Proverbs 18 11-18-22

Determining what is a loving act and what is not is vital to living a Christ-like life.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Building on this theme, Paul continues,

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothingIf I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Paul is building on the teaching of Jesus that to love God above all else is borne out in how we treat our fellow humans, His children (in the sense that we are all created by Him). To speak to another individual in a condemning manner or with contempt belittles that person and makes the speaker the judge of that person. Jesus said not to do that,

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Notice the third part of this verse, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” We all must realize that we stand in need of forgiveness from the Father. He is ready to pour out His forgiveness on those who are in a position to receive that forgiveness. If we take a stance of judgment against our brother or sister, we bow up our backs and make ourselves hard. We are “out of position” to receive His forgiveness, which are mercy and grace. Jesus said it again,

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

Contemptuous attitudes segregate people into groups, which is a type of pecking order, or caste system. We have the “haves” and the “have nots.” Jesus would have none of it. This worldly way of thinking is not for the child of God. We are to love everyone as fellow children of God (in the sense of all being created by Him) and as potential brothers and sisters in Christ. Even their sin cannot separate us from them if they are working to allow Christ to free them from bondage–as we all are.

Rather than segregating everyone into “groups,” let’s work on everyone being united in Christ, making “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). We have “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:6).

Abba, when will we learn that You want us to love each other? I don’t think the problem is our wanting to love; I think it’s about HOW to love. As we look at the rest of 1 Corinthians 13, help us to see that loving others IS loving You. Amen.

Proverbs 18 10-18-22

Being like Jesus is simple. All we have to do is walk in step with the Spirit. Notice I didn’t say, “easy…”

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Yesterday, we began a quest to discover the culture of God. By studying 1 Corinthians 13, we first found that God is AGAPE love. What does AGAPE look like? Let’s look at the next verse:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 

This selfless, sacrificial love of God has several descriptive elements:

  • Love is patient- patience means, “to bear.” In soldier’s terms, it means “to be the last man standing,” or “to outlast your opponent.” In Christian terms, it means to take all that our opponent/enemy has to offer and keep loving. It’s the only way to win some people to Christ. If anything, it will be used as a testament against them at judgment. We pray the first option.
  • Love is kind- this kindness is that which seeks the good of all, sees the good in all, and treats everyone and everything with the respect they deserve as creations of the Father. It’s an attitude that reflects the character of God. Kindness rules out rudeness, arrogance, and impatience, among other contemptuous attitudes.
  • Love does not envy- To look at what others have and want it means that we have taken our eyes off of our Savior. We have turned away from our light and we no longer reflect that light to the people around us. We praise God for the blessings that come upon others and trust God for what we need.
  • Love does not boast- Boasting comes when we take credit for that which we have not done. If all good things comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17), then we receive from Him all that we have, so it is not ours about which to boast. Anything bad that comes to us is either from the enemy or from our own poor choices.
  • Love is not proud- We are talking excessive pride here. It’s one thing to take pride in our work, but excessive pride is when we begin to think that we are entitled. This entitlement gives us the “right” to look down on others. What most don’t realize is that it also creates fear, fear of losing face, fear of being embarrassed, and fear of being found out that we are not what we seem.

The only way to be patient, kind, not envious, boastful or proud is to learn to walk in the Spirit. We walk in the Spirit by being constantly aware of His presence and participation in our lives and to ask Him constantly what is the next right thing to do. We pay attention when He draws our attention to something or someone; we listen much more than we speak, and speak only encouraging words, words that lift up and meet needs (Ephesians 4:29). Keeping in step with Him is our daily goal:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

Abba, as we walk through this passage, may we put on Your character as we would put on armor. May we clothe ourselves in Your righteousness (to meld two verses together: Romans 13:14 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). Being like You is the entire goal of our lives (1 John 3:2). Help us to see Christ clearly, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 18 9-18-22

Jesus is coming back to establish His kingdom on earth, thus joining the two kingdoms together. THAT we know for sure.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8

As we continue our look at the Baptist Faith & Message, we turn now to:

X. Last Things

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

Isaiah 2:411:9Matthew 16:2718:8-919:2824:27,30,36,4425:31-4626:64Mark 8:389:43-48Luke 12:40,4816:19-2617:22-3721:27-28John 14:1-3Acts 1:1117:31Romans 14:101 Corinthians 4:515:24-28,35-582 Corinthians 5:10Philippians 3:20-21Colossians 1:53:41 Thessalonians 4:14-185:1ff.; 2 Thessalonians 1:7ff.; 21 Timothy 6:142 Timothy 4:1,8Titus 2:13Hebrews 9:27-28James 5:82 Peter 3:7ff.; 1 John 2:283:2Jude 14Revelation 1:183:1120:1-22:13.

Honestly, I had expected a more detailed description. What I like is that there is room for differences in interpretation concerning end times. There are several points on which we can all agree:

  1. Jesus is coming back (Acts 1:10-11).
  2. Jesus will bring everything to unity under Himself (Ephesians 1:10).
  3. Everyone will rise from the dead, some to live and some to be condemned (John 5:28-29).
  4. We are promised glorified bodies that are just like the one Jesus has (Philippians 3:21).

I have a friend who is a Pan-Millennialist while I am a Pro-Millennialist. He says, “Everything will pan out like Jesus wants it to,” while I say, “Whatever Jesus wants to do, I’m for it.” Our faith is in our Lord, and we are working to help Him grow His kingdom.

Abba, when I read passages that can be taken different ways, I trust You to know what they are actually saying, and that if it is important for me to know, that You would make it plain to me. When You don’t, I still trust You to know what You’re doing. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

Proverbs 18 8-18-22

“Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

29:23 Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Mt. 20:26-27 “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

There is no graceful way of saying it: Bigotry is wrong. Determining people’s worth according to the color of their skin is senseless. What they don’t know is that they are really judging according not to how much melanin a person has, but how much he retains in the cells of his skin. From, “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body,” page 70.

Why there are no “white” people

Human skin is normally never truly white, though some people have less melanin in their skin than others. Surprisingly, all humans, regardless of the shade (“color”) of their skin, have approximately the same number of melanocytes per square inch of skin. Even albinos have melanocytes, but they produce colorless, rather than pigmented, melanosomes. The granules are colorless because the enzyme necessary for producing melanin is either missing or defective.

Interestingly, these colorless melanosomes are still taken into the epidermal stem cells, where they form an umbrella just as in the normal skin. The result, however, is something like a clear plastic umbrella–not very good for warding the sun.
Some people have darker skin than others, not because they have more melanocytes but because they retain a greater amount of melanin after the cells are no longer able to divide. People with lighter shades of skin break down most of their melanosomes.

While DNA is less vulnerable to UV when the cells no longer divide, retaining more pigment is still advantageous. People with darker skin are more resistant to sunburns and skin cancer. Yet people with very dark skin face another problem–they may not be able to produce enough vitamin D.

Judging people by their skin color is contrary to the way God sees us. The apostle Paul tells us how God sees us–and goes much further than skin color:

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Jesus is not only the Great Emancipator, He is the Great Liberator, as well. Let’s thank God for putting us all on the same playing field. “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”

Abba, please make us blind–color blind. May we see people according to Your mercy and Your grace rather than on any outward appearance, which includes gender. It’s important to You and needs to be important to us. Amen.

Proverbs 18 7-18-22

Just being different is not enough. We need to be the right kind of different. Jesus-different.

24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Over the past two days, we have discussed Romans 12:9-13 and 14-18. Today, we finish with 19-21. The Jesus Way is different than the world’s way. The world would have us love our friends and hate our enemies; it would have us seek revenge upon those who hurt us or our loved ones. The Jesus Way is different. The Father wants to shower mercy and grace down upon every living soul regardless of what he or she has done. Humanly, we cannot conceive such grace, much less give it. Jesus gives us His power via His presence to think as the Father does, which, by the way, is exactly how Jesus thinks, and His power to do His will. Let’s read Jesus’ words again,

44 But I tell you: love your enemies! Pray for people who persecute you! 45 That way, you’ll be children of your father in heaven! After all, he makes his sun rise on bad and good alike, and sends rain both on the upright and on the unjust.

Now, let’s read Romans 12:19-21,

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Paul quotes two OT Scriptures. The first is Deuteronomy 32:35,

35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
    In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
    and their doom rushes upon them.”

Vengeance is the human way of saying that what a person reaps, he sows (Galatians 6:7). Notice the passive wording: “in due time their foot will slip,” which implies that the trail they are on will ultimately fail them and cause them to stumble and fall.

The other Scripture is Proverbs 25:21-22,

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.
22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.

This verse was written around 1,000 years before Christ. Even then, people had glimpses into the true character of God, as is revealed in Jesus’ teaching on loving our enemies. If we want to be like the Father, be like Jesus. Jesus Christ came to show us the Father as He truly is.

