upon the truth of His Word.

IF God inspired the writers to write down truth about Him and His Son,
IF God preserved those words throughout history to this present day,
IF the Spirit moves and speaks through those words as they are spoken or read,
THEN we can trust what the Scriptures say,
THEN we can hear Him speaking to us through them,
THEN what they say about the future is dependable,
THEN we will receive power to live according to God’s principles laid out in His Word.

What we can learn from the parable:

  1. Many people hear the message of God’s love and forgiveness, but because of the hardness of their hearts, which have been hardened by the lusts of their eyes, the lusts of their flesh, and their pride of life (1 John 2:16), they willingly turn away from the Truth.
  2. Many people hear the message about our Savior and it seems good to them, so they receive it. Notice that the decision was theirs in that there was no Holy Spirit-conviction. It was based upon an intellectual decision. The problem with a head-decision versus a heart-decision is that the Spirit does not transform the person, therefore, when hardship, persecution, or even just a conflict of wills comes, the person reverts to his old ways. “A dog to its vomit and a pig to its mud.”
  3. This soil is where most of the church today lives. We love Jesus, but we tend to ignore the rest of His title, which is Adonai (LORD) Yeshua (Jesus) Ha’Mashiach (King, Anointed One). We want the promise of heaven, but we also want wealth, health, comfort, pleasure, power, leisure, and everything else this world offers. Jesus said that a person that puts his hand to the plow (accepts the Gospel) and then looks back (desires what was) is not fit (is out of shape mentally, physically, and spiritually) for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). The LORD Jesus is still waiting for His Church to give Him their entire lives. It makes me wonder if they really are born again–that’s not my call. If they say they love Jesus, then I will exhort them to love Him with all of their hearts, souls, minds and with all their strength. Eventually, maybe they’ll get it.
  4. This soil is where we want to be! Those who meet with the LORD Jesus daily in the pages of Scripture find true wealth: The JOY of His Presence (Psalm 16:11, 1 Peter 1:8-9), PEACE that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7), His LOVE abounding in our hearts for Him (Philippians 1:9-11), for ourselves, and for others, and His MERCY and GRACE in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Notice that they all come from Scripture.

Today, how about moving from soil #3 to seed #4? All it takes is turning to Jesus and giving Him your life for today, for right now, and then to read, thus allowing Him to speak to your heart. He CAN and DOES speak to us directly, but He has chosen to speak to us mainly through His written Word to us, the Scriptures, our Bible. Once we hide God’s words in our heart (Psalm 119:11), He REMINDS us of what we have read as we need to know (John 14:26) and interprets according to our circumstances.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would comprehend the import of Your revealed message to us. The Scriptures are Your love letter to Your children! May we read them and understand Your love and passion for us. May we receive Your Plan as our plan, and Your will as our will realizing that You want only the BEST for us (sin destroys us). Each morning, I revel in this truth based upon Psalm 73:23-26: I am always with You, You hold me by my hand, you guide me with Your counsel as we walk, and one day You will take me home to be with You in glory. WOW! Whom have I in heaven besides You, O LORD? And this earth has nothing I desire besides You! My heart and my flesh fail me all the time, but YOU are the strength of my heart and my portion, my Choice, forever. Come live in and through me, LORD Jesus, I beg You. Amen.

Proverbs 17 9-17-20

The Spirit is always asking us, “Will you or won’t you?” Of course, He’s referring to our obedience. The decision is ours.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

People ask me how God can know before time began and yet give us choice. Actually, God’s name gives us the answer, “I AM.” Exodus 3:14. “I AM” denotes one of the immutable character traits of God, which is His omnipresence (the other two are His omnipotence [all-powerful] and His omniscience [all-knowing]). He is everywhere at once and everywhere IN TIME at once. How can He do that? Because He is OUTSIDE of time. He is above it. At the same “time,” He chooses to live in the “now” with us. He is ever-present with us. It’s all the same time to Him, so He foreknew and arranged everything to conform to His ultimate will AND He allows us to make our choice about whether or not we are going to obey Him. GOD IS THAT BIG!!! The three big questions we must answer are:

