5-21-20

Freedom in Christ makes no sense to a non-Christian. He thinks, “freedom from religion.” Christianity is not just a religion. It’s a relationship with Jesus. It’s coming to Him for forgiveness and life. It’s allowing His Spirit to come into our lives and make us right with God and then make us LIKE God. It’s an interaction between God and us that is familial now. We are His children!

When a lost person thinks about Christianity, what is shown to him by the Enemy?

  1. Rules
  2. Chains
  3. Hypocrisy

We Christians sometimes reinforce this way of thinking in our efforts to be more Christlike by expecting non-Christians to want to please Christ as we do. We tend to think that they think like we do about Christ. But, their hearts are dead, unregenerated, and self-centered. Their thoughts are darkened and without light. They are in the Enemy’s camp and are enemies of the cross of Christ (see Ephesians 2:1-3). Hence, Freedom in Christ becomes a secret that we inadvertently keep from lost people.

What should we do?

  1. Pray. In our conversation with God, as we practice our freedom in Christ to come boldly to the throne of the Father, we lift up the unaware, the struggling, and the resistant, to God and stand in the gap for them. We intercede for them with the Father for His Spirit to convict them of their sin, to make them aware of His righteousness and their need for it, and to understand the coming judgement of the Enemy and all who follow him. Here is a suggested format:
    1. Pray for a famine in their lives, one that is literal or simply relational; may they sense a hole in themselves spiritually.
    2. Pray for conviction over sin, that they see it as sin and wrongdoing. May they see the damage it’s doing/has done.
    3. Pray for a hedge of protection between them and those who are aiding them, supplying them and holding them in their sinful condition.
    4. Pray for a crisis of belief where they question how they are living and the possibility of God.
    5. Pray for godly people to cross their paths. They need examples and people to share the truth about Christ with them.
    6. Pray that they would make a decision to give their lives to Christ and to follow Him from now on.
    7. Here’s the hard one: Pray for God to do whatever it takes to get their attention.
  2. Go–when led to do so.
    1. Always intercede: Go to the throne of grace on their behalf.
    2. Through cards an texts.
    3. Invite them to various venues that share the Gospel.
    4. In crisis. Be available to talk, bring food, give money, mow their lawn, fix a sink, etc.
    5. Tell them about Jesus through stories in your own life. Share snippets and nuggets. Whet their appetite.
    6. Present the Gospel ONLY when appropriate. When is that? When they ask for it.
    7. Pray for others to influence them. We are a team.
  3. Be ready to encourage them and to be their cheerleader. We are come-alongsiders. At the same time, we must not fudge on our convictions (the leading of the Spirit) nor take part in their sin “in order to reach them for Christ.” It doesn’t work like that. In fact, our refusal to join them usually becomes the very thing that the Spirit uses to convict them of sin. We are to exemplify a joyful, compassionate, and non-judging Jesus, the same One who saved us.

We must remember that salvation is up to God. There is no magic formula, nor can we approach it like a sale: We don’t present our case and then the person buy it. Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, His wooing and calling, His urging and prompting, there can be no salvation. A person isn’t even interested without it. In fact, he cannot perceive the truth about Jesus and salvation without it. Jesus must make Himself known to them. HE must call them, and they must respond. We pray for both: For Jesus to call them and for them to hear and respond. It’s what we are called to do. The rest is between Jesus and them.

Let’s be ambassadors for Christ today. Let us live as children of light and as followers of The Way. Let’s follow Jesus wherever He leads.

Abba, as I read through the words of, “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go,” for this Sunday’s Time of Introspection, I felt You confirming in me once again my own decision to follow You wherever You lead. I have taken up my cross and I am following You. “My heart, my life, my all I bring to Christ who loves me so. He is my Master, Lord, and King, wherever He leads I’ll go.” What a great verse, Lord. I consider it my own. Lead on, my King. Amen.

Proverbs 21 4-21-20

Looking like Jesus in a Christ-less world: Do you feel His calling? Are you motivated? Are you connected?

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

Our hearts are the center of our being. The heart is the filter for everything we think, say and do. It is the amplifier of every feeling we have, every craving (good or bad). We are self-centered beings, so we can be called self-hearted beings.