The part about leaving room for God’s wrath is about leaving them to the consequences of their actions and how the Lord deals with them through those consequences. Our job is to “over-underreact” (borrowed from Andy Stanley). Do we trust Jesus to take care of us until we die, and then to take us to be with Him? Then our goal should be to honor Him and to give Him the greatest amount of glory our circumstances can create. How do we overcome evil? With good. Even if it kills us. It may be that through our death someone hears the voice of Jesus and responds to His love, mercy and grace. Is that not worth dying for?

Abba, may my life and my death bring glory and honor to You. Amen.

Proverbs 18 6-18-22

Unrealistic, unspoken, and unmet expectations keep us from enjoying life and relationships. Jesus offers a different way…

10 The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Yesterday, we talked about how our preconceived ideas tend to act as filters for how we hear what we are told and what we read. Our views of God and Jesus are that way, too. People tend to project upon God the image of their own earthly fathers. What we need to do is allow the Holy Spirit to rewire our brains according to what Jesus reveals to us about His heavenly Father–who just so happens to be our heavenly Father, too. A passage that speaks to God’s character is Matthew 10:28-31,

28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

What can we learn about God in this passage?

Twice Jesus tells us not to fear Him. The one to fear is the Destroyer (John 10:10), which is the devil.

Jesus calls Him our Father. WOW!

Our Father cares for His creation–every single creature. There are at any given moment 10 quintillion insects alive in the world, 50 billion birds, 1 trillion mammals, and 7.8 billion humans. He’s a mighty BIG God–yet, He cares for us!

He knows intimate details about each of us. That intimate knowledge speaks of a very caring Father.

We are worth more than many sparrows (a little godly humor there). To know how much we are worth to the Father, just look at the cross. “I asked Jesus how much He loved me. He said, ‘This much…’ and He stretched out His hands and died.”

There is a quote in Hebrews from the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 31:6) that tells us that God’s nature and character are always constant, that He is always faithful, and that He is always with us,

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

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

This verse tells us that our security is to be in Him, for He never leaves us or forsakes us. A little further down, we have a confirmation verse:

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Since God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit make up the Trinity and are one God, we can trust that they are immutable, which means “never-changing.” God loved us when He made us, He loves us now, and He will always love us. For those who choose it, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Abba, we have such good news to tell the world. Your love is wider, longer, higher and deeper than we can even know. Your love is even stronger than death! May all hear Your name and trust You for eternal life. May we be part of Your plan to do just that! Amen.

Proverbs 18 5-18-22

The great paradox of Christianity is that in order to live, we must die–but I thought Christ came to die for us?

1:1 The proverbs of Solomon…6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.

Jesus Christ died for us on the cross to draw all people unto Him (John 12:32). As I see it, His death was two-fold:

  1. Even dying the worst death imaginable at the hands of wicked men (of which we are, by nature, part of that group), He forgave us. Completely. For all time.
  2. Jesus went through death and came out on the other side in order to pave the way for all of us. He was the first fruits of all who would rise from the dead. “As the early church fathers testify (from Irenaeus to Athanasius, to the two Gregorys, Cyril and Maximus the Confessor), If Christ were merely God, He could not die. But if He were merely man, he could not defeat death. So Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, enters death by death to annihilate death itself. This victory is made complete and manifest in the resurrection and ascension of Christ.”*

But, accepting His gift of forgiveness and new life is not just a one-time event. He is now our Lord. Learning to follow His orders rather than our own (or Satan’s) is now the major effort of our lives. W e must understand that in our minds, we have lived our lives where we exalted ourselves above God, or at least, to the same level as God by choosing our own way. Jesus calls us to take the cruciform path (the way of the cross) and “crucify” ourselves, “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23), which means to submit to the Lordship of Christ as if we had died and He lives through us. Thus, we have this attitude from the apostle Paul,

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. Galatians 2:20

I love the phrase, “If anyone would come after me,” because it emphasizes intention of the will. We must determine in our hearts that He is who we want and that we are willing to take up our cross to follow Him. I also love the word, “daily,” because it emphasizes that following Jesus is not just a one-time event, but an everyday lifestyle. We, therefore, exercise a living death, a foretaste of what is to come. We know by His promises that we will die and then be reborn with our heavenly bodies to live physically and literally with Christ.

Good News, right?

Abba, help me get it through my thick skull that the cruciform life (the way of the cross) is the only way to live. It’s what You meant by losing my life to find it in You. May I live continuously in Your death so that I can experience Your life. Amen.

*What ‘Christ Died for our Sins’ Meant to the Fathers – Brad Jersak, point 4-C

Proverbs 18 4-18-22

Some of the best scientists in history took the Bible at its word and launched their research on that basis. Smart!

11 Honest scales and balances belong to the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making [the LORD is the creator of all things mathematical and scientific].

I’m reading a book called, “Traced*.” It is a microbiologist’s journey into the heritage of the human race. It’s quite interesting, albeit a little technical. Nonetheless, there are some very revealing historical notes in it. Here is one concerning slave trade:

The Trans-Atlantic slave trade was one of two major forced African diasporas. While the one in the Americas ( the Trans-Atlantic slave trade) might be more familiar, the statistics for it might not. Based on current evidence, around 12 million Africans were enslaved, with 10.7 million surviving the journey to the Americas. Fifty percent disembarked in South America. The remaining half were divided between the Caribbean (40%) and the U.S. (10%). Less than 1% ended up in Europe. Based on the few slaves (~100,000) that were rescued from slave ships near the end of the slave trade, about two-thirds of the slaves were men; the rest, women. In terms of geography, slaves were bought almost exclusively on the west coasts of both West and Central Africa. Though the Trans-Atlantic slave trade lasted more than 300 years, the late 1700s and early 1800s saw the peak in this nasty transport of human cargo.

Interesting, yes? It’s been 400 years since the slave trade was abolished, but since most Africans had no way of getting home, they lived their lives where they ended up. The inevitable “mixing of DNA” over time has made tracing back African lineage interesting, and the slave trade made it murky. Suffice it to say that African blood is intermixed across the board in the Americas and the Caribbean, and even Europe. What is even more interesting is that the DNA of Europe, Asia, and Africa all come together somewhere in the past even before that! I haven’t gotten to that part of the book, yet. I’ll let you know.

What about the second major forced African diaspora? We will look at that one tomorrow.

Abba, I love the way science and research is proving Your Word to be true. You say that mankind came from one couple; science is now proving that claim to be true. Keep revealing truth, Lord. We need it! Amen.

*”Traced” Human DNA’s Big Surprise, Nathaniel T. Jeanson, Masterbooks.com

Proverbs 18 3-18-22

Prayer is the Key to our relationship with the Father. So, what does that look like in our daily lives?

4 The words of the mouth [of a person’s heart] are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom [instruction from the Father] is a rushing stream.

The chapter my group is studying on Sunday nights (Growing Up) is on prayer. It has some good information about prayer, but the best thing it says is that prayer is something we do. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Prayer is not learned in a classroom.” The way to learn to pray is to do it. There’s hardly a wrong way to pray. Read King David’s prayers and you’ll see some pretty harsh prayers! But, God is not offended; he knows our hearts. He loves us.
  • “Prayer is personal, relational, and intimate.” It’s a conversation with the Father. We may want to address Jesus or the Holy Spirit. They are all One; He receives all prayers.
  • “One way to radically change your prayer life is to start referring to God as ‘Daddy.'” The Hebrew term is, “Abba,” which is one that I use frequently. He is our heavenly Father and He loves us dearly.

We call “the Lord’s prayer” The Lord’s Prayer because Jesus prayed it; it is a model prayer for us.

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

Matthew 6:9-13

From the book:
In this outline, Jesus gave us six components for our prayers:

  • Praise: Our Father, who is in heaven
  • Purpose: Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
  • Provision: Give us our daily bread
  • Pardon: Forgive us our debts (trespasses, sins)…
  • Protection: Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
  • Praise (again): Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory [added in later versions]

These are the type of things that the Father likes to hear from us. He also wants to hear our hopes, dreams, and wishes, but with us remembering to pray like Jesus did, “Not my will, but yours.” He also wants us to tell Him our fears, anxieties, and angers (things/people that/who make us angry) so that He can help us to deal with them according to His love, provision and protection.

The last thing mentioned in the chapter is to Pray Constantly, Throughout the Day. I liken my conversation with the Father to calling Him on my phone and then having my earpiece in with Him on the line all day. If I consider Him on speakerphone, then I get the mental image of Him listening in on every conversation. If I envision Him on FaceTime (facing away), then He also sees everything I see; when the camera is facing me, then I see Him and am reminded of how much He loves me, and I am reassured of His Presence.

