Proverbs 3-19-23

Our hardest lesson is learning to keep our speech God-honoring. But, what do we do with what we’re feeling inside?

11 “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:11

As we prepare for pending church building projects, both physical and spiritual, we must remember that we all are brothers and sisters in Christ. We belong to His body, His Church, and we all have Him living in our hearts. The verse above is Matthew quoting Jesus. Mark records Jesus saying the same thing (Mark 7:15). James put it this way,

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. James 3:5-6, 8

Paul was very specific on how we are to speak to each other:

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

Even when we feel justified in what we want to say, we must be obedient to this verse. Our words, our tone, our countenance (how we look), and our body language are all part of how we communicate with others. All of these components must fit into the “helpful for building other up according to their needs” part. What happens when we don’t pay attention and share something unhelpful or unbeneficial? It’s in the next verse:

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

This is not about salvation (we’re already sealed for the day of redemption), but it is about Lordship. Our goal must be to look like Jesus, act like Jesus, and be like Jesus. When is there ever a time when it’s okay to ignore this goal?

Paul didn’t just tell us what not to do. He also told us how to do it right. It’s in the next two verses:

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Today, I want us to simply ponder the underlined parts. Tomorrow, we will look at their mechanics. Have a great day in worship on this Lord’s Day.

Abba, today’s lesson was easy to say, but hard to do. What is it that is in us that makes it so hard to maintain control of our tongues? May Your Spirit guide us into all truth in this matter. My favorite phrases are “with whom you were sealed” and “as dearly loved children.” Both speak of our relationship with You. You love us and live in us! For this truth alone I will praise You all the days of my life. Amen.

Proverbs 2-19-23

Want peace and joy in your life? Trust the Father. He loves you.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8

I was reading Psalm 139:23-24 the other morning and it occurred to me that I KNOW God loves me. Here’s the passage:

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

We who know Christ don’t have to worry about the wrath of God because of several things:

  1. Jesus introduced us to God as the Father. Here’s what He said, “In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
  2. We have passed from death to life and now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life(John 5:24). “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,(Romans 8:1).
  3. The Father is interested in training me in righteousness, not judgment. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

It dawned on me that I know God loves me. This knowledge fills my heart with peace, and joy runs out the top! I am fully convinced that He has me in the palm of His hand and will guide/carry me all the way to His side–in Person, as opposed to Him being in me now. It’s thrilling!

He loves you, too, so you can be filled with peace, and joy will flow out of you, too!

Abba, I am so thankful that You love me! I love that You are gentle and humble at heart, just like Jesus. Your teaching, rebuke, correction and training is for my good and my holiness. It is Your righteousness that is being brought out in me. Have Your way in me, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 1-19-23

Coming together in Christ doesn’t mean that we all believe everything the same way, but there are core beliefs that unify us.

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:30-31

John goes on to say, Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written (John 21:25). If John were including everything that Jesus accomplished in heaven as well as earth, then those books would extend into heaven! What I hear in John’s statement is that he could not tell us everything about Christ and His ministry, but he included all we need to know for life in His name. Jesus Himself teaches us what we need to know to have abundant life in Him.

I watched a man drive a nail through a 2×4 and into concrete. The nail was flat and had a wedge shape. I asked him how the nail could penetrate concrete, and he told me that the nail was made mostly of iron, which has great strength for driving, but if the nail bends, it breaks because the iron makes it brittle. The man had other nails, too. They are made of steel. They can bend without breaking, but cannot penetrate concrete. He needed both.

We need to be like the flat nails about core beliefs that cannot bend, but are the driving force of the Gospel. These beliefs have been held though the ages and are encompassed in the Apostle’s Creed and in even more detail in the Nicene Creed. We can unify around these truths of Scripture.

When it comes to beliefs and interpretations that go beyond the basic tenets of these truths, we need to be more like the regular steel nails that bend when needed. What we must realize is that we all have filters: where we were born, when we were born, to whom we were born, how we were raised by family, how we were raised by community, our experiences (both good and bad), our temperaments, etc. Each of us is part of the family of God, but we all have own unique relationship with the Father through the Son by the Spirit. We all see things a little differently. Learning what is TRUTH and what is INTERPRETATION is what church is all about. We come together to hear, to discuss, to read, to sing, to pray, and to fellowship. We then go out to preach, to teach, to listen, to explain, and to draw in those who are resistant to the Gospel.

One of the truths that has been interpreted differently and argued about through the centuries is HELL. Tomorrow, we will delve into the truth about hell and the interpretations of it. We will look at the Bible, the creeds and at the Baptist Faith and Message. Will it be a complete dissertation? Hardly, but it will be a start.

Abba, You have provided Your truths in written form by Your apostles in the Bible, but You have left the interpretation and application of those truths to us. May we lean solely and heavily upon Your Spirit for knowledge, discernment, understanding, and wisdom of these truths. Lead on, O King Eternal. Amen.

Proverbs 19 12-19-22

66 books, 40 writers, 3 languages, written over 1500+ years, one theme: God’s love for us. The Bible is God’s love letter to us.

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 Christ19 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

Yesterday, we looked at what Jesus thought about the Old Testament Scriptures, that they are the words of God through man, to man. “If you follow Jesus, you will accept what He says about the Bible. It’s really that simple.”* But, what about the New Testament? Can we make the same claim about those Scriptures? The apostles did. Peter wrote this about Paul’s writings,

15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15-16

Peter regarded Paul’s writings as God’s words. Concerning the Gospels, Paul took Luke 10:7 and paired it with Deuteronomy 25:4,

18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18

Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain. Deuteronomy 25:4

Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. Luke 10:7

“This isn’t surprising, since Jesus promised the apostles that they would receive the Holy Spirit, who would ‘guide them in all truth’ by reminding them of what Jesus taught them (John 16:13). Peter not only explains that he has the Spirit but also that he is writing as an eyewitness to the truth: ‘For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty’ (2 Peter 1:16).“**

Peter claimed that the teachings of the apostles was from Jesus Christ Himself. It’s in the Great Commission:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

What is the Great Commission? What did Jesus send them out to do?

  1. They were to go to all nations;
  2. They were to make disciples as they went;
  3. They were to baptize them in the name of the Trinity;
  4. They were to teach them everything Jesus commanded them.
  5. They were to depend upon His presence in their lives. We know that they were empowered at Pentecost by the Holy Spirit, so we have it on good authority that what they taught was, indeed, the commands of Christ.

So, we can trust the Gospels and the letters of Peter and John. But, what about Paul? We will look at him tomorrow.

Abba, I’ve known the stories of the Bible since I was a toddler; I’ve read Your Word for 50 years. It is difficult for me to grasp why anyone would doubt Your Word. Have I misunderstood it in places? Sure, but I know that any misunderstanding is on me and not on You. I have very limited knowledge and wisdom; You have ultimate knowledge and wisdom. Your Word just grows bigger and deeper and wider to me as I study it. It’s a lot like Your love! Oh, that I may be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep Your love is for us! Fill us with the measure of Your love, O God. Amen.

*From, “The Grand Illusion,” by David Young, page 58

** Ibid, page 58-59

Proverbs 19 11-19-22

Loving people God’s way is difficult. Actually, it’s impossible without His help. Good news! He offers it freely!

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:25

As we discuss the following “how-to’s” of loving our fellow humans, there are two things we need to establish right away:

  1. I have just as difficult a time actually doing them as the next guy;
  2. The basis for success with any of them is Ephesians 6:13b, “and after you have done everything, to stand.”

As we walk through 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, we must remember that perseverance is vital. We must never give up.

