Proverbs 3-21-23

Doing anything on our own belies the purpose of the cross, which was to join us to Christ in friendship and partnership.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19

We have been looking at how the Lord instructs us through the Bible on how to treat each other (and more specifically applying these instructions during a church building project). But, there is a component that often goes missing: We were never meant to do it alone. Jesus came to be with us; He left so that He could send the Comforter (Himself), the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ), to be with us. We forget that God the Father sent God the Son to make a way for God the Spirit to live in us. Here is one of my favorite passages:

25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” John 16:25-28

The Father Himself wants a relationship with us?! He eliminated everything that keeps us from Him through Christ. Let’s look at four things to learn from this passage:

  1. Up until that point in the upper room, Jesus had spoken to his disciples figuratively. Why? I can think of two possible reasons. The first is because it wasn’t time to reveal the real reason for His coming, which was to take away our fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15 and 1 Corinthians 2:8). The second reason is that once the Spirit took up residence in them, He would give them perspective so that all that Christ taught them would come into focus.
  2. Jesus was establishing their relationship with the heavenly Father. To ask in Jesus’ name is to ask according to all that Jesus taught them.
  3. The Father loves them–and us. Why? Because we believe that Jesus came from God, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5). To believe Jesus is to believe God.
  4. Jesus reiterated that He came from the Father to the world and was about to go back to the Father. “That power is the same as the mighty strength He [God] exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 1:20).

The next time we think about asking God for something or about something, we need to DO IT! To not do it means that we either don’t believe that He cares enough to listen (unbelief), or that we can do it ourselves and don’t need His advice or help (pride). The fact that we thought about it is evidence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

If we can come together in Jesus’ name, asking God for wisdom, discernment and understanding, I know that the Spirit will give us unity. He has promised us, “I in them and You in Me–so that they may be brought to complete unity” John 17:23).

Abba, You tell us that we are part of one Body, Yours. We all bring something unique to the table, but we are still all part of You. Help us to focus on Your plan for the furtherance of the Gospel. Your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts are WAY higher than ours. We trust You. Help us to see clearly as we discuss and plan. Amen.

Proverbs 2-21-23

I learned a new definition of “integrity” today. Or, should I say, I added another definition to the word.

36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:36-37

My definition of “integrity” has always been: Who a person is when no other human is around (the implication is that Jesus is always with us). The definition I learned today is: When the person we are on the inside matches the person we are on the outside.* If there is a gap between the two, then there’s a problem with integrity.

“The health of your soul determines your capacity for duplicity.”

This statement identifies the inner person (the soul) as the determiner of who we are and what we do. Our motives tell the tale of why we do what we do, which reveals who we are on the inside. Here is a passage that has helped me to close the gap between who I am on the outside and who I am on the inside,

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

When I turn away from who I was and focus on me being clothed with Jesus Christ–His righteousness–I begin to see myself as God sees me: A righteous child of God, dearly loved by Him, and being made holy day by day as I learn and grow in the Spirit. It’s this daily walk that is so difficult, but so important. Here are some good habits to safeguard our souls:

  1. Surrender your will to Jesus daily–the sooner, the better! I suggest between the time the alarm goes off and your feet hit the floor!
  2. Monitor your heart as you walk through your day. Make sure that you are thinking about the right things and not dwelling on the wrong things. Here’s a list of good things: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
  3. Open your hands and leave them open to whatever comes from the Father. John the Baptist is the one credited with this one: To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven” (John 3:27). We can trust the Father to give us what we need and what is good for us. Jesus said as much, ““Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11).

May we be known as people of integrity as we follow Jesus our Lord.

Abba, sometimes I just don’t care what people think about me, but then I hear Your voice saying that YOU care what people think about me. I am Your child, and representing You well is important, but You care because You love me and want the best for me. May I reconsider when I feel this way and understand that You and I both profit from having my integrity intact. Thank You, Abba, for being patient with me. Amen.

*”Living With Yourself”

Proverbs 21 12-21-22

Reading today’s Proverbs may make you feel like you’re back in school, but it’s worth wading through.

20 Now may the God of peace21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Today we look at the Letter to the Hebrews. From Wikipedia:

The Epistle to the Hebrews (Ancient Greek: Πρὸς Ἑβραίους, romanizedPros Hebraiouslit.‘to the Hebrews’)[3] is one of the books of the New Testament.[4]

The text does not mention the name of its author, but was traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle. Most of the Ancient Greek manuscripts, the Old Syriac Peshitto and some of the Old Latin manuscripts have the epistle to the Hebrews among Paul’s letters.[5] However, doubt on Pauline authorship in the Roman Church is reported by Eusebius.[6] Modern biblical scholarship considers its authorship unknown,[7] written in deliberate imitation of the style of Paul,[8][9] with some contending that it was authored by Priscilla and Aquila.[10][11]

Scholars of Greek consider its writing to be more polished and eloquent than any other book of the New Testament, and “the very carefully composed and studied Greek of Hebrews is not Paul’s spontaneous, volatile contextual Greek”.[12] The book has earned the reputation of being a masterpiece.[13] It has also been described as an intricate New Testament book.[14] Some scholars believe it was written for Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem.[13] Its essential purpose was to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. At this time, certain believers were considering turning back to Judaism (the Jewish system of law) to escape being persecuted for believing Christ to be the messiah. The theme of the epistle is the doctrine of the person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity.

Dr. Robert Dean Luginbill, Ph.D. Curriculum Vitae Department of Classical and Modern Languages University of Louisville in Louisville, KY, says, “that the book of Hebrews is included in the earliest and best complete manuscript of the Bible, codex Sinaiticus (ca. 3-4 cent. A.D.). Sinaiticus contains a complete copy of the book of Hebrews – positioned in the middle of the Pauline letters, in between 2nd Thessalonians and the pastoral epistles (a clear indication that, pace [despite] Origen, the producers of this wonderful manuscript assumed that Paul was the author).”

Here is an interesting note that I did not know:

The nineteenth-century German scholar Theodor Zahn...also concluded that the canonization of the New Testament was set by the end of the first century. Harry Y. Gamble wrote this summary: “Zahn’s massive study of the history of the canon … argued that there was already a canon of Christian Scriptures by about the end of the first century (80-110 AD) …[and] that there had arisen a body of Christian documents read in public worship and broadly recognized and cited as normative. They consisted of the fourfold Gospel and a corpus of thirteen Pauline letters, as well as some other writings. Zahn believed that this was adequately documented by the fact that the church fathers, especially the early second-century Apostolic Fathers, were fully aware of these texts, which they clearly took to be fundamental resources of the church at large” (McDonald and Sanders, The Canon Debate: On the Origins and Formation of the Bible, pp. 267-268).

Folks, we can trust the Epistle to the Hebrews. In as much as we can understand it, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sacrificial System. His substitutionary sacrifice was made “once for all” (7:27, 9:12, 9:26, 10:2, and10:10). We can take it to the bank.

Abba, thank You for including such a detailed and thorough account of Jesus’ fulfillment of OT Scriptures–in fact, the whole sacrificial system! He is, indeed, Prophet, Priest, and King. May we read Hebrews with great joy and excitement knowing that Jesus has done it all, for us. Amen.

A Summation of the Epistle to the Hebrews
“The author of Hebrews presents strong arguments that we all need Christ, including: He is more wonderful than angels, for they worship Him. He is superior to Moses, for He created him. His sacrifice is once for all time, whereas the Aaronic (Jewish) system required repeated sacrifices. He is better than the Law, because we can live by Him, whereas the Law kills those who try to follow it...This epistle was written prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Timothy was still alive at the time of this letter (13:23), and the Jewish system was about to be removed (12:26-27). This book was written between 64 and 68 A.D. Hebrews presents Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, far superior to any religious system this world might devise. He who is from everlasting is better than anything or anyone found in this world-system.”

Proverbs 21 11-21-22

“God is good,” means: He is compassionate, merciful, patient, abounding in truth and forgiving of sins yet leaving consequences intact.

The Lord God, compassionate, merciful, longsuffering, abounding in mercy and true, preserving righteousness and showing mercy unto thousands, taking away lawlessness, wrongdoing, and sins; and He will not clear the guilty, visiting the lawlessness of the fathers [consequences] upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation [until they recognize that lawlessness and correct it].” Exodus 34:6-7 LXX

The other morning, I received a response to one of my posts. The person is a friend of mine in a different city and has his own “flock” to which he tends. I asked his permission to share his response; he said yes, so here it is:

Amen, this is very much in line with what I’ve been praying this morning as well. To live in Agape to those around me. Loving them even when they are hating me. Lord Jesus, thank You that Your Spirit is in us teaching us and leading us.

Mission and Purpose
What is our mission and purpose as disciples of Christ? When I was in the Marine Corps I liked the term disciples of pain. Physical suffering and suffering in silence together with a team that fought through whatever obstacles to achieve the mission.
Translate that to living by the power of the Holy Spirit to love my wife and kids when they aren’t loving me. Loving my neighbors and people who curse me and hate me. Praying and allowing others to have their preference over mine, to will the good for others in a selfless love. Agape.
Mission, spread the good news. Shine in a world of darkness, be salt that adds a flavor that everyone wants, joyfully living in death so others will see only Christ through me. Yes Lord, I forsake all to follow you, but that doesn’t mean neglecting responsibilities, it means forsaking all my selfishness, fleshly desires and appetites for sin. Make me a warrior that can truly live in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Not just empty words and false pretense. Truly entering into this relationship with You that will transform my life and the lives of everyone around me because it’s just You.