Prayer is the Key to our relationship with the Father.

Abba, I love turning to You throughout the day and receiving all kinds of love and affirmation from You. I don’t even mind Your correcting hand because I know it’s You loving me. I am assured by Your participation in my life of Your love and of the future that You have for me. I love You. Amen (but continuing…)

Proverbs 18 2-18-22

“Only upon the cross does one die with hands stretched out.” –Athanasius the Great

10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.

The opening quote is from a book entitled, “On the Incarnation,” page 76. The interesting thing is how old it is:

Athanasius’s two-part work of apologetics, Against the Heathen and The Incarnation of the Word of God, completed about 335, was the first great classic of developed Greek Orthodox theology. In Athanasius’s system, the Son of God, the eternal Word through whom God made the world, entered the world in human form to lead men back to the harmony from which they had fallen away. Athanasius reacted vigorously against Arianism, for which the Son was a lesser being, and welcomed the definition of the Son formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325: “consubstantial [same in nature] with the Father.” Biography

Athanasius goes on to say, “Therefore it was fitting for the Lord to endure this, and to stretch out his hands, that with the one he might draw the ancient people and with the other those from the Gentiles, and join both together in himself.” The “ancient people” is most likely a reference to the Jews, and his statement is confirmed in Ephesians 2:14-16,

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Athanasius continues, “This he himself said when he indicated by what manner of death he was going to redeem all, ‘When I am lifted up, I shall draw all to myself’ (John 12:32).” In the drawing of all people to Himself, Jesus was including Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female (Galatians 3:28).

As for reading such an old book, C.S. Lewis said, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.” By reading what the early Christian leaders believed, we can bypass many of the pitfalls of changing cultures and the quicksand of Western thinking*.

Abba, may You continue to introduce me to early Christians whom I shall meet someday in Your kingdom. I look forward to hearing their stories and learning from them even as I do today through their writings. Thank You for such a treasure trove of faith. Amen.

*(T)he Western style of thought is characterized as embodying the value of ”individual distinctiveness” or ”independence,” while the Eastern style of thought embodies the value of ”harmonious social relations” or ”interdependence.” NYTimes

Proverbs 18 1-18-22

Remember the two main truths. Jesus: “No takes my life; I lay it down.” And Peter: “Jesus, whom you crucified.”

5 It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.

Yesterday, we ended with: Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, God did not withhold His compassion from Him, and God’s lovingkindness and truth preserved Him. But, wait. I thought that the Lord was pleased to crush Jesus. How do we reconcile these two passages?

In trying to describe spiritual truths on a level we can comprehend, the writers used imagery and other literary tools. The “crushing” was God allowing His Son to take the weight of the world’s sin upon Himself. Realizing that Jesus is God, we can say that God took our sin and disposed of it. Here again, it is an elementary way of describing a cosmic event. Jesus told Nicodemus,

“Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  John 3:10-12

As we read our Bibles, let’s keep in mind that the content is designed for God’s children. CHILDREN, people! It is written simply and in story form so that we can grasp it. Let’s have grace with each other as we learn new truths and possibly new ways to view what we have learned.

Abba, it amazes me how our feeble attempts to understand Your grace do not keep you from loving us. I hang onto Your promise that I will come to know the truth, and as I do, it will set me free. I experienced Your truth when I first turned to You, and I experience it progressively throughout my life. Keep teaching me, O Lord. I’m a’listenin’! Amen.

Proverbs 18 12-18-21

Jesus had a very specific plan in mind when He came to earth. What was it?

He who separates himself seeks his own desire [what mankind has done to his relationship with God],
He quarrels against all sound wisdom.

When Jesus began His ministry, He went to His hometown of Nazareth and preached a sermon–a mighty short, but powerful one! It got Him run out of town!!!

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:16-20

Jesus conspicuously left out the second half of verse 19, which is, “and the day of vengeance of our God…” At the very beginning of His ministry, He began to give us a new way to look at God, or rather, the RIGHT way to look at God. Up until this point, mankind had a skewed view of God, as though through a smoked glass, or a veil. Paul had something like scales on his eyes. Jesus came to recover our sight and to set us free. It is the year of the Lord’s favor!

What specifically was it that Jesus did? Let’s read it:

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world[‘s leadership]; now the prince of this world will be driven out. John 12:31

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world [and its leader, the devil].” John 16:33

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of 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. Hebrews 2:14-15

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:4-5

Jesus was all about unity and oneness. He tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” between Jews and Gentiles, and between us and Himself.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  Ephesians 2:14-16

When Jesus died, God tore the veil in the temple from top to bottom, thus tearing down the dividing wall of hostility between man and God, which was man’s doing, not God’s. From then on, we are living temples with Christ on the throne of our hearts. His mercy seat resides within each of us (Hebrews 2:17; the LXX in the OT uses “mercy seat” for “propitiation,” thus giving a restorative tone). Christ has won the war; from that point on, there are only skirmishes. They only seem big to us. Were we to see them from God’s perspective, we would understand that Christ has already saved the world, and we have the happy job of sharing that good news!

“God is not saving the world; it is done. Our business is to get men and women to realize it.”
Oswald Chambers

Abba, may we all begin to see things from Your perspective. You came to heal us of our blindness and to free us from our bondage. We are valuable because You consider us valuable. You have saved us! May we be about sharing this Good News. Amen.

Proverbs 18 11-18-21

What do you treasure? It’s important to know because it directs your path through life.

11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination. 12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

Jesus uses treasure several times to refer to that on which we set our hearts. Let’s look at them and see if we can draw some spiritual conclusions.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. Matthew 12:35

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Matthew 13:44

52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:52

21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

Literal- In the first four verses, Jesus is teaching. In the fifth one, Jesus is talking to the rich, young ruler. In each case, treasure is representative of that which the person wants more than anything. Key points are:

  1. Where our treasure is, there our hearts are, also.
  2. What we treasure in our hearts comes out in all we do.
  3. That which we treasure is what we will spend our time, money, and our energy getting.
  4. Our treasure affects how we look at everything: past, present and future.
  5. Sometimes the cost seems too high.

Moral- Could it be that Jesus is talking about who has control of our hearts? Let’s put it in the form of questions:

  1. Are we willing to invest in kingdom treasures?
  2. Are we already showing who has control of our hearts, whether us or Christ?
  3. Have we come to the realization that all good things come from the Father (James 1:17) and are worth pursuing?
  4. Do we look back on our lives and see how the heavenly Father has been pursuing us? Is He pursuing us now?
  5. Is Jesus asking us to give up our “fake pearls” for the real ones He is holding out for us?

Spiritual- In each case, I see Jesus asking for control of our hearts. To seek Him is to find treasures abounding! Life itself comes through Christ, as does love, joy, peace, and all the fruit of the Spirit–and the Spirit, as well! When we are ill, are we not ready to spend whatever it takes to get well? If we consider ourselves sin-sick, would we not give up all we have to be spiritually well? Jim Elliot, a contemporary martyr for Christ (1956), said,

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain that which he cannot lose.”

We must ask ourselves, “What are we willing to give up in order to gain a better understanding of, and fellowship with, Christ? Jesus asked everyone to whom He preached to give up what they thought they knew about the heavenly Father to receive the truth from Him. He asked the rich, young ruler to give up his material goods in order to gain eternal treasures. We know that he walked away sad–but did he stay away? I secretly hope that after the resurrection, he trusted Christ and used his wealth to serve people.

So, my take-away from this study is this: Jesus is my treasure. Therefore, what comes out of my heart is Him! Jesus is the One for which I am willing to give away everything in order to have (the treasure in the field), knowing that I can “keep Him” forever (we say He is in our hearts when in actuality we are in Christ; Ephesians 2:10, 4:15).

Abba, You are my Treasure. I store You in my heart; I bring You forth in my life; I count everything else in my life as worthless compared to knowing You; You teach me both old and new things; I would give anything, and have, indeed, pledged my life to You in order to be Your disciple. I look forward to walking with You for the rest of my life and straight into eternity! Amen.

Proverbs 18 10-18-21

“God of Grace and God of Glory” — we need both! How do they work?

10 The name [His character] of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it [anytime] and are safe.

Axiom: God gives us grace when we give in to sin.

Axiom: God receives glory when we resist temptation in submission to Him.

Let’s backtrack a bit. We know that Christ died for our sins so that they cannot be held against us anymore. That’s what the cross was all about: Dismissing our sins. So, He offers us grace when we sin so that it no longer breaks our relationship with Him. It DOES hinder our fellowship, but not the relationship.