The story goes of the two frogs that fell into a pale of cream. They swam and swam until one of them gave up and “croaked.” The other swore to never give up and eventually was able to climb out of the pail. How? Because he created butter by swimming in the cream!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

  1. Love is patient- Patience by definition means, “quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence.” I believe it is more than just being even-tempered. Many people, because of temperament, are even-tempered. I also believe that it’s more than perseverance. Most people can endure anything for a season. Diligence, though, is a different matter. Being diligent requires me to stay at it and to do it right, which is God’s way. I know I can’t do it forever in my own power; I need HELP! And that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit gives me in my life. I’ve even learned to be quiet on occasion (by thinking of what I want to say and then not saying it). Jesus was patient; in Him, we can be patient.
  2. Love is kind- Kindness is channeled from one person to another. It comes from a desire to help another soul. Compassion accompanies kindness, and in most cases, precedes it. Kindness can be inherent or learned, but in all cases, it is practiced, and it takes a lot of patience. Jesus was kind; in Him, we can be kind.

We will look at some others tomorrow. In the meantime, let’s practice being patient and kind with everyone. If we start with those around us (family, close friends, co-workers) we will get the most practice and the greatest pay-off. Be diligent; don’t waste even one opportunity!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would have Your compassion for those around them. May they show love through being patient and kind to everyone–even themselves. You love us all dearly; You have made that abundantly clear through Jesus. Please, Abba, conform us to the image of Your Son. Amen.

Proverbs 19 10-19-22

If we want to be like God, then we need God in order to do it. His Spirit stands at the ready to help us.

13 I can do all this through him [the Spirit of Christ] who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

As we continue looking at the culture of God, we are defining the characteristics of what it is to be godly–to be like God. We continue in 1 Corinthians 13,

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Here is where the character of God begins to really shine.

  • Love does not dishonor others– AGAPE love, that self-less, others-centered love, never dishonors others, whether in words, tone, or look. This characteristic takes immense self-discipline, which is why most of us fail miserably in this area.
  • Love is not self-seeking– The heart of the problem with humans is the problem of our hearts: We are selfish and self-centered. Our thoughts are turned inward because we do not begin our lives with the Holy Spirit as the Center of our lives. We learn to not be self-seeking as we mature in Christ. It is a worthy goal, but hard-won.
  • Love is not easily angered– James said it best, “My brothers and sisters, take note of this: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Want to be like God? Then control your anger (Exodus 34:6-7).
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs– Here is the real kicker. God doesn’t, so we shouldn’t either. To forgive and forget means that we render the memory powerless over us. It doesn’t mean that we not have boundaries, but that we cancel the debt of the other person toward us. We strike the record and begin clean. Easy to say; hard to do. But, it’s who God is!
  • Nothing evil comes from God. Ever. Even judgment is based upon our own choices.
  • But rejoices with the truth– Jesus came in grace and truth (John 1:17). When we profess truth, grace is given to us.

Tomorrow, we will look at the crowning characteristics of God in verses 7-9. Then, we will begin to put together the culture of God.

Abba, You have set a high bar for us, one that we can never attain in our own power. But, I think that’s the point. We need You, and our realization of that is very much like You showing Adam what he was missing in the Garden: Eve! The quicker we realize our need of You, the more abundantly You work in our lives. We were not designed to live alone; the God-sized hole in our hearts bears that out. May You fill us with Your Spirit as we acknowledge how much we need You everyday, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 19 9-19-22

There’s more to it than simply telling someone about Jesus. They need to see Him in our lives, too.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

We move on in our study of the Baptist Faith & Mission. Today, we look at:

XI. Evangelism and Missions

It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations. The new birth of man’s spirit by God’s Holy Spirit means the birth of love for others. Missionary effort on the part of all rests thus upon a spiritual necessity of the regenerate life, and is expressly and repeatedly commanded in the teachings of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations. It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ.

Genesis 12:1-3Exodus 19:5-6Isaiah 6:1-8Matthew 9:37-3810:5-1513:18-3037-4316:1922:9-1024:1428:18-20Luke 10:1-1824:46-53John 14:11-1215:7-8,1617:1520:21Acts 1:828:26-4010:42-4813:2-3Romans 10:13-15Ephesians 3:1-111 Thessalonians 1:82 Timothy 4:5Hebrews 2:1-311:39-12:21 Peter 2:4-10Revelation 22:17.

When we have something too good to keep to ourselves, we want to share it. The Holy Spirit sets up “divine appointments” where He draws people to His followers to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our lives point the way to a different way, His Way. How we treat others is extremely important because it tells the tale of what we truly believe. Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). He then said that if we love Him (to love Jesus is to love God; see John 14:9), we will do as He says (John 14:15). Then He said to love one another as He has loved us. By this love the world will know that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).

We must earn the right to tell them about Jesus. Sometimes, we earn the right for the next person, as in the case of Jim Elliot, who was killed by natives while trying to reach them with the Gospel. His widow went to meet the chief and shared Christ with Him. He and the entire village followed Christ. Who we are has more bearing than what we say. What does this say about our daily lives and how we treat others, especially family? And I was doing so well…

May we preach Christ’s love with our lives and earn the right to tell people about the deep, deep love of Jesus.

Abba, thank You that You are in charge of our “divine appointments.” I try to stay available and to treat others as I would like to be treated. More than that, I want to treat them as fellow brothers and sisters in You (or potential siblings). Rather than see them as targets, I see them as valued children of You, O Heavenly Father, who need Your loving touch through me. May I be Christ to them, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 19 8-19-22

Did you know that everyone has around 100K hairs on our heads? Even bald people? How can that be? Read on…

16:31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor; [if] it is attained by a righteous life.

I thought our previous topics were interesting, and then I read about hair. Its programming is amazing! From, “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body,” pages 73-75.

The human head has an estimated 100,000 hairs, though the number varies from individual to individual. While hair appears to be largely confined to our head and a few other scattered locations, it is actually rather uniformly distributed over all our skin (with the exception of our palms and soles, which are truly hairless). On the entire surface of the human body, there are about 5 million hairs; but many of them are difficult to see.

While some areas of our skin appear to lack hair (e.g., on the forehead and nose), they actually have tiny, colorless hairs called vellus hairs. We have about as many hairs per square inch on our nose and forehead as we do on the top of our head–we just don’t notice them. The long and often pigmented hairs (e.g., those of our scalp or beard) are called terminal hairs. Several other types of hair, such as eyelashes, form during the course of our life.

So, how can a bald person have as much hair as anyone else?

Amazingly, we are born with all the hair follicles we are ever going to have, and these follicles normally continue to produce hairs throughout our lives. Beginning at puberty, some follicles that had been producing terminal hairs begin to replace them with almost invisible vellus hairs. So you don’t lose hairs as you age; your hair just gets smaller [and nearly invisible].

Tomorrow, we will learn how hair grows (some for a short period and others indefinitely).

Abba, You really do think of everything! Animals need hair; we need hair–and the way it works is nothing short of a miracle. As we look at hair as our topic, Lord, help us to see You and Your handiwork. Amen.

Proverbs 19 7-19-22

Take heart: Our sins are forgiven. Now is the time to take full advantage of having God as our heavenly Father.

23 The [healthy] fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched [unfazed] by trouble.

The question came up the other day about when unrighteous thoughts become sin. Let’s look at the process:

  1. We see something on TV that causes a lustful thought, or we see something that a friend just bought that we would like to have. Have we sinned, yet? No.
  2. Feelings come with that thought and we are tempted to dwell on what we have seen, or we are tempted to dwell on getting what our friend has. Have we sinned, yet? No.
  3. We have a choice: We can either pursue the temptation and enter into sin or we can take that thought captive to the throne of grace. At this point, I would like to interject two Scripture passages. The first one is 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. The second Scripture is Hebrews 4:16, Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
  4. Making the thought obedient to Christ means that we ask Him what we are to do with it. The first thing He will ask us to do is to turn our thoughts to Him in praise. The second thing is to pray for the person that we saw or the friend who bought what we want. The third thing is to consider boundaries with Him about how this situation might be avoided in the future.

