Proverbs 1-28-23

Rome wasn’t built in a day–but it was founded in 753 BC. What did it take to build an empire and unite the “world?”

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44

The kingdom to which Daniel is referring is the kingdom of God established by Jesus Christ. In the book, “Person of Interest,” by J. Warner Wallace, evidence is presented as in a cold-case file for the authenticity of Jesus as Messiah and Savior of the World. We continue our study of ancient times and how God directed nations–in spite of their unbelief and wickedness–to assist Him in preparing the world for the Coming of His Son and His kingdom. On pages 13-15, we find pertinent information about the Roman Empire:

  • Rome was founded in 753 BC as a monarchy.
  • Rome became a republic in 509 BC.
  • Rome gained control of the entire Italian peninsula in 264 BC.

“Had Jesus appeared at this point in history, his life and message (as he lived and traveled in what is now called Israel) would have been confined to the obscure language [Hebrew] and government of the Jewish region. But the growth of the Roman Empire would soon change that.”

  • By 149 BC, Rome controlled Sicily, the western Mediterranean, and a large portion of Spain.
  • By 146 BC, Rome conquered Carthage and as a result, controlled a portion of northern Africa.
  • Rome also conquered Macedonia, which was made up of today’s countries of Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, and Kosovo.
  • In 27 BC, Gaius Octavius, later known as Caesar Augustus, became the sole leader (and first emperor) of Rome, and ruled until AD 14 (we read His name in Luke 2:1).

“At the pinnacle of Roman rule, most of Europe, Asia Minor, the Balkans, the Middle East, the coast of North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Black Sea were unified under the same economic, military, and linguistic systems. Had Jesus arrived on the scene prior to 27 BC, his impact on the “known world” would have been much smaller and more difficult to advance, especially beyond the boundaries of the empires that preceded Rome.”

We are reminded once again of Paul’s statement, “In the fullness of time, Jesus came…” Galatians 4:4. Tomorrow, we will continue our look at the events leading up to the “great explosion”, Jesus’ Arrival from Heaven to earth. Today, let’s stand in awe of Jesus, our King of kings and Lord of lords, and then kneel and worship Him.

Abba, You were making all things ready for the Advent. I should have been teaching this information in December! I believe I will next year. Thank You, Lord, for all the information that is now at our fingertips. May we use our knowledge wisely. Amen.

Proverbs 28 12-28-22

If heaven begins when we turn to Christ for life, then how do we interpret the judgment of Christ?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

There have been several attempts to interpret the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ,

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

One interpretation is to see this judgment as a future event when we all get to heaven, so to speak. Everyone initially goes, even the unrighteous. Granted, they will stand before God for their judgment, but what kind of judgment is it? Obviously, it has to do with our actions here in this life. So, is the judgment punishment or is it the allowance of people to receive what they have chosen? The result is the same: Those who have chosen Christ will live with Him forever while those who have chosen NOT Christ are sent away–or, allowed to leave–to go where descriptions include weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, and even fire.

Another interpretation is to see this judgment as a current event for everyone as they live their lives. In our lives, Whom do we want to please? Those who know and love Christ want to please Him (John 14:15, Colossians 1:10). The fruit of their labor is the love, joy and peace that they experience in a close relationship with the Holy Spirit. As is stated in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it,” this relationship carries over into eternity.

What about those who choose NOT Christ? They live their lives in darkness, not knowing what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:19). If heaven is being with Christ, then hell is not being with Christ. If Christ is in us, then our heaven has begun; likewise, if Christ is not in us, then our hell is upon us. They live without hope, without knowing His love, His joy, His peace, and they stumble through life as best they can. When they die, they must stand before Christ and give account. That accounting is between them and the Lord. I cannot venture an opinion on what is due them.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” That “fear” is, phobon, which means “panic flight, fear, the causing of fear, terror.” This is the fear of those who have not met the Lord Jesus Christ. What does Jesus say? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Is this Jesus different than the One who sits at the right hand of the Father? I refer you to our starting verse in Hebrews 13:8.

The Good News we share and try to persuade others is His mission to draw all people back to the Father through Himself (John 12:32) to begin their “heaven with Him” now! We need not fear God (Matthew 10:31, 1 John 4:18). He loves us dearly (John 3:16).

Abba, thank You for loving us so much that You came to earth in Jesus to show us Your love. May we give ourselves totally and completely to that mission of love and serve You with grateful hearts. Amen.

Proverbs 28 11-28-22

A person cannot become a Christian without receiving the Holy Spirit. He is what makes us Christians: Christ in us, the hope of glory.

27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

So, the presence of the Holy Spirit of Jesus is in us as our foundation. On this foundation, we have our base, which is where we got the information: The Bible. A few guys* from the first Century told us in letters about Jesus Christ, who He is, what He came to do, and what He can do for us. We believed them (called by the Holy Spirit) and trusted Christ (confirmed by the Spirit who is now in us). He came into our lives, and now we are followers of Christ! Based upon this very true scenario, we must:

  1. Trust that the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Believe that its message is from God to us.
  3. Obey it as the very words of God.

We don’t follow blindly. We study, we look at history and traditions, and we ask the Lord to reveal truth to us. Everything doesn’t have to make sense, but it does have to agree with itself. If there is an issue, it is because of a breakdown in translation (some things simply don’t translate from Hebrew to any other language) or in our understanding of customs, the times, our own experiences, etc. We may even be looking at it from a 21st Century, elite American perspective. We have our own culture and times to deal with. But, the problem is not with the Word of God.

On page 23, David Young quoted C.K. Barrett, a visiting author and scholar to Vanderbilt University where David attended. Here is how the conversation went:

“You cannot legitimately dismiss what the Bible says about sex and gender,” Barrett responded. “Not if you want to be honest. It says what it says. The only question is whether or not you believe it.”
Even though it wasn’t my question in the first place, I wanted to push a little further, so I asked the professor a follow-up question: “What if I just cannot accept what the Bible says?” I asked it as a hypothetical, but this scholar of the New Testament took it as a challenge. The only time he seemed agitated the whole day was when I asked my question.
His face a bit flushed, Barrett put down his drink, looked at me in the eyes, and sternly said in his thick British accent, “Then, you need to find another religion. The Christian religion isn’t open for negotiation.”

If we truly want to hear daily from the Holy Spirit, we need to know as much as we can about Jesus. The Gospels are where we start, and the letters from the other New Testament writers are next. Then, we can dive into the Old Testament to see how Jesus fits into God’s overall plan for humanity. As we read, the Holy Spirit confirms and emphasizes what we read. He helps us to understand it and to integrate it into our lives.

NOTE: He feeds us what we can handle. It’s different for each person. We cannot expect others to be where we are with Him, nor should we expect to know where others are with Him. It’s why we don’t “criticize another Person’s servant” (Proverbs 30:10). The best way to put it is, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (Philippians 3:15). We may want to add, “when we’re ready.”

Abba, may we treat others as we would want to be treated and leave unsolicited correction alone. We simply don’t know where anyone else is in the process of maturity. Help us to focus on You and growing in You. We will all understand it better by and by. Amen.

*Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, and Jude.

Proverbs 28 10-28-22

Ever had a dream of being “unclothed?” Imagine standing before the Lord in that condition. How embarrassing! How horrifying!!!

15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mindMark 5:15

From the past several days:
When Peter made his great statement in Acts 4:12, he gave us a unique definition of salvation from God’s perspective,

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

There are several questions that arise from this verse.

  1. Must a person be saved?
  2. From what is he lost?
  3. Is he not capable of saving himself?
  4. Why Jesus’ name?
  5. What makes His name special?
  6. Everyone?
  7. What is required?
  8. What shall we gain/avoid?

The term, mankind, draws us all into the category of being in need of salvation. Every man, woman, and child is in need of saving by God through Jesus Christ. There are several descriptions in the Bible of our need of salvation:

It is this last analogy that I want us to consider. When Adam and Eve sinned, the first thing that they noticed was their nakedness. They even tried to cover up. In their failed attempt, they hid from God. We have been hiding ever since. Christ came to cover our nakedness with His righteousness. It’s more than just clothing, though; it goes deep into our souls and cleans us from the inside out. For today, we will go with the analogy of being clothed. Being clothed in His righteousness means that we have come over to His side, we have turned around and are facing Him, we have been healed, and we have been born again. From now on, we think like Christ,

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

How is this even possible? In Christ we have died and have been raised to new life! And, “since we have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

It is much better to meet God through His Spirit–and clothed–now than to meet Him in Person–unclothed–later (more on that another time).

Abba, to be clothed in Your righteousness means that You have wrapped Yourself around us. You have even permeated our minds so that we think like You (1 Corinthians 2:16). May we “suit up” each day (Ephesians 6:13-18), setting our hearts on the things You think about and You like, and then set our minds to doing them. All for Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 9-28-22

A God-sized hole in our hearts? Sounds dangerous. Come to find out, it is!

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12

You may have heard of the illustration of the God-sized hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill. It is actually a paraphrase of a quote from a Christian long ago:

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man
which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,
made known through Jesus Christ.”

–Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662

As we consider our lives, let’s do so from the standpoint of being incomplete. The way I understand things, when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the fellowship they had with God, which killed them spiritually, in that the place that the Holy Spirit held in their lives was given to another. In doing so, a figurative hole was left in their lives.

When we are born, we are born with the same “hole” in our lives. We try to fill it with all kinds of things, but mostly we fill it with ourselves. It is not until the Holy Spirit shows us that HE is the One who can fill that hole in our relationship with God. That Spirit is the Spirit of Christ,

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

Our awareness of something missing in our lives is the Holy Spirit opening our spiritual eyes to the fact that we are incomplete. We need Jesus. So, every morning when I get up, I have two verses that I use to help me be consciously aware of my need for Him in my life, and I consciously ask Him to take control and fill me:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
David, Psalm 139:23-24

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Asaph, Psalm 73:23-24

We had a Christmas card one time that had a Christmas tree on the front. The card folded out three or four times showing the tree with fewer and fewer needles until we could see the bare bones of the tree. The caption read something like this:

When all is stripped away
and all the tinsel removed
We see the true meaning of Christmas.

The “bare bones” of the tree was a cross. Each day, may we ask the Lord Jesus to strip away all the “tinsel” from our lives so that we can see what is truly needed: Jesus. He died and rose again so that we could be reunited with Him in fellowship. Our relationship with Christ IS our salvation. HE fills the God shaped vacuum in our hearts and satisfies us as nothing nor anyone else can.

Abba, I cannot live my life successfully without You. In fact, life would be dismal and miserable. You are my life and my joy. I want to finish this life with You. You lead, I will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 28 8-28-22

“The Organ that Defies Evolution” is what the placenta should be called.

31:2 “Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!”

Today, we continue our look at the “Placenta, A Selfless Servant,” from “A Pocket Guide to the Human Body,” pages 93-94. The giant syncytial trophoblast cell (the large collection of nuclei surrounding the fetus) has successfully integrated with the mother’s blood system. What else is going on?

In order to appreciate the marvelous work of the placenta, consider this: while the unborn baby’s vital organs are developing and maturing, they (with the exception of the heart) are essentially useless. The placenta serves the function of these organs by working in association with the mother. With the help of the mother’s blood, the placenta must function as the baby’s lungs, kidneys, digestive system, liver, and immune system. The placenta does this so well that a baby can actually survive until birth even when one or more of these vital organs sadly fails to develop in its own body.

During the latter part of pregnancy, the flow of maternal blood through the placenta reaches a rate of about one pint per minute. To allow an adequate surface area for exchange between mother’s blood and baby’s blood, the interface between the two is folded and amplified in a complex way that resembles the trunks, branches, and twigs of trees (see figure 4).

There are typically about 20 of these tree-like structures (called cotyledons) in the mature placenta. The baby’s blood flows in vessels inside these cotyledons, whereas the mother’s blood flows all around the outside, like air blowing through a small grove of trees. The entire surface of all the tree-like cotyledons is covered by syncytial trophoblast [placenta cells], forming a seamless covering, which comprises a single cell with millions of nuclei. This means that the entire surface of the placenta is covered by one giant cell, which has a surface area of over 100 square feet.

Tomorrow wraps up our little study with the miraculous birth of the baby and the survival of the mother. I trust you will tune in for this exciting finish to our adventure through the human body.

Abba, looking at just the introductory information concerning birth prompts me to praise You and thank You for giving us life. I know You give us new life in Christ, as well, and have promised us continuing life with You in Your kingdom. We are GRATEFUL, Abba! Amen.

Proverbs 28 7-28-22

Been at WACK (Worship Arts Camp for Kids) Monday-Wednesday teaching 3-6th graders to worship the Lord.

29:17 Discipline [teach, instruct and train] you children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

We had our presentation last evening. The kids (and adult helpers) crammed nine weeks’ worth of rehearsals into three days and the presentation on top of that. They did great! If you’re interested, go to Quail Springs Baptist Church’s website and watch it. My part was the STOMP routine three songs in. We did a drumline with buckets. Pretty unique if I do say so myself. Here’s the link, QSBC

All that to say, I’m tired. 16K, 18K, and 19K steps respectively. All the glory belongs to Jesus. All the praise belongs to Him. Amen.

Proverbs 28 6-28-22

As followers of Christ, our lives here on earth are “over” and our lives as new creations in the New Kingdom have begun.

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right [and true], but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.

From now on, the lives we live are Jesus living through us. We are not zombies, though. It’s a synthesis of Him and us together, ergo, new creations. Our lives are a lot like the Jewish sacrificial system after Pentecost, whose actual demise was a formality. Our spirits have combined with Christ and we no longer think, feel, or act like we used to; we are no longer our old selves. Consider these verses,

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3

24 However, I consider my 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

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21

Tomorrow, we will discuss what “patience” looks like to Christians in light of our now-eternal awareness.

Abba, thinking of myself as dead to this world is not easy. In fact, it wouldn’t be possible were it not for what I know to be true concerning You and Your kingdom. You have brought life to me; You are life in me. Knowing You blows this life away! May I know You more and more each day, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 5-28-22

Snobbing the snobs makes us snobs, too. We become the very people we are judging.

27:3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

When we start judging other people, we become the very people we are judging: sinners. Sinners are those who think differently than God. “To sin” means, “to miss the mark.” We take on the responsibility of God when it’s not our place to do so. But, it’s more than just action; it’s the reason for the action. What we believe determines how we act.

Jesus put a lot of emphasis on believing. We Westerners think of believing as thinking something is true. The believing that Jesus was talking about means, “to entrust,” “to put your faith in.” It’s the difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge, or book knowledge and experience. Take Peter, for example, when he walked on water. All the other disciples believed that Jesus could walk on water. If Jesus had told them to come and join Him, would they have gone? We will never know. Who we DO know about is Peter. He believed and entrusted himself to Jesus’ command. What Peter had was faith. It wasn’t blind faith because Jesus told him to come, and Jesus Himself was walking on water. Peter had experiential faith, tested faith.

Consider, though, how long it took Jesus to bring Peter to the point of believing and trusting Jesus enough to walk on water. How many miracles had Peter seen Jesus perform? How many months had he heard Jesus’ teaching? It was enough to have a credible reason for believing. When people are acting or believing differently than we think they should, instead of judging them, we must remember that we are all on a journey with Jesus and pray for them. Our walk with Him is personal and individual. They may not be where we are on their walk in experiential faith. As much as we don’t want to allow wrong thinking or teaching, we must focus on those whom God has given us to influence. He will take care of everyone else.

One more thing: We never stop growing spiritually. There is way too much to learn for us to learn it all on this side of heaven. In fact, much of what He has in store for us must be experienced on His side! I think the first word we will speak in heaven is, “Oh!” Why? Because everything will be much different than we thought it was going to be (think three-dimensional thinking vs. multidimensional experiencing).

Giving people grace is the great lesson of church. If we can do it with each other, we should be able to do it with everyone.

Abba, judging other people according to my standards smacks of self-righteousness. May I learn to see them like You do. We are Your children, small children at that. May we deal with each other in grace as we all walk with You. Amen.

Proverbs 28 4-28-22

Victory for Christians is measured in our willingness to allow the Father to love us and lead us. He takes care of the rest.

Proverbs 4
[25] Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
[26] Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
[27] Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

The apostle Paul was very good at articulating on paper concepts and ideas. He was also good at application. Anytime he said, “therefore,” we must look to see what it’s “there for.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 is a good example,

57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

What victory do we have through our Lord Jesus Christ?

  1. We have forgiveness of sin,
  2. We are children of God,
  3. We have fellowship with the Trinity,
  4. We no longer fear death,
  5. We have a hope of an eternal future with Him.

In light of these victories, what is it that Paul encourages us to do (what are they there for)?

  1. We are to be firm and immovable- Knowing what we believe is vital. I see two ways for us to know: Knowledge and experience. Study and discussion give us knowledge, which acts like handles for us to grab onto and hold ideas and concepts. Experience comes through walking with the Lord through life. Our experience helps us to shape our knowledge, latch onto truth, and to let go of everything else.
  2. We are to always be excelling in the work of the Lord- What is the work of the Lord? It is for us to believe in the one whom God sent, who is Jesus (John 6:29). In other words, we are to believe Jesus and imitate Him. If we love Jesus, we will endeavor to be like Jesus. What did Jesus think and teach? What did Jesus do? These are the things after which we run.
  3. We are to rest assured that our labor is not in vain in the Lord- We need not worry about the outcome of anything we do in the Lord. He can take our gluey messes and our crayon drawings and make beautiful masterpieces out of them. He weaves them together with His other children’s “art work” in a beautiful tapestry, one of which we will get to see the other side one day. Right now, all we see is the back side where all the stitching and knots are. He says, “Don’t worry about the outcome; I am working all things together for good according to My will (Romans 8:28).”

Let’s take great comfort in His plan, His grace, and His inclusion of us in His plan. He loves us and wants to do life with us!

Abba, I sure want to do life with You. May I come to You often–constantly–throughout the day for direction, inspiration, and fellowship. I hear You say, “Let’s walk together, you and I.” Whether through the valley of the shadow of death, through the fire or a lion’s den, or even on water, we will be together, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 28 3-28-22

B.C? A.D? What do they mean? When did they come into use? Inquiring minds want to know!

14 Blessed is the one who always trembles [a constant state of awe] before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

The question came up in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School) about these designations. We were all a little vague on their definitions and history, so here’s the scoop from LIVESCIENCE.

The terms “A.D.” and “B.C.” have their roots in Christianity.
“A.D.” stands for anno domini (Latin for “in the year of the lord”),
and it refers specifically to the birth of Jesus Christ.
“B.C.” stands for “before Christ.” 

In the early Middle Ages, the most important calculation…was the problem of when to celebrate Easter. The First Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, had decided that Easter would fall on the Sunday following the full moon that follows the spring equinox. Computus (Latin for computation) was the procedure for calculating this most important date, and the computations were set forth in documents known as Easter tables. It was on one such table that, in A.D. 525, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus (sometimes called Dennis the Small) of Scythia Minor introduced the A.D. system, counting the years since the birth of Christ…Dionysius never said how he determined the date of Jesus’ birth, but he may have used surviving writings from early Christians…Dionysius attempted to set A.D. 1 as the year of Jesus Christ’s birth, but was off in his estimation by a few years, with modern estimates placing Christ’s birth at around 4 B.C.

The Star of Bethlehem uses astronomical computer programs to pinpoint the prophetic fulfillment of the stars in conjunction with the birth of Christ to June, 3 B.C.

Here’s an interesting tidbit:

The addition of the B.C. component happened two centuries after Dionysius, when the Venerable Bede of Northumbria published his “Ecclesiastical History of the English People” in 731…The work brought the A.D. system to the attention of more people and expanded it to include years before A.D. 1. Prior years were numbered to count backward to indicate the number of years an event had occurred “before Christ” or “B.C…There was no “year zero” in Bede’s updated system, as the concept of the number zero had not appeared in Western Europe. 

The rest of the story:

The B.C./A.D. system became more popular in the ninth century after Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne adopted the system for dating acts of government throughout Europe.
By the 15th century, all of Western Europe had adopted the B.C./A.D. system. The system’s inclusion was implicit in the 16th-century introduction of the Gregorian calendar and it later would become an international standard in 1988 when the International Organization for Standardization released ISO 8601, which describes an internationally accepted way to represent dates and times.

Want to know what 500 B.C. was called in, well, 500 B.C? Go to Quora.

It is interesting to me that most of the world uses a calendar based upon the birth of Christ. Just sayin.

Abba, Your kingdom is spreading around the world! May we be an active part of that growth as we make new disciples and build each other up in the faith. Mobilize us and move us out, O Lord! People need to know the hope they have in Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 28 2-28-22

In the debate over whether Jesus is God (there really is one, and has been going on for 1700 years) I offer this evidence:

4 Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

I’m reading through Revelation right now using N.T. Wright’s New Testament for Everyone (it helps to get a fresh perspective). As I was reading, I read a phrase that I remembered reading somewhere else in Revelation, so I looked it up,

1:4 John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from He Who Is and Who Was and Who Is To Come,

1:8 ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, Who Is and Who Was and Who Is To Come, the Almighty.

These verses are referring to God the Father, no doubt. But, there in verse 8 is another phrase, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” which is used by Jesus in 22:13,

13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

Even as these two phrases can be used interchangeably when referring to God the Father and God the Son, so God the Father and God the Son can be referred to interchangeably. Here’s why:

Ontological Trinity- Who the Trinity is: They are one in nature.
Economical Trinity- What each does: Their specific roles. “Economical” means “household management.” We see this best demonstrated in Genesis 1:1-3,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God (Elohim, which is plural) ordained the plan; the Spirit of God was the actual working Person, God (the Son, i.e. the Word) said (spoke) and it happened. Each Person of the Trinity had a role, but no one was over the other in hierarchy. You may be wondering where all three are mentioned together in the Revelation passage, so let’s look at the rest of it:

John, to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from He Who Is and Who Was and Who Is To Come, and from the seven spirits [seven-fold Spirit] that are before his throne, and from Jesus the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

When we pray, we don’t have to worry about to whom we are talking; their names are interchangeable. Just know that in our lives, the Father has ordained that we are His by adoption through Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Simple, right? I have great peace in knowing that I will not offend “the gods” by using the wrong name. Our Father loves us too much to take offense, Jesus died and rose again so that we need not worry, and the Spirit gives us peace regardless of which name we use. They truly are Three-in-One.

All that from the first eight verses of Revelation!

Abba, I’m excited about reading the letter again. I may not understand it, but the blessing is in the reading, not the understanding. May I enjoy sweet fellowship with You as I struggle to make sense of all the imagery. Amen.

Proverbs 28 1-28-22

Jesus came and lived a sinless life to fulfill the law because He knew we couldn’t do it. He is our Representative!

1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

While reading through the book of John, I came upon this verse in 13:31, “When he [Judas Iscariot] had gone out [from the last supper], Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.'” I connected it with another two verses in 14:30-31, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, (31) but I do as the Father commanded me…”

I asked myself how Jesus had come to be glorified by the Father, and I found the answer in verse 31: Jesus did as the Father commanded him. Their fellowship was unbroken. In fact, It had been going on since before time in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit), which is how God was glorified in Jesus–He was IN Jesus (we could even say that He WAS Jesus).

Jesus came to include us in the Trinity. How do I know that? He told us as much, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Jesus prays something similar in 17:20-23, which includes us,

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word21 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one23 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.

Do you see the connection? Jesus glorified the Father by living a totally connected and perfect life, which fulfilled the requirement of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), and therefore, Jesus was glorified by the Father. Because of Jesus’ glorification, the claim of Satan for the souls of men did not apply to Jesus. This is why the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was able to “take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).” Peter explained it pretty well in his sermon at Pentecost,

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men [we are included in this statement]. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Let’s not get confused by the term, “God raised him up.” Jesus was God and stated that he had the authority to lay down his life and take it up again (John 10:17-18). The requirement of the law was satisfied in the sinless life of Jesus Christ. We, now, meet that requirement in Him, and we rejoice in this proclamation,

“And now, NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus!” Romans 8:1

Abba, we rejoice this day because of Your wondrous plan and “execution” of that plan. We have life in Jesus Christ! We have fellowship with the Trinity because of Your plan, Jesus’ obedience, and the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Amen.

Proverbs 28 12-28-21

The concept of separation is from the devil and is lit with the fires of hell (Gehenna). Jesus came to unite us in Him.

9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is [becomes] an abomination [the question is, to whom?].

Jesus called everyone to rally around Him. He told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). He said that all who believes His message does not come into judgment, but has already passed from death to life (John 5:24). He is the Center for all humanity. The Pharisees and scribes didn’t see it that way. They had all kinds of rules and traditions that kept them separated from the common folk. One day, they asked why the disciples did not walk according to their traditions. Look at Jesus’ response:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’ (Isaiah 29:13)
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ (Exodus 20:12) and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ (Exodus 21:1711 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Mark had written earlier that “there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots” (Mark 7:4).

What we have to be willing to do is set aside any of our own traditions and even beliefs when we find that Jesus teaches another way. Jesus went on to teach that it’s not what a person puts in his mouth that defiles him, but rather what comes out of his mouth in the way of words and out of his heart in the way of “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:14-23).

Here’s another example: Read Romans 1:18 in light of Romans 11:32. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.

Abba, Peter was right: You are the one with the words of life. May we always be ready and willing to change the way we think when You show us something new. There is so much to reading the Bible that obscures and/or colors our view: Our age, gender, experiences, previous teaching, temperament, etc. Much has been passed down to us from others. The problem is that it’s been 2,000 years since You were here in the flesh. We haven’t always perceived correctly what the Spirit has been saying to the churches. Help us to renounce ways that lead to shame, to refuse to practice cunning or to distort the word of God. May we learn all we can from Christians throughout the timeline of Christianity who have walked with You. May we be open to reading Your words in historical context, of which I am sadly lacking. From Your mouth to our ears, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 11-28-21

“Something greater than the temple is here.” — Jesus, Matthew 12:5. What is greater? The New Covenant!

2 When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue [Jesus IS understanding and knowledge; His kingdom will have no end!].

Yesterday, we discovered that Jesus called people to a new way of seeing things. He called them to “metanoia”(repent), which is to change the way we see and believe, to think differently, because He was bringing the kingdom (Matthew 4:17). In His sermons, He interpreted the Scriptures (OT) in an unusual way. He claimed that He was from the Father (God) and that He knew how the Scriptures were intended. We looked at the first 12 verses and saw that He really did call the people to a different standard. If we were to keep reading, we would see that He also called them to a higher standard:

  1. Anger is like murder;
  2. Lust is like adultery;
  3. Oaths are like swearing falsely;
  4. Retaliation is like unforgiveness;
  5. Love your enemies and pray for them;
  6. Give to the needy, pray, and fast in secret;
  7. Place the kingdom of God first in their lives;
  8. Treat others as they want to be treated;
  9. and obey His words.

Why would Jesus make such bold claims? Who gave Him His authority? For that answer, we turn to John 8:42,

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came forth from God and am here; for I have not even come on My own, but He sent Me.

Jesus went on to tell them,

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him. And if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you; but I do know Him, and I follow His word.

He even went so far as to claim oneness with the Father, I and the Father are one” John 10:30. As they picked up stones to kill Him, he asked, 31 “I have shown you many good works (miracles) from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” A little later on, Jesus invited the religious leaders one more time to believe Him, “37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Jesus claimed to be sent by God–but it’s more than that. Jesus came forth from God, as in, He came out of God. John spent the first part of chapter one describing and explaining Jesus’ deity. We know Him as the Second of the Trinity. Jesus’ Godhood is what gave Him the right to interpret Scripture and to set new policy (the New Covenant). Let us praise Jesus today as One of the Trinity and yet lives in each of us.

Abba, knowing that You are God is a great boost of confidence for me. I can trust You to know exactly what I need and that You will guide me on life’s path. I know that You came so that we could have close fellowship with You right now; we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven. Speak to our hearts this morning, Lord. We want to see You and hear You plainly. Amen.

Proverbs 28 10-28-21

Jesus told us to seek the kingdom of God. What He didn’t tell us is that besides telling us, He also empowers us to find it.

1 The wicked [those who do things their way with no regard for God] flee though no one pursues [their imagined fears get the best of them], but the righteous [those who seek God’s opinion and direction] are as bold as a lion [His Spirit energizes us].

The verse mentioned above is Matthew 6:33,

33 But [continually] seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [food, water or drink, clothing] will be added to [provided for] you.

When I read that verse, several questions came to mind. Here they are:

  1. What is the kingdom? The kingdom is wherever Jesus is. If He is in our hearts, then the kingdom of heaven is in us (Luke 17:21).
  2. Whose kingdom is it? Since God and Jesus are one, then the kingdom of God is the kingdom of Christ.
  3. Who is King? Although God and Jesus are one, they still are separate to a degree. In fact, Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord [God] says to my Lord [Jesus]: ‘Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’”
  4. Where is the kingdom? I believe that it is in two places simultaneously: In our hearts, where the Spirit of Christ resides, and all around us in a different dimension (or many). When COVID was big, we had an online Easter service. I had a scene over on the left part of the stage from which I “led” music. My pastor had a living room set up in the center of the stage. While he was speaking to the camera with his wife, I stood just outside of camera-shot. I could see the set, but I could also see the rest of the room, which included the tech team at tables near the back of the auditorium, as well as my own set over on the side. Heaven is like that to me. Life is what is being viewed onscreen while heaven is all around the set, but not visible on camera. This scenario shows us how God can be anywhere we are, “if I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths [Sheol], you are there” (Psalm 139:7-12).
  5. What is meant by seeking first? I think it means “above all.” When I was invited by the Spirit to follow Christ, I pledged myself to Him in F.A.I.T.H. which stands for “Forsaking all, I trust Him.” I choose to seek God and His will and ways first. I trust God because He is a loving God. Everything about Him must line up with love. Jesus taught us this, “For God so loved the world that He gave…” John 3:16. The apostle John said, “God is love.” TWICE! (1 John 4:8, 16).
  6. What else are we to seek? His righteousness. Jesus is our righteousness. Let’s seek Jesus!
  7. What things will be added? Everything we need for life in this world (until we go to be with Him there).
  8. What things should we subtract? Anything that hinders us from seeing Him.

The interesting thing about this verse is that it is fulfilled by Jesus when He sends the Spirit back to His disciples. It brings home and fulfills John 11:12,

12 From the time of John the Baptizer until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful people have been seizing it. (GOD’S WORD Translation)

Jesus advanced the kingdom right into their hearts! He did the same for us when He came to us and invited us to join Him. Aren’t you glad?! Me, too!!!

One more thing about the kingdom…tomorrow!

Abba, thank You that You have put Yourself, and therefore Your kingdom, in me. I know that one of these days, I will “walk off the set”: my body will be stripped away and Your kingdom will have full reign in my life. I can hardly wait! Until then, may I seek Your kingdom and Your righteousness–may I seek You! Fill me up, Lord. I want to be running over with You. Amen.

Proverbs 28 9-28-21

Nothing is free. If we want a rich life, then we must work for it. To “win the prize,” we must train.

19 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

Notice that I said, “a rich life,” not, “to get rich.” The very next verse reads, “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished [by the consequences of their actions]. What determines a rich life? According to Proverbs 21:21, “Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, righteousness and honor.” Proverbs was written about 900 years before Christ. Had this proverb been written by a Christian, it would read, “Whoever pursues Jesus and His love finds life, righteousness and honor.” Now, on to training…

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to 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 9:24-27

Paul used an illustration straight from the Greeks and the Olympian games: Track. A person doesn’t just decide to run a marathon of 26.2 miles. It takes months and even years of training to do it. It takes strict training.

Verse 27 is the scariest verse for me. It would be like me teaching others to run hurdles (my high school claim to fame). But, when I myself run them, I skip one, and I disqualify myself from the race. I would still be on the team, but I would have lost the race. What temptations try to lure me away from running the race honorably? Fatigue, distraction, a desire to win at all costs, and fear all come to mind. For us as Christians, they would be lust of the eyes (what we see, we want), lust of the flesh (what we feel, we do), and the pride of life (we deserve it). See 1 John 2:16. Satan only has three tricks in his bag, but–oh, what tricks they are!

Do we really want excellence? to make a difference? Then Let’s use our competitive nature to push ourselves in our training in righteousness. What training in righteousness? This one:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

We need purpose, focus, and direction for when we train. Here are some tools:

  1. Study– What are you reading and why? If the Bible, why are you reading where you are reading? Pleasure reading is good as long as it reinforces our spiritual growth. If it makes us think, that’s good, but if it makes us doubt, then find out why. If we can find error in it, then reject it as a bad influence. There are too many good things out there to read for us to waste time reading questionable material. How do we know what truth is? We read the Bible. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” John 17:17. It’s okay to have questions. Ask for help, especially from the Holy Spirit.
  2. Speaking of which, prayer is our connection to the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. Why do you pray what you pray? Don’t be afraid to go to the Father with any question. He will answer; just give Him time. Some things we’re just not ready to hear, yet.
  3. Conversations– Talking with others is how we learn about the other facets of the diamond of spiritual knowledge. Why do you discuss what you discuss? On what do you base your information? Experience? Logic? The internet? Second-hand information? If I tell my wife something that I have learned, she immediately wants to know the source of my information. If it’s another person, she then wants to know where that person got his information. She’s a researcher and I love her for it.

The big question is, how can we tweak each of these tools to help us focus on learning the heart of the Father? We must remember that our goal is not to get rich, but to be rich in life, righteousness and honor.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will strive for excellence. You want us to be righteous, perfectly mature, complete and whole in Christ. I believe we can get there. I am trusting You to lead the way. Knowing that You walk with me, empower me, and protect me is enough for me to trust You all the way. Lead on, my King. Amen.

Proverbs 28 8-28-21

Seeking God with all our hearts: Are we doing it?

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully [for it is spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)].

One time, Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment in the Law. Jesus answered,

30 ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30

Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. Look at the following verses:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Do you hear the passion? They are to consume us. Why is the Word of God so important? Because God thought enough of us to write down truth so that we can trust Him. The Word of God has always been important for people to know what holiness and grace are. It is particularly important in identifying the Messiah when He came, for “everything that was written in the past [the Old Testament] was written to teach us” [about Christ] Romans 15:4.

There is a passage in Jeremiah 29:13-14 that speaks to us today as well as it did to the people in Jeremiah’s day,

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,

I will ask again, are we seeking God with all our hearts? We have His promise that we will find Him if we do. Is knowing God intimately your passion? Are you consumed with walking with Him, sensing His presence, feeling His love, joy and peace? Do you experience His mercy and grace routinely? The place to seek Him is in the Scriptures–both Old and New Testaments–and in prayer. We connect with God in prayer. We connect with the divine in other people when we pray with them. Prayer is the link to the mind of Christ and the Body of Christ.

Let’s assume that God is really GOD, that Jesus is coming back, and that our lives are really short compared to all eternity. Let’s make knowing Him and obeying Him our top priority. Let’s abandon everything else and seek Him. This is the road to godliness and holiness. Nothing else matters, because if we get this right, then everything else in life falls into place. It may not be like we expect, but it will be what is best according to God. Let’s trust Him to know what He’s doing.

Abba, I trust You. I realize that I won’t get out of this world alive, so I am putting all my treasures in Your bank (Matthew 6:19-21). I know that as I seek You, I will be filled with wisdom, knowledge, discernment, prudence, insight, instruction, discretion and understanding. These qualities will make me into a godly man. They will make me just like You, Jesus. I want more than anything for people to see the qualities of Jesus in me. I love You. Amen.

NOTE: Tomorrow’s Sunday’s Cool lesson is on the Beatitudes. Here is a LINK to a really cool website.

Proverbs 28 7-28-21

Living for Jesus means living with Jesus. Living with Jesus means that we have heaven as our goal. this earth is a means to an end.

1 The wicked flees though no one pursues [because they are afraid of losing their life’s work, and even their life], but the righteous are as bold as a lion [because we know that our treasures are laid up in heaven, not here on earth].

A song worm is a suggestion of a song that gets stuck in our brains and we can’t stop hearing it, humming it, or singing it. Many commercials are designed to be song worms, such as Kentucky Fried Chicken: We do chicken right, Burger King: Have it your way at Burger King. McDonald’s used a rhythm and rhyme technique: Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. I have remembered them from my childhood. Think advertising doesn’t work?! [let me know if you remember these jingles]

I believe Asaph used the song worm idea in psalm 73:25, which says,

25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

In this psalm, he just got through singing to us that we are always with the LORD, He holds us by our dominant hand, He guides us with His counsel, and will one day take us into glory (Psalm 73:23-24). He then goes into praise that includes heaven and earth. In the one, he states that no one in heaven holds a candle to the LORD. I can’t help but think of “I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy,” when in the second verse, it says,

I said Timothy, I want to see Jesus,
For He’s the One who died for me!

When we get to “earth has nothing I desire besides you,” I am amazed at the insight of Asaph, who lives hundreds of years before Christ came, yet had a clarity of his relationship with the heavenly Father that rivals any of ours today. Would that we all had this attitude. What would happen if all Christians lived our lives with nothing on this earth being as desirous as our relationship with our heavenly Father?

  • Money wouldn’t matter.
  • Clothing wouldn’t matter.
  • Material goods wouldn’t matter.
  • Food wouldn’t matter.
  • Persecution wouldn’t matter.
  • Longevity of life wouldn’t matter.
  • We would consider death more than a mercy; it would be a victory!
  • Dying for Jesus would be the highest and greatest honor bestowed on us.

Wait! Jesus already addressed this question:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well [until it’s time to come home]Matthew 6:25-33

Let’s allow Asaph’s song worm to get into our minds today and tell the Lord, “This earth has nothing I desire besides You.” Our relationship with Him is All-Important. Work on it; develop it; strive for it. There’s no greater work we do this side of heaven.

Abba, I pray that I would work on my relationship with You every day, all day. I pledge to strive every minute to develop You in me. I want to be like You, and then, when it’s time, I want to go be with You. I trust You will take care of all the details between now and then. Amen.

Proverbs 28 6-28-21

Understanding the Plan of God is important. It helps us to walk in His light with confidence.

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully [a continuous process].

I’ve been reading Romans lately. I read through it and now I am going through it again. It’s amazing how much I missed that first reading! I’ve been stuck in chapter 5 for several days now. Today, I managed to read three verses and I would like to discuss them with you. I am using the Amplified Version for clarity–the interesting thing is that my program was on that version from yesterday; otherwise, I may not have even looked at that one (do you think the Holy Spirit arranged that little detail?!):

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all people [no one being able to stop it or escape its power], because they all sinned. 13 Sin was [committed] in the world before the Law [was given], but sin is not charged [against anyone] when there is no law [against it]. 14 Yet death ruled [over mankind] from Adam to Moses [the Lawgiver], even over those who had not sinned as Adam did. Adam is a type of Him (Christ) who was to come [but in reverse—Adam brought destruction, Christ brought salvation]. Romans 5:12-14

Looking at verse 14, let’s break it down:

  1. Death ruled over mankind- Adam was our representative before God just as we have representatives in Washington. What they decide affects us; in the same way, what Adam decided affected us–or, should I say, infected us with sin! With sin came death. By the way, the Old Earth idea foregoes death entering through sin whereas a literal six-day creation sets the stage for Adam and sin; it’s either one or the other.
  2. Sin was in the world before the law- The law, which is God’s basic description of righteousness, wasn’t given until Moses, but since God’s law is written on everyone’s hearts (see Romans 2:15), everyone is held accountable to that same law. God, “in His forbearance, let the sins committed beforehand unpunished” (Romans 3:25) until Christ came to pay for all sin. Consequently, death ruled over mankind until Christ came. The law, with its sacrificial system, was designed to increase people’s desire for righteousness and holiness and to set the stage for Christ to come as the Final Sacrifice (Romans 3:20 –> Ephesians 4:24).
  3. Christ brought salvation- Jesus is our Representative just like Adam was, which means that what He did on the cross paid the sin debt for all mankind. The invitation for salvation is open to all people, but is not universally granted; it is granted only to those who accept His sacrifice and receive the forgiveness achieved by it.

We’ll talk more about this salvation as we move through Romans. Today, let’s try to get our minds around the fact that God has a Plan and has been working His Plan from the beginning. Us in Christ was on His mind before He ever created the heavens and the earth! Let’s enjoy our position in Him as children of the heavenly Father!

Abba, thank You for having such a great plan for the world, for Your church, and for us. We had no part in our salvation except to accept Your sacrifice for us and to receive Your forgiveness. May we take great comfort in that forgiveness, Lord. From that time on, we live in the light of Your love, walking with You and striving to be just like You, Jesus. Lead on, my King. Amen.

Proverbs 28 5-28-21

Praising Jesus comes from a heart that is right with Him. The Spirit makes us ready for worship. What’s in your heart?

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully [The Spirit opens our minds to spiritual things, especially what is right and wrong].

So far we have covered Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration), Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession), and Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance). Today, we look at Expression of Devotion (Thanksgiving).

This is the fun part of the service for me. It’s when we get to tell Jesus how much He means to us, how much we love Him, and pledge our lives to Him. Only Christians enjoy this part because we have a personal and growing relationship with Him. In fact, it’s during this portion of the service that many Christians renew their relationship with Christ. When the songs, prayers, and Scriptures are speaking directly to Him, we can’t help but get caught up in them. They express our hearts. Indeed, it’s what/Who is in our hearts that is the very thing that separates us from the world:

The world loves sin and hates anything and anyone that keeps them from their sin;
Christians hate sin and oppose anything and anyone that keeps us from our Savior.

The key to devotion is gratitude. When we recite what Christ has done for us through His birth, death, and resurrection, we are grateful! When we realize that He is in us and loves us unconditionally and completely, we are grateful! When we remember His promise to return and we get to live with Him forever, we are grateful! In the words of Paul (probably),

25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

I’m looking forward to Sunday as we meet together to express our devotion to our Savior, how about you?

Abba, I am reminded once again as I typed that last line that You are the One who calls us to assemble. Even as I turn my thoughts to worship on Sunday, it is You who is doing the turning. I know that You will be doing the same for all of us regardless of where we attend. May we worship You in spirit and in truth; may we exalt Your name, heavenly Father, confess our need for you, remind each other of Your sacrifice to make us Yours, and then devote ourselves to You for this hour, this day, and this week. May we encourage each other and exhort each other and spur each other on to good works until we meet again. Thank You, Abba. You’re wonderful. Amen.

Proverbs 28 4-28-21

Praise and service: What do they have in common? How can they help us break old habits and establish new ones?

1 The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

We talked yesterday about forming habits and how it takes about three weeks to get one started and fully functioning. We also talked about how we take a thought captive to Jesus. We must realize that the person delivering the bad thought is not the real culprit; it is the one who designed bad thoughts in the first place: Satan. He’s the one who became envious of God and the praise He received from His new creation (the gospel according to Kelly). When we realize that Satan is the one behind our bad thoughts–not that he personally gives them, but that he created the circumstances where we even have bad thoughts–then we know to Whom we should take bad thoughts; Jesus will help us deal with them. We don’t have to worry about offending Him; His Spirit is the One who tells us what thoughts go against the heavenly grain; we then turn to Jesus, who lives inside of us, and ask Him what to do with a bad thought. More than that, we ask Him to replace that bad thought with a good one. There is a secret:

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15.

There it is, the secret to beating Satan as his game: PRAISE.

  • When we praise, we cannot help but focus on our Lord.
  • When we praise, we quit thinking the bad thought, and the reason we thought the bad thought.
  • When we praise, we turn our backs on Satan and his temptations.
  • When we praise, we reinforce the good things we know about our heavenly Father.
  • When we praise, it brings our Father joy and He pours out His love, joy, peace, hope and grace on us (He’s looking for an excuse to do it!).
  • When we praise, we make a sacrifice in that we give up whatever the temptation is offering. We opt for something better–MUCH better: His Presence and Participation in our lives!

The following verse gives another secret to beating Satan: SERVING.

16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

  • When we do good and share with others, we take the focus off ourselves and place it on God’s children and creation.
  • When we do good and share with others, we further the kingdom of heaven.
  • When we do good and share with others, we sacrifice, and in doing so, become more like Jesus, who sacrificed for us.
  • When we do good and share with others, God is pleased with us (actually, He’s always pleased with us; it brings Him great joy when we are becoming like Him). Is that not enough reason?!

So, when it comes to breaking old habits and starting new ones, all we have to do is survive the first three weeks and we’re good. How do we survive, or even thrive? By PRAISING and SERVING. What we do doesn’t even have to be related to the habit. It’s a matter of giving our minds something else to do and something else with which to associate our new habit.

The next time you are beginning a new habit, like being more intentional about your quiet time, ask God to get you up early, to prepare the coffee pot the night before, and to even go to bed a few minutes early. First of all, there will be many things that get in the way; we must remember that our lives have revolved around a different schedule for many years. Second, you won’t feel like getting up. That’s when you praise the Father and look for a way to serve someone else in your household. Then, have your quiet time: Pray, sing, read, make notes, study, journal; share with someone what you learned that day (do any or all of them).

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will start something new today! May they put into practice the Praise and Serve concept from Your Word. That’s a good passage to memorize; I think I will. Thank You, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 28 3-28-21

Learning from Jesus is a constant thing. His Spirit speaks to us all the time–if we will take time to listen.

4 Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

During these days of teaching in the temple courts, Jesus shared some wonderful truths. The first was due to a question by one of the experts of the law. Mark 12:32-34 shows that he really was an expert in the law and had a pretty good grasp on its meaning.

The Greatest Commandment

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together [again]. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind [Deuteronomy 6:5].’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself [Leviticus 19:18].’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices [based on 1 Samuel 15:22].”

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:32-34

Since that exchange had stopped them asking questions, Jesus asked them one of His own (asking questions to make their students think and come to the right conclusion was the mode of teaching back then).

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet [Psalm 110:1].”’

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:41-46

The leading question of Jesus was based upon Isaiah 9:6-7 and Jeremiah 33:17-18. The latter reference gives us one more clue, which is that Jesus is not only King, but High Priest:

17 For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, 18 nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.’”

Of course, we know that it is the sacrifice of Jesus that completed all sin offerings. Hebrews tells us so in Hebrews 9:25-26.

Also, Jesus’ use of Psalm 110:1, which was to them a Messianic verse, identified Him with the Messiah. The question was, “How can the King of David be His son at the same time?” Jesus was giving them an explanation of His coming as a person rather than straight from His throne. But, it wasn’t time for Him to do that, yet. He still had to go to the cross, die, be buried, wait, rise again, appear many times, and then ascend back to His throne. Now, He waits for a word from His Father to come and get His Bride. I can hardly wait!

Abba, as we go to our respective churches this morning, may you place upon each of us an awe of being in Your presence in a special way. When we get together as Your children to praise You and worship You, Your Spirit confirms in each of us first our own salvation and relationship with You, and then the connection we all have with each other through that same Spirit. Bind our hearts together this morning, Lord. Have Your way in us. Be magnified in us and by us, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 2-28-21

As we go to church this morning whether in person or online, here are some things to consider.

9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to instruction, even his prayers are detestable.

We go to church to commune with the Lord through music, preaching, and other believers. The entire event is designed (although, sometimes not very well) for communion with the Lord to happen. Are we taking advantage of this event to commune with Him?

13 Whoever conceals his sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Can we really keep anything from God? The only person we are fooling is ourselves. If there is sin that you don’t want to give up, be open with God about it–and then ask Him to give you the desire to give it up and then the power to do so. This process is the Christian life in a nutshell.

14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens his heart falls into trouble.

If we are so arrogant that we can spurn God, just know that we are headed for either destruction or discipline. How can we be so “bold” with God? Do we not realize how much He loves us? Do we not know that sin destroys us? Let us do as Hebrews 4:16 says, “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.”

When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.

There are two warnings in this verse:

  1. If we are rebellious, then we as a church will go through many “rulers.” How blessed we are at Brookwood to have Bryan Gilbert for nearly 17 years!
  2. Our “ruler” needs discernment and knowledge to maintain order. We should pray for him.

Here is how I pray for our church and my pastor:

  • May we seek oneness of mind and spirit even in the midst of diversity;
  • May we seek faithfulness even in the midst of turmoil in our city, state, and country;
  • May we seek reconciliation among members when disagreement arises;
  • May we seek truth to be revealed, taught, and obeyed by everyone;
  • May our pastor be blessed with spiritual wisdom, discernment, and prudence; may he increase in knowledge and understanding; may he receive a word from You, O God, for Brookwood.

This morning, let’s make it all about Him. He is our God. Let’s praise Him.

Abba, may You be praised this morning and evening as the Brookwood fellowship gathers in Your name. As we hear from You, may we worship You in response to what You reveal to us. It’s all about You. May we always remember that. And may the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up! Amen.

Proverbs 28 1-28-21

Church is not a building, nor is it a place. It is the assembly of the people of God together with Him. Do you qualify?

14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart [against Him] falls into trouble.

The church is the assembly of people who believe in Jesus; He in-dwells each believer, and joins together the hearts of all believers. As we mature in our faith, our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ become our “safe house.” We can generally trust them to seek the Lord in all decisions; we can usually trust their topics of conversation (or, turn them back to godly topics), and their lifestyles are not much different than ours. If one looks at the senior adults of our church and wonders why they like to meet so much, it’s because of this safe zone. It’s not that they don’t have friends outside of church; it’s just that they hold so much in common with the others in church that they enjoy spending time together and work really hard to keep “the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The overall reason for meeting is our oneness in Christ. We primarily go to enjoy the Savior together with other believers. Jesus said, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matthew 18:20. There is a connection between the Spirit in us that unites our hearts together in a unique way. We experience the Lord in a way that cannot be experienced privately. This unique bond is exclusive to Christianity and is for believers only.

NOTE: When I say, “believers,” I am talking about those who have put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus, giving Him their lives to be lived as He commands. They are followers of Christ and Him alone and have a personal, on-going relationship with Him.

So, let me ask, Do you believe that Christ joins our hearts together as a church, His assembly? Is He resident in your heart? Then joining with other believers will definitely be a priority. Granted, COVID has put a damper on getting together, but as we slowly pull out of the quarantine, I am confident that Christ’s followers will once again meet together to worship our Savior. Each person must hear from the Lord as to when he or she can come back. I can hardly wait for us all to be together again!

Abba, those who have had COVID and those who get the vaccine have a distinct advantage over those who have not. May You lead each of us in the decision You want each of us to make. May we not judge others because they chose differently than we. Help us to love each other as Christ loves the church, giving our lives for each other as You have for us. Bless us when we meet, whether it’s on Sundays in corporate worship or in small groups throughout the week. Amen.

Proverbs 28 12-28-20

If you are His, YOU WILL FOLLOW HIM. If you are not, then you won’t. Has He called You? Then, ANSWER–or walk away.

Evildoers do not understand what is right,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.
If anyone turns a deaf ear to My instruction,
    even their prayers are detestable.
13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools,
    but those who walk in [the] wisdom [of the Spirit] are kept safe.

Last night, our church observed the Lord’s Supper. We ate the bread and drank the wine (unfermented, of course). Then, this morning I was reading John 6. In this chapter, we read Jesus’ words:

51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

He goes on to say, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Here was the dividing line: Those who were not really interested in giving their lives to their Christ took His meaning literally. They were (and are) caught up in the flesh and see everything from a physical point of view. They walked away. Those whom the Father had given to the Son (see verse 37) understood that Jesus was talking in spiritual terms. They may have not understood the full meaning (Christ had not died for them, yet), but they trusted Him. “You have the words of eternal life.” (Peter in verse 68).

In the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus used the same terminology:

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.Luke 22:19-20

We understand that the bread HAS ALWAYS represented His body,
which is the sacrifice for our sins.

We understand that the cup HAS ALWAYS represented His blood,
which is the atonement for all sin.

Every time we partake in the Lord’s Supper we remember His life, His death, and His resurrection.
Every time we eat the bread, we offer our lives as living sacrifices to Him.
Every time we drink the cup, we accept His atonement for our sins and pledge our lives to Him.

This pledge is what it means to “do this in remembrance of Me.” And, what is that pledge?

He died for me; I’ll live for Him.

Of course, we don’t need to partake in the Lord’s Supper to pledge ourselves to Him. In fact, we are to do it every morning. If you haven’t done it yet, today, how about doing it now? It’s important.

Abba, I pledge myself to You. May You teach me to quit seeing with just my physical eyes and open my mind and spirit to the spiritual kingdom that is inside of my fellow Christians and all around me. I know that You are working in the lives of those whom You are calling (those who will listen); I want to “see” You working and join You there. I accept Your sacrifice as my own and offer my life as a living sacrifice to You. I trust that You will transform me now and reveal to me Your will, Your good, pleasing, and perfect will. Amen.

Proverbs 28 11-28-20

If you think COVID is a free pass to do what you want, think again. God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

If we feel free from going to church, having a quiet time, and fellowshipping with other believers, then there is something wrong with our relationship with the Father. These are things the Spirit desires and should be creating in us these same desires. We are either rebuffing His attempts or we do not have Him in us. So, which is it? Let’s assume that we all have Him in us, in which case, consider Jesus’ words from Luke 12:

 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Lest you get the idea that God wants to do us ill-will, we must remember that Christ’s work on the cross had not been completed at the time of this conversation. At the same time, we must consider all of Christ’s words as eternal. So, what can we glean from this passage?

  1. The first thing we can do is look at the previous verse, which speaks of hypocrisy. Jesus wants us to live on the outside what is on the inside. Our heavenly Father knows the difference, so HE is the One we should “fear,” or, be about pleasing. To disregard His desires and design is to NOT fear Him.
  2. Secondly, we must consider what our heavenly Father really thinks of us. Jesus told us in verses 6-7 and 24: We are worth more than many sparrows. In fact, He considers us priceless. How do I know? Because our worth is based upon what He was willing to pay for us, which was His Son’s life–His own life. THAT’S how much He loves us, so THAT’S how much we are worth!
  3. Third, Jesus tells us in verses 4, 7, and 32 to not be afraid. Wait a minute! Didn’t He just tell us to fear Him who can kill the body and put the soul in hell? Where is the logic in that?! Well, it’s at the end of verse 32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” What kingdom? His kingdom! It was coming! Bringing the kingdom was the PURPOSE of the CROSS. Through Jesus Christ, we have His kingdom IN us. What is His kingdom? HEAVEN IN US! Jesus came to earth to wrest control away from Satan and to enable us to join Him in His kingdom. One of these days, He will return to bring all things under the unity of Himself (Ephesians 1:9-10).

So, instead of fearing God’s wrath, let’s fear getting outside of the influence and guidance of the Spirit. We need not fear His anger (it is being stored up for those who are unrepentant); we need not fear someone else’s opinion because we base our worth and our faith on the Word of God, and we know that the Word of the Lord stands forever (1 Peter 1:24-25). In fact, let’s not fear at all. Believing the words of Christ drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).

Abba, I believe You. I believe You for salvation, I believe You for eternal life, and I believe that You are in my heart and life transforming me into Your image, which is holy, blameless, spotless, and pure. I believe that You are opening my mind to Your truth; please do so all the more, LORD Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 28 10-28-20

Our politics should be based upon what we know concerning God, His Will, and His Word.

4 Those who forsake instruction [from God through His Word] praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them.

The moral compass for our nation is up to us Christians. Those who do not know Christ have no reason (they think) to follow His commands. Actually, the directive of marriage, which is one man with one woman for life, is the safest place for women and for children. It’s also the greatest place for all to enjoy family and fellowship. Any aberration of this directive brings destruction. Why? Because sin destroys us.

Another directive is about life. We are not to take another human’s life without cause (to save another human). The greatest choice a man and woman make is to create another human being. Biologists believe that there are two criteria for a human life: Is it human (23 pairs of chromosomes)? Is it alive (does it ingest food and excrete waste)? If it does both of these, then it’s a human life. From the moment of conception, a fetus has 23 pairs of chromosomes, ingests food and excretes waste. Therefore, life begins at the moment of conception and is protected under Christ’s commands and under our constitution as an inalienable right.

There are moral absolutes that come before all other concerns. I believe that our nation is teetering on the brink of judgment because of our history concerning our moral–or immoral–decisions. Let’s not allow the first part of today’s verse to become true for us. Instead, let those who heed the Word of the LORD resist the wicked (those who disregard Christ’s commands and go their own way, those who call “good” evil and “right” wrong). It’s important for our future and for the future of our children as well as our nation.

Abba, may You guide the hearts of Your children to vote according to Your will and Your way. May we set aside our preferences and even our beliefs concerning certain people and parties and vote according to the directives of Your will and Word. Speak to our hearts, LORD Jesus, speak that our souls may hear. Amen.

Proverbs 28 9-28-20

Knowing God’s plan of salvation helps us know what He’s done for us and helps us share it. It’s more than just forgiveness.

13b The one who confesses and renounces their sins finds mercy.

Yesterday morning in the service, I mentioned the fact that God created the framework of salvation before He created anything pertaining to this world. There were two verses on which I based my statement. They were:

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Revelation 13:8

I would like to add another, but I want to use the New Living Translation because it comes the closest to the Greek:

16 For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

The difference is in emphasis. “For God so loved the world” places the emphasis on God’s immense love for us, which He has! But, that is not the main emphasis of the verse. The emphasis is on HOW He loved us, which is through Christ and His substitutionary death on the cross for us. As was pointed out to me this morning in Romans 8:29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Notice the bolded parts. They all are in past tense. Why? Because the deed has already been done! So, when Isaiah had his sins forgiven (Isaiah 6:6-7), it was with the already-shed blood of Jesus Christ.

What does this knowledge do for us? Well, IT MAKES ME GRATEFUL! It also means that the framework for salvation is there for anyone who believes, who places their faith and trust in Christ and His atoning work on the cross. We Westerners tend to stop right there, but Easterners know better. They know that faith and trust are a “buying in” to the Plan, which requires an adoption on our part of Christ’s life, ways, and commands even as He signs our adoption papers.

If a person is not willing to serve Christ,
then He doesn’t really believe Christ.

His plan has always been PLAN A. There’s never been a PLAN B. That’s the kind of love God has for us in Jesus Christ! He Has loved us from the Beginning. As Beth Moore said, “She didn’t need to make promises to God in order to be free. She needed to believe the promises God had made to her.” Chasing Vines pg. 171. True freedom comes when we believe that God has already paid the price for our sin and is waiting on us to come to Him. What are we waiting for?! Let’s run to His arms! As we sang yesterday morