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.” Dictionary.com

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

AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST

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.

Proverbs 17 7-17-20

Watched “War Room” again, and I was again inspired to be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. I choose hot! May I not be a stumbling block to others because of my spiritual condition (lukewarm is a big turn-off to lost people; it’s called hypocrisy).

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

From yesterday:
Chaste- Virtuous, undefiled, stainless, kept. Thoughts lead to actions. God says for us to guard our hearts. Thoughts, hearts/feelings, actions–they’re all connected!

There are quite a few areas that we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, Fear. We looked at Entitlement and Lust yesterday; today, we look at Pride, Vanity and Impatience.

Pride– There is good pride and bad pride. Good pride is rejoicing in another person’s victories, achievements, or place in life (like, a child or grandchild); it always has to do with love for that person and wanting the best for that person. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:10. Bad pride is at the expense of someone else. We measure our goodness or abilities by comparing ourselves to others and seeing ourselves as better. God loves all His children and prospective children, and He takes exception to those who look down on them. Both James (the younger half-brother of Jesus and pastor of First Church, Jerusalem) and Peter quoted this proverb: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5. The reference is to a boxer squaring off against an opponent. DON’T TRY TO GO A ROUND WITH THE LORD! We must remember, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than [or before] yourselves.” Philippians 2:3.

Vanity“Vanity, vanity! All is vanity!” Ecclesiastes 1:2. When Solomon said it, he really meant “difficult to understand.” When we say vanity, we mean conceitedness. There is a good bit of pride mixed in with vanity. We must not think too highly of  ourselves. In fact, Paul warns the Corinthians, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12. We must measure ourselves by the grace given us by remembering that grace is given and needed because we don’t deserve it. We bring nothing to God’s table of grace except our humble hearts. Paul redirects our attention from our outward appearance to our hearts, Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds [of obedience], appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” 

Impatience– The lack of patience. When we become impatient, we lose God’s perspective on the matter: We get sharp with our words, we take matters into our own hands, and we force situations beyond the Spirit’s leadership. In other words, we SIN! Patience is a discipline, so impatience is a lack of discipline. What happens when we have no discipline? A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3. Learning that discipline is good and worth striving for is the first step in leading a disciplined life. Sounds kinda simple, but it’s true. We must decide that it’s worth having before we will work for it. Here is a banner verse for the impatient person, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2. Want to be like Christ? Be patient.

Let’s not be lukewarm about these human tendencies. Let’s be humble with each other, modest in our dress, talk, and actions, and live disciplined lives, not going off half-cocked, but waiting for the LORD’s instruction. Let’s stay close to our SOURCE: JESUS!

Abba, these tendencies are difficult to overcome. In fact, they are impossible without Your Spirit giving us first the desire to overcome them and then the power to do it. Make it so, LORD Jesus, make it so. Amen.

Proverbs 17 6-17-20

What is our greatest need? Purification for our sins. Without it, life is futile and death is worse!

1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

If this verse is taken as a metaphor for the soul, then to be at peace with ourselves and God is better than anything this world has to offer. Having our sins forgiven is a big deal to God because it allows Him to be with us. We have no spiritual idea what we looked like: Dead in our sins, willfully disobedient, rebellious in nature, brute beasts that didn’t even know right from wrong, marred, filthy…we get the picture. Yet, even in our pitiful condition, God gave His Son–and His Son gave His life–for us so that we could be reunited with the Father through the Son.

Here is our text verse:

Hebrews 1:3 (NIV)
[3] 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.
The phrase “once for all” is used in Romans 6:10, which says, “The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. It is also used 5 times in Hebrews (same context), and 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. I love these last words, “to bring you to God.” Wow! That says it all.
But wait! There’s more:
Hebrews 2:14-15 (NIV)
[14] Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— [15] and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
We have so much for which to be thankful. Let’s not take for granted our relationship with God and the fellowship we share with the Spirit. Indeed, if we treat it with contempt or apathy, we must consider carefully these words:
1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. Hebrews 2:1-3
Abba, I pray for my readers that they would regain the joy of their salvation, that excitement and gratitude that flowed from their hearts when they first received the Good News and invited You via Your Spirit to live in them. May it be a daily experience, Lord. In fact, may it grow and grow each day! Thank You for living in me and proving over and over how much You love me. I love You, too. Amen.
*From the Strong’s Concordance-

Purification/Purge: 4160 with 2512 (katharismos, from which we get the word, catharsis, to complete with absolution)–bear, + bewray [to reveal or expose], cast out, execute, have purged, Compare 4238.
4238: A primary verb; to “practise”, that is, perform repeatedly or habitually (thus differing from 4160, which properly refers to a single act).

Proverbs 17 5-17-20

Why are you going to church today? For whom have you lived all week? Are you seeking Him through repentance?

10 A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.

The tendency is to go to church–whether in person or online–out of habit. What we need is a refresher course on WHY CHURCH? We go to church to meet with other Christians. We fellowship, worship together, praise the name of Jesus, and then listen to our pastor who has a message from the LORD for us. We then respond to this message by aligning ourselves to the commands of the Word of God and the message from His servant, our shepherd, and pledge ourselves to Jesus. We should be rejuvenated and recharged in our spirits as we head into another week.

If we consider church like an urgent care center, we find in the waiting room sick people and hurt people who are waiting to “see the doctor.” The pastor is the one who takes us back to the examination room where the Great Physician sees us. Sometimes, in order to get better, the doctor has to hurt us, for instance, a broken arm needs setting, or a splinter needs to be removed. If they have any of that bright orange stuff my mom used to put on our injuries, THAT HURTS! But, it disinfects and protects until the body heals.

Concerning our verse, we go to church to hear from the Holy Spirit. We pray that He will speak to us through the singing, the reading of the Word, and/or through the message. WE NEED A FRESH WORD FROM THE LORD. Even if it is a rebuke, we relish it because it is from Him.

King David felt the same way:

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness;
    let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head.
My head will not refuse it,
    for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers [even myself].

How would you prefer to be corrected, through a rebuke or through consequences? At least, through a rebuke you recognize that the LORD is trying to correct you. Through consequences, many people miss the fact that they are even being reprimanded. They think it’s just bad luck.

Let’s go to church (even virtual church) with the idea of hearing from God today. Let’s praise Him along with the singers and then listen to the sermon with the idea of God speaking to us. Then let’s respond to His Spirit. Let’s determine in our hearts to be and do according to what He has revealed to us about ourselves and what He has told us to do. Even His rebuke is encouraging “because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son [child].” Hebrews 12:6.

Abba, I pray that as I lead music today that I would be the lead worshiper. May my life be in alignment with You so that I may be a clean conduit of Your love and grace. May joy be my garment today as I praise You. May You speak to Your children as we meet together. I know You will be present. May Your Spirit link us with those who are still at home. May they sense Your love and concern, O LORD. Bless us as Your people. Call us to Your work. Amen.

Proverbs 17 4-17-20

Thoughts spoken are public knowledge. Let’s make sure what we say honors the LORD and won’t come back to bite us.

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

Many of the things we think simply don’t need to be said. If we don’t say it, we cannot be held accountable for it. Proverbs 10:19 says, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Not that not saying ANYTHING is best. “The cruelest lies are often told in silence.” – Robert Louis Stevenson. Timing is important, too. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11.

The chapter ends with some very sage advice:

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.

So, how do we master our speech? James says that we NEVER will, that it will ALWAYS be a source of evil and trouble:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:6-8

Why? Because our thoughts naturally tend toward selfish, uncontrolled, rebellious, deceitful, inappropriate, addictive–sinful thoughts. Christ deals with us in our hearts concerning these things, but when we speak them, we cause all kinds of problems! Our words become concrete to us and poisoned arrows to others.

How? How do we keep from sinning with our mouths? How do we become godly talkers?

  1. Use words with restraint. Don’t rush into a conversation with others. Stop and evaluate EVERY WORD that comes to mind.
  2. Be having a conversation with the Spirit at the same time that you are having a conversation with someone else. If you are in contact with Him, then you stand a good chance of catching errant words BEFORE they leave your lips.
  3. If it’s a serious conversation, bathe it in prayer before having it. Think about what needs to be said and craft a rough draft either in your mind or on paper. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide the conversation.
  4. If you’re conversing with a friend (or friends), just remember to:
    1. Keep it friendly; no confrontational statements (don’t pick a fight).
    2. Stay away from derogatory comments even in jest. They always have a barb on the end.
    3. Stay FAR away from sexual comments of any kind. Even stay away from body parts. Our minds just don’t need to go there.
    4. A great verse to use as a guide is Ephesians 5:4, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Let’s lift each other up with encouraging words!