Being in the presence of the Lord is wonderful because love, joy and peace flow from Him like a waterfall. We sense His love, feel His joy, and experience His peace. It is habit-forming, which is the idea! We get into the habit of running to the Father. After a while, Satan gets tired of “sending” us to the throne of grace. Many times, we have victory over strongholds. Other times, we fight them all the way to grave. THEN we have final victory.

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, 
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Abba, as long as we have flesh bodies, we will be tempted. Thank You that You have provided a way of escape from each circumstance (1 Corinthians 10:13). Each time we run to Your throne, we enjoy Your presence and receive love, joy and peace. You provide us with mercy for our failures and give us grace for what we need. From now on, we will view all temptation–and even failure–as an exercise of our faith. Grow us, Lord Jesus. We want to be just like You. Amen.

Proverbs 19 6-19-22

My dad went to be with Jesus five years ago, but dads don’t have to be blood related. I now have two!

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Robin’s dad, Herb Rainbolt, is 91. He and I have built fence together, sided a house together, played a lot of games as partners, and recently fixed his lawn mower (zero turn!) and shook down an apricot tree. I have always thought of him as my second dad–for 40 years.

Our executive pastor, Robert Griffin, was my pastor when I was in high school and college. His son, Dale, was Best Man at Robin’s and my wedding, I dated his daughter in high school, and harassed his little brother, Ray Neil. They have always treated me like family, but since Mom and Dad died, they have adopted Robin and me as their own kids.

Dads are good for advice. They have walked where I am now walking. I would do well to learn from their experience, wisdom and insight. The verse right before today’s Proverbs verse is,

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
    and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

How does the LORD’s purpose prevail in our lives? By us listening to advice and accepting discipline. A humble heart is ultimately a happy heart. I love the promise in this verse: At the end, I will be counted among the wise. I can only think that “the wise” includes Herb and Robert. Happy Father’s Day, you two.

Abba, thank You for providing such important men in my life. My dad, Herb, and Robert were/are men after Your own heart. I want that same heart, LORD. One of these days, I’m going to grow up and be just like them. May it be so, Abba, may it be so! Amen.

Proverbs 19 5-19-22

We are either building up or tearing down. It’s up or down, folks!

19 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a [rich] fool whose lips are perverse.

When each decision we make has blessings or consequences both great or small, the idea that we are always building up or tearing down makes sense. This concept is an old one; we have it on record about 3,000 years ago. Jesus confirmed it in His teachings about 2,000 years ago. We will begin with Proverbs and then move to Jesus:

24 The path of life leads upward for the wise
    to keep them from going down to the grave. Proverbs 15:24

It’s a lot like rowing a canoe upstream. If one ever stops rowing, the canoe does not stay in one place, but begins to drift back downstream. Jesus put it this way,

30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12:30

Another metaphor used to describe whether we are building up or tearing down is building a temple. Jesus first used the metaphor in Scripture in Matthew 16,

18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Paul elaborated on this metaphor in Ephesians 2 when he was describing the new humanity that God was making out of two (Jews and Gentiles).

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone

Paul refers to the foundation of eye-witnesses and prophecy; he then uses a 3,000-year-old psalm to tie it to Jesus, who did the tying Himself. The reference is Psalm 118:22-23, which Jesus quotes,

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Luke 20:17

Paul does something extraordinary next:

21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

He uses people as the building blocks of a new temple in which God lives by His Spirit! One of the interpretations of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:9-27 is that it is a metaphor of the people of God, His Church, His Bride, which follows Paul’s analogy quite closely.

If we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), then we are either building up the temple of God or tearing it down, so to speak, with our actions and our words. May we ask the Spirit each and every time if what we are about to say or do is going to build up or tear down. I am always reminded of Proverbs 17:28, which says, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” Just because we “think it” doesn’t mean we have to say it. Let’s be wise in the Lord, shall we?

Abba, thank You for patiently instructing me to ask before speaking or doing. I just wish I thought to ask every time! I know that sin destroys us along with whatever we are doing, including relationships, and You don’t want us to destroy ourselves or others. May we all learn to listen to Your Spirit ever more closely each day. Amen.

Proverbs 19 4-19-22

The world is changing, but there is still a lot of hate going on. Pray for Christ’s church to continue to succeed in its mission.

19:1 Better a poor person whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips [and actions] are perverse.

Yesterday, we covered the forced African diaspora of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade of the 1500s-1800s. Today we will look at the lesser-known second major diaspora.

The second major forced African diaspora was the Islamic slave trade. This lesser-known slave trade differed from the Trans-Atlantic on nearly every point–except in sheer numbers. In total, around 11.5 million Africans were taken from their homes and shipped to far-away Muslim lands over the duration of this foul practice. The Islamic slave trade lasted much longer than the Trans-Atlantic. It didn’t begin in the A.D. 1500s. Instead, it commenced in the A.D. 600s and lasted into the 1800s. Also, because Middle Eastern Muslim lands lay east and north of Africa, slaves were drawn primarily from the east coast, not the west coast, of Africa. In addition, Muslims were interested in slave girls for their households; hence, the majority of the slaves in the Islamic trade were women, not men.*

The dissemination of the African people groups had a notable effect on the world. The only “good” thing to come out of the slave trade was the blending of the human race. I call it “the human race” because at the beginning of mankind was one man and one woman. We are all one race.

Paul said in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Let’s look at each other as Jesus looks at all of us, which is as His brothers and sisters, as God’s children. Let’s love as He loves.

Abba, it’s hard to imagine that people could treat people so wrong. At the same time, I know that it’s because of their broken view of You, themselves, and others that led (and leads) them to act so inhumanely. Help us, Lord, as Your ambassadors, to spread Your truth to everyone. Amen.

*”Traced” Hyman DNA’s Big Surprise by Nathaniel T. Jeanson, pg. 38-39

Proverbs 19 3-19-22

“You must make up your minds between two possibilities,” Jesus said. Will we bring out good things or bad things out of our hearts?

3 A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.

Jesus calls us to decide. Will we trust or will we fear? Every situation has a point of crisis where we choose to trust the Holy Spirit or to give in to fear. We have this promise,

2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

If we have our line of communication open with the Lord, we will hear Him calling us to follow Him. Walking close to Jesus is the safest place to be! Now, regardless of the physical outcome, we know we are safe in His arms.

Speaking of being in His arms, I have a grandchild in mine! That’s all for today.

Abba, thank You for trusting us enough to allow us to make our own choices. We want to learn to be spiritually mature, lacking no good thing. May we grow to be just like You. Amen.

Proverbs 19 2-19-22

Saint Athanasius* defined the breadth, length, height and depth of the love of Christ. It’s awesome!

12 A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.
I like this verse because I know that “God consigned us all to disobedience so that He could have mercy on us all” (Romans 11:32). Everyone has His favor now; it’s simply a matter of receiving it.

St. Athanasius (writing in 335 A.D.) said this:

Wishing to indicate this [Jesus is the Word and Wisdom of the true God], Paul also said, “being rooted and grounded in love, that you may have power to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19). For the Word unfolded himself everywhere, above and below and in the depths and in the breadth: above, in creation; below, in the incarnation; in the depths, in hell; in breadth, in the world. Everything is filled with the knowledge of God.

The idea of being separated from God is man’s perception as he looks at the darkness of sin and deception (John 3:19-21). Jesus, King of the universe, became visible in human form so that we could have tangible evidence of God’s love. When they looked at Jesus, they saw God (John 14:9). Not only that,

But by means of it [His human body] he made himself visible, remaining in it and doing such works and giving signs which made him known to be no longer a human being but the God Word. For in both ways the Savior exercised his love for human beings through his incarnation, in that he both banished death from us and renewed us, and also in that, although being unseen and invisible, through his works he appeared and made himself known to be the Word of the Father, the ruler and king of the universe.