  1. Do we believe Him? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed what God told him. We must believe what God told us, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” Matthew 17:5. We are to listen to Jesus. How do we know what Jesus is saying? We read what He said (and had written down for us) and listen to the Holy Spirit as He says those same words to our hearts!
  2. Do we know Him? Jesus made the claim that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). He also claimed that if we know Him, then we know the Father (John 8:19, 14:9). If we have trusted Jesus as our Savior and LORD, then we know the Father. In fact, we are His adopted children! (Romans 8:15). We can trust God because He is our loving Father. He knows us and we know Him. We are valuable to Him (Luke 12:6-7). In fact, if value is what someone is willing to pay for something, then we are priceless to God because He gave His one and only Son for us! (John 3:16).
  3. Do we love Him? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15. Why? Because “the thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that [we] may have life, and have it to the full [abundantly]. John 10:10 If we love Him, we will do what He commands, all the while trusting Him to know what is best for us.

If we can answer “Yes” to these three questions, then we can take confidence that Jesus will take care of us and see us safely to the other side of life. It’s His goal: “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” John 17:24. His indwelling Spirit is our security, our deposit for eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14).

We can trust God because we believe Him, know Him and love Him. Let’s live our lives accordingly.

Abba, I know it sounds simple–but it is! On PURPOSE! You don’t want salvation to be complicated. In fact, “complicated” is what You got away from when You fulfilled the OT laws through Jesus Christ. Now, the old hymn is true, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” May I be Your willing servant today, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 17 8-17-20

Being all-knowing means that when God tests us, it’s not so that He knows what’s inside, but so that we know. It’s the same as in school. The material has been covered in class; the test is to show that the students have learned the material. The same goes with Karate testing. The students test to show what they have learned.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

By the way, anytime we read the word LORD in all caps it stands for Adonai, the Lord our God. “Adonai ( אֲדֹנָי‎, lit. “My Lords”) is the plural form of adon (“Lord”) along with the first-person singular pronoun enclitic. As with Elohim, Adonai’s grammatical form is usually explained as a plural of majesty [Genesis 1:26]. In the Hebrew Bible, it is nearly always used to refer to God (approximately 450 occurrences).” -Wikipedia

In Sunday’s sermon, my pastor made a statement worth writing down (he said it wasn’t original). It is about 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

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

Other versions use the word “reproof” instead of “rebuking,” but the meaning is the same. This version is the NIV and is the one I memorized. Here is what Bryan said,

“God’s Word teaches us what is right,
rebukes us when we are wrong,
corrects us in how to get right,
and trains us in how to stay right.”

Look at the rest of the verse:

  1. the servant of God- that’s all His dear children!
  2. may be thoroughly equipped- that includes knowledge, training, experience, and His Presence.
  3. for every good work- our work is to be obedient. In our obedience, we get to do a lot of things. But, it still all boils down to obedience.

This passage is one of those that we would do well to memorize and quote to ourselves each morning. It’s a mindset-setter. Yesterday morning in Sunday’s Cool, we looked at another mindset-setter, Psalm 73. The key verses are:

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 fits nicely into the first part of verse 24, “You guide me with the counsel of Your Word as you teach me, rebuke me, correct me and train me in righteousness so that I am thoroughly equipped for every good work of obedience.” Like I said, it’s a mindset-setter.

Let’s learn to put His Word into action in our lives. In doing so, we give the Holy Spirit handles by which to speak to us and to direct us along the straight and narrow path.

LORD, I acknowledge that You are plural, yet one God, that when I pray, I am praying to You the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the Holy Spirit–who prays with me and for me (Romans 8:26). May I put Your Word to the test in my life so that You can make me pure and holy. YOU know what’s inside me; You want me to know what’s there, too, so that I can become righteous like You. Have Your will and way in my life today, O LORD. Amen.