As we can see, my friend has gained the understanding of 2 Corinthians 5:14-15,

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.

There it is, “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him.” This phrase captures the very essence of the mission of Christ. He did the same for us so that we could reciprocate to Him. It’s a mutual submission. Yes, He is Lord, King of the universe, but He is also our Friend and Guide, our Comforter and Counselor. He is our Advocate,

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

My dad had an advocate when he was in the hospital. This advocate made sure he was receiving the best care, that his insurance was picking up the tab, and when the time came, saw that he was moved to Hospice. The Holy Spirit is all that and more! He guides us into all truth, He reminds us of everything Jesus said (whether we were there to hear it or not–we can read much of it in the Gospels), He warns us when we are thinking of straying, and loves us as His own. Why would anyone NOT want to live for Him?

Abba, I pray for us all that we would hear from You today. May You impress upon us the need to read Your Word and to commit it to memory (if not the exact wording, then the paraphrase version with the CIT*), not only perceiving what it means, but putting it into action in our lives. When we do, You take the initiative! If we want You to work in our lives so that we can perceive You (to feel You in us and know that You are really there), then the best thing for us to do is put Your Word to work in our lives. You will take it from there. May it be so in my life. Amen.

*CIT- Central Idea of the Text

Proverbs 21 10-21-22

We have no business trying to be good without listening to the Spirit of Christ and doing what He says.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

Yesterday, we ended with, “If we love as God loves, we would never…” To finish this statement, we need to look at Exodus 20,

And God spoke all these words:
(verses 2-11 omitted)
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The first four commandments are about our relationship to God; the last six commandments are about our relationship with each other, and it is these we are discussing today. If we love as God loves, we would never…

  • Dishonor our parents, for they are responsible for us until we are old enough to engage God personally. Having healthy boundaries is a discussion for another time.
  • Murder. By definition, murder is done with intent, either with malice of forethought or done on the spur of the moment. We are to do neither.
  • Commit adultery. This one seems obvious, but it can have many connotations. True, we must not have sex outside of marriage; we must also watch what we think, as well. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He made it a sin of the mind. We must learn to control our minds even as we control our bodies.
  • Steal. There are two things wrong with stealing. The first thing is that we assume that we are more important than the person from whom we are stealing. We dishonor him. The second thing is that we do not trust God to meet our needs, so we take matters into our own hands to satisfy our lusts. There is simply not any way to justify stealing.
  • Bear false witness against our neighbor. This means lying. Again, we dishonor him. We tell the truth because Jesus is truth, and is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).
  • Covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor. Wanting what our neighbor has instead of him having it is coveting. It leads to stealing, which dishonors our neighbor. If our neighbor resists, we might kill him, which is murder. We may lie about what happened, and thus bear false witness against our neighbor.

Can you see how breaking one command leads to breaking another, and another, and another? We are now headed in a direction–away from God! What is the cure? Repentance: To stop, turn around and think differently than before. In order for us to do this, we need help. We need the Holy Spirit. He will heal our eyes and minds and help us to think as God thinks. We have this promise, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Abba, we need Your mind. Please teach us to access the mind of Christ within us by way of the Holy Spirit. It’s the only way that we are going to beat our old nature. Help us to put off the old self and to “put on the new self, created to be like You in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Amen.

Proverbs 21 9-21-22

Our willingness to share shows maturity in our walk with Christ. Which will we follow: His will or our way?

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

Today in the Baptist Faith & Message, we look at:

XIII. Stewardship

God is the source of all blessings, temporal and spiritual; all that we have and are we owe to Him. Christians have a spiritual debtorship to the whole world, a holy trusteeship in the gospel, and a binding stewardship in their possessions. They are therefore under obligation to serve Him with their time, talents, and material possessions; and should recognize all these as entrusted to them to use for the glory of God and for helping others. According to the Scriptures, Christians should contribute of their means cheerfully, regularly, systematically, proportionately, and liberally for the advancement of the Redeemer’s cause on earth.

Genesis 14:20Leviticus 27:30-32Deuteronomy 8:18Malachi 3:8-12Matthew 6:1-4,19-2119:2123:2325:14-29Luke 12:16-21,4216:1-13Acts 2:44-475:1-1117:24-2520:35Romans 6:6-2212:1-21 Corinthians 4:1-26:19-201216:1-42 Corinthians 8-912:15Philippians 4:10-191 Peter 1:18-19.

The phrase, “You can’t ‘outgive’ God,” is true, but not necessarily in the way one might think. Spiritual currency is different than this world’s currency. If one puts money in the offering plate thinking that he will get a monetary return for his “donation,” he’s banking at the wrong bank. We give to God praying that He will use it to meet the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the advancement of the Gospel. Romans 12:13 says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

The advancement of the Gospel happens when followers of Jesus Christ are obedient to the Spirit’s guidance in their lives. Whether it’s living a godly life before an unbelieving spouse, sharing with someone who stops by the church for assistance, going to the other side of the globe to further the cause of Christ, or some other way that the Lord directs a person to testify for Him, God uses each act of faith for His purposes.

May we give of our finances, our time, our resources, and even our very lives in the advancement of the Gospel. Building His Church (members, not buildings) is a major goal for us. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

Abba, You said that we would be witnesses all over the world. In many cases, You bring the world to us through neighbors, business contacts, and in many other ways. May we, first, live a life that brings You glory and attention, and second, be obedient to Your still, soft voice as You direct us to people You want to hear our story of how You interact with us on a daily basis. We want to be good stewards of the lives You have given us. Amen.

Proverbs 21 8-21-22

To see the miracle of Irreducible Complexity, all we have to do is look at the hair on our arms.

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.

We have two more installments concerning hair. Today’s is about the cuticle, which is the outer construct of a hair; tomorrow’s will be about the amazing “hair lock.” From, “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body,” pages 75-77

Hair grows from tube-like depressions in the skin called hair follicles. The hair shaft is formed from living cells deep in the follicle. These fragile living cells subsequently die to form the remarkably strong fiber we call a hair. The same follicle is capable of producing more than one type of hair during the course of our lives.

All hairs are covered with a layer of flattened dead cells (called the cuticle) that help to keep the hair from knotting up (imagine the knotted mess if our hair was made from comparably thin nylon thread [think rod and reel tangle]). Under the microscope the cuticle looks like overlapping shingles or roof tiles [much like a palm tree].

Wigs made from natural human hair must have all their hairs facing in the proper direction (the free edges of the cuticle cells facing away from the scalp), if they are to be groomed and lie properly.
The shape of the cuticle has an added benefit–perhaps its most important function–it locks the hair in its follicle.

Even the hairs on our bodies are not simple. There is design to each part, each cell, that makes us who we are. God wants us to see Him in all of His creation. Do this: wiggle your index finger back and forth. See that? We will talk about everything that goes into that motion in a couple of days!

Abba, we DO see You in all creation. I love the fact that You told us that You created everything–in six days! I also love that You have lately (in the last 150 years) given us the tools to discover Your creation and the fact that You created in six literal days. What we have been studying bears witness not only to a Master Designer (You), but to the fact that the human body was created all at once. There’s no other explanation for it. Evolution certainly cannot account for it. If so, then why not all of creation in six days? You are GOD. Things happen when You speak–like planets, suns, and life. You are amazing, Abba. Thank You for sharing Your world with us. Amen.

Proverbs 21 7-21-22

It’s my life and I can choose to live it any way I want. I choose to live it as Christ Jesus leads me. He is life!

1 A king’s heart is channeled water in the hand of the Lord;
    God directs it where he pleases.

The concept of human free will is mind-boggling. How does God guide history and not disregard man’s free will? Well, it helps to know the end at the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), which is a God-trait. I know that He uses angels to intervene, protect, and deliver messages to His children (Hebrews 1:14). Why doesn’t God simply control mankind? Because without free will, mankind would be like the animals of God’s creation. The “divine spark” in each of us is our ability to choose.

Jesus gave everyone a choice concerning Him. Here are three notable ones:

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

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

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Luke 57-62

Notice that each person was treated individually and each was left to make his own decision about following Jesus. The same choice was given to the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-22, and the disciples when Jesus called them (Luke 5:1-11, John 1:43-51). Even the book of Revelation ends with an invitation for all to join Jesus,

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

“The one” means, “whoever,” as is used in John 7:37-38. The choice is there for all to make. Jesus desires to include us in His plan to reach the nations; at the same time, He makes up for any deficiencies we have in our ability to present the Gospel. All that being said, it still all boils down to the individual decision of the prospective follower. We must allow them to respond to the Spirit’s call. Without them coming to know Jesus, they miss the entire point. What IS the point? We will discuss that tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for allowing me free will, but I thank You even more for saving me from myself. If/when I have a question about anything, I can turn to You and receive Your opinion. I trust Your opinion. Your insight is always trustworthy. May my life be a reflection of Your trustworthiness. Amen.