There is one more warning I want to give: IF IT IS IN PRINT, BEWARE!!! In fact, try not to say private things in a text or email. They have a tendency to not stay private. If we live with the attitude that they WON’T, then we will always be SAFE.

Are you scared, yet? We ought to be!!! But, be encouraged: One of these days, we won’t have to worry about what will come out of our mouths because we will be glorified and will not have to fight sinful thoughts anymore. Won’t that be GRAND?! Until then, we had better implement these verses:

I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin;
I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked [anybody].” Psalm 39:1

Set a guard over my mouthLord; keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not let my heart be drawn to what is evil so that I take part in wicked deeds [conversations] along with those who are evildoers; do not let me eat their delicacies. Psalm 141:3-4

Abba, I know that controlling my tongue begins with controlling my thoughts. The ONLY way I know to do that is to replace them with Your thoughts. I find those in the Bible and in prayer. May I linger long in Your Word and may I have a running conversation with You all day today. Please don’t let me “set anything on fire” today! Counting on You, amen.

Addendum: I do the most damage when my blood sugar is low. If I feel that I am in such a state, I quickly eat something and give it a minute to take effect. Robin usually pops something in my mouth the moment I come through the door on Sunday mornings after church because I’m drained and famished. She is a lifesaver! My children and grandchildren rise up and call her blessed. 🙂

Proverbs 17 3-17-20

Who would have thought that this St. Patrick’s Day would bring such panic and chaos? God is still on His throne!

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

History: St. Patrick lived during the fifth century. When he was 16, he was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates. After six years, he escaped and returned to his family. After studying for the ministry, HE RETURNED TO IRELAND! He is given credit for evangelizing Ireland and “converting a society practising a form of Celtic polytheism (Wikipedia),” one which ruled the people through fear of the gods. God used the circumstances of young Patrick’s life to give him exposure to those who needed the Gospel. Wow!

What is interesting to me is that it sounds like America today! Our nation, and indeed, the world, is being ruled by fear right now. How should we, as Christians, view this present crisis? God uses EVERY circumstance for our good.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

This verse is a good one to memorize. Just note that God works for our good; He doesn’t necessarily CAUSE bad things to happen in order to work them for our good. We can simply rest in the knowledge that God has our lives in His capable hands. It’s the next verse that gives me great comfort:

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined [worked out ahead of time] to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

THIS is the goal of God for our lives. Therefore, we can rest assured that in EVERYTHING that happens to us, God is using it to make us more like Christ. How smooth that transition is depends upon our willingness to relinquish control. Speaking of which, I was led to look up the definition of the word, “subdue.”

Subdue-

  1. To conquer and bring into subjection;
  2. to overpower by superior force, overcome;
  3. to bring under control;
  4. to bring under cultivation;
  5. to reduce intensity, force, or vividness = to soften.

In our Christian lives, we are to conquer our sinful nature and bring it into subjection; we are to overpower by superior force the “old man” within us and overcome the tendencies of our deceitful hearts; we are to bring under control our thoughts, and to cultivate His thoughts; we are to reduce the intensity, force, and vividness of sin in our lives by softening our natures to be like Christ, who is humble, gentle, and long suffering, WITHOUT muting our zeal for the LORD (Romans 12:11).

Concerning our present circumstances, let us allow the Spirit to allay our fears, which means to calm and quieten our spirits. Let us redeem the time by using it to increase our family time, our devotion time, and our worship. We might have to get creative, but all the better as the Spirit leads us!

LORD, You know I can’t subdue my heart on my own. In fact, I must be in complete obedience to You (Your Spirit), otherwise, I will miss the whole point of the exercise, which is learning to reign like You WITH You (2 Tim. 2:12a). If I am seated with You in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6), then You are teaching me to reign. May I pay close attention so that, when we come back to earth with You, I will be able to competently reign with grace in humility, gentleness and love. May I start NOW, Abba, by practicing humility, grace and love to those around me, particularly during this time of crisis. Amen.

 

Proverbs 17 2-17-20

Why do we hang so tightly to that which destroys us and keeps us from God?

16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,
    when they are not able to understand it [unwilling to give up their sin]?

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

I’ve mentioned before that I like to watch Imetmessiah.com, a youtube site that shows testimonies of Jews who have come to Jesus. I am struck by the number of them who, upon salvation, have a voracious appetite for the Word of God and to learn all they can about Yeshua (Jesus). It would seem that salvation brings this desire to know our Savior.

Where are you concerning your desire to know Your LORD? Regardless of your answer, I offer two exhortations:

  1. Pray for a higher desire. Robin calls it “the want-to to want to.” It is a plea for God to override our natural desires and give us His desires. He wants to pour out His Spirit upon His people–but we are not ready!  What stands in our way?
  2. We must acknowledge our sin and confess it. Sin keeps us at arm’s length from Him. People, people, if we are to have revival, then we must give up our sins. I have given to Him all I know–but I know there is still much darkness within me. I fight arrogance, vanity, pride, covetousness, and other dark thoughts. The fight itself is not sin, but it shows me that I am one step away from spiritual calamity. I NEED HIM!!!

The story of the silversmith has always be a favorite of mine because it demonstrates the process of sanctification (being made into His likeness) in our lives. As the silversmith heats the silver to a certain temperature, dross rises to the top, which he scoops off. He then turns the heat up another notch, at which dross rises to the top and he scoops it off. He does this process seven times, and maybe more. He knows the silver is ready when he can see his reflection clearly in the silver.

As we give revealed sin over to Him, He turns the heat up in our lives. Each person’s “heat” is different, so I won’t even try to give examples. Suffice it to say that we each feel the heat of His gaze. It may seem like we give something to God only to take it back again, but not so. He separates us from our sin as far as the east is from the west. What we are experiencing is a deeper heating upon which more dross–a deeper dross–rises to the top. He repeats this process until we become clear enough for Him to see His reflection in us.

Corresponding Scripture references are:

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Psalm 12:6

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory [the process], which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

We will know we are ready for revival when we are willing to set aside our schedules, our daily activities, and our regular diversions to seek God in His Word and in prayer. We might even seek out prayer meetings! I have a prayer time from 6 to 7 at Brookwood BC on Wednesday mornings. I invite you to join me.

Also, my pastor, Bryan, has asked his flock–and I am asking you– to join him in reading Psalm 51 and praying this verse every day this week. Here are some things for which to pray:

New International Version
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

New Living Translation
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

English Standard Version
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Contemporary English Version
Create pure thoughts in me and make me faithful again

Good News Translation
Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. 

International Standard Version
God, create a pure heart in me, and renew a right attitude within me.

NET Bible
Create for me a pure heart, O God! Renew a resolute spirit within me! 

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
Create in me a pure heart, oh, God, and renew your right Spirit within me.

GOD’S WORD® Translation
Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a faithful spirit within me.

Revival won’t come on its own. The people of God must prepare for it. Groundwork must be laid. We MUST plead with the LORD to “restore to us the joy of His salvation and grant us a willing spirit to sustain us” (Psalm 51:12). May we be ready and willing to give up anything and everything to get it.

Abba, I once again present myself to You. Make me clean inside and out so that people can see Jesus in me. May I be Christ to others in such a way that they want You, too. Give me opportunities to witness for You regardless of the cost. I am Yours. Amen.

 

Proverbs 17 1-17-20

Portraying Christ in how we treat each other is how we shine our light. They’ll know we are Christians by our love for each other.

1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Shining our light begins at home. We betray ourselves when we get angry at our spouse, the kids, the dog or cat, the TV and other inanimate objects. It reveals an impatient spirit with erroneous expectations. Those expectations are:

  1. Unspoken– People cannot meet an unspoken expectation because they do not know there is one. Having this expectation reveals an arrogant spirit.
  2. Unrealistic– Sometimes, we have expectations that simply cannot be reached. We need to place them in the hands of Jesus and ask for wisdom and discernment. This expectation reveals a desire to be God in our own lives.
  3. Unmet– This expectation happens when the other two are in play. How we respond reveals our heart. Remember that the heart merely amplifies our inner selves; what comes out? Cutting or curse words? Anger? Explosive temper? A desire to lash out? to punish (either by striking or by withdrawing our approval and/or friendship)? This expectation reveals a lack of maturity.

Finding our peace in the LORD Jesus is important; it’s the only way to allow the little things to pass by without getting under our skin, so to speak. Let’s look at some verses:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

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

Get rid all of bitterness, rage and anger, brawling [fist-fighting] and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate toward one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Let the peace of God rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

How do we go about making these verses come true in our lives? By daily reading them and asking the Spirit to apply them. Ask Him to call your attention to every time you start to go down the road of one of those expectations. Stop and restart. For instance,

“Why did you do it that–wait. I’m sorry. Let me start over. I see that you did that a certain way. I was curious as to your motive; did you have something specific in mind?”

This example shows how the Spirit makes us aware of what we are doing even as we do it. He actually shows us BEFORE we do it when we get better at catching ourselves before we start. The trick is to pause before responding/reacting and give Him time to warn us.

We CAN do this, folks. We have all our lives to get it right. But, let’s not take ALL OUR LIVES to start working on it. Let’s start today by diving into His Word.

Abba, You know how I have worked on this and still get it wrong. Even so, I have enjoyed the interaction with Your Spirit. I have also made great strides, so I’m encouraged. I know You are pleased with me because I can feel Your pleasure and Your peace. I want to be better at it, so please take me higher up and further into Your ways and Your desires. I want to be just like You, Jesus. Amen.

Addendum to 12-17-19

In the story earlier, there is some controversy over its ability to be verified. Here are some notes from some bloggers who are sticklers for detail:

  1. From Nick Jones at Christian-Intellect.blogspot.com: Most material from the story was taken from the writings of the 19th century scholar, Alfred Edersheim. Where there is evidence for a Tower of the Flock, there is NO written evidence for the swaddling clothes of the priests nor them laying the lambs in a manger for safe-keeping.
  2. From Shawn Beaty in response to Nick’s blog: “Thank you for this article as well. Like you, I could not find any scholarly evidence to support the practice of the passover lamb being wrapped in swaddling. I have been to the tower of the flock and there is no way Christ was born in the tower like DeYoung alleges [NOT part of the story I quoted is a postulation that Christ was actually BORN in the tower of the flock]. Consequently [Alternatively] there is a threshing floor and a cave very close to there (within 100 yards). The cave has the Davidic symbol over the entrance. Above it there is the ruin of a late first-2nd century church building. It is also right next to the Roman Road that would have passed through the area. It can not be proved but it shows that there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to prove that Constantine’s mother was looking for a great place to build the church of the Nativity [a few miles away] and [was not actually looking for] the actual birth place of Christ. But I remind us all, no site is Holy! God is!”
  3. A shepherd/goatherd gave testimony that sheep don’t need swaddling. In fact, they stand up pretty quickly and take care of themselves. Humans are swaddled; sheep are not.

As we can see, we must be careful about what we count as fact. Just because it’s in a book doesn’t make it Gospel. My thanks to Robin for looking it up. My reckoning is that if God wants us to know such details, then He will reveal them as He has so many important facts, i.e. the Dead Sea Scrolls, the excavation of the underground Jerusalem that is going on even today!

What we CAN count on is the biblical account of Christ’s birth. It’s miraculous all by itself!

Proverbs 17 12-17-19

Today I’m going to meddle: What do you do with your spare time? Are you redeeming it? Learning more for His kingdom?

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

The word, “keeps,” is important in that it reminds us that we need to continue at the process. Once we read Proverbs in the morning, that isn’t the end of His lesson for us. He wants to teach us all day. He will, too, if we stay sensitive to His presence and participation in our lives. We all know it to be true, but do we do it?

We live in the age of information. We have SO MUCH INFORMATION at our fingertips on our phones, our computers, and TV’s that it’s hard to comprehend. I want to encourage you to dig deeper into a subject that will give you insight into:

  • how to counsel people;
  • things that are proving the Bible true in archeology, biology, astronomy, chemistry, etc. and sharing them with folks;
  • what’s going on in the world concerning Christians, evangelism and persecution;
  • how God is moving among the Jews and Muslims!
  • creation and a young-earth biblical concept;
  • an aspect of the Bible that interests you like “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, “Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts” by Michael Norten, anything by C.S. Lewis, etc.

Speaking of which, here is an excerpt from, “Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts”, concerning Christmas that I found very interesting:

The Lamb

Let’s take a closer look at the lamb. A number of years ago I heard Jimmy DeYoung, an outstanding news commentator and Bible teacher, make a presentation at a Bible prophecy conference. Since it was during the Christmas season he was teaching about the birth of Jesus in the first chapter of Luke. He read to us Luke 2:8-12:

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the Lord said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’”

Dr. DeYoung then asked the audience a surprising question: “Did you ever wonder why this was a sign?” This left us all speechless. I had to admit to myself that I had never even questioned it. Why was it a sign? Dr. DeYoung had us turn to the book of Micah. We were all familiar with Micah 5:2, which prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, but many of us were not familiar with Micah 4:8, which prophesied that he would be announced at the tower of the flock (Migdal Eder). Dr. DeYoung, who had lived in Jerusalem for a number of years, told us that Migdal Eder there was a two-story tower that had been built in a pasture outside Bethlehem. The remains of the tower had recently been discovered.