Paul says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase [in our lives]? By no means!” The whole idea of having Christ in us is to live like Him, which is us being godly. Jesus glorified God when He went to the cross (John 12:27-28 tells us that). We, too, glorify God when we are obedient. When temptation rears its ugly head, we are to “submit ourselves to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God receives glory when we submit to Him in obedience. It is then that we have His power available to us via the Holy Spirit to resist the devil.

For most of us, we usually fight a feeling. We have a desire for something we are not supposed to have or do. The temptation is to give in to our feelings and desires. What we NEED to do is turn to the Father and say, “Abba, I direct my attention to You. Fill me with a sense of Your presence.” I practice this “discipline” routinely, and I promise it works! He fills us with a sense of His presence, from which flow love, joy, peace, hope, thanksgiving, and life. We, then, no longer have the desire to please ourselves, but to please Him. I’m not gonna say it’s easy to resist the devil, but it’s no longer an intense struggle when I practice this discipline.

The glory that God receives is not something that we can produce on demand. It comes as a by-product of our obedience. We can say, “I give God the glory,” but it’s really our obedience and our attitude, even our intention, that produces glory for Him. The same goes for the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit we grow is deeper than our conscious minds can fathom. When we are patient, it is our desire to be patient that bears fruit. In fact, it is our desire to be like Christ that bears much fruit. The same goes for gentleness, forgiveness (faithfulness), kindness, goodness, and self-control. Christ uses this fruit to be appetizing to lost folks. It’s not a lure, but a prize. They really can have that same fruit in their lives if they will give their lives to Jesus and obey Him.

So, we get grace when we give in to sin, but we produce glory for God when we submit to God and are obedient. Sounds pretty straight-forward, doesn’t it?

Abba, I want to be like You. I strive to be obedient to Your Spirit. May You impress upon me first Your love, then Your will. Inspired and empowered by Your love, I will do Your will. May You receive all the glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 18 9-18-21

Seeing each other as eternal beings changes our perspective. All of a sudden, every word and every deed makes a difference!

24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother [it is your Christian brother and sister].

I have always wondered what is so special about meeting with other Christians. I was helping my son-in-law put up a metal building yesterday when he made the comment that there is probably a spiritual lesson in the way that welding binds two pieces of metal together. The flux on the outside of the stick of metal gets so hot that it melts the surfaces of both pieces. They meld together so that they are one piece of metal from then on. It got me to thinking about it, and I see a parallel between the two pieces of welded metal and the bonding of Christians by the Holy Spirit:

  1. The baptism of fire that we receive upon salvation is the Holy Spirit, and He continues to work in our lives throughout our lives.
  2. Our worship joins our hearts in one accord as we worship God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
  3. The fellowship we share comes from the confession, repentance, accountability, and the binding of our hearts together in sorrow, tribulation, and grief.
  4. The fire of the Holy Spirit is what causes the fusion of Christians, the welding of their hearts and lives together.

There is joy to be found in fellowship, the joy of the Father in meeting with us, the joy of the Savior as He leads us, and the joy of the Holy Spirit as He lives with us. Here are three verses that tell us about this joy:

26 so that your rejoicing for me may overflow in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. Philippians 1:26 AMP

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy1 Peter 1:8

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Whether we are meeting one-on-one, in a small group, in a Bible study, as a youth group, or in church, we are meeting with the Body of Christ, His Bride, His collective temple.

Whether we are meeting for coffee and conversation, prayer, Bible study, or a service, we are meeting with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and therefore share this overflowing joy.

Whether we are meeting at a restaurant, a ball field, someone’s home, or at the church, Jesus is with us in Spirit binding our hearts together with cords that cannot be broken.

Whether we are meeting for a five-minute quick-start, a thirty minute discussion, an hour-long service, a weekend retreat, or a week-long revival, we are being welded together by the fire of the Holy Spirit as He forms us into one building and temple for our Lord.

Let’s make the most of these opportunities.

Abba, thank You for Your presence and participation when Your children get together. May we always honor You in what we say and do, remembering and acknowledging Your ever-presence in our lives, our conversation, and even our thoughts. You prayed that we may be one as You, Your Father, and the Holy Spirit are one (John 17:22-23). May it be so every time we meet! Amen.

Proverbs 18 8-18-21

The in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. Our God lives inside us!

16 A gift [the gift of our lives to the Lord] opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great [God of heaven and earth, our heavenly Father].

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. They are one in the same.

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

  1. He strengthens us out of the glorious riches of His power, which is the Spirit who lives in us (our inner being).
  2. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith; what is faith? It is believing Jesus enough to act on what He said.
  3. How much does God love the world? “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” John 3:16. It is in this love that we have our roots and our foundation.
  4. That foundation of love is also where we get our power to overcome our sinful nature. But, we were never intended to do it alone; we are created as part of a whole, the body of Christ, which is made up of other believers.
  5. Delving the depths of Christ’s love for us is an eternal endeavor. It’s even 4-dimensional! In fact, it surpasses human knowledge.
  6. God wants us to be filled to overflowing with the fullness of His love!

What is the product of having so much love in us? We produce fruit, fruit that will last. Here’s the problem: When we don’t endeavor to know Him and His love, we quit producing fruit for the kingdom. Lip service will not cut it; real fruit is displaying the characteristics of God (godly characteristics).

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind [repented] and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
Matthew 21:28-31

Why were sinners ahead of the religious leaders? Because they depended upon Christ for their salvation and to lead them every day in every way. Religious people don’t really need Jesus; they can be righteous on their own–NOT! Jesus is looking for followers who will follow, who will search for Him in the Scriptures and in other Christians, who will meet with other followers for fellowship and worship, who will depend upon Him for every decision (not just the “big” ones; by that time, it’s too late), and to fear nothing but losing sight of their Savior. Jesus never gets mad at us, He is never disappointed in us, nor does He hold our past over our heads. He loves us just as we are, but too much to leave us as we are. He is the epidemy of patience and gentleness, of kindness and goodness. The biggest verse in the Bible, to me, is Romans 8:1. Here’s what it says,

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

It actually reads,

Therefore, NO CONDEMNATION!!! for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Face it, folks. Our sins are gone. They have been washed away in the blood of Jesus, never to be seen or heard from again. NOW, when we read the Bible, we read for relationship and not just for knowledge. We strive to know Him, not know about Him. Has this type of reading been your experience? Try asking God to reveal Himself to you as you read His Word. Then, read a little, ponder, read a little more, ponder, etc. You will be amazed at what the Spirit will teach you!

Abba, thank You for teaching me this lesson so long ago. It has been my mainstay all these years. I’m just glad You want to know us personally–even intimately! Psalm 139:4 says it all, “Before a word is on my tongue, You know it completely, O Lord.” May I never lose my zeal for Your Word. It is honey to my lips and balm to my soul. Amen.

Proverbs 18 7-18-21

Being Holy Spirit-powered requires effort. Are you willing to do what it takes to be like Jesus?

9 One who is slack in his work [will not make the effort] is brother to one who destroys [his own life].

16 A gift [in this case, the gift of our lives] opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great [the LORD].

We know that Jesus gives us first the desire and then the power to do His will (Philippians 2:13). Why, then, do we depend so much on our own strength? If we run out of energy, patience, and/or want-to, then we’re spending the wrong energy. We need to switch to HSP (Holy-Spirit Power). His power is unlimited. If we do it early on, then the switch is not so noticeable by others. In the following passage, notice what Paul says he is praying for them. We should pray for the same thing!

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

  1. The knowledge of His will- We find that knowledge in His Word, in other Christians, and in prayer.
  2. Bearing fruit- The Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out to look like Jesus in character.
  3. Growing- We never coast spiritually. It’s like rowing a canoe upstream. Let’s keep rowing!
  4. Being strengthened with all power- Here’s the key to a victorious Christian life, which is allowing the Holy Spirit to empower us before we try things in our own strength. His perspective is different, His knowledge includes the future and what is best for everyone, our obedience is vital to our growth, and our partnership with Him is what our salvation is all about.
  5. Giving joyful thanks- Look at all He has done for us:
    1. We are qualified to share in His people’s inheritance,
    2. We get to live in the kingdom of light,
    3. He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness,
    4. We brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves,
    5. He redeemed us through the forgiveness of sins thanks to Jesus! WOW!!!

This morning, rather than relying on our own power, let’s lean on His strength and allow Him to fill us and empower us to be Christ to those around us–even at church!

Abba, thank You for all You have done for us. Just going over it again makes my heart thrill. It’s one of my favorite passages (I just wish I could memorize it…). Fill us, transform us, grow us, and strengthen us, Lord, and we will give joyful thanks to You. Amen.

Proverbs 18 6-18-21

Giving up our “rights” is one of the hardest things we do. “Fair” is not in the vocabulary of Christians.