Proverbs 21 6-21-22

Worship is our response to God. Praise is our outpouring of recognition, thanks, and gratefulness to Him.

23 Those who are careful about what they say
    keep themselves out of trouble.

Conversely, those who use their voices to praise the Lord place themselves in the center of His love and grace. We call those gatherings, “worship services.” What does that phrase mean? I’m sure that there are other definitions, but here’s mine:

A worship service is where the people of God
are called by the Holy Spirit to come together
with the express purpose of praising God.
It is a collective experience that only happens
when we are together.

Our obedience to the Spirit to come together is called, “corporate worship.” Individual worship differs from corporate worship in that individual worship happens when we hear personally from God during the worship service. We hear from God routinely throughout our day, but we purposely encounter Him during that time set aside with our brothers and sisters to praise Him.

King David was all about coming together to praise the Lord. Psalm 100 is noted for it. Here are two verses:

    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come to him with songs of joy.

Give thanks as you enter the gates of his temple.
    Give praise as you enter its courtyards.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.

As we consider COVID and the saving grace of online worship during that time, we are thankful for the miracle of technology. At the same time, online worship is a lot like the old AT&T slogan, “It’s the next best thing to being there.” It has its place, but nothing beats being in the presence of the assembly and sensing the Lord’s manifest presence in that place. If we want supernatural proof of God, it can be found in the worship of His people.

So, why don’t we feel His presence more often in our services? That’s tomorrow’s topic. Today, let’s focus on our private worship so that when we get together this Sunday (or whenever your church meets), you will be ready to worship corporately with them.

Abba, You have assembled Your people together throughout history. I read about it in Exodus when You called the Israelites to assemble before You at Mount Sinai. I read about it when You poured out Your Spirit upon the assembly at Pentecost. I remember several times throughout my life when Your presence was so thick that we all went to our knees. I don’t need these experiences to believe in You, but they certainly bolster my faith that You are actively involved in our lives. May we come purposely before You every chance we get! Amen.

Proverbs 21 5-21-22

Practicing Christianity while talking about Christianity can be difficult, especially when passions run high.

30:33 For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.

When discussing religious views, there are two rules:

  1. Be respectful.
  2. Manage your emotions.

With these two rules acting as a framework for the discussion, we can set the parameters for discussion using this diagram:

  1. Belief that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and invites all people to join Him in a personal relationship is where we unite.
  2. The dogma (absolute truths) about Jesus is where discussion begins. A person doesn’t have to know the dogma in order to trust in Jesus.
  3. Doctrine is where most debate comes in. Interpretation of text, both literal and theological, can be personal. Viewpoints must be taken for what they are: a person’s personal views which are based upon how he interprets the Scriptures.
  4. Personal opinion is just that: a person’s opinion. Anything outside of Scripture falls into this category.

Labeling, and even vilifying, each other as heretics over personal opinion, doctrine, or even dogma does not reflect the teachings of Christ, help the cause of Christ, or make outsiders want to join us. We must remember that Jesus is responsible for each of His followers, not us. We all answer to the Chief Shepherd. Also, we are to be stars shining in the universe (Philippians 2:15). We can’t really do that if we are attacking each other, “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Galatians 5:15).

Here is a great way to live our lives,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

This verse includes other believers/followers. Just sayin.

Abba, there is so much I have to learn that I simply cannot be dogmatic about anything except who You are. May we have great endurance and patience with each other when discussing doctrine and even dogma. I want to learn even from those with whom I disagree. I’m going to take my own advice and chill…amen.

Proverbs 21 3-21-22

The only way to unite the Israelis and Arabs is to find a common Denominator. His name is Jesus.

3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

In 1990, One For Israel founded the first Hebrew-speaking accredited evangelical Bible college in Israel. It’s the ONLY school of its kind. Their goal is to provide the training they need in Israel preparing and equipping pastors and ministers for ministry. “Today, we are fulfilling our mission to train up the next generation of Arab and Jewish leaders in God’s kingdom, ready for the harvest of faith to come.”

“With conflicts in our culture and long-standing tensions between Arab and Jewish communities,
our college stands as a witness to the love of Jesus that brings us together.”

Jesus said, “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). He also said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). If we believe this commission to still be in effect, then we must believe that sending missionaries into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria–as well as the Gaza Strip, Jordan, and all neighboring countries–is still in effect, as well. This college is fulfilling the Great Commission in a literal way!

As Daniel’s rock becomes a mighty mountain and fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35), our prayers mix with believers all over the world and rise to the Father and to the Son through the Holy Spirit. Let’s join in prayer for this college and One for Israel as they minister to our Arab and Israeli family.

Abba, I lift up this college to You. I know that what they are accomplishing is because of You. May You work a mighty work in Israel and its surrounding people groups as You bring Your peace to the nations. Amen.

Proverbs 21 2-21-22

Hearing God’s voice is crucial to salvation and to everyday living. Do you hear Him?

2 Every person’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Every person hears from God the Father sometime, and each person’s experience is different. I like to call it “tuning into His voice,” where we find the right frequency to hear Him. He is always speaking to us through the natural world (Romans 1:20), and I think that there comes a time when He calls our name. Whether it is us tuning in to His frequency or Him punching through with a strong signal, we hear Him and perceive Him for who He is.

The invitation to join Him usually comes after some seed-sowing and cultivating, but it doesn’t have to. Each person’s experience is unique to His life and circumstances. Also, what the Father says to each of us is tailored to us, our view of ourselves, and our view of Him—sometimes it is in spite of our view of Him!

The biggest point to today’s post is about hearing the Father daily, by which I mean, do we have a line of communication open to Him continuously? If we are, then:

  • We experience the assuring presence of the Spirit;
  • We are aware of the right choice of whatever we are contemplating;
  • Our joy is steady;
  • We look more like Jesus.

If we are not, then:

  • We miss the purpose of becoming His children;
  • We miss out on the peace, love, joy, comfort, assurance, hope, and more that the Father wants for His children;
  • We miss the leadership of the Spirit in our lives and will wander off into wastelands of sin and pointlessness;
  • We hamper the progress of becoming more like Jesus.

I’m sure there are other reasons for both, but these are the ones that come to mind right now. If you are not in the habit of talking with the Father, begin like this: “Abba, what do You think about _______?” Fill in the blank with anything that is going on in your life. As soon as you do, sit back and listen. What do you feel is the bottom-line answer? We usually know before we get the question out! We just need a bit of clarity from Him. Try it. I think you’ll like it!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they do this (or learn to do this) on a regular basis. Fellowship with You is what You have sought for us from the beginning. Being part of the Fellowship of the Trinity is the ultimate experience! May we all seek to hear Your voice. Amen.

Proverbs 21 1-21-22

Fear or faith? Do we really believe that Jesus loves us and that Jesus is God, and therefore, God loves us?

2 Every man [person] appears righteous to himself, but the Lord makes hearts right.

While John the Baptizer was in prison, he sent his disciples to Jesus to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3). It’s a fair and straightforward question. Jesus answered him rather obliquely by quoting Isaiah 35:5-6,

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;

To understand the import of what Jesus was quoting to John, let’s look at the verses before His quote,

1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance [judgment],
with the recompense [the discernment] of God.
    He will come and save you.”

Verses 1 and 2 speak poetically of John and his coming from the wilderness with the Great News that the Messiah is coming!

Verse 3 speaks of John’s message to get ready.

Verse 4 tells us to not be afraid. What a unique thought! Shouldn’t we fear God? Does he not say that the Lord is coming with vengeance and recompense? But, then he says that God has come to save us. Here is another opportunity for us to see the dualism of God’s perspective vs. man’s perspective. The LXX says “Be comforted, you fainthearted. Be strong, do not fear. Behold, our God renders judgment and will render it. He will come to save us.” The exhortation to not fear and that He comes with salvation enables us to see God’s judgment as His discernment of what we need. We Need Jesus! So, He sent John the Baptizer to make the way ready for our Savior.

John the Baptizer’s disciples went back to John. It never says that they returned and followed Jesus. John himself encouraged them to do so, “He must increase, I must decrease.” “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We know of two disciples that did, Andrew and probably John himself.

How about you? Do you fear God? He would not have you do so. In fact, the apostle John tells us in his letter that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). If we take Isaiah’s words to heart, we will understand that Jesus came to teach us to not fear God, but to love Him. We cannot approach someone we fear, and Jesus wants us to come to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Abba, I love the fact that You do not want us to fear You. Everyone who walks in Your light walks in Your life, as well. You are our source of joy and peace, comfort and love. May we always think of You in the plural: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in One. We bask in the Fellowship of the Trinity! Amen.

Proverbs 21 12-21-21

We can trust our heavenly Father. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever-Just Like Jesus (that’s because they are one!)

[30] There is no wisdom and no understanding and no counsel [that can stand] against the LORD.

Because God has our back, we can trust in Him. It doesn’t mean that He will do things the way we think He ought, but it does mean that He will be with us in whatever we are walking through. In fact, we have this promise:

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals [or anything that happens in this mortal life] do to me?” Hebrew 13:5-6

It’s interesting to me that we use this verse to comfort each other, which is a good thing, when it’s really to teach us that we are not to depend upon money to make us happy. In fact, we are to keep ourselves free from THE LOVE of money. We can even expand the idea to not trusting in anything but Him. He is to be our confidence.

This confidence we have in our heavenly Father is something that we learn through experience over time. One of the things we learn that helps us trust Him is the fact that we cannot disappoint Him. God’s expectations are based upon His omniscience–He knows everything, therefore He has no unmet or unrealistic expectations. Our Father is in it for the relationship, not our performance. He just wants to be with us.

Another thing I have learned is that we never have to fear His wrath. Jesus Christ proved the love of the Father on the cross. At the cross, He proclaimed amnesty for everyone. Any “wrath” we experience is because of the consequences of our choosing to turn away from Him. But, we have this promise:

13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny [disown] Himself. 2 Timothy 2:13

Jesus’ name is “Faithful and True” (Revelation 19:11). When we recognize our Shepherd and trust Him as His sheep, we live in the Fellowship of the Trinity. My favorite passage on this truth is John 10:27-30,

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 [Why? Because] I and the Father are one.”

My prayer this Christmas season is that we would be available to the Spirit as He reveals Himself to people. The Advent gives us the perfect opportunity to share a “did you know” with someone and then, hopefully, move into a spiritual conversation. Let’s ask the Father to give us opportunities to share His Good News!

Abba, I pray that I would have the opportunity to share Your Good News. Everyone can have a close and personal relationship with You through Christ’s finished work on the cross. Open our eyes to how You are building Your kingdom and Your Church, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 21 11-21-21

How do we separate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? We DON’T! They are ONE and we are in them!

15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous [righteous living is done in partnership with Jesus], but terror to evildoers [“Payday someday;” the consequences of sin come due eventually].

Let’s review yesterday’s post:

  1. Jesus was face-to-face with the Father BEFORE creation.
  2. Jesus was the Agent of creation.
  3. Jesus is the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact representation of His being.

We are beginning to see that Jesus is more than just a Prophet. Now, we come to Jesus’ own words about His relationship with the Father.

30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:30

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? John 14:9

21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:21

The phrase, “that they also may be in us,” is a GREAT BIG CLUE as to the nature of Christ’s mission. Could it be that when Christ died on the cross for us that we all became one with and in the Trinity? If so, then repentance is more about “changing the way we think” (the actual definition) rather than being sorry for our sins.

Back to the Trinity:

Our best verses for the basis of the Trinity is found sprinkled throughout Jesus’ last words to His disciples in the upper room:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, John 14:16

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23

26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26

10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. John 15:26

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. John 16:13-15

23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:23

Whew! I wasn’t kidding, was I? Jesus talks about the Father, Himself, and the Spirit interchangeably. It is this fellowship into which we are invited. Wow! The love, joy and peace that emanate from this Trinity is what we feel when we are in close communion with Them. Even though they are individual in the sense that we perceive them as individuals, we should never separate them in our minds, for they are One (that’s a brain-stretcher!).

As we enter into fellowship, praise, and feasting (at our church), may we worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, Three-In-One. Tomorrow, we look at 1 John 4 and see how John described the Trinity.

Abba, I address You, my heavenly Father, understanding that my fellowship with Jesus through His Spirit who lives in me is with You, also. May I get “caught up” in Your love, joy and peace as I change the way I think to include me in You, in the Trinity. I can’t begin to describe the safety and comfort I feel in knowing that I can never be separated from You, and that You include me in Your intimate fellowship. Wow! For this revelation I worship You. Amen.

Proverbs 21 10-21-21

Giving up the rights to control our lives is tough, but worth it. Jesus opens the way to an ongoing relationship with the Father.

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD [why do we try?].

Meeting Jesus is special and different for everyone. I don’t think it’s what we say as much as the intent of our hearts that matters. Jesus just wants to be in us and with us. At the same time, I think that we would do well to consider who He is and what it means to have Jesus Christ in our lives. A great place to start is with Colossians 2:6-7,

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, 
continue to live your lives in him, 
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, 
and overflowing with thankfulness.

The phrase, “ask Jesus into our hearts,” is a bit incomplete. Paul, in this verse, gives us a more apt phrase, “receive Christ Jesus as Lord.” We receive Christ (Savior) Jesus (Yeshua) into our lives as Lord (God of the universe and King of our lives). This phrase leaves no wiggle room for having Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. It’s not just a matter of “getting Jesus.” It’s a matter of Lordship.

It can be argued that one can get salvation without lordship, but one cannot have lordship without getting salvation. In my person opinion, salvation without lordship is a misnomer. Salvation IS lordship. When Jesus comes into our lives, He is Lord. It’s who He is. Get ready for a make-over deluxe!

If we are not interested in Him transforming our lives into His image, then we’d better do some serious soul-searching. Is He Lord? Is He present at all? I don’t preach apostasy (being able to become “unsaved”); I lean toward hypocrisy:

19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 1 John 2:19

What does it take to be a Christian? The anointing of the Holy Spirit,

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

The truth is that we know intuitively through the Spirit what is right. Whether we do it or not depends upon our willingness to trust Him. If there is no desire to do things His way, then I would suspect that there is no Spirit present. The fight inside is PROOF that His Spirit resides in us.

If we look at the end of Colossians 2:7, we find these words, “overflowing with thankfulness.” Those who have Christ Jesus as their Lord are overflowing with thankfulness. I know I am!

Abba, I am thankful for Your Plan to save me and to make it so I could be adopted into Your family. Having Jesus as Lord of my life is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am SO grateful for the anointing of the Spirit. I’ll never get over being grateful! Amen.

Proverbs 21 9-21-21

Hearing God’s voice requires an act of faith, but it is evidenced by His Presence.

21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love [God] finds life, prosperity and honor.

22:4 Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life [Isaiah 33:6 explains to us that it is our relationship with Him that unlocks the storehouse of salvation and wisdom and knowledge].

What is it like to read God’s Word and hear His voice? to feel His presence? to fellowship with Him?

It is His invitation to us every day:

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

[18] “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 55:1 (NIV)

[1] “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Revelation 3:18-20 (NIV)

[18] “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

[19] Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. [20] Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

We have all heard the phrase, “To have a friend, be a friend.” The concept works here, too. If you want God, our Heavenly Father, to be your Friend, then be a friend to Him. Accept His invitation to “come and dine” at His table. Moses did:

Exodus 24:9-11 (NIV)

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.

And to think that the God of the Universe lives in our hearts!!! Let’s bless Him and praise Him today as we go about our lives.

Abba, I bless You and praise You for who You are and for coming to live in my heart. To fellowship with You is my highest goal today. As we walk together, May I become more like You in love and compassion because I know that it is in these qualities that You work good works in me. May You be forever praised. Amen.

Proverbs 21 8-21-21

Fear is caused by doubt. Doubt comes from disbelief. “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” We must trust Christ in everything.

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence [and righteousness based upon trust] comes to rest in the company of the dead.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

We all play the “what if” game. If we are not careful, we will forecast an ending to our “what if” game that becomes self-fulfilling. If we do not ask because we are afraid that the answer will be no, then the outcome is as good as the person saying, “No.” Instead, we should ask the Lord what He would have us do. If asking is what He leads us to do, then we ask. It may be that the question is really a test of the other person’s faith. Hold on; God doesn’t need to discover the outcome, but the other way around. The PERSON needs to discover whether or not he has faith. Then and only then can a person know what to do next. If his faith is confirmed, then he can move on to other things. If his faith fails, then he can learn from the experience and pass the next trial. The person who asked is either rewarded or consoled by the Spirit, depending upon the second person’s success or failure. Either way, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Now, concerning COVID, we need to make a decision. That decision needs to be based not upon the experts, doctors, our neighbor, the media, or anyone else, but upon the God of our hearts, Jesus Christ. If we ask and He tells us to get the shot, then we’d better get the shot. If we ask and He tells us to NOT get the shot, then we’d better NOT get the shot. It’s not based upon logic, but upon faith in God’s plan for our lives. He has the plan, but it’s up to us to follow that plan. I don’t believe that God chooses for us, but that He leads us to make decisions based upon His guidance. If we get COVID and die (whether or not we got the shot), I’m sure that God has worked our decision and its subsequent result into the fabric of His will.

What we must decide is, do we trust Jesus to tell us? And, If He tells us something contrary to our own opinion or knowledge (or someone else’s), do we trust Him enough to go with what He says? Our decision determines our faith or lack of faith, our belief or unbelief. If we trust Him, then our faith is built and we are rewarded with a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him.

For Christians, our best scriptural example is Martha:

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?27 Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” John 11:21-27

If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, then we can trust Him to raise us from the dead if He so desires. But, in the words of the three Hebrews in Babylon, “even if He does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:18. In other words, we will believe Jesus no matter what the world says or tries to get us to believe with our senses, our intellect, loyalty, or duty.

Like I keep saying, “Trust Jesus; read the Bible.” If we trust Him, then we’ll read His Word. The more we read, the more we trust Him. His voice is easier to hear and His words make sense according to the explanation that the Spirit gives us through revelation as we read His Word. Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. I’m with Peter.

Abba, hearing Your voice is what I live for. Whatever You say is what I want to do. Give me the capacity to discern and comprehend Your message, and then the desire and the power to do Your will. I trust You implicitly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 21 7-21-21

Do we really believe that the Lord leads us one step at a time? Do we check with Him often to make sure we are following?