John explains it like this:

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have gazed at, and our hands have handled – concerning the Word of Life! That life was displayed, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and we announce to you the life of God’s coming age, which was with the father and was displayed to us. 1 John 1:1-2

All this in order to restore a right relationship with us. Let’s take advantage of it!

Abba, thank You for banishing death from me and for renewing me. As I enjoy the Fellowship of the Trinity (joining in the fellowship that flows between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit), may I become like You in every way. I’m not there, yet, but I am working on it. Please keep molding me into the image of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

*Saint Athanasius (born c. 293, Alexandria—died May 2, 373) was a great defender of the faith. He was a Greek church father and the 20th bishop of Alexandria.

Proverbs 19 1-19-22

I love the Gospel of John. He wanted everyone to know that Jesus is God incarnate. His perspective shapes my theology.

21 There are many thoughts in the heart of a man, but the counsel of the Lord abides forever.

John opens his Gospel with a revelation of who Jesus is: The Word of God. Let’s read it:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

When I read John 1:1-5, I am in awe of its portent. The stage is set for the wonderful discovery of finding out who this Word is. In fact, John doesn’t take long to reveal the Word to us,

10 He was in the world…
11 He came to his own…
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…
17 …grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 …the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him [God] known.

I understand that Jesus is the Word of God because I see Him in the opening verses of Genesis. The term for God is, “Elohim,” which is plural. It’s referring to the Trinity.

In the beginning, God [the Father] created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God [the Son] said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God the Father was over creation;
God the Spirit was the fashioner of creation;
God the Son was the speaker of creation.

Jesus is the Voice of God, and has now been given a body. Hebrews 10:5 tells us,

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

What do we learn about Christ in this passage?

  1. Christ came into the world;
  2. Sacrifices and offerings (temple worship) didn’t fix the relationship between God and mankind;
  3. Jesus came in bodily form;
  4. Again, the sacrificial system did not justify mankind (Romans 3:20);
  5. Jesus came to do God the Father’s will;
  6. He fulfilled the Scripture because they pointed to Him (John 5:39).

Let’s praise Jesus today for coming to save us!

Abba, I praise You for stepping down from Your throne and removing Your glory to be born in human form. You came to be the Second Adam to represent us in dealing with the consequences of sin, namely death, once for all. Your plan was amazing! Thank You for desiring to do Your Father’s will. I desire to do Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 19 12-19-21

We don’t do good to make God like us, nor to be “pleasing” to Him. We do good because He is in us. He already loves us!

1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than [a rich] one who is crooked in speech and is a fool. Or, better to be a wise sheep than a foolish shepherd.

Our integrity is wrapped up in our relationship with Jesus. I consider integrity the outer wrapping of what is inside a person. It is okay to disagree with someone, but when we open our mouths, what comes out? What should come out is the character of God. If God allows us to resist Him, and then takes our consequences and works them into the making of our character, then we would do well to allow others to err against us so that God can take their consequences and work them for their good. The only thing that should come out of our mouths is blessing.

What is the character of God? If God is described as love (1 John 4:8), then, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8,

  1. He is patient
  2. He is kind
  3. He is not envious or boastful
  4. He is not arrogant or rude
  5. He is not insistent on His own way
  6. He keeps no record of wrongs
  7. He is not irritable or resentful
  8. He never rejoices at wrongdoing
  9. He rejoices with the truth
  10. He bears all things
  11. He believes all things
  12. He hopes all things
  13. He endures all things
  14. He never fails

With His character in mind, let’s apply Ephesians 4:29 to our lives:

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

I am reminded once again how important this axiom is to our daily walk. The reasoning behind this verse goes like this:

  • IF we are all one body, THEN sharing negative words is like poison.
  • IF we are all one building, THEN being critical is like watering down the cement used between the blocks.
  • IF we are all one Church, THEN cutting each other down is like hating its members.
  • IF our opinion is sound, THEN our fellowship with the Lord is good, which leads to patient endurance, gentleness of spirit, and self-control.

Our words, body language, and other signal factors all display the love that is in us for each other. Each of us is on a journey with Jesus. He reveals knowledge, understanding and wisdom as we go according to His time for each of us. Our job is not to change other folks or make them see things from our perspective. No human has complete knowledge. We must remember that fact.

In all things, we must keep relationships first in our lives beginning with our fellowship with the Trinity and then branching out to our fellow Christians. From there, we search for those to whom God directs us to help them to see Jesus clearly.

In my conversations, I vow to not only refrain from making negative statements about others, but to help turn other’s negative statements into positive ones so that the body may be built up in love.

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

Abba, may I be a picture of Jesus to everyone I meet. I want to be so like You that they would sense Your presence and participation in our conversation. May we all aspire to such a goal. Amen.

Proverbs 19 11-19-21

What?! I am held personally responsible for my own choices? What’s up with that?!

3 When a person’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord [he sees his ruin as “God’s fault” or His punishment when actually it is the consequence of the person’s choices].

Through the years, I have heard these expressions,

  • To miss a day of musical practice, I notice; to miss two days, Robin notices; to miss three days, the whole world notices.
  • To work out and do only one set means my muscle strength survives, but only that; do two sets, and my strength maintains with endurance; do three sets, and my muscles grow in strength and endurance.
  • In my spiritual life, if I miss an extended time with the Lord, I notice; if I miss two days, those around me notice; if I miss three or more days in a row, everybody notices.

The point is that we all need regular times of refreshing. We all eat every day; why would we not sit at the Lord’s table and nourish our souls with Him through the Scriptures? One of my favorite passages is Ephesians 5:25-27,

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word [Jesus Christ is the Word (John 1:1-3)], 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Let’s analyze:

Literal- Jesus is talking to the Ephesian church through his letter to them. He stated in verse 21 that we all are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In a marriage, the wife is to submit to her husband, and a husband is to submit to his wife and to love her as Christ loved the church. Christ cleansed the church through the shedding of His blood on the cross; His plan is to present her in splendor, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish to the Father (Jude 24).

Moral- Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20); Jesus said in Luke 9:23 that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily in order to follow Him daily (implied). Our daily exercise of submission begins with Christ each morning.

Spiritual- We need to submit ourselves to Christ in order to survive in this world. We maintain our devotion, fellowship, and our integrity when we continue to submit throughout the day. We have seasons of growth when He calls us into a time of intense study and deep prayer. It is a time when we seek His face with an earnestness that we usually don’t have. The Spirit calls us to search for Christ as for hidden treasure. These are the times when we jump ahead in our spiritual walk.

If you are in survival mode, I pray that you will ask the Lord for the urgency to seek His face.

If you are in maintenance mode, I pray that you will enjoy your times with Him and seek His face routinely.

If you are in growth mode, write down everything He shows you and teaches you–don’t leave anything to memory! The notes you take will be what maintains you when that season is over.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would seek Your face every day. Give them that higher desire to search for You as for hidden treasure. Spiritual growth is scary, but we don’t have to worry about losing our relationship with You; You hold us in a double-fisted grip (John 10:27-30). Grow us, O Lord; make us more like You every day. Amen.

Proverbs 19 10-19-21

It all seems to come back to us needing/having the mind of Christ. Godly wisdom is seeing from His point of view.

2 Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way.

Axiom: No one should seek his/her own good,
but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:24

Put another way, each of us should seek others’ good over our own. It’s not a matter of neglecting ourselves, but of making sure that our good does not overrun someone else’s. It’s putting others first.

Jesus put it this way, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” Matthew 7:12. When we put others before ourselves and think about their good rather than our own, we come close to thinking like Jesus. He left heaven for us. Why? Because we needed Him. Still do. More than ever.

In Jesus’ last instructions to His disciples before He went to the cross, He gave this charge:

34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

When we put others first, we are showing the love of Jesus. It’s His signature move, so to speak. When we do, people will know that we belong to Christ, for they see Him in us. The greater the contrast, the greater the display of love. We need to be ready to display His love in extravagant ways–but, this will mean higher stakes. It may even mean that we face dire circumstances. Are we willing to show His love in the face of grave danger? We will be if we know that love intimately, up-close and personal. Daily. Hourly. Continuously. It’s what He’s always wanted! Can you imagine the God of the universe wanting a close and intimate relationship with you? It’s true! Getting us back was always the plan.

He wants to help us with every decision. His view is much bigger than ours and He can see what’s coming. It fulfills two objectives:

  1. Keeping us safe from the evil one, and
  2. Spending quality time with us. It’s a good thing that He lives in us!

Today, let’s be like Jesus and put others ahead of ourselves. Ask Him what to do; He knows just the right way to do it.

Abba, I want to be just like You. By being like Jesus, I can! May I continue to learn how to put others before myself. I’m going to need the mind of Christ to do it–thank YOU that I have it through the Spirit! Amen.

Proverbs 19 9-19-21

People are lonely, empty, and guilty, but don’t know it. Satan keeps them blinded. What are we to do about it?

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.
11 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

A few years ago, there was a popular band-bracelet that had WWJD on it, which stood for “What Would Jesus Do?” It was about trying to be Jesus to those around us. Not a bad slogan. The best way to figure out what He would do was to know how He responded in the Gospels. It took interpretation and application that, without the Holy Spirit’s leadership and sometimes intervention, could have gone south pretty quick.

The main component missing from that line of thinking was Jesus Himself. It always seemed to me that it should have been JWWYHMD, “Jesus, What Would You Have Me Do?” I know, it’s a little long and there’s no ring to it. I reckon that’s why it didn’t catch on. But, when dealing with people, we need the insight of the Holy Spirit because we simply don’t know what’s going on in their heads. Here are some things we can do to be ready when someone invites us to help:

  1. Be ready to listen. If we’re quiet long enough and ask enough questions, the person will usually give enough information for us to get a feel for the situation.
  2. Be ready to speak. What they want to hear and what they need to hear may be quite different. The Spirit will tell us what to say in the hour of our need (Mark 13:11), but He usually bases what He tells us on what we have read and studied in His Word and what He has already spoken to us in our times with Him.
  3. Be ready to give. People don’t so much need our money or material things as they do need our time. If they are hostile, they may take our stuff, or hurt us, or even kill us. Jesus is aware when we are in trouble–He’s right there with us. In fact, what they do to us, they are doing to Him (Matthew 25:40, 45 implied). He has promised that His Spirit will be with us forever (John 14:16), which means that He will walk the veil with us to Heaven’s shores!

Are we really ready to deal with people who are lonely, empty, and guilty? Only through the Spirit of Jesus! Even though we can get good general knowledge from the Scriptures, only the Spirit can lead us to say and give what they really need. Hey, sometimes, the answer is “No” to whatever they’re asking. It’s all up to Him.

Today, let’s avail ourselves to Him and seek to be ready to be Christ to those around us.

Abba, I ask that as I go to church today, You will equip me to meet peoples’ needs according to Your riches in glory. I am Your servant to do with as You please. I trust You to lead me in how to lead others to Your throne. Amen.

Proverbs 19 8-19-21

Living for Jesus, living with Jesus…”What’s the difference?” The difference is huge! God wants a personal relationship with us!

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion [against those who are not His], but his favor is like dew on the grass [for those who are His].

The hymn, “Living For Jesus,” says,

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

“Yielding allegiance” I like; “glad-hearted and free” I like. “Living for Jesus” and “striving to please Him,” not so much. There’s a basic assumption that we are saved to serve as slaves. Yes, that terminology is used in the New Testament, but there’s a different terminology that plays a bigger role in our lives:

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

  1. We are led by the Spirit of God. That in itself takes the “for” out of the equation. He is inside and in charge. He leads and we follow–not out of slavery, but because we recognize His role in our development as sons of God. We live WITH Jesus. NOTE: We all have the same rights as sons. Women in the ancient world could not vote, hold office, or own land, generally speaking. In God’s kingdom, we are all equals in God’s sight. See Galatians 3:28.
  2. Having the Spirit of God is what makes us children of God. We are not slaves, but children. Consider verse 29 just a little further in the chapter, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
  3. Abba” is the equivalent of, “Daddy!” It’s a very personal and intimate term of endearment.
  4. We are siblings with Christ!
  5. Sharing in His sufferings is what happens when we follow Him, look like Him, and act like Him. The world turns on us pretty fast!

Our choice is this: As children of God, shall we operate in the flesh or in the Spirit? Romans 8 addresses this issue, as well, but we will cover that lesson tomorrow. Today, let’s focus on enjoying our adoption and our sonship in the family of God, shall we?

Abba, thank You for loving me, dying for me, redeeming me, and adopting me. It really is ALL YOU! All I did was receive your gift of salvation. And boy, am I glad I did! You are amazing, Abba! I love You. Amen.

Proverbs 19 7-19-21

Does God send people to hell? Or, do they simply not prepare for heaven? There is a difference.

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.

It never ceases to amaze me that people accuse God of being brutal and unfair because He “sends people to hell” when they are not interested in doing anything God’s way or even having anything to do with Him. Could it be that God simply allows them to “have it their way?” There are two scripture passages that I would like to string together:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God John 1:12

I did a little research on the word, “right.” It is a feminine noun, which means that it is passive (it needs outside power). The Greek word is eksousia and means “privilege, granted authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment, authorization.” Notice that each of these terms receives power from outside itself. Jesus gives us the privilege to become children of God. When we are born again, we are born with this inalienable “right.” It is the Holy Spirit who makes it happen. This right includes all the power and authority, protection and provision afforded by our heavenly Father.

It is never God’s intention to lose anyone to hell, but He does offer free will, and that free will requires complete free will. The choice to have nothing to do with God must be one of the choices. The righteous anger of Jesus Christ with the religious leaders had much to do with God’s love for them. The hinge verse for me is Matthew 23:13, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” In the midst of their arguing with Him, He offers them the opportunity to believe, “Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father” John 10:37-38. If the kingdom of heaven (of God) is in our midst, or within us (Luke 17:21), then it follows that we receive entry into the kingdom while here on this earth. To leave this earth without the kingdom of heaven within us leaves us nowhere to go but to a place that was originally created for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). It doesn’t sound like God created hell for people at all!

Yes, there is a time of sentencing, so to speak (Matthew 22:11-13 and 25:41, 46), but it is really just the honoring of the choice made in life, the choice to have nothing to do with God. I include three quotes from C.S. Lewis,

“A man can’t be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you can only get there on your own steam.”
The Quotable Lewis, page 292

“I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.
The Quotable Lewis, page 292

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”
The Quotable Lewis, page 293

We must never forget that “God so loved that world that He gave His one and only Son.” Those who treat that great sacrifice with contempt will not want to stand in His glorious presence in heaven. They will look for any place else to be. Mercifully, God grants them their request: Hell. Does God send people to hell? Yes, at their insistence.

Abba, I know Your heart, that You desire no one to go to hell. I also know that you created us to choose. I choose You. Please work through me to “rescue those being led away to death” (Proverbs 24:11) by “snatching them from the fire” (Jude 23). You are the LORD Most High. All creatures will bow before You and confess “Jesus is LORD” (Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10-11). I pray that many will choose to bow BEFORE they see You face to face. Amen.

Proverbs 19 6-19-21

Our inner motivation drives our outward feelings. It’s why we get up every morning. What or Who is your inner motivation?

16 Whoever keeps commandments will live, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die [spiritually and physically].

If we know the Lord Jesus, then we have His Spirit in us. 1 John 5:12 tells us, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” Our new life in Christ comes when the Spirit of God comes to live in our hearts. It is this transaction that saves a person. When does He come in? When a person is willing to give Him control of his life. This kind of trust only comes when we realize that what God has said in His Word is true and that we need Him. We hear His voice and answer His call to follow Him. It is at that time that the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts and lives.

He is our motivation to obey God. He is our desire to please Jesus. He gives us the “want-to to want to.” He is now the driving force in our lives–not us. When we came to Jesus, our lives began to change; parts of our lives changed quickly and easily whereas other parts have been slow and difficult. There are probably a few areas that He hasn’t touched, yet! That’s okay. Our relationship with sin has changed; it no longer condemns us, but now it just makes us more determined to get things right the next time. God uses what used to defeat us to strengthen us for our growth and His glory. How do we get there? Through consistent prayer and Bible study. Here’s my daily process:

I commit to mastering my flesh:

27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:27

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. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:20-21 Note: I like verse 21 because it reminds me that I live by grace and not by good works. My good works are BECAUSE of grace.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power [the strategies of this world and my own designs], but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zechariah 4:6

do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4

Of course, we cannot master the flesh without mastering our minds:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

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

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

26 to make her [the bride–us!] holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word [of God, the Bible],

My goal is to hear the voice of Christ. With these verses, I fine tune my ears to hear Him. I train my eyes to look for signs of the Spirit’s moving. I condition my mind to run to Him every time it strays to old paths. By doing so, I take what was once a stronghold and make it the very thing that ushers me into sweet fellowship with my Savior!

I challenge you to read these verses every morning for a week and see if your spiritual walk with Christ strengthens.

Abba, You know what I need. You have made it plain that I need to train my mind and my body to be obedient to You. I desire to please You, Lord. My whole motivation is to be like You. Keep chiseling; keep molding and shaping me into Your image. I want to be conformed into Your image (Romans 8:29) and transformed in Your likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). Make it so, Abba, in Your time and according to Your plan. Meanwhile, use me for Your glory. Amen.

Proverbs 19 5-19-21

The greatest need for Christians today is connection. We are the BODY of Christ, not stand-alone Christians.

27 Stop listening to instruction, my child, and you will stray from the words of knowledge [spoken by other members of the body of Christ].

We need each other. I think each of us knows that we do; the problem is that we don’t realize how much. Christians didn’t think up corporate worship. God did. Ever since He called the Hebrew children to Himself (Leviticus 8:1-4), He has been calling His children to gather in His name. In fact, God inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). Jesus Himself promised, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20.

What is so important about meeting together? Paul broke it down for us in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; we will look at specific verses.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 

Paul states in Ephesians 1:22-23 that Christ is the head over everything for the church, which is His body. It is how He fills everything in every way in this world. Christ is reaching the world through His church, His body–us!

14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Each of us is unique, just like pieces in a puzzle. We each fit in a certain place in that puzzle. Without each one of us, the puzzle picture is not complete. I know that the entire picture will not be complete until we are all with Jesus in heaven, but until then, He is working on certain portions of the puzzle, the part where we fit in.

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 

The Lord has taken great care to place each of us where we are: A particular family in a particular time and place in a particular church with the people in that church. He has us there for a reason, both for ourselves and for others, just as He wants us to be.

25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

It is for this reason that we congregate each week: If one part is suffering, the entire body suffers. The same goes for rejoicing. We cannot live as islands; we are CONNECTED by the Holy Spirit. It is He who forms us into one body for Christ and with Christ.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it

We each have our roles to play. We don’t even have to know how; our presence can be enough for Christ to use us in building up His church. The key is our presence, our being there physically. The church really does suffer when we as individuals are not there. I can’t explain it; it’s just a phenomenon of being part of the body of Christ. Don’t believe your presence is important? Consider this:

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

We need each other because we spur each other on toward love and good deeds. It’s that simple. We each have a task: Assemble. Most of us assemble one-two times a week, maybe three. But, what about prayer times with other Christians? What about Bible studies with other followers? Have you considered getting involved in one of these? Assembling is what God calls us to do. If we are faithful followers, then we will do as He commands. He calls us to Himself. He will meet with us in a unique way every time we gather in His name.

Abba, I pray that my readers will consider very seriously their commitment to gathering with You at church, whether it’s in the main service or in a smaller group. This topic is not one on which we can skimp. Our attendance is required. Help us to realize the importance of it and then recognize Your hand when You are moving in our midst. Do something special, Abba; do something amazing in our congregations! Amen.

Proverbs 19 4-19-21

Let’s be practical: What are some of the benefits of following Jesus? Love! Joy!” Peace! Hope! Grace! Let’s look at joy.

8 The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

Jesus is joy. Joy is an expression of God. It’s part of His character, just like love and goodness. In fact, Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, “The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s Shekinah glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:3.

Not only that, Jesus is the Word of God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14.

Godliness means, “being like God.” We get to do that through Jesus. Likewise, being like Jesus is being like God. It’s nice to have an example, isn’t it?

Here’s the biggest statement in the Bible (to me): “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30. It’s big because I know that pleasing Jesus IS pleasing God. I don’t have to worry that I’m going to get reprimanded later because I misinterpreted what Jesus said and then get scolded by the Father. They are One. To know Jesus is to know God. If I please one, I am pleasing the other.

Jesus died to give us this opportunity. When Christ called us to follow Him we pledged to do so. We even got baptized signifying to the world that we are now followers of Christ. He came to live in us through His Spirit, through which He empowers us to try, encourages us to try again, and blesses us whether we succeed or fail (as long as we are trying).

Here is a noteworthy verse/passage:

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

As we live for Him rather than for ourselves, we know that “the joy of the LORD is our strength.” Nehemiah 8:10. The strength to do what? To live for Christ. Want to know the power of God? Then clothe yourselves with the joy of the LORD,

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14

and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, Ephesians 1:19-20

Enjoy the LORD today.

Abba, You are awesome! You have created a way for me to know You on a personal level. When I am enjoying Your Presence and participation in my life, I am filled with joy. I know Your love and sense Your peace. My hope is in You, O LORD. Thank You for Your daily grace. Fill me up, Abba, with YOU. Amen.

Proverbs 19 3-19-21

Why take things as face value? “Study to show yourself approved…” You may have learned false information.

2 Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

Our love for the Lord must be more than a feeling; it must grow legs and walk! At the same time, many people run ahead of the Lord because they think that they can guess what He’s up to. WRONG! We are not designed to do anything FOR God, but WITH God. He made us interactive on purpose, and that purpose is to be interactive with Him.

Today, we look at two passages that have been misused for centuries. One is clear if we do the math and the other is clear if we dig a little deeper than the English language. Here’s the first one:

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Matthew 12:38-42

The Pharisees were asking for the sign of Moses, which was manna from heaven. We learn this bit of information from John 6:30-31. Jesus told them the only sign they were going to get from Him aside from His healings: He would spend three days and three nights in the belly of the earth just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. There are two things that are taken for granted; One is that we can get three days and three nights from Friday to Sunday. The other is that Jesus died in 33 A.D. According to the astronomical charts, both are wrong.

  1. The Jewish day began at dusk. Counting backward from Sunday, we get Saturday night–which was really Sunday morning, Saturday, Friday night–which was really Saturday morning, Friday, Thursday night–which was really Friday morning, Wednesday night–which was really Thursday morning, and then Wednesday. Since Wednesday actually began on Tuesday at dusk, the Passover meal was Tuesday evening; Jesus was arrested that night, crucified at 9am, died at 3pm, and buried in Joseph’s tomb before dusk of Preparation day (Wednesday) to get ready for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a High Sabbath that began on Thursday that year–which was really Wednesday night. Confusing, right?
  2. Astronomical computer programs can tell us the year that the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Thursday (Wednesday night). It was 30 A.D. This date correlates with other astronomical data (including rulers and moons) placing Christ’s birth at 3 B.C.
  3. The Feast of First Fruits is always on the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus arose sometime after dusk on Saturday as the First fruits of the resurrected. He, indeed, was in the grave three days and three nights.