12 Before a downfall the heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Christ calls us to give up our lives to Him, which means that we perceive everything that happens to us as coming from His hand, or at least being filtered through Him. God is working with the free will of every person on earth, yet somehow draws everything together for our good and His glory. On this side of heaven? Sometimes, yes, but most of the time, probably not. He is working from an eternal perspective. How He works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28) looks something like this:

  1. He lets us fall–only to raise us up miraculously and victory and/or in vindication as a testimony of God’s great love and power.
  2. We struggle with the consequences of other people’s bad choices, but He gives mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
  3. We die from sickness, accidents, because of someone else’s bad choice, in disgrace (not of our doing), and/or unjustly judged, and pass on to the great reward that He has in store for us.

Lest you think that I came up with these on my own, here is what Beth Moore wrote in her study on Daniel:

Daniel 3 is the account of the Fiery Furnace, from which we learn that deliverance comes:

  1. From the fire – our faith is built.
  2. Through the fire – our faith is refined.
  3. By the fire (straight into the arms of Jesus) – our faith is perfected.

Here’s what Paul wrote the Corinthian church about fairness:

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 1 Corinthians 6:7

He goes on to say, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” v.11. We have nothing to lose (that we won’t already lose when we die) and everything to gain (heaven and all of God’s promises), so why worry about life being fair? In fact, James tells us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete [the definition of “perfect”-Matthew 5:48], not lacking anything” James 1:3-4.

The mark of a mature believer is when he is dealt an unfair hand, and yet he chooses to bless and pray for the guilty party. Want to be considered mature in your faith? Learn to bless and pray for those who take advantage of you (Romans 12:14), who persecute you and cheat you, and who say all manner of lies about you because of your faith. Jesus said,

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

“If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:20

Remember, our joy comes not from our circumstances, but from our Savior.

Abba, may we grasp this difficult concept as we look to You for mercy and grace. Help us to be “little Christs” to the world around us. Call us to be different; call us to be peculiar, even considered weird by the world. Then, tweak the interest of those who are looking for You (even if they don’t know it yet). Help us to grasp the concept of Eternal Perspective: “Your kingdom over my country, Lord.” Your will over my rights. May we consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to You, O Lord. I know: it’s important. Amen.

Proverbs 18 5-18-21

Why deprive the Lord Jesus of the very thing He died to get, which is an intimate, on-going relationship with us?

2 Fools find no pleasure in understanding [what the Lord wants] but delight in airing their own opinions.

Listening can be a pretty difficult discipline. I am all the time getting myself in trouble because I listen to the first part of instructions and then miss the second part. If there is more than one step to a process, I will probably miss the other steps entirely. I’m working on it…

Listening is part of prayer. The first part is talking, but as a wise person once said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we talk.” Many times, we see Jesus as our Lord, but we overlook the fact that He is our Teacher. In fact, one of the terms we can use for the Holy Spirit is Guide.

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. John 16:13

When we take a tour somewhere, say, the Alabaster Caverns that are south of Freedom, Oklahoma, we have a tour guide who stays with us the entire trip through the cave. In fact, we are warned to STAY WITH the tour guide for our own safety. We are taking a tour through this life and we have a Guide, the Holy Spirit, who is Jesus. He warns us to stay with Him for our own safety. How do we do that?

What people seem to miss is that our salvation puts us in a right relationship with the Father so that He can have constant fellowship with us. Jesus comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit, and we have access to the Father all the time. We are always in His throne room, so to speak. To talk to Him, all we have to do is face Him. He’s right there! Here are some ways to make our conversation with Him more concrete:

  1. Set aside a certain amount of time to spend with just Him everyday. Early morning is preferable because it sets the tone for the entire day.
  2. Get some note cards (or start a file on your phone/laptop) and write down your intentions.
    1. The first card lists your intentions for your prayer time. It may include a life verse or pertinent verse.
    2. The next cards are Scripture cards that remind you of your task, your position in Christ, and promises upon which you come while reading His Word.
    3. The next cards you make (one or some for every day) include people for whom you feel led to pray. For instance, you may have a card for family, one for close friends, one for your small group at church, possibly your church leaders, civil leaders, and one for persecuted Christians and potential Christians.
  3. Start slow. Just a couple of cards today, one tomorrow, and then build up.

The idea is to create physical, hands-on helps that assist us in praying. Like I said, we are to listen twice as much as we pray, so read your Bible (particularly Proverbs) to hear what the Spirit is saying to His church. Also, as you pray, ask the Lord how to pray for each person on your card today (it changes sometimes!). This interaction will, indeed, set the tone for your entire day and make it one of great fellowship with the Father.

Does it sound like too much work? Consider these verses from today’s Proverbs:

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

12 Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.

15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

Rather than feel unworthy to come to Him, be encouraged that He will call to your attention any unconfessed sin that breaks fellowship with Him. Consider this perspective: When we don’t pray, we deprive the Lord Jesus of the very thing for which He died, which is a personal, on-going relationship with His brothers and sisters.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will be encouraged and will take the time and effort to organize their prayer time with You. Thank You for a godly wife who taught me to make cards! Our respective times with You have grown through the years and I attribute much of it to the discipline of prayer. Call my readers into a close relationship with You, Lord Jesus. May the sense Your presence and participation in their lives today. Amen.

Proverbs 18 4-18-21

If Jesus is King of the universe, then obedience to Him is a given. Why don’t more people obey Him?

1 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement. ESV

According to this verse, we choose to isolate ourselves from Jesus and seek our own desire. Breaking out against all sound judgement, we rebel, which is sin, and so, destroy ourselves. It is God’s desire to save us from ourselves through Jesus Christ; our own rebellious path toward destruction is our choice. Maybe a better picture of who Christ is will help us to quit relying on our own intellect and start being more obedient. Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday:

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3

  1. Christ is the mystery of God. His mission to earth to take our place on the cross, His God-hood and man-hood in the same body, His extravagant love for us demonstrated through Christ…it is, indeed, a mystery!
  2. Hidden in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One. Want to know God? Get to know Jesus Christ!

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

  1. All the fullness of the Deity (God the Father) lives in the bodily form of Christ.
  2. In Christ we have been brought to fullness. In other words, we are filled with God just like Jesus!
  3. Jesus is the head over every power and authority. Ephesians 1:21, Jude 1:25, Revelation 5:12-13

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

  1. Living religiously, whether Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, or even Baptist, is worshiping the shadow rather than the reality.
  2. That reality is found in Christ.

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Hebrews 2:10

  1. Jesus brings many sons and daughters to glory.
  2. God is the One for whom and through whom everything exists. Colossians 1:16 says that Christ is the One for whom and through whom everything was created. What’s the deal? “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30.
  3. Jesus is the Pioneer of our salvation.
  4. He was made perfect (complete) through suffering. How so? Jesus completed the sacrificial system. It was done. Finished. He said so on the cross, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30.

The closer we look at Christ, the bigger He gets and the smaller we get. That’s the point. John the Baptizer said, “He must increase; I must decrease.” John 3:30. The same goes for us, too. Let’s worship Him today for who He is and what He has done for us. Oh, and be sure to thank Him for what He has planned for us, too, “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived–the things God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9.

Abba, may You be praised today. As Your Spirit calls upon us to “seek His face,” (Psalm 27:8) may we worship You by seeking Your face, O Lord. May we receive with joy everything that comes from Your hand. We know it is for our good and for Your kingdom’s sake. “We worship You, Almighty God, there is none like You…” Amen.

Proverbs 18 3-18-21

Whether judged in this world or the next, our judgement is based upon our own decisions. The standard is Jesus.

20 From the fruit of his mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of his lips he is satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit [whether good or bad].

Yesterday, we watched Jesus patiently explain the error in the Pharisees’ thinking. Today, we see Jesus explain the danger in their way of thinking.

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:31-32

If you’ve ever heard of the Unpardonable Sin, this is it. Refusing the Holy Spirit when He comes to a person asking entrance into his heart and life is unforgivable because He is the One who saves us. He is our seal of salvation, our guarantee, the Agent of Transformation, the power of the Resurrection–He is Jesus! The Pharisees were speaking against Jesus as a man and they were unaware–or refused to accept–the Holy Spirit’s role concerning Jesus. Here was their warning.

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Matthew 12:33

Our actions always reveal our motives. Jesus was pointing out that righteous deeds follow a righteous heart. Again, it was a warning to the Pharisees that their deeds revealed their heart.

Next is a scathing condemnation of their current deeds. What we must realize is that Jesus was calling their actions to their attention so that they might repent. There was no judgement here concerning punishment; He was simply calling it like He saw it. Here we go:

34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word [concerning what they say about the Lord Jesus-see verse 32] they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37

Can you see what Jesus is doing? He is trying to make them aware that they need a heart change. The sad part is that they weren’t having it. People are stubborn, especially if they are enjoying the fruit of their sin. They wielded their power like a sword over the people and they didn’t want to give it up. We are the same way, though. It isn’t until we see our sin as sin that we are willing to change, and that revelation comes from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s put ourselves before the Holy Spirit today and ask Him to reveal anything that is keeping us from hearing Him, seeing Him, and loving Him.