2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart [looks at our motives].

Accepting the one whose faith is weak is being just like Jesus. What did He say to Peter as Peter cried out to the Lord to save him? “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:22-32. What exactly did Paul consider weak of faith? Let’s look:

For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Romans 14:2

The weakness of faith, to me, is about having trouble letting go of what we know for what Jesus tells us in His Word. Jesus has fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17-18) so that we no longer have a contractual side to uphold (they were expected to obey certain laws, rituals, and ceremonies). In this case, it was diet wrapped up in conviction. Instead, He has come to live in us, thus rendering all outer duty irrelevant. From now on, we worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) We need to learn to recognize His voice and promptings. The more we try, the better we get at it. It’s a daily thing. Really, it’s an all-day thing.

Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them

The key to this verse is, “for God has accepted them.” If God accepts them and is working in their lives, who are we to pass judgement on them? We are not their masters, nor they ours. We each are on a path with Him, and at different points on that path. Still, we are all headed to the same place (His throne), so we need to work together.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

“The Lord is able to make them stand.” He has moved beyond the Old Covenant contract idea to a new covenant, one of complete love and acceptance. If only we could get our minds around the truth that now that Christ is in us, “we are more than conquerors!” (Romans 8:37). Verse 8 says, “We belong to the Lord.” Therefore, if some of us believe that taking the COVID shot is a good idea, then take the shot, but, if some of us do not want to take the shot for whatever reason, then they had better not take the shot because they would be acting not out of faith, but out of pressure and doubt. Verse 23 tells us, “But whoever has doubts [not confirmed by Christ on the matter] is condemned [it weakens them spiritually] if they eat, because their eating [taking the shot] is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin [destructive to us and faces us away from Him]. We MUST allow each person to determine the best course for himself. You say, “But what if he infects everyone and some die because of his ‘neglect?'” Then, the Lord will give grace to those who get sick; as for those who die in the Lord, “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (v.8).” We all die anyway, so we should go out with a good and clean conscience. Nothing in this world will be “right” until Jesus returns, so let’s encourage one another to act according to the Spirit within us until He comes, or until we go to be with Him, which is far better than staying here!

We must allow people to be led personally by the Lord. We can exhort scripturally, but when it all boils down, we must hear from Him and do what He says. Otherwise, there’s no faith (actually, our faith would be in other people and things rather than in Christ).

Abba, may Your voice be clear and strong as we navigate our way through this world. I know things won’t be completely right until we get to Your kingdom, so any path is a good one as long as I am with You. I love, love, love Asaph’s prayer in Psalm 73:23-24, “I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand, you guide me with Your sweet counsel, and at the end of my life, You will take me into glory.” Lord, it doesn’t get any better or plainer than that! Amen.

Proverbs 21 6-21-21

God is great and God is good. He is not one without the other. God’s goodness is His character, the very fiber of His being.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart [according to His unchanging standard of righteousness].

To do what is right and just [according to His unchanging standard of righteousness and justice] is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

God is good. Jesus tells us as much in Mark 10:18. But, how can we know? By His constancy. God never changes nor do the rules of the universe change. He is immutable and so are His laws.

“God has set eternity in the hearts of men. “ Ecclesiastes 3:11. What does this mean? Man knows there is more beyond this world, this life, because God is beyond this world, this life. Everything He does is natural to God—even miracles. When Jesus healed the lame man’s hand in Matthew 12:13, what did He do but reach into the man’s body and activate the stem-cells that were already there; they produced the correct cells to make the arm, but in an instant, on command, as it were. Why not just create a new hand for him by speaking it into existence like Jesus did the universe*? Because of the first Law of Thermodynamics, which says that nothing can be added or subtracted from the physical universe. God acts within His own Laws. By the way, every miracle in the Bible can be explained in this same fashion: the burning bush, the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea**, Jonah and the big fish, and even the three Israelites in the fiery furnace***. These miracles speak of God’s greatness.

If you’re wondering how God’s immutability speaks of His goodness, we look at His laws for righteousness and holiness. The breaking of these laws brings death—but He had already prepared the Sacrifice for all mankind: Jesus! In creating mankind in His own image, He gave us free Will, the right to choose obedience or rebellion. In His omniscience, He knew we would rebel, so He provided the remedy Himself with Himself. In His omnipotence, He gave His life for us and then took up life again. Now, He offers eternal life to all who will trust in Him.

God is not capricious, nor vindictive; He is not unfair, nor mean. He doesn’t play favorites, nor does He send anyone to hell. He loves everyone with His great love and desires all people to come to Him willingly.

Peter said, “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

As Moses put it, “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the LORD is your life…”

Jesus said, “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.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

The fairness in life is in the fact that all things happen naturally. Sin causes bad consequences with which we all must live, from the Fall in the Garden of Eden, which brought death, to the Great Flood, which brought catastrophic destruction to the earth and all life on it, to wars and droughts and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes, cancer and all calamities. In it all, God abides by His own natural laws, yet He works for the good of all who trust Him (Romans 8:28). I believe it breaks His heart to watch people suffer because of all that sin has wrought, but I believe that He hurts even more over people who won’t turn to Him for life. Even so, He gives each person the CHOICE,

“He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. Yet to all who did [do] receive Him, to those who believed [believe] in His name, He gave [gives] the right [and privilege] to become children of God.” John 1:11-12

The very fact that He has in store for us something far greater than this life is enough to convince me of His goodness. I not only believe it, I’m counting on it!

Abba, I believe You when You say that You are good and that You have good things in store for me. Regardless of what happens here on this earth, I know that You have my soul in Your capable hands. May I praise You in the good times and the bad times, Lord, until I am with You. I can hardly wait to worship You at Your throne! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

*We know Jesus created the universe even as God spoke all things into existence. Jesus is the Word of God.
See John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1:2-3, and Proverbs 8:27-31, 1 Corinthians 8:6.

**The parting of the Red Sea was genius. God increased the magnetic attraction of certain water molecules so that they stuck together in such a way that they created an alley through the Gulf of Aqaba that was nearly a half mile deep. Then, He sent an east wind to dry the exposed sea floor overnight. Pretty cool, huh?

***The fiery furnace from Daniel 3 is interesting in that it is as if God opened a curtain and placed the three Israelites into His dimension. “They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” Daniel 3:27. The presence of Jesus (v. 25) cinches it for me that they were on the outskirts of heaven.

Proverbs 21 5-21-21

Christianity is not, “Jesus and,” but, “Jesus or.” FAITH is, “Forsaking All, I Trust Him.”

17 He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.

The topic for today is:

Cultural Christianity vs. Authentic Christianity

Rather than seeing the decline of the numbers in America concerning Christianity as a bad thing, let’s assume that God is up to something NEW and BIG. We have lived in a society that has allowed people to be culturally good (obeying the laws of the land and living sociably with their neighbors) and to be considered as Christians. Many people even call America a Christian nation. Actually, there is no such thing; the only collective name for a bunch of Christians is the Church. America is not a church. It is simply where we live physically.

What could God be up to in America? If God is weeding out the tares from the wheat by making it unpopular to be a Christian, I see this as a good thing. Over the past two millennia, Christianity has thrived best in societies that are inclusive in their view of religion, and hostility keeps the Church pruned. It makes our relationship with the Lord vital. He becomes our sole sufficiency.

What is vital to you? Is conversing with Jesus–on His terms–a continuous process? What I mean by “His terms” is that He speaks to us in four general ways:

  1. Prayer-His spoken word
  2. The Bible-His written word
  3. Other people- His shared word
  4. Circumstances- His revealed word

We must avail ourselves to each of these on a routine basis and not just when it’s convenient or we feel like it. Discipline, folks!

Jesus is pruning His Church. What is Jesus calling you to “cut?” In what activities are you involved that are in the “Jesus and” category? By the way, those are called idols. For instance, Jesus calls us each week to assemble together as His body in His name. Jesus Himself led by example (from The Chosen Interactive Bible Study):

The Sabbath was not just for the OT Israelite nation, but for all who would put their trust in the Lord. Read Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-19. Saturday, the seventh day of the week and the Jewish day of worship practiced by Jesus and His followers, is still the day of worship for Judaism and for a few branches of Christianity. Yet most Christians set aside Sunday, the first day of the week, as the primary day to rest from work and gather for corporate worship. Which means that something very significant must’ve happened in order to get a bunch of religiously concerned Jews to change how they observed one of the most important commandments in their whole belief system. #resurrectionsunday. Betcha didn’t know that by worshipping together on Sundays, Christians celebrate Easter every week. #heisrisenindeed

Let’s choose to be part of the authentic Christianity that God is bringing about in America.

Abba, I choose it! May we see our day as one of light as You prune Your Church so that we can bear much fruit (John 15:5). Grow Your Church, Lord, and may we join You in Your work. Amen.

Proverbs 21 4-21-21

We cannot coast in our Christian life. It’s like paddling upstream; once we stop, we drift back downstream.

16 Whoever strays from the path of righteousness and prudence comes to rest in the company of the dead.
15:24 The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep them from going down to the grave.