When we gave the Lord Jesus our hearts and He came to live in them, our hearts were quickened–made alive. Jesus “replaced” our cold, dead hearts of stone with new, living hearts of flesh, hearts that could feel Him and would pump new and fresh blood–His blood– through them. Based on Ezekiel 36:26-27 and 1 John 1:7.

Why is this concept important? Because it’s the basis of our motivation. Without Jesus in our hearts and our hearts beating with His heart, we have NO motivation to be godly. Read verse 4 from today’s chapter and then view verses 5-8 with it in mind. What you will see is that a haughty and proud heart (self-centered and liking it) and a fallow field (one that has not been worked by the Holy Spirit) will NOT produce anything righteous, but only wickedness (things contrary to God).

Jeremiah dealt with people who knew the law and heart of God, but had no desire to be righteous nor to please Him as He prescribed. Instead, they did the minimum and then did what they wanted–a dangerous attitude!

16 This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths [God’s ways from the beginning],
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.
    But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
17 I appointed watchmen over you and said,
    Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
    But you said, ‘We will not listen.’
18 Therefore hear, you nations;
    you who are witnesses,
    observe what will happen to them.
19 Hear, you earth:
    I am bringing disaster on this people,
    the fruit of their schemes,
because they have not listened to my words
    and have rejected my law.
20 What do I care about incense from Sheba
    or sweet calamus from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable;
    your sacrifices do not please me.”

The people of Israel and Judah would sacrifice to God on the prescribed days and in the prescribed ways, but their hearts were far from Him. They would go through the ceremonies and then rush home to their sin. They missed the entire point of the sacrifices. They had no desire to please God. It would be easy to say, “Well, they had no Holy Spirit in them to cause them to desire God and godly things.” True, but what about David? He stands in judgement of them and holds them accountable because he was just like them, yet he was a man after God’s own heart. See 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22.

We have the Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself, inside us and, yet, we fight the same internal fight that the Israelites did! We want to get done with God’s will and get on with our own desires, with feeding our flesh. “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” James 3:10. How do we move from where we are to where we ought to be?

  1. Check your heart and make sure that Jesus is there!
  2. If He is, then give Him the throne of your life.
  3. Sit at His feet and enjoy His nearness; study His face; feel His love and pleasure in you; determine in your heart to be just like Him and acknowledge His continuous (ever-present) participation in your life.
  4. Encourage that prompting of the Spirit to be zealous for Him. Be a person after God’s own heart. “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11

Do you want living waters flowing out of you? Do you want to shine like stars in the universe? Do you want to be just like Jesus? Then, let’s get busy!

Abba, I answer “yes” to all of these questions. May You motivate me throughout today to think like You, act like You, and be like You. It’s a tall order, Lord, but I know You’re up to the task. I can feel you say, “Challenge accepted.” May the words to this song be the anthem of my heart: “Change my heart, O God, make it ever true; change my heart, O God, may I be like You.” Amen.

Change My Heart, O God-Maranatha

 

Proverbs 21 3-21-20

Belief + Action = Faith

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

We come to believe in God as Christ reveals Himself to us through His Spirit. There is a difference in believing in God with our minds and trusting God through our actions.

  • Believing in God is what we do intellectually. It’s an acknowledgement of His existence. BEWARE: This type of belief is NOT salvation. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19. We must believe and be fully persuaded to the point of action.
  • Trusting in God requires action. It’s like sitting in a chair. Believing that the chair will hold us is good, but it’s not until we actually put our weight on it that we actually trust the chair. When we entrust our lives to Jesus Christ, we put our full weight upon Him. Steven Curtis Chapman called it, “Diving in.” DIVE

The secret to having faith and receiving more faith is faithfulness. The more we trust Jesus with our daily lives through obedience to His Spirit, the more our faith-foundation is built. Likewise, the better a foundation of faith we have, the easier it is for us to obey the Spirit. Why? Because we trust Him. We have history with Him. He is faithful to us, therefore we are faithful to Him. He made the first move to us on the cross. He even made the second move by knocking on our heart’s door.

Knowing this definition of faith helps us to understand the parables of Jesus in Luke 17.

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

  1. Evidently, the apostles (disciples) were feeling inadequate in the faith department. They saw the miracles Jesus performed, but they were struggling with doing them themselves (see Luke 9:40).
  2. Jesus gave–to me–an obscure answer. Consider this: Our duty as followers of Jesus is to obey His commands, “If you love Me, keep My commands.” John 14:15. Under the authority of the Holy Spirit, we are commanded by Him to say to the mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea.” We do as the Spirit commanded us and, behold, it came to pass! Our faithfulness is rewarded with His faithfulness. Our faith (daily trust) is increased, and GOD GETS THE GLORY. By the way, being under the umbrella of God’s authority is a GREAT place to be–and to stay! It’s how we stand blameless before Him. Our obedience is crucial to our blamelessness.
  3. Verses 7-10 have to do with GLORY. “That’s the first thing that needs to be stressed from Isaiah 48:9–11: our salvation is for God’s sake. He created us for his glory!” John Piper – God Created Us for His Glory  We we are obedient, and God gets the glory. He COMMANDS us, He EMPOWERS us, He brings SUCCESS, and He receives all the GLORY. Jesus even put Himself in this category at this point in His life. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8. The difference between Jesus and us is in the next verses:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Even then, it was for God’s glory. He Alone deserves all glory, praise and blessing! King David prayed this prayer near the end of his life (1 Chronicles 29:10-11, 14):

“Praise be to you, Lord,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.

14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

David understood. We would do well to believe him, trust the LORD, and obey His every command–to the glory of God! And when we are done with this life, we will say with all, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” Thus, all the glory goes to the LORD!

Abba, this lesson has been a hard one. Working through the Scriptures, piecing together Your truths, seeking counsel through others (John Piper), and relying on Your guidance have been a struggle, but a good one. May I grow in my faith even as I am faithful to do all You ask of me. Increase my faith O LORD, which means that You give me opportunities to be faithful through obedience. You have given me the desire; now give me the power to do Your will (Phil. 2:13). And, may it be to Your GLORY. Amen.

NOTE: I asked God why it was such a struggle this morning. I immediately got the image of a butterfly squeezing out of its Chrysalis (cocoon). I remembered that the process is necessary for the fluids to be squeezed into the wings so that the butterfly can fly. I asked the LORD if He had to make the hole quite so small…  I think He smiled.

 

Proverbs 21 2-21-20

Arrogance leads to disobedience, which leads to sin, which leads to destruction. What? Me, arrogant?

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

Satan doesn’t know what we are thinking, but God does. He knows what we are thinking, our motivation behind our thoughts, and our intentions. Yet, He judges us on our actions. Why? Because He knows that we struggle with our thoughts and emotions. It is in our minds that He fights for us and with us.

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

God knows that whatever is on the throne of our heart will win out in our actions.

Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
    the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin.

We are from the very beginning of our lives selfish and arrogant beings. It’s all about us and meeting our needs. Ask any mother and she will testify! It’s “the unplowed field of the wicked” part that really gets us. “Unplowed” means “fallow”: land that has been “plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated; not in use; inactive.”

Let’s talk about our spiritual lives. Is our relationship with the LORD Jesus fallow? Christ cultivated us unto salvation, but what then? Have we seeded our soil with the Scriptures? with daily Bible study, both personal and with other Christians? with earnest prayer about transforming our lives to look like His? about looking for where He is working and joining Him there? Are we broken over the sinful thoughts we have? over our tendency to get angry, judgmental, petty, vindictive and spiteful? We must remember that what we do comes from how we think–and God knows both!

With just a little effort, we can turn our thoughts heavenward. If we will look up from ourselves, look inside to His Spirit and turn and look at Him (give Him our full attention), we will come face to face with Christ our Savior! It will thrill Him as much as it will us!!! He desires sweet fellowship with us, and has wonderful adventures in store for us. All it takes is for us to allow Him to be Lord of our lives NOW. TODAY. Don’t wait and don’t look back. Leave everything behind. If we need something again, He will provide it again–probably an improved version (He’s like that).

There is a starter chapter for those who would like to allow Christ to be center stage, but don’t know how to get started. It is Ephesians 4.

Verses 1-3 deal with attitude and gives us a reference for where God will be taking us. He wants us to be humble, gentle, and patient. THAT’S A TALL ORDER!

Verses 4-16 tells us how we are all part of His Body and how we fit together, each growing in different ways that help each other grow into something much bigger than ourselves: The Temple of God, the Bride of Christ, the Body of Christ.

Verses 17-24 speak of how we used to be (darkened in our understanding), but how we are now righteous and holy in Christ. We learn to put off our old ways and put on the new life by being made new in the attitude of our minds.

Verses 25-28 we learn about telling the truth, not staying angry, and doing our share.

Verses 29-32 teach us how to talk–and not talk. We learn to keep the Spirit of God flowing through us as we grow in this area. It has all to do with how we think, which controls how we feel, which influences how we act.

May we commit as much of this chapter to memory! Happy reading.

Abba, may You use the teaching in this chapter to transform my life and to conform me to the image of Your Son. I want to be just like Jesus. More than that, I want Him to live through me. May I be a sweet aroma to You, LORD, a living sacrifice, and a holy and clean vessel/conduit ready to be used by You for Your kingdom work. Amen.

Proverbs 21 12-21-19

Being at the right place at the right time is called serendipity–it’s also called good planning.

There are four verses from today’s chapter at which we will look:

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Knowing where to be and then being there is most of the battle. When we are where we are supposed to be, then we are in position to receive His blessing. The best way to be in position is to stay by His side everyday. Read His Word (it’s written for YOU); consult Him about every decision; ask His opinion on everything (His is always right); make it your personal goal to be just like Him.

16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence comes to rest in the company of the dead.

We stray when we are not diligent in our walk with the LORD. God is looking for people who want His blessing. I found this verse one day while reading: “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a. Wow! He still does this! But, look at the rest of the verse: “You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.” King Asa relied on the king of Aram instead of the LORD. It was a logical move–just the wrong one. Let’s not just be logical; let’s be RIGHT.

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

This verse is not only truth, but a promise. The LORD already spoke through Solomon to us in 8:14 and 17, “Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”

God’s plan for salvation was well thought out and perfectly executed. The part we celebrate on the 25th is the incarnation: “Immanuel”- God with us. The little book, “The Christmas Code” by O.H. Hawkins says this on December 15, page 34, “He could not be Jesus without being Immanuel. That is, in order to save us, He first had to come and be with us, taking on human flesh. At Bethlehem, we see God with us. At Calvary we see God for us. At Pentecost we see God in us.” (emphasis added)

11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom; by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.

Which shall we be today, the mocker or the wise? Let’s not let the tyranny of the urgent (the fast pace of the season) keep us from centering on the LORD and positioning ourselves to be blessed by Him.

Dear LORD, I want to focus on You today even as I go about my business. May my business be Your business. I don’t even mind if You break in with something that’s not on the schedule–in fact, I welcome it! My life is a great adventure when I am following You. I’m saddling up, LORD. Let’s ride! Amen. (Been listening to Steven Curtis Chapman in the pickup)

 

Proverbs 21 11-21-19

Our lives are not our own. We have been bought with a price. He has plans for us! Let’s find out what they are.

31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.

We ready ourselves as best we can, but ultimately it all comes down to the LORD fighting our battles for us. What kind of battles, you might ask. There is the constant war against our own flesh, the war against evil in our world; there are battles at home, work, church, and everywhere we go. Most people don’t know the LORD and are acting according to their own intellect–and many of them are driven by how they feel! Even Christians have this problem.

So, how do we ready ourselves for these battles? We could turn to Ephesians 6 and read about putting on the armor of God, but instead we are going to look at Romans 12 where Paul tells us to consider. Consider what? Our grace gift and the opportunities of faith that God gives us. Let’s read:

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

It takes faith to be saved and it takes faith to follow Jesus. How do we get this faith? It isn’t something that we generate on our own; it is distributed to us by God. But one may say, “If God has to give me faith, then when I fail, it is because God has not given me enough faith.” NOT SO! The faith God gives us begins with a willingness on our part to receive the gift. If we are open to what God has for us, we know that He gives us the desire (above our own) and the power ( above our own) to do His will (Phil. 2:13).

Let’s add a phrase for the sake of clarity: …in accordance with the opportunities of faith God has distributed to each of you.” By adding this phrase, we define faith as the opportunities that God gives us to exercise our trust in Him. In doing so, we grow our faith just as an athlete grows his muscles and skills. Some people are given great opportunities to show great faith where most of us are given opportunities to show God’s love and grace in myriad small ways everyday. To what has God called us? We must be ready for anything.

Previously, Paul gave us the formula for recognizing these opportunities when they come around:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

  1. The pattern of this world is difficult to determine in that we still must live in the world. But Jesus said, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17:16. We must strike a balance in there somewhere. Each of us must ask the LORD where that balance is. What will show our allegiance to God the most? Go with that!
  2. The renewing of our minds happens when we read the words of God. His Spirit speaks to our spirit interpreting and applying those words. We are in the process of becoming more like Jesus; we MUST allow Him to transform us by READING His words!
  3. “Test and approve what God’s will is” is an interesting phrase. What we think God’s will is and what God’s will really is may be two different things. If we align ourselves with Him through His Spirit, then we will be able to discern His will. Likewise, if we are in alignment with Him, then we approve of His will. A similar way of saying it is, “Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
  4. God’s will is always good. He knows His plans for us; they are for good and not for evil (Jer. 29:11). God’s will is always pleasing to Him and, therefore, to us. God’s will is always perfect. It always aligns with His overall plan for the world and eternity. We can trust His good, pleasing and perfect will.

It is only logical, then, based on verse one, to place ourselves into His capable hands. In view of God’s mercy to extend His grace and faith to us, we can in confidence offer ourselves to Him as living sacrifices. He has (and is continuing to make us even more so) holy; we are pleasing to Him because we have accepted His gifts of grace and faith. Through grace we have the desire to follow Him and do His will; through faith we have opportunities and the power to do as Jesus would do–through us! Our lives are our daily worship.

Let’s begin today by transforming our minds with the words of God, and then let’s commit ourselves to Him, following Him, listening to Him, going where He leads and doing what He says. It promises to be a most blessed day!

Abba, may we be transformed today into the image of Christ so that this world will see the difference. Give us opportunities to extend grace to others. Grow our faith through these opportunities. We are trusting You, LORD. Lead us and show us, then imbue us with Your knowledge and power. I’m looking forward to it, Abba! Amen.

Proverbs 21 10-21-19

Our own opinion is exactly that: Our opinion! Whether it depends on truth is determined by our relationship with the Lord.

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

Since our reality can be based upon lies and deception, we must find a stable source of reality. For that, we go to the Bible. The truths of the Bible were either written or inspired to be written by God Himself:

18 When the Lord finished speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God. Exodus 31:18

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21

Not trusting our own opinion is one of the hardest things we do. It comes down to faith.

  • Do we truly believe that God created the heavens and the earth?
  • Do we believe that mankind has a sin problem and an enemy that wants to see us fail?
  • Do we believe that Jesus came to free us from the bonds of sin and death?
  • Do we believe that He (by way of His Spirit) will come and live with us until it’s time for us to go to heaven to be with Him in person?
  • Do we believe that He wants to lead us through this life with as few regrets as possible?

If so, then the only possible way for us to believe these truths is for the Holy Spirit to reveal them to us. All of the above questions are based upon Scripture. If we answer “yes” to them, then we believe the Bible.

The revelation of His truths to us is included in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He was telling them about how he prayed for them:

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of [or, spiritual] wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

Paul kept asking, which means that he was constantly praying for them. If so, then we can conclude that he was asking for them to constantly be given wisdom and revelation, which could only come from an intimate walk with the Lord. I love his reason: that they may know the Lord better.

My own interpretation of wisdom and revelation is this:

Wisdom– that which we learn from reading God’s Word and applying it even as we consult Him for direction.

Revelation– that which comes directly from the Spirit concerning what we read, what we see, what we think, and what we perceive. He opens our minds to spiritual concepts, future events, and insights (even of ourselves).

May we avail ourselves to His wisdom and revelation all day today as we walk with Him. May we begin by reading His Word!

Abba, I pray for those who read this Proverbs lesson this morning that You would, indeed, give them spiritual wisdom and revelation. Open up their minds and hearts to Your truth. May the eyes of their heart be enlightened in order that they may know Your hope, riches and glorious power, O Lord. Teach us; we are Your willing servants. Amen.