One more thing about this passage is Jesus’ reprimand of the Pharisees. Nineveh praised Jonah, and the Queen of the South (Ethiopia- see 1 Kings 10:1-13) praised Solomon, but Jesus told them that He was greater than Jonah and Solomon. He was setting them up, but they didn’t realize it.

The second misinterpretation happens in Matthew 16:13-20. We will wait until tomorrow to discuss that one. Today, let us focus on the fact that regardless of bad translations, misguided theologians (from as far back as the 6th century), and well-meaning but proof-texting pastors, the Word of God stands pure, holy, and true. Sometimes, we just have to dig for that truth.

Abba, thank You for all the wonderful tools we have at our disposal today. What theologians throughout the centuries wouldn’t give for that astronomical computer program or the internet! My Bible program that gives me access to many translations and Hebrew/Greek dictionaries is amazing. I even have it on my phone at my convenience all the time! May I not take for granted Your Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. Reading Your Word is the most important thing we do besides carrying on a conversation with You all the time. Help us to hunger and thirst after righteousness, Lord. Amen.

For more information about “Easter” and its origin, see “Why Easter? Why NOT Passover?”

Proverbs 19 2-19-21

Our relationship with Christ means nothing if He is not in charge. Is He not just resident, but President in your life?

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Listen! Do you hear His voice? What is He saying to you? Are you searching the Scriptures to find out? We find in His Word that He has demonstrated in other people’s lives what He will say, how He will respond, and what He desires. Do you care enough to seek out the answers? We bear out this question every day as He comes to us for fellowship. But, we must be willing to do as He directs; otherwise, we will not hear. We will have turned our attention to the chatter of a multitude of voices around us.

Our decision to seek out the Savior, listening and heeding what He tells us through His Spirit, is like entering the small gate that leads to life. Let’s read it:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Luke says something similar, but goes further with the teaching:

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter [their way] and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:24-30

As we can see, knowing Christ on a personal and ongoing basis is essential for eternal life, which, by the way, begins the moment we receive Him into our hearts and lives. We don’t wait until we die to begin living eternally, for wherever Christ is, there is heaven! If He is in our hearts, then the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21).

Again, I exhort you: LISTEN! Make time and determine in your hearts to pray to the Father, read His Word, seek His will, listen for the Spirit’s voice, and obey Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You might begin with 2 Peter. Verses 3-11 of chapter one are whoppers! You might continue with Romans 12:9-21, which tell us how to live with our brothers and sisters. Ephesians 4:1-3, 29-32 teach us how to be like Christ in personal holiness. If not with these, start somewhere!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would catch a vision of what it looks like and feels like to be in communion with You. Allowing You to guide our thoughts and actions is what Christianity is all about. Our relationship with You means nothing if You are not in charge. Be in charge of me, Lord Jesus. I am Your humble servant. Amen.

Proverbs 19 1-19-21

We were never meant to do anything FOR God, but with Him. It’s the whole point of the cross, resurrection, and Pentecost.

2 Desire without knowledge [of what God really wants] is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way.

One of my favorite verses is a short one. It is Ephesians 5:10, “and find out what pleases the Lord.” Sounds simple enough, right? Then why do we fight Him so much when it comes to what HE wants? What DOES He want? Jesus told us in His priestly prayer,

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:24-26

This is not my first time to write about this subject. the problem comes when people ignore the purpose of salvation for the preference of something else–anything else! The purpose of salvation is for God to take up residence in us so that He can be with us forever. Consider this verse, “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:23).

  1. To love Jesus is to obey Him. Why? Because anything else leads to destruction, and He loves us too much to leave us to our own devices. He came to show us the way, and that way is found in OBEDIENCE.
  2. “My Father will love them.” Who is His Father? The heavenly Father. GOD! “the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world” (John 16:27-28).
  3. They BOTH will come and make their home in us!

My mother and father came to live with Robin and me back in 2011. About two years in, my dad and I were working in the garage and I asked him why they left their home in Durant (they grew up around there), their friends, and their church to come up to OKC. My dad looked at me and said, “I got tired of not seeing you.” I have the feeling that God feels the same way about us.

If we don’t want an ongoing, personal relationship with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit, then we shouldn’t have taken Jesus up on His offer of salvation. In fact, if it was never our intent to live our lives with Him, then chances are you never really received salvation. Jesus said that salvation comes through Him–knowing Him, following Him, and loving Him.

For the rest of us, we need to get back to the basics of life, life with Christ. Do we love Him? Then let’s work on our sanctification WITH Him. That sanctification (becoming like Jesus) is achieved through the Word of God. “Sanctify them by way of the truth; Your Word is truth” (John 17:17).

The secret to the Word of God is prayer, which we will discuss tomorrow.

Father, thank You for coming and taking up residence in my heart. The fact that You, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are in me is amazing! Who could ask for anything more? In fact, knowing You are in me gives me confidence; I’m not afraid anymore. I know You love me and love being with me. It really is the point of the cross. May I never lose sight of the mystery of the ages, “which is Christ in me, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Amen.

The Basics of Life by 4Him

Proverbs 19 12-19-20

We revert so easily! One day without reading His Word: we notice. 2 days: our family notices. 3 days: the world notices! In fact, we begin to act just like the world again.

27 Stop listening to instruction, my child, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

As we continue in Colossians 3, we come to the part where we must engage with the LORD. Interaction with the Spirit is how we navigate this next passage.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

The first thing we must notice here is that we are considered holy by God. Already! Our position in Him makes us thus. Also, there is a practical holiness, an interactive conversation that takes place every day that works our holiness from the inside out so that others can see it. “So then, my dear ones…continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] [from the inside out] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might discredit the name of Christ]. 13 For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing (desire) and the ability (power) to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasurePhilippians 2:12 AMP. You will notice that four of the five attributes are fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We can easily add “compassion” to that list.

13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 

The next thing that we learn is that not everyone has a handle on these attributes–including ourselves! So, we must bear with patience, showering compassion on them while being kind and tenderhearted toward them in all humility and gentleness. We must remember that we have been forgiven much, so we CAN forgive the little that others do to us (in comparison to Christ’s forgiveness). We must remember Jesus’ parable of the Unmerciful (Unforgiving) Servant who was forgiven a great debt, but would not forgive his fellow servant a small debt. The Master was NOT happy with him (Matthew 18:21-35).

14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

His love is what saved us; it drives us, and it sustains us. It binds us together with other Christians in a way that we cannot understand, but we CAN enjoy. It is the reason that we get together. He promises that He will be with us in a unique and special way when we do, “For where two or three [or more] gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20. There is a special relationship and fellowship that goes on between two or three…but we will save that conversation for another time. Suffice it to know that His love binds all of the attributes (the fruit of the Spirit) together in perfect unity, which takes us a LONG way toward practical godliness (remember that we are already godly in our position in Christ).

Conclusion: To clothe ourselves with the fruit of the Spirit means that we have a connection to the Spirit and a fellowship with the Spirit that calls us into fellowship with other Christians. This fellowship is guided by Him in a unique way that showcases the love of God to the world. “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Jesus said, “In this way the world will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. Our job is to be intentional about putting on those attributes and to be like Christ even as we fellowship with Him.

Tomorrow, we will discuss verses 15-17, which deal with peace, thankfulness, and worship.

Abba, I willingly and intentionally put on Your attributes of godliness: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, compassion, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9). May I study Your word all the more diligently to learn how to apply these attributes and to become more and more like You (practically speaking). Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, speak that my soul may hear. I look forward to our running conversation today. Amen.

Proverbs 19 11-19-20

What gives you your greatest satisfaction? Your wealth? A job well done? Relationships? What’s important to the Lord?

1 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a [rich] fool whose lips [ways] are perverse.