How was the path of Christ described to you when you came to Christ? Was it all love and peace and joy with lots of flowers and sunshine? Yes, those things are present, but Jesus described it another way,

13 “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

The problem people have with keeping the Christian life…well, Christian is this important fact, “Very truly I [Jesus] tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:7, 9. It’s not about what we do, but Who we follow. Whose voice are we hearing and obeying? Is it Jesus’ voice? Do we hear the Holy Spirit whisper to us and nudge us in our inner person? Are we spending enough effective time with Him to know the nuance of His direction? Consider these exhortations:

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling [work your salvation from the inside out], 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act [to give us the desire and the power] in order to fulfill his good purpose [and do His will]. Philippians 2:12-13

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:10-11. What things? I’m glad you asked…

  1. God gives us His divine power according to His own glory and goodness. We believe His very precious promises and by faith we act on them (v.3-4a).
  2. Through those promises, we get to participate in the divine nature of God, thus escaping the world’s corruption and entrapment (v. 4b).
  3. There is a sequence: Faith in His promises make us like Him, which leads to goodness, the very nature of God, which causes us to study to increase our knowledge of His will and His ways, which gives us self-control, which comes through perseverance, thus leading to godliness (being like God), through which we enjoy mutual affection (brotherly love) for each other, and finally, we obtain God-love, which is His compassion for all His creation.
  4. We must possess these qualities in increasing measure in order to be effective and productive in our knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as our walk with Him, our fellowship with Him, our service to Him, our worship of Him, and becoming like Him.
  5. To NOT possess these qualities in increasing measure means that we are spiritually nearsighted and even blind; we will have forgotten that we have been cleansed from past sins and will be drawn back into that quagmire (2 Peter 2:22).

Look at the promises given us:

  1. We will never stumble. Who keeps us from stumbling (from doubting that the Christian life is really worth it)? “To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy: King Jesus!
  2. We will receive a rich welcome into the His eternal kingdom!

To summarize: Let’s challenge the status quo. As my pastor puts it, let’s up our game. In all our spiritual endeavors, let’s push a little more, go a little farther, ask a little more earnestly, and expect God to grant us our heart’s desire as we delight in Him (Psalm 37:4).

Abba, I pray for my readers that You will set a fire in their spirits to be more, do more, and learn more about You, Your Plan, and our part in Your Plan. I know You are ready and willing, and are looking for those who are ready and willing. If we are not ready, then get us there; if we are not willing, then give us an attitude adjustment! I lean heavily on this verse for us: “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…” 2 Chronicles 16:9. Lord, may our hearts be fully committed to You. Amen.

Proverbs 21 3-21-21

Trusting God for the bigger picture is not easy. It’s what got us messed up in the beginning. It still messes us up!

2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

Seeing Jesus from a Jewish perspective is not easy for us Gentiles. Let’s look at a Matthew 16:21-28 this morning; it will help us understand what Jesus was doing.

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Jesus knew what was going to happen. In fact, the cross was why He came to earth. He tells us as much:

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” John 10:17-18

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28

Get this: Peter rebuked Jesus! I can just see it using the characters on “The Chosen.”

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Peter was just being protective–but then, he may have still had in mind Christ setting up a physical kingdom. It’s all he knew. In fact, there is much that was hidden that the Lord was doing to keep it from the enemy (see Luke 9:45 and 1 Corinthians 2:8). Jesus was not saying that Peter was Satan or that he was being controlled by Satan. He was saying that Peter had his own agenda in mind rather than the Lord’s, which was like Satan.

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.

Jesus mentioned the cross for the first time. Everyone knew what a cross meant: DEATH. A gruesome one, at that. I suspect that they were taken aback by such strong language. It’s not just a one-time decision, either. We must make it every day. Luke actually adds the word, “daily,” to the passage (Luke 9:23).

28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

To know what Jesus is talking about here, we must look at what happens next, which is the Transfiguration. Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him to the top of a mountain. Jesus was transfigured there back into His heavenly form. God came and enveloped them and spoke about His Son. Peter, James and John tasted heaven. What do you think this experience did for them when they faced prison, exile, being boiled in oil, and death? I personally think that they were excited to get to go back! Paul, who also tasted heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), gave us insight into how it changed his viewpoint about life:

24 However, I consider my [this] life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20:24

We learned yesterday that Jesus is the Messiah. Today we learned what He came to do. Tomorrow, we will begin looking at the fulfillment of His Plan with the Triumphant Entry.

Abba, help us to trust You to have everything worked out for us. How we live for You and how we die for You is entirely up to You. We will trust You to lead us, strengthen us, give us everything we need to serve You, and the faith to die for You. We trust You for the bigger picture, knowing You will be with us always, and I believe Your presence becomes more and more evident as our time draws near. Just to see Your face and stand/bow in Your presence will make it all worthwhile! Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 21 2-21-21

Do we really have the right to speak negatively to or about someone? Unless permission is given, the answer is No.

23 Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity.

People nowadays get pretty caught up in politics and other topics. I’ve read some pretty harsh comments and heard some very negative statements from fellow Christians. I know it’s hard to keep a steady temper when the world seems out of control and things aren’t going like we might have planned. Lest we forget Whose we are and our purpose here on earth, let’s look at a passage that will give us a great example of how we are to treat and respond to those who don’t know Christ.

Paul is in Athens awaiting the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who stayed behind in Berea to further instruct the Jewish believers there. In the meantime, Paul debated in the synagogue and in the marketplace. One of the philosophers invited him to come and speak to the Areopagus, which was a really big deal. It was a meeting place for all the philosophers and the wealthy where they talked about new ideas. They asked Paul to explain his “new god.” Let’s pick it up in Acts 17:22,

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

There are three things I would like to point out:

  1. Paul explained who His God was. He didn’t start by telling them that they were sinners. He set his foundation on truth.
  2. Although Paul did tell them that they were ignorant for worshiping gold, silver and stone images, he explained why. What he didn’t say was that their gods were fake or evil or capricious or anything. He didn’t address them at all.
  3. Paul got to the heart of the matter by talking about Jesus rising from the dead. Any conversation from that point would be about Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him.

When we are answering someone or making comment about what someone has said, let’s consider these cautions:

  1. Is what I am about to say godly? In other words, am I trying to defend God (He doesn’t need defending)? Am I venting my anger and frustration? Am I considering that the person may or may not know the Lord?
  2. Is what I am about to say good? In other words, are my words vindictive, accusatory or otherwise negative? Am I trying to “put them in their place?”
  3. Is what I am about to say true? In other words, am I presenting Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him? Might this person want to follow Jesus after talking to me or reading my post?
  4. Is what I am about to say beneficial? In other words, does it need to be said? Will it do any good (is this the right audience)? Will the person want to talk more with me about Jesus? Will it lead to others wanting to know more about Jesus? Does it lift others up?

Paul was pretty specific in Ephesians 4:29, “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’m not saying that we should tiptoe around people who spout off about their sin, but I do think that we need to be Spirit-led in our conversation with them. Proverbs 26 has two verses that seem to contradict each other. I think of them in this light:

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be just like him. This fool is a mocker and is not interested in hearing someone else’s opinion. He will argue (however illogically), make fun, and even get angry and violent.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. This fool is a simpleton and simply doesn’t know any better. When approached with the truth, he is interested in hearing and learning.

We need to determine which kind of fool a person is before “rushing in where angels fear to trod.” Let’s be discerners of the Spirit about every conversation we have whether in person or online.

Abba, we want to be good ambassadors for You. Help us to be “wise as wolves and as innocent as doves.” You will help us be prudent in what we say as we discern what type of person to whom we are talking. May our audience always see Christ in us and be attracted to Him because of our words and actions. Thank You, Abba, for giving us such a great privilege. Amen.

Proverbs 21 1-21-21

Diligence pays off when it comes to the Word of God. Do you read to finish or to connect with God? Dig deep with Him.

5 The plans of the diligent [those who study to learn] lead to profit [a profitable outcome] as surely as haste [reading simply to finish] leads to poverty [spiritual ignorance].

Studying to learn sometimes takes a little digging. In a podcast I was listening to yesterday, I learned that the word, “church (ekklesia),” is more accurately translated, “gathering,” or “a religious congregation.” I looked it up online by typing “Lexicon Matthew 16:13” and then finding the word, “church” in the text block. There beside it was the word ekklesia. This same word is used in Deuteronomy by Moses. You may ask, “Why is a Greek word being used in the Old(er) Testament? I thought it was written in Hebrew.” Great question! Here’s the answer:

What we know as the Old Testament today was originally written in Hebrew and some Aramaic.  However, in the 3rd Century B.C. a group of 72 Jewish scholars [the Septuagint] were commissioned to translate the Old Testament into Greek, a more common and modern language at the time.  This translation is largely that which would have been in use and circulation during the time of Christ and His disciples, which gives it bearing on the use and meaning of particular words, in this case, ekklesia. Speaking the Truth in Love

We see ekklesia used in Deuteronomy four times (4:10, 9:10, 10:4, 18:16). Since the assembly/gathering/congregation was already instituted by Israel, to what congregation was Jesus referring? Since He was speaking to Jews (the disciples), we can deduce that He was talking about building up the ekklesia of Israel. How was He to accomplish this feat? There are several factors:

  1. He went to the cross- The cross was the instrument that God used to redeem mankind. The price? Christ’s blood.
  2. The temple veil was rent- When the veil in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies tore from top to bottom, it signified that the presence of God was no longer confined to the temple. This fact comes into play 50 days later on Pentecost. Effectively, the sacrificial system ended at that point.
  3. He went to the grave- The grave was important because according to Jewish law, a person had to be dead three days to be legally dead. Jesus spent three days and three nights in the grave, thus fulfilling the law.
  4. He rose from the dead- By rising from the dead, He proved to the world and the dominions of darkness that He was, indeed, God in the flesh. He is the first fruits of all of us who will be raised from the dead!
  5. He ascended back to heaven- Jesus said that by leaving, He would send the Comforter back to us to live in our hearts and guide our lives. It was the point of the cross!
  6. He sent the Advocate, the Holy Spirit- On Pentecost (Acts 2), the Holy Spirit came like tongues of fire and settled on each disciple (all 120 of them). This event signified the expansion of the temple from a single place to every believer–a real game-changer!
  7. He made the two one- Here are some verses from Ephesians 2 that apply to us:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

The tie-in between the old and new testaments is the continuation and expansion of The Congregation of Israel through Jesus Christ the Messiah. The game-changer is the moving of the temple from a physical one to a spiritual one that is inside of each believer (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

But, wait! There’s more! Tomorrow, we will look at exactly WHO was to be “the light to the Gentiles.” In the meantime, let’s relish the fact that we have been included in such a great salvation!