Dr. DeYoung explained that the shepherds in the field had not all been the lowly shepherds that we had always assumed. They were actually priests from the temple who were doing shepherding work to assist in the birthing of the sacrificial lambs so that they would be unblemished for sacrifice. While the shepherds were keeping watch over the flock from the top floor of the tower, the shepherd-priests would bring the pregnant sheep in from the field to the tower’s bottom floor, where the sheep would give birth. As soon as the lamb was born, the priests would wrap it with strips of cloth made from old priestly undergarments. This was done to keep the lamp from getting blemished. The priests would then place the lamb onto a manger to make sure it would not get trampled. Wow! So, when these shepherd-priests went into Bethlehem and saw the baby Jesus wrapped in cloths, lying in a manger, they must have exclaimed, “There is the Lamb of God, prepared for sacrifice, unblemished!” They had to be excited beyond description, because they were the only ones who could have understood the sign. It was just for them from God. It was personal!

NOTE: Doing some research to verify this story. Always check our facts!

I challenge you to go outside your normal routine and find something to read or watch on YouTube, something that grows your faith. Ask the LORD to lead you to something that will infuse you with excitement concerning His Word, our current times, and even His future Return!

Abba, there is SO MUCH out there that proves You are God and that Your Word is TRUE. May we care enough and make the time to search for these hidden treasures. It’s so cool when we open them and feel the excitement of learning something new, as well as feeling Your pleasure. It’s just like Christmas! Continue to reveal Yourself to us, O LORD. Getting to know You is what a relationship with You is all about. Amen.

Proverbs 17 11-17-19

Come, take a journey with me to the island of Crete. Let’s study Titus and the letter Paul wrote him as he ministered there.

16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?

The currency here is not actual money, but ability. What good is wisdom to a person who doesn’t intend to use it? These are the people with which Titus had to deal.

10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

Invariably, there are some folks who cannot give their whole lives to Jesus. The harder they hold onto some part of their lives, the more adamant they become about keeping it. That part becomes their focus and ruins their relationship with the Father.

Then, there are those who are “sent” by Satan to infiltrate and sow seeds of discord and spread lies. These people may think that they are “free,” but they are really bound to Satan with long chains.

12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This saying is true.

Before we go judging Paul too harshly for “buying into” such a statement, we must realize that the saying describes us, too! We all lie; we all are evil in our flesh; we all are lazy and look for the easy way out, putting off what we know is right; we all are gluttons who take a good thing to extremes and use it in ways that are not godly.

Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 

I looked up the word, “sharply,” in the Greek and guess what it means: “Sharply, curtly, severely.” Notice the word, “harshly,” is not used. We must always speak with love and grace, but we must speak the truth.

15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

In those young and fledgling house churches, there were many who were caught up in the initial wave of the Spirit of God moving on Crete who did not actually believe. They were still living according to the flesh and they had not given themselves wholly to Jesus. This description is still accurate today. We have many in our churches who pay lip service, but don’t really believe. There are several other reasons to come to church:

  1. Habit and tradition. It’s how they were raised.
  2. To keep peace and harmony at home (the spouse wants him/her to go).
  3. Fellowship. They have friends there.
  4. Business: Connections and relationships.
  5. Agenda. Some people come to cause problems, sway people to their way of thinking, and some even to seduce!

Paul encouraged Titus, as his true son in their common faith (verse 4) to appoint faithful men to be in charge and to guard the fellowship. The role of pastor carries quite a burden. Let’s pray for our pastors as they guard the sheep from the wolves.

As we go to church today, may we go with minds open to the people around us. Pray for them that they may meet with God and give themselves wholly to Him. May we do the same!

Abba, I give myself wholly to You today. Only You have the words of life. Only You have the Plan for mankind. I just want to be a part of what You are doing. Make me like You, Jesus, make me like You. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-19

Want to know what is in your heart? Give God time; He’ll show you.

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

We have a society that loves to commit to teams, groups, activities, studies, etc. and then grows weary, becomes bored, figures out it takes too much time and effort, or is offered a more interesting team, group, activity, study, etc. and quits the first for the second.