As Christians, our greatest satisfaction should come in two ways. One is in our fellowship with the Father through the Spirit, and the other is in becoming like Jesus. The nice part is that we get one with the other. Jesus doesn’t want us to try to become like Him without His guidance, direction, and assistance. Consider these natural traits and then their spiritual opposites:

Pride——————————————Abandon (of self-consideration)
Sloth (laziness)—————————Diligence
Lust——————————————-Pure thoughts

Our problem is not IF we have trouble in any of these areas, but HOW they express themselves in our daily life. Jesus wants to help us with transforming these liabilities into virtues. Each of the natural traits is a raw, unrefined, unfocused, and even perverted form of the corresponding spiritual trait. It requires spiritual energy to put off the natural and put on the spiritual. Yet, that spiritual energy is exactly what Jesus wants to give us through His Spirit/Presence!

Consider this analogy: My father could give me a hammer and tell me to build a dog house. At 35, it would be easy, but at 4, it would be unreasonable. Given the fact that Jesus calls us little children, I am betting that we are more like 3 or 4 spiritually. So, instead of my father giving me a hammer and then expecting me to use it correctly, he puts the hammer in my hand and then places his hand over mine. When I swing at a nail, it’s really HIS aim and HIS power that does all the work–yet, I get the credit!

The same goes for each of these natural traits. Let’s look at some verses that help us understand this concept:

21 If you really listened to him [Yeshua] and were instructed about him, then you learned that since what is in Yeshua is truth, 22 then, so far as your former way of life is concerned, you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desires; 23 and you must let your spirits and minds keep being renewed, 24 and clothe yourselves with the new nature created to be godly, which expresses itself in the righteousness and holiness that flow from the truth. Ephesians 4:21-24 Complete Jewish Bible

Therefore, put to death the earthly parts of your nature — sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (which is a form of idolatry);
Never lie to one another; because you have stripped away the old self, with its ways, 10 and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator. 
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.

14 Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly; 15 and let the shalom which comes from the Messiah be your heart’s decision-maker, for this is why you were called to be part of a single Body. And be thankful — Colossians 3:5, 9-10, 12-15

Colossians 3:16 tells us the secret ingredient to a Christ-like life, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” The CJB says, “let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you That’s not asking too much, is it? If Christ asked us to meet with other believers for fellowship each week, we wouldn’t think that was too much would we? Or, to give 10% of our check? or, give to missions or a friend in need? So, why is it so hard for us to read His Word daily and diligently? Because Satan knows that if he can keep us from reading, then he can keep us from having spiritual victory in our lives!

Brothers and sisters, let’s ingest the Living Bread by reading His Word daily. Let’s “crave the pure milk of the Word” and delight in its richness.

Abba, I pray that You will generate within us a hunger and a thirst for Your Word. May the Scriptures come alive to us! Speak to our hearts as we read and help us apply Your truths to our lives. Thank you for the wonderful gift of Your words, O LORD, that we may KNOW exactly what You mean, what You desire, and what You have in store for us. Amen.

Proverbs 19 10-19-20

Seasons of refreshing come from meeting with Jesus. It’s important to meet with Him; it’s how we get to know Him.

2 Desire [to know Christ] without knowledge [taking time to get to know Him] is not good–how much more will hasty feet [too busy to stop and spend quality time with Him in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship/worship] miss the way.
3 A person’s own folly [thinking that he knows best] leads to their ruin [the missing of the blessing of a close relationship with the LORD], yet their heart rages against the LORD [as if it’s His fault that they wouldn’t take time to meet with Him!].

In Mark 5, we read the account of Jairus the synagogue ruler and the healing of his daughter. We also find the account of the woman who had been ill for 12 years. Each of these people had an encounter with Jesus. Do you think they were grateful? I sure do! I wonder if they desired more time with Jesus? Did they follow Him from then on?

How about you? From what did Jesus set you free when you encountered Jesus? Were you grateful? Are you still grateful? Do you desire more time with Him? The good news is that WE CAN HAVE MORE TIME WITH HIM. He calls us every day to set aside some time for just you and Him. Don’t be in such a hurry (and full of yourself) that you miss out on the TRUE BLESSING of your salvation.

Take a look at the disciples in verse 40, “After He put them all out [of the house], He took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with Him [Peter, John and James (Luke 8:51)], and went in where the child was.” What was the purpose of these three getting to witness this miracle? These three also got to experience the Mount of Transfiguration (see Mark 9:2-8). When we look at history, God used these three in extraordinary ways in building His Church. We get to hear from them each time we read their letters in our Bibles. In fact, we get to experience their experiences as we read about them because Jesus affirms in our hearts the truth of these experiences. He opens our minds to what He was showing them: His divinity. Our faith (our hope and trust, our reliance) is increased when we read these encounters in His Word.

In many ways, we are still in school. We are learning to be godly even as we learn what godliness is. One of my favorite verses is Titus 2:12, “It [the grace of God] teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” God’s grace, which is the active ingredient in our salvation, a.k.a. the Holy Spirit, teaches us. There are times for instruction and then times of practice; there are times of demonstration and then times of experimentation where we try out what we have learned. If we keep this concept in mind, it will help us to discipline ourselves and spend the time and effort with the LORD we need to learn how to be like Him.

Are you truly grateful? Then apply yourself to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, the study of Scriptures, and talking about the LORD with those around you–family, friends, strangers at Wal-mart, etc.

Abba, I pray that You will become bigger and bigger in our lives so that being with You and being like You becomes our biggest desire. May we see You in action around us and join You in Your work. Open our eyes, LORD, to You and what You are doing in the lives of those around us even as we spend intimate time with You. Amen.

Proverbs 19 9-19-20

“Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is already made up.” This is the case of most people when presented with the Gospel.

3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD. They have plans and don’t want them interrupted–even by the LORD!

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. They can’t have their way and salvation, too. We come when He calls; otherwise, we can’t come.
Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools. They were never intended, but how else can God get their attention? If you want a prime example of the human heart, read the account of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt in Exodus and Numbers (you can skip the lists). It just proves that even though they were taken out of Egypt, Egypt was still in their hearts. We know that only Jesus can remove Egypt from our hearts and replace it with His Holy Spirit.

Matthew 12:1-14 provides us with an account of Jesus that should have brought all of the rulers of Israel to faith. In it, we find:

  1. The disciples picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. When questioned, Jesus said that He was greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath (v.6-7).
  2. Jesus entered the synagogue (church) and healed a man with a shriveled hand. He gave good reasoning for it, too (v.9-13). In this act, He proved that He was Lord of the Sabbath and greater than the temple.
  3. Did the Pharisees believe and follow Jesus? NO! They “went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.” Matthew 12:14.

In Proverbs, we find these types of people:

  1. The wise–those who strive to see from God’s perspective and practice obedience.
  2. The simple–“a person who is gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil” (my note at the bottom of the page).
  3. The fool–a person who knows the good that he should do, but doesn’t care and goes about his own way.
  4. The mocker–a fool who gets angry or haughty with a righteous person. Proverbs teaches that a person who is in this frame of mind is not able to perceive truth and should be left alone–even avoided.

Which one describes the Pharisees’ attitude at this point in the account? They were mockers. Jesus called them blind guides and hypocrites, white-washed tombs, snakes and vipers, and murderers (Matthew 23:13-36). Was Jesus condemning them? NO! He was trying to get them to repent. How do I know? It tells us in the last verses of the chapter:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:37-39

Jesus was willing, but they weren’t. What does this passage say to us? It means that we are to be discerning when talking to people about Christ. Pay attention to the Spirit and to the attitude of the person. It also teaches us that as long as a person has breath, he can repent, so we continue to pray, calling on Jesus to do whatever it takes to open their eyes to the truth about their sin and Jesus’ willingness to forgive them and embrace them. It’s the heart of the Gospel.

Abba, please, please, please keep us from falling into the old traps of sin and selfishness. Renew us daily in Your Word and with Your Spirit. Make us wise, O LORD, that we may see from Your perspective. Give us discerning hearts so that we can tell what kind of person to which we are talking. It’s a daily thing, isn’t it? Then let us do it daily! Amen.