Abba, thank You for the Gift of Your Holy Spirit. His presence and participation in our lives gives us peace, protection, and power to live righteously. He even gives us the want-to to want to! May we learn to give ourselves to His guidance and direction daily–constantly. Amen.

Proverbs 18 2-18-21

The prevailing peace of God is at the heart of every Christian. From it flows the joy of the Lord. Are we experiencing it?

10 The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

There are lots of good verses on peace. Jesus Himself gave us the best:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Paul explained in Romans 5:1-2 that, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Did you notice all those key words? Faith, peace, grace, rejoicing and hope. These attributes are at the heart of being a Christian, and peace is one of them. We have a positional peace in that we are positioned in the family of God. But, there is an experiential peace, a dynamic (transformative) peace, that we lose and gain according to our willingness to respond to the Spirit. In this experiential and dynamic peace lies the attainment of the other attributes.

Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We receive peace just as we receive His love and His joy. They are gifts and by-products of being one with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, and peace emanate from them and onto us, into us, and through us. They produce a satisfaction like nothing else even while they create a desire to know the Father more deeply. If there is anything mystical about Christianity, here it is: The peace of God that cannot be explained.

Philippians 4:7 is another great verse about peace:

May the calming peace of God that overflows into our lives and transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus–finding our refuge in Him, regarding Him constantly as we walk through our days. (Adapted).

When we have peace, we have peace of mind. Our fears are allayed, and our hearts are at rest. Nothing this world can throw at us can shake us when we are at peace with God and with our fellow man. It allows us to take any abuse, any pain, and even death and turn it into praise. Why? Because we are at complete peace. We trust the LORD. Paul called his trials “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He had his eyes on the future and it gave him peace. We, too, have a wonderful future in store for us, so we, too, can allow it to give us peace.

Last is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Are you experiencing the peace that passes all understanding? If not, ask our heavenly Father to make Himself real to you. He will through His Word and through His Spirit. Trust Him. He has everything in control. Know this, though: We will never experience the peace of God until we have surrendered to the will of God. Secret sin–any sin– breaks fellowship with Him. Start there.

Abba, thank You for Your peace. The at-rest peace I feel when I am in communion with You far outweighs anything this world has to offer. Nothing touches it–and to think that it just gets better when I go to be with You! Wow!!! May Your love, joy, peace, hope and grace overflow from You to me so that I may overflow to others. Amen.

Proverbs 18 1-18-21

Are you filled to the measure of Christ’s joy? He wants you to be. All you have to do is trust what He’s already told you.

15 The heart of the discerning [those looking for answers] acquires knowledge [from the LORD], for the ears of the wise seek it out [we “hear” God speak when we read His Word].

In John 17, Jesus is praying and we are sitting in on that prayer (thanks to John and the Holy Spirit). Let’s pick it up in verse 13,

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

  1. Jesus is about to leave this earth via Calvary (the cross). He is speaking as much to His disciples at this point as He is to the Father. We know this because He said as much in 11:42 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The question is, when were the disciples to receive this joy of which He spoke? The very next thing to happen was Gethsemane, the cross, and three days of pure agony for them, so I don’t think that it was immediate. Could it have been when they saw Him resurrected? It could be. But, if the point of the cross was so Jesus could live in our hearts via the Holy Spirit (see 16:7 and 17:26), then they must wait until Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit in order to receive the full measure of His joy. What does this mean to us? We have already received the Holy Spirit, therefore, we can receive the full measure of His joy!
  2. The very next phrase is, to me, the key to “the full measure of His joy.” That phrase is, “I have given them Your word…” God went to great lengths for us to have His words available to us. He inspired the disciple John to write down this prayer; He inspired others to copy it, hide it, and spread it around; He inspired others to translate it into various languages including English; He inspired the means for us to have a copy of His words in our homes and hands–in fact, electronically, we can have His words with us all the time, and do!
  3. The reason I am so sure that the phrase is key is because of verse 17, “Sanctify them by [to live in accordance with] the truth; Your word is truth.” Jesus pretty much told us that the way to sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is through His Word. It doesn’t get much plainer than that.
  4. Jesus sanctified Himself? Only God can do that–wait, HE IS GOD! If Jesus sanctified Himself by giving us His Father’s words, then we are sanctified by reading and living according to them.

A word of encouragement: We read to connect, to get to know Him. We ask for understanding, but it’s not the main purpose. His Spirit reveals to us what we need for today as He reveals Himself to us. We read, ask for discernment, and then we ponder: We think about what we have read in light of what we already know and have experienced; we turn it over in our minds with Him guiding our thoughts in accordance with His word. If we get it wrong, we can trust that He will correct us eventually. It’s all part of the training. Many times, we must unlearn what we have been taught (whether by humans, demons, or experience), and learn what is right. It’s a process, the process of sanctification. Just know that during this process, we are being made to be JUST LIKE JESUS.

Want to be one with God and your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? Then be sanctified through His Word!

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would immerse themselves in Your Word. Your Scriptures are the vehicle through which we hear Your voice. In fact, our prayers are our response to You speaking to us! We find in the Scriptures Your character, Your Plan, and Your interaction with us. May we take our relationship with You seriously, especially if we want to follow You and be like You. I know I do. Please continue to open my mind and heart to Your words of life. Amen.

Proverbs 18 12-18-20

The Holy Spirit has much to teach us. The question is, are we ready and willing to learn it?

15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.

It is by the grace of God that we learn. His Spirit teaches us according to what we NEED (this is grace) rather than what we DESERVE (this is justice). As we look at Colossians, let’s view it through the lens of Titus 2:11-12,

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It [God’s grace via the Spirit] teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and [to say “Yes” to the Spirit, and] to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 

What does grace want to teach us? NOW we are ready to look at Colossians 2:5-17. Obviously, in order to do justice to the passage, we will have to cover it over several days. For today, let’s study verses 5-11.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 

We have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in and through us (Galatians 2:20). In fact, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). We no longer live with these cravings as our goal, our end game, our ultimate experience. Christ has usurped these cravings. HE is the One we crave! Once we have tasted His love, joy and peace, we never want to go back to such pale and transient cravings, which never really satisfy (they just leave us craving more). Besides, we know what happens to those who never clothe themselves with the righteousness of Christ: When they stand before the heavenly Father, they will be ashamed and cast out. Indeed, they will flee from His presence because of their unrighteous state.

You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 

The lusts of the eyes and flesh listed in verses 5-6 are expensive, but not nearly as damaging as the pride of life (2 John 2:16). Our pride causes us to be angry with our fellow human, to rage against others, to carry malice (wishing ill on another person) in our hearts, to say false things against another to spite him, and to allow our mouths to spew poison on those around us through filthy words and dangerous topics. Ridding ourselves of these maladies requires some major help from the Holy Spirit. The FIRST thing we need is the initial desire. Then, we need the power to actually overcome them. Thank the Lord that He gives us the desire and the power to do His will Philippians 2:13. Lean on Him. All the time. About everything.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed [renovated] in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 

Lying is manipulation. We are either seeking to get our way or…we’re seeking to get our way! We lie to get what we want, either to avoid retribution or to gain what we desire that may not be for us. It is the natural language of our “old man.” Our father, the devil (in John 8:43-44, Jesus says that before God adopts us, Satan is our father. There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” And we were just like him, “full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God” Ephesians 2:2. We put off this behavior because we have a new Daddy. We are continuously being renewed in the image of God, our Creator. How? The Holy Spirit enlightens our hearts and opens our minds to the knowledge of Him. From where? The Scriptures. Read them. Learn them. Internalize them.

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Galatians 3:28 includes “male or female, For we are all one in Christ Jesus.” Verse 29 says, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the [Abrahamic] promise (see Genesis 12:3 and 15:5). If you’re wondering how we got included in this promise, consider these passages:

Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem… Jeremiah 4:4

28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Romans 2:28-29

15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Galatians 6:15

As we can see, Christ Jesus internalized our circumcision, just as Jeremiah preached. Because our circumcision is of our hearts, now all people who trust in Christ are circumcised of heart and are one in Christ. He is our ALL IN ALL.

To summarize, we are all one in Christ Jesus. We either have the Holy Spirit in us or folks have the potential of having His Spirit in them. Being a child of Abraham is no longer dependent upon being Jewish or being circumcised physically. The Spirit does it inwardly to all who come to Christ. Therefore, we are to treat each other and all potential brothers and sisters as blessed children of God, sacred, in that we all are temples of the Holy Spirit. WE HAVE GOD LIVING IN US!