We have churches with people who love Jesus, but don’t know Him well enough to commit to Him. They are part of the church and will come occasionally, but family, vacations, work, games, etc. keep them out more than they are in.

We have Christians who claim to know Christ, but are not interested in taking the time each day to read His Word, to apply it to their lives, and to learn to hear His voice. Instead, they trust their own logic, their own fears, and their own–well, to put it bluntly, arrogance.

I can’t judge people’s salvation, but I often wonder if these people really have a working, walking relationship with the Savior. There’s one way to find out, and that is to be tested. We live in a fallen world and we all will face sickness, accidents, physical failure, and death. We live with fallen people and will face strife, adversity, relational failure, desertion, and even hatred–and that’s just from our families! WE WILL BE TESTED. Does God bring them on? He certainly has that right as Omnipotent God, but I think in His Omniscience, He sees our future and what is coming; He tries to prepare us for it, even avoid it if we will listen; still, He promises to walk with us through whatever it is.

What we must remember is that this life is all about our relationship with Him. He uses whatever comes our way to get us to interact with Him. As long as we live life on our terms, avoid consulting Him, ignore Him and His direction, and relegate Him to times of desperation, we miss the point of salvation. In fact, salvation may not have happened, yet.

Jesus was quite clear that to become His disciple, we must give up everything. NOW. When He asks.

23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross [die to self] daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

When He says, “follow me,” He means like His disciples did: they left their families, their work, and their homes and went with Jesus. How many Christians have actually done that? Have you? Until that happens, we are untested. Until we are tested, we don’t truly know. Faith is a gift; it is based upon belief + action. The “gift” part is that God comes to us and says, “Do you trust me? Take My hand and come with me.” Our part is to take His hand and go with Him. It may be getting out of the boat on choppy waters; it may be into a fiery furnace; it may even be into a kangaroo court. Wherever it is, interacting with Him is worth more than ANYTHING in this world.

Forsaking All, I Trust Him.” This is the acronym of FAITH. Are you there, yet?

Abba, I know I’m preaching to the choir, but we all need to be reminded that it’s all about You and knowing You. Please continue to make Yourself known to me. If adversity, trial, and calamity are in my future, I KNOW You will carry me through them; please redeem them through Your grace by using them to refine me like silver, like fine gold. Purify my heart, O Lord. I want to be like YOU. Amen.

Proverbs 17 9-17-19

Ready for God to use you? Isn’t that for what you signed up? He uses willing vessels, not necessarily filled vessels.

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

To be filled with knowledge is good, but to be filled with His Spirit is much better! There is a paradox at work in our lives, which is that the more we know, the less we depend upon Him to work through us. What’s funny is that the thing we need to learn the most is to be completely dependent upon Him!

I’ve heard it said that God equips the called rather than calling the equipped. If we want true equipping, we can talk to a doctor who has been through what he treats, like juvenile leukemia. Was that NOT the kind of knowledge we meant? Would anyone voluntarily go through something like that in order to sympathize with his patients and to be able to treat them more accurately*? None of whom I am aware. We could easily use breast cancer or diabetes for examples. Those we know who are going through times of “testing” with these examples are learning to walk with Jesus VERY closely.

Beth Moore gives three Scenarios in her study on Daniel concerning fiery trials in our lives. It is based upon the account of the three Hebrew men and the fiery furnace:

Scenario A: We can be delivered from the fire.

Dividend: Our faith is built.

Scenario B: We can be delivered through the fire.

Dividend: Our faith is refined.

Scenario C: We can be delivered by the fire straight into the arms of Jesus!

Dividend: Our faith is perfected.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

The word, “proven,” is showing on the outside what is already on the inside. If our intention is to bring praise, glory and honor to Jesus Christ, then we are ready for whatever comes our way and however He wants to use us.

Looking beyond this world to His world is something with which each of us must come to terms. He wants us with Him (John 17:24), and we know that eventually we all go to be with Him. When and how are up to His plan and how we choose to fit into it.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Are we ready and willing to be put in harm’s way, to go through the crucible, for the Lord’s glory? to win someone to Christ? to show people that our faith is real and that Jesus is real? Let’s renew our commitment to Him this morning!

Dear Lord Jesus, I commit myself once again to Your will and Your way. May You use me in whatever capacity You decide. I just want to be available to You. My life is Yours. Amen.

* Jesus did. 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16