Abba, thank You for including me in Your salvation plan. The scope of Your plan is mind-boggling! I know for a fact that I will be able to delve the depths of Your knowledge and wisdom for eternity. Blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior and King! Amen.

Proverbs 21 12-21-20

It used to be that we could gauge a person’s spiritual life by their church attendance (or so we thought). COVID 19 changed that perspective–or, rather, revealed that it was an erroneous one.

3 To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

Actually, to be freed from the bonds of religion and duty reveals what is really in our hearts. Those who were going to church as a duty found that they didn’t miss it at all; those who were going out of habit found that they have made new habits that do not include church attendance; those who were going out of social or familial expectations have found that they have a great excuse to do what THEY want rather than what everyone expects of them. And then, those who went to church to worship the LORD out of a glad heart and to spend time with other Christians found that they had to find other ways to worship, and to be content with smaller groups of Christians–sometimes, much smaller groups.

What Jesus frees us to do is what is in our hearts. He desires us to come to Him on our own seeking His presence and participation in our lives. If we can do without Him during COVID, then we never really had Him because He is supposed to be inside us, which means that we can worship Him all the time. Also, He said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” We don’t need more than one other person to constitute a church meeting! Sure, it’s more fun the more people we have, but it’s not necessary. It’s all about intention: Are we intentional about our worship? about our study time? about our disciplines? and about connecting to God in prayer? It has really shown up now that we have COVID as our excuse!

What it boils down to is sole dependence–or, soul dependence–on Jesus and His Spirit. Each of us is responsible for our own relationship with Jesus Christ. We can’t depend upon our parents, our spouses, or our church. Why? Because there may come a time when we don’t have anyone else! You may be thinking, “Surely not. I can’t think of any situation where I would be totally alone.” Consider this scenario:

Your blood pressure goes out of sight for some reason and stays high for several weeks, thus rendering you limited in your abilities because of brain damage due to mini-strokes. Over the course of time, you have a big stroke that puts you in the hospital and eventually in a nursing home. While you’re there, you get COVID 19 and are isolated. Your family can’t come see you; you can’t work a phone because of your limited function; the only people to come and see you are the people who work at the nursing home. Your relationship with the Lord is completely down to just you and Him.

The scenario I just described is what has happened to my cousin. He is currently in a semi-conscious state that renders him incapable of taking care of himself. He never married, so he depends upon his sister to make sure he is getting the care he needs. Pray for my cousin that Jesus will supply his every need according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).

What is God doing in Larry’s life? I don’t know. Is He communicating with him on a spiritual level of which we are unaware? Does Larry leave his body and wander around heaven? Is he simply asleep until death comes and he is released from his body? I don’t know, but I pray for him that God would work a mighty work in him, and when He is done, He will take Larry home to be with Him. I can hardly wait to meet Larry in heaven in our glorified bodies!

Let’s make sure that we are proactive concerning our relationship with Jesus Christ. Read that Bible. Make out prayer cards and lift up people to the Lord. Get together with at least one other person for fellowship, worship and prayer. It’s important.

Abba, COVID 19 can be a positive force in our lives if we allow You to guide our choices in these circumstances. May we be intentional about our relationship with You by reading, studying, praying, and worshipping personally and with at least one other person. Thank You for creating THE WAY for us to worship You in spirit and in truth. Amen.

Proverbs 21 11-21-20

What goes through our minds usually finds a way to be expressed physically. Are we paying attention?

2 A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.

What we do begins in our minds. From our past right up to the present, we lay the groundwork for every deed we do, be it good or bad. For this reason, God wants us in His Word and in His presence daily. As we are washed by the Spirit in the water of the Word (see Ephesians 5:25-27), we set our minds on the right course; our deeds then follow.

The problem arises when our physical bodies try to control us through our desires through chemical processes released in the brain and body that create these desires. They seem overwhelming at times, but we have this promise:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear [endure]. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it [and escape]. 1 Corinthians 10:13

So, how do we beat our bodies at this game called, “DESIRE?” The apostle Paul tells us how he did it:

I beat [discipline] 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

For gals, this verse can apply to what happens when you focus–or choose not to focus–on your physical bodies. Some may not like the way they look, so they use makeup and other means to make themselves look “better.” Some may not care what they look like and “let themselves go.” We are all custodians of our bodies, therefore, it is important for us to take care of ourselves for ministry-sake; at the same time, we must remember that these bodies are NOT us, but are costumes that we will eventually take off at the “Great Reveal.”

For guys, this verse is particularly pertinent concerning what we see. We must be extremely careful to not “gaze upon” anything that leads our minds down the dark path, particularly concerning sex. Pictures, movies, drawings, cartoons–they all take our minds to places they shouldn’t be. If followed long enough, they will destroy your marriage or any chance of marriage. They will also keep you from becoming the man of Christ I hope you want to be.

We can take a lesson from Jesus in John 8:1-11 when Jesus was confronted with the woman caught in adultery–btw, where was the guy? “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” Jesus said more in this gesture than any sermon: He protected His eyes, He safeguarded her modesty (later, when it was just Him and her, he addressed her personally), and He drew the attention away from her. Guys, let us “go and do likewise.” When we are confronted with something that is inappropriate (or someone who is dressed inappropriately), LOOK AWAY! Look up; look down, look anywhere but at what’s in front of you. Cry out to Jesus to help you focus on Him and NOT on what has been presented to you. By all means, DON’T go looking for it! Jesus gives us POWER to win at the game of DESIRE:

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. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

We can do this in His power and His might, “‘Not my [our] might and not by [our] power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD.” Zechariah 4:6

Abba, may we draw on Your strength as we place ourselves totally and completely in Your hands. We know we are built for eternity; help us to not get so engrossed in this world that we miss out on preparing for the next world: Your Kingdom! Amen.

Proverbs 21 10-21-20

We come to Christ in need of either forgiveness or help–sometimes both! Either way, He’s ready to save!

8 The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.
16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence comes to rest in the company of the dead.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.
29 The wicked put up a bold front, but the upright give thought to their ways.

How about taking the “edge” off of some of our crises by preparing for them ahead of time? God forbid that we should take a proactive approach to our spiritual well being! Many of what people call judgements of God are actually built-in consequences that happen when we get out from under His umbrella of protection. He tells us ahead of time what will happen if we do, and –whammo–they do! But, just in case we think that God is being unfair or unjust or even just mean, we must remember that we did it to ourselves. He just told us up front.

So, what kind of things can we do to stave off some of the “judgements of God?” Walking beside Him is the BEST remedy (Galatians 5:24-25). It’s when we go wandering off on our own that we get into trouble. Sheep do that. To help us stay right beside our Savior, here are some spiritual disciplines that work! How do I know? Because He said they would, and because they are tested and true, proven by Christians throughout the centuries. This list of spiritual disciplines is not a comprehensive list, but it does comprise a majority of them. It is taken from the website, Twelve Spiritual Disciplines. We will look at the first half today and the second half tomorrow.

  1. Bible Study- 2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
  2. Prayer- Matthew 6:5-15
  3. Fasting- Matthew 6:16-18
  4. Confession- Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9, James 5:16
  5. Worship- 1 Chronicles 16:29, Ephesians 5:18-20 and Matthew 4:10
  6. Fellowship- Acts 2:42, Hebrews 10:24-25
  7. Rest-
  8. Celebration-
  9. Service-
  10. Generosity-
  11. Chastity-
  12. Disciple making-

Studying the Scriptures is important, but we must remember that it is Jesus in the Scriptures whom we seek. “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” John 5:39-40. Let’s not make the same mistake that the Pharisees did. Let’s seek Jesus in the Scriptures, for He is the One who gives us eternal life and renews us daily.

Prayer is being in conversation with God. We can address the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit because they are THREE IN ONE: When we address one, we address them all. A running dialogue is a great way to keep Him on the “front burner” of our minds. It also helps when He prompts us in a direction, gives us caution in a conversation, calls our attention to a specific subject, or gives us insight into what others may be going through at a particular moment. All of these situations are useful in wisdom and discretion, ministry and evangelism.