Tomorrow, we look at verses 12-14, which tell us how we are to be clothed.

Abba, it changes everything to consider everyone a walking temple of Yours where You reside. Even wicked people who follow Satan–either knowingly or unknowingly–are potential temples of Yours. May I allow this train of thought to guide my actions and my speech today. Keep enlightening my heart and opening my mind to Your truth, LORD. I’m hungry for it. Amen.

Proverbs 18 11-18-20

Who we believe determines after whom we pattern our lives. I believe Jesus Christ. His words are LIFE.

21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Peter said to Jesus, “ Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. These words were penned by John, who also said, “ The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:17.

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill him. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the law until everything is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-18. Jesus is the Bridge between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Beth Moore put it like this, “John’s Gospel tells us that ‘the law was given through Moses’ and ‘grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (John 1:17). But lest the graced ones misinterpret these words, Grace didn’t break the law of Moses, like stone tablets thrown into worthless fragments. Grace loosed the law of love from its limits.” Chasing Vines, page 257.

I believe that Jesus is God. He is part of the Trinity, God the Son. The same God that told the Israelites not to come near his holy mountain is the same God that said, “Do not be like them, for your father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:8-10. Where did the change come from? How did the change happen? It happened back in 4:17, “ From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Jesus brought God’s kingdom to us. He is a loving Father who could finally reach out to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Bridge between our Heavenly Father and us.

This message of Jesus is the TRUTH about God’s GRACE. May we build our lives upon this TRUTH and receive His GRACE.

Abba, May You reveal Yourself more and more to us through Your Word. Thank You for such a unique instrument that guides us to the Source of truth: You. May we study it as if we are studying You—which we are! As we read Your words, speak to our hearts through them. Amen.

Proverbs 18 10-18-20

Our actions are not our own to make. We must consult the Spirit first. Otherwise, what’s the point of salvation?

When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.

When wickedness comes–choosing our way over God’s way. It’s rebellion. We tend to see certain acts as wicked acts, but really, any act that is NOT SPIRIT-LED is a wicked act. We are all wicked at heart. Praise be to God for His mercy and His grace!

So does contempt–This sword slices both ways. We tend to hold people in contempt when we are focused on ourselves. Likewise, those to whom we show a contemptible attitude hold us in contempt. Christians are called on by God to fight through these feelings; non-Christians have no such compunction (the prick of conviction).

With shame–The shame we feel when we have these feelings of contempt for someone is the Holy Spirit’s presence and participation. He is calling us to repent and to come back to the Narrow Way. Many times, this call comes with our wicked actions in the form of consequences. Sin destroys us: our relationships, our health, the atmosphere of our social environment, etc.

Comes reproach–Reproach is the judgment of our actions and our unwillingness to repent. It’s the punishment and/or correction of our actions. As children of the King, the last thing we want is to be rebuked by our LORD.

What we need to realize is that we are to take EVERY thought captive to our LORD Jesus Christ so that we can find out how to make it obedient to Him (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our every action should be based upon a conversation WE HAVE ALREADY HAD with the Spirit about the subject. Paul’s admonition to “pray without ceasing” comes into play here (Ephesians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Our constant communication with the Spirit is what our salvation is all about!

This morning as we come together to worship corporately, may we have already communed with the Spirit, checked our wickedness (our tendency to see/do things our own way) at the door, and be ready to praise and honor our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. We will be honoring the Father as we turn to Him, and His Spirit will rejoice within us, which causes us to praise Him all the more, which causes more rejoicing, and so on (I started to say that it lasts all day, but it’s really forever!).

Abba, the wickedness of my heart shows every time I butt heads with Your Spirit. May I quickly “die to self and live for Christ” as You gently lead me in the way everlasting. I can hardly wait to get out of this body of sin!!! In the meantime, I will trust in You for grace, mercy, patience, correction, and forgiveness. I love You. I’m SO GLAD You love me.

Looking forward to worshipping with my brothers and sisters, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 18 9-18-20

Today is a “Just Do It” day. If we’re gonna serve the LORD, then SERVE THE LORD! Let’s quit messing around.

9 One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.

Jesus said it this way, “He that is not with me is against me: and he that does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23

Christianity is an all-in decision. It’s built on a relationship and not on what we do. We either agree to follow Christ and obey Him IN EVERYTHING or we continue to “serve Him” by practicing our religion. The problem is that religion does not please the Father. The ONLY thing that does is when we recognize and acknowledge Jesus His Son as our LORD and Savior–every day and in every way. As I quoted yesterday, God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5.

When it comes to following Jesus, there is an event in the OT that really sums it up. Elijah called all the religious followers to come and present their offering to their god. Notice that their god was based upon their works whereas Elijah had a relationship with his God, Adonai. In fact, Elijah was following God’s orders (1 Kings 18:1). Let’s pick up on the story when everyone was assembled:

21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” 1 Kings 18:21

Elijah put it out there before them to put their money where their mouths were. He was telling them to quit investing in “religion,” which does NOT please God, but to invest in Adonai (and for us, Jesus), His call, and His mission, which DOES please the Father. They should have immediately agreed with Elijah and come over to his side, but that’s not what happened. The rest of the verse says,

“But the people were completely silent.”

May we NOT be like the people of Israel and put God to the test! If Jesus truly is our LORD and Savior, that should be enough for us to sink all our time, talents, money, resources, and our lives into HIM. He will include us in His work as HE sees fit–not us! In other words, quit being selective in how we serve Him. It’s His call, not ours. Anything else is “religion,” and is worthless. In fact, it’s detrimental to our relationship with Him because we THINK we’re pleasing Him when we are really impeding our relationship with Him. It’s called “grieving or quenching the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30 and 1 Thessalonians 5:19).

NIKE has it right in this case. When it comes to serving the LORD, let’s quit messing around and JUST DO IT. Let’s get in His Word and ask Him to open our minds and hearts to its meaning and to His plan. Then, when He impresses us with what He wants us to do, let’s not become selective, but say, “Yes, LORD, Yes to Your will and to Your way…I will trust You and obey.” It is at this point that we are gathering with Christ instead of scattering because of our–let’s just say it–disobedience to His Spirit. No amount of religious talk or work can make up for disobedience. Let’s make it about HIM today, shall we?

Abba, I hate it when I don’t feel good–I’m tired, but not feeling good tends to boil out all the distractions that pull me away from hearing You clearly. So, thank You for how I feel today. May I use this time to seek Your face and hear Your voice.

I pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ that they don’t take offense, but rather seize this opportunity to “blow away the chaff” in their lives and get close to You. We need You. Come and make Yourself known to us. Amen.

Proverbs 18 8-18-20

Our faith is based upon what God said about Jesus, and what Jesus proved Himself to be: The Son of God.

10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

While Jesus walked this earth, He claimed to be many things: God’s son, the Light of the world, Living Water, Bread from heaven, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We take Him at His word that He is all of these. Why? Because of this statement He made to the Pharisees:

28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28-29

Luke was a little more specific:

10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 12:10

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. When the Spirit comes to live in our hearts, it’s actually Jesus Christ who is coming to take up residence. What Jesus is saying is that if a person rejects the Holy Spirit, then He cannot come in and save him. THERE IS NO SALVATION OUTSIDE OF CHRIST. Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 If we believe what Jesus said, then it follows that a person who rejects the Holy Spirit rejects Christ and therefore cannot be saved until he repents and believes what Jesus said about Himself:

  1. He came from God because He IS God. John 8:12, 14, 16, 23, 38, 40, 42, 49, 54, 58
  2. He came to lay down His life–to take it up again. John 10:17-18

He must also believe what Jesus did for him:

  1. Died in his place on the cross for the payment of his sin against God;
  2. Was buried for three days (the legal time to be declared dead);
  3. Rose again three days later to prove that He is God!
  4. Upon believing, he must confess with his mouth Jesus as his LORD, his King, his Boss.

According to Romans 10:9-10, these are the requirements for salvation. When we believe these truths, then we open our hearts to Him and He becomes our LORD and Savior. Thus begins a wonderful and beautiful relationship that will continue into eternity!

There’s more to the story. Jesus made a declaration from heaven to John in Revelation 22:16-17,

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

  1. Jesus declares Himself to be the Messiah, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, when He says He is the Root and the Offspring of David. Isaiah 9:6-7
  2. The Spirit is the One who convicts of sin. John 16:8-11
  3. The Bride is the Church Ephesians 5:25-33; we are the ones who share the Good News with those who don’t know Jesus.
  4. The invitation is for anyone who hears the message and believes the claims of Jesus. The Spirit makes him thirsty for the Living Water (Jesus). John 7:38-39
  5. The Water of Life is free in because the price has already been paid.

Lest we get the wrong idea about salvation, the payment for our sin has been made, but the goal is godliness, the kind that only comes by dying to ourselves and allowing Jesus to live through us. We were created for a partnership with God! We were NEVER meant to live life alone.

The Old Testament was written to tell us the story of mankind, what happened, and to show us what we need. The New Testament is written to show us the Remedy to sin, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who comes through Jesus Christ. Much of the NT is explanation of what happened to us upon salvation. Let’s study it, learn it, and share it!

Abba, the word that comes to mind as I study Your salvation is “Grateful.” That’s what I am because of what You have done for me. An old song describes how I feel:

Lord, I lift Your name on high,
Lord, I love to sing Your praises;
I’m so glad You’re in my life,
I’m so glad You came to save us.

You came from heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross my debt to pay,
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord, I lift Your name on high!
Rick Founds, 1989

Amen.

Proverbs 18 7-18-20

Living a Christian life is an uphill battle. Is it worth it? It depends upon how well you know the Savior!

3 When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.

Most of us don’t see what we do as wicked. We have categories of wickedness and we usually stay away from those particular categories. The problem is that wickedness is anything that is not God-led and God-empowered. Oops! That’s MOST of what we think, say and do! Yet, God loves us and has entered us to give us hope: We CAN become like Him more and more; we WILL be like Him in glory!

Continuing:
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 in which we humans are susceptible to sin: Entitlement, Lust, Pride, Vanity, Impatience, Selfishness, Sloth, Anger, Spite, Rage, Hate, Gluttony, Fear, to name a few. So far, we looked at Entitlement and Lust, Pride, Vanity and Impatience. Today, we cover Selfishness and Sloth.

Selfishness- This is where we live. All of our thoughts are self-centered. We are the center of our universe. The day we received the Holy Spirit into our lives is the day of The Great Invasion. God broke through our selfishness, brought our spirits back to life and filled us with Himself! Yet, our flesh (our sinful nature) still wants to rule our lives. It’s habit. It feels natural. But now, we have His Spirit within us and He has begun the process of transformation: He is shaping us, molding us, carving us, and chiseling us into the image of Christ. All we have to do is be willing–willing to do what?
1. Ask Him what He wants us to think.
2. Ask Him what He wants us to say.
3. Ask Him what He wants us to do.
4. Ask Him all the time, every time.
The biggest two verses in the Bible are Mark 12:30-31, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” In order to obey these commands, we must set aside our own wants and desires and focus on His wants and desires. When we follow Him in what we think, say, and do, we love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and we do it with all our strength. We begin categorically and then move to the specific. We get up in the morning and give Him our heart, soul, and mind. Then we ask Him to guide us in all we think, say, and do. We remind ourselves of this pledge throughout the day and come back to it whenever we stray, all the while conversing with Jesus and enjoying His Presence, Pleasure, and Power as He enables us to be successful, even if our success is only in identifying selfish areas that need work. It’s a process. He knows it. We know it. Best verse: 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. Galatians 2:20. Let’s live it!

Sloth- Sloth is laziness. It is rooted in selfishness. Shortcuts, unfinished projects, and clutter are all evidence of sloth. Anytime we are about to commit the sin of sloth, there is a split second where we realize what we are about to do. In that split second, two things are happening:
1. Jesus is calling to our attention that we are about to commit sin. He is showing us the better way and calling us to do it.
2. We must decide to heed His voice and do things right or to ignore what we know to be right and do things our way.
Taking the easy road means that we are coasting–when we coast, we are going downhill! “The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep them from going down to the grave.” Proverbs 15:24. Life is going either up or down. Jesus gives this word picture: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14. We have heard these verses before, but have we ever applied them to daily living? Let’s follow Jesus on the narrow road. Let’s stay close to His side and do what He says to do the way He says to do it in the time frame that He gives us. I know it’s hard, but it’s the best thing for us, the best way to do it, and the most pleasing to the Father, which is our highest goal, right?

Blessings on you today as you walk with Jesus learning how not to be lazy and selfish, but to become more like Christ, being pleasing to the Father.

Abba, thank You for working in our lives. We can’t be godly without You. I wish that You would instantly make us perfect, but I know that isn’t Your plan. For some reason, You find it enough to be in us and fellowship with us. Now that sin has been taken care of, it is no longer an issue except in the fellowship department. May we strive to keep our lines of communication with you clear as You continue with the process of sanctification–making us more like Jesus! Amen.

 

 

Proverbs 18 6-18-20

God the Father loves everyone and wants the best for everyone. The problem is that most people won’t give Him a chance.

10 The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Taking the Father up on His offer of salvation is the smartest thing we can do. Why? Because we get to trade all of our filthiness, selfishness, and spiritual deadness for His life, His love, His joy, His peace, His adoption, His heavenly clothing, His family, and His heavenly home. He comes to us in our “hopelessness” and plops Himself right in the middle of us (it’s what He did with the Israelites in the desert: He set His tabernacle smack dab in the middle and had the tribes encamp in a circle around it). Also, we become members of His physical family here on earth, Israel, but in a spiritual way: We are grafted in (Romans 11:17-24).

In Jewish terms, recognizing Yeshua as Israel’s Messiah is the most Jewish thing a Jew can do. Why? Because Jesus/Yeshua fulfilled the requirements of the law with His own blood. God’s blood. He now sits at the right hand of God; this fact is proven by His resurrection, interaction with over 500 people, and His ascension.

The writer of Hebrews gives us proof:

1:3 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.

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

8:1-2 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

9:27 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

10:14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those [we] who are being made holy.

We all know John 3:16, but what does that look like on a personal level? We get a good look in Ephesians 2:4-5:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

We have so much for which to be thankful. Let’s get started! I’ll go first:

Abba, I’m thankful that You called this 6-year-old kid to be Yours. Thank You for a mom who knew what to do when I asked about salvation. Thank You for a dad who made sure we were in church each week by example. Thank You for the call on my life to serve You in vocational ministry. Thank You for a wonderful, godly wife and beautiful children who love You, too. Thank You for my grandchildren and their love for You, as well. I am illegally blessed–well, it should be illegal. I give You my life once again to do with as You wish. I just want to be helpful for the kingdom. Amen.

Proverbs 18 5-18-20

D.iscerning and O.bedient: These are what we D.O. for Christ today. It’s how He wants us to be. In order to be these, though, we must first be connected. What does that connection look like?

15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
    for the ears of the wise seek it out.

The first thing is to be willing to do a little foot work. We must seek out what has already been revealed. I know of two sources: The Word of God and God’s people. One of my favorite songs is Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Walk With the Wise.” Here are some of the lyrics:

I’ve learned to look for answers in those born before my time
As I listen to them tell me what they’ve learned in their lives
I talk to friends with understanding much deeper than my own
And gain wisdom beyond measure I could never find alone

The second thing is to ask Him for:

  1. His opinion- We find it in His Word.
  2. His meaning- He gives us revelation as we read, but we need to double check with Him to make sure we understood Him correctly.
  3. His direction- Many times, He will reveal something to us and then send us to someone for more clarity and filling out. It’s how the body of Christ works.

The third thing is to D.O. what it is He has revealed to us. Through discernment (the revelation of knowledge via the Spirit), we learn what it is that Christ wants us to do next. In our obedience, we lean on Him for courage, power, and even the skill to do whatever the task is. We do it WITH HIM. Doing things FOR Christ will get a person in trouble and sometimes reveals a dirty secret: He doesn’t really know Christ:

To know about Christ but to not actually know Him means that we make all of our decisions from our human perspective–NOT what God had in mind! He wants to be part of our daily experience, to walk with us and share our lives. It’s the POINT of the cross. If we miss the connection with the Spirit, we have missed the entire reason for His coming. If we persist in not making this connection, we will miss His Second Coming, as well! THAT’S how important knowing and walking with Christ is.

As we D.O. for Christ today, let’s make sure that we are discerning what the Spirit is saying to us and that we are being obedient to Him even as He directs our thoughts and actions. It’s like the Spirit is the hand and we are the glove. Even as He works through us, we get to experience being one with Christ: All the love, joy and peace, all the patience, kindness and goodness, all His faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; we get to know the TRUTH about all things; we get to see from His perspective (godly wisdom), and we grow in faith as we gain experience. It’s a walk, a journey, and an adventure!

Abba, may we make the effort to know You and to grow in our faith. May the desire of my heart be fulfilled in my life, which is to be completely absorbed in becoming like You, to walk with you so closely that I even smell like You, that I become so transparent that people see You in me, and that I shine as brightly as possible as a child of light (Ephesians 5:8). Make it so, LORD. Amen.