Fasting is a discipline of which I am not acquainted. I will study it more…

When it comes to confession, make sure that the person to which you are confessing is discreet and mature. Also, public confession must be prompted by the Holy Spirit. It’s usually for a special time and place–and it’s His call. If your confessor is someone from out of town, a long-time friend of the same sex, and not someone who is in your circle of regular friends, so much the better!

Worship is responding to God. We do it through prayer, music, obedience, dancing, praising, crying, giving–any way that is a response to His moving in our lives. Our worship services are designed to give people the opportunity to respond to God, whether it’s praise, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, or supplication. The worst thing we can do is just sit/stand there and endure. What a waste!

Fellowship includes laughter, talking, listening, discussing and even debating. Hebrew Christians call it “haverim,” which is based upon Jesus’ pronouncement that where two or more are gathered in His name, He will be there, too (Matthew 18:20).

Let’s be proactive about these disciplines. Map out how you can put them into practice in your life. Some require daily work. No matter. We have eternity to work on it! But, let’s not wait to get started. The more disciplined we are, the more like Christ we are!

Abba, please teach us to be like You. Lead us to be like You even as we walk beside You. Instruct us as we go, LORD. You have the words of life. Amen.

Tomorrow, the other six…

Proverbs 21 9-21-20

We cannot love God and have an arrogant attitude, nor can we treat our “family” with contempt and show God’s love.

4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart [arrogance]–the unplowed field of the wicked [uncultivated, fallow; no good works of loving his neighbor]–produce sin.

24 24 The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—behaves with insolent fury [overweening pride].

Jesus dealt with this attitude in Matthew 12:34-37. Let’s read it:

34 You brood of snakes! How could evil [arrogant] men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart [sinful attitude] determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things [works that build up the “family”] from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things [that tear down and cause dissension in the “family”] from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle [careless] word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you [for they show your heart].”

We gain salvation by “confessing with our mouths Jesus is LORD and believing in our heart God raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9). It stands to reason that our daily lives would hinge on what we confess and believe. Salvation is more than just a confession; it’s also believing in the LORD Jesus. What do we know about Jesus Christ?

  1. He is God.
  2. He paid for our sins on the cross.
  3. He owns us (we have given Him our lives in exchange for His life).
  4. The Father is even now bringing all things under the authority of the LORD Jesus, and that includes us! See Ephesians 1:9-10.

Being under the authority of Christ is where we grow the best. We are attached to the vine (John 15:5) and we are accessing the grace and riches found in Christ:

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Cor. 9:8

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

The real question is, “Is this what you want?” Do we want Him to supply our every need according to His riches in glory or do we want to live our lives our way? Our words and our actions reveal the attitude of our hearts. Remember, “we cannot love God and have an arrogant attitude, nor can we treat our ‘family’ with contempt and show God’s love.”

Let’s be about showing the change that Christ has done in our lives. We WANT to please Him. We WANT to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ–our “family.” We WANT to know more of our Savior and what He’s done for us, which is why we read His Word. I highly recommend Ephesians. Chapter one has been phenomenal in SS as we studied 1:3-14 yesterday. You can catch it on Facebook, my page. Use EVERY advantage and EVERY resource made known to you. You’ll be glad you did.

Abba, I praise You for all that You’ve done for us. Your Plan, which You have carried out through Christ is beyond words. The fact that we are “bought back” according to our choosing You is a whole lot like consenting to a surgeon–he does all the work while I take a nap! You do all the work of transforming me into the image of the LORD Jesus and often I am not even aware of it. You are AMAZING. May You remind me often of what You have done and what You are doing in my life. Thank You, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 21 8-21-20

Why does it matter if a leader is a Christ-follower? His motives and conduct are at stake!

7 The violence [harsh actions and words] of the wicked [those who do not obey the LORD] will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right.
8 Their way is devious, (15) and when justice is done, it brings terror to them [because they are caught in their own web].

We Christians cannot afford to get caught in the wicked person’s web of deceit–both of their sin and of their plans. Verse 16 says, “Whoever strays from the path of prudence [and righteousness] comes to rest in the company of the dead [the wicked; we lose our fellowship with our fellow Christians]. Don’t forget that we become like the company we keep.

Ephesians 4:17-19 tell us how NOT to live:

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

The Gentiles were the Romans and the Greeks. They lived their lives according to the gods they wanted to serve. If they wanted wealth or health, then they sought the “god” that would give them what they wanted. People do the same thing today, only we don’t call them “gods.” Power, wealth, health, security, thrills, pleasure–they all have “gods” behind them. We call them demons, and each goal has a hook with bait on it!

  • We are NOT to allow them to be our moral compasses. When it comes to life, liberty, and the pursuit of “happiness,” we are to be biblically based. We’ll continue that train of thought another day.
  • We are NOT to allow them to be our source of news. The lost have no compulsion to tell the truth, except in a way that serves their purposes. It’s a type of manipulation. CHECK YOUR SOURCES!
  • We are NOT to lean on them for daily living. Be very careful about “free money.” “Magic always comes with a price.” There may be a hook involved…

If the wicked are in position of leadership, then we strive with them in prayer that they would come to, and live for, Christ, and that He would guide the events of our city, state and nation according to His plan:

“For God makes everything turn out according to His plan.” Ephesians 1:11
It is God alone who judges; He decides who will rise and who will fall.” Psalm 75:7

Having lost all sensitivity,” So, how do we guard ourselves against desensitization? For that answer, we go to the next five verses in Ephesians:

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 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 minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

We must push the reset button on our natural reset. Each morning, we wake up in a natural state of humanness. Yet, our spirit is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). So, we turn our thoughts to the LORD and open ourselves up to Him to receive whatever comes from His hand today. Sounds like when we were saved, right? The difference is that our salvation prayer had to do with our position in Christ (a one-time event) where our daily prayer has to do with our relationship and fellowship with Him (a continuous process).

There is one more passage I would like to share. I chose the New Living Translation:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 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.

If we daily let God transform the way we think, then we will become just like Jesus, which the goal of every Christian (Romans 8:29). LET’S DO IT!

Abba, I give You my day and my life to do with as You please. I know that I will be blessed–even in struggle, persecution, or death–because You have my best interests in mind even as You achieve Your will for my life and this world. I submit to Your sovereignty, O LORD. I am Your vessel; use me as You see fit. Amen.

Proverbs 21 7-21-20

The things in which we indulge are telltale signs of where we are spiritually. Our DEFAULT buttons are stuck in the ON position.

23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.

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

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

Gluttony- Literally, excessive eating and drinking. Spiritually, overindulgence. Anytime we get too much of a good thing, have it at an inappropriate time, or assume that we are exempt from the rules leads to trouble. You might ask, “What rules?”

  1. Too many calories makes us fat.
  2. Too much sugar ruins our endocrine system (insulin production, pancreas activity, blood sugar and salt balance, etc).
  3. Too much caffeine ruins our adrenal gland and restricts blood vessels.
  4. Too much alcohol renders us incapable of controlling our actions. It puts us out of control.
  5. Eating before we go to bed slows down our digestive system and causes the body to store that food/energy as fat.

There is another facet of gluttony that we need to cover. Treats are just that: Treats. If we “treat” ourselves too often, then our treats become something other than treats. We fight gluttony with prudence. We must ask ourselves, “I know I can eat this treat, but is it prudent.” Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent, but folly brings punishment to fools.” Proverbs 16:22.

  1. Prudence– Caution, wisdom, judgement, sagacity (making intelligent decisions).
  2. Those who make wise, sagacious choices will discover a fountain of life-giving benefits.
  3. Folly– lack of understanding or sense. Foolishness.
  4. Fools know better, but do it anyway. It’s that way it is when I eat an apple fritter. Occasionally, I can get away with it, but if I make a habit of it, I will pay the penalty of poundage. Our punishment is the consequences of our actions.

The spiritual correlation between gluttony and our spiritual lives is wrapped up in a synonym of gluttony, “Libertinism.” It means: disregard of authority or convention in sexual or religious matters. If we hear ourselves saying, “I deserve it,” watch out! These words usually come from the enemy. When it comes to our spiritual life, there is NO ROOM for “taking time off.” In fact, if we feel like we can take time off from being like Christ, then we have a whole other set of issues! Being like Jesus comes from being WITH Jesus. Being with Jesus brings all that He embodies: Love, joy, peace, hope, grace, truth, life, wisdom, insight, understanding, prudence, discernment, and a whole lot more!

If we are going to indulge, let’s do it with something that will benefit us, like the Word of God, prayer, fellowship with other Christians, and wholesome things, like spiritually uplifting movies and shows. We’ve been watching the Kendrick Brothers movies lately: Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, War Room, and will watch soon their latest one, Overcomer. Also, on Youtube, are the “I Met Messiah” testimonies, and on Youtube is the series, Drive through History. There are lots of good alternatives out there for worldly television. May we “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).”

Abba, reorder my day to be what You want it to be. Renew my mind to think like Yours. May I be Christ to all around me. I pray this for my brothers and sisters in Christ, too. Help us to indulge in YOU, LORD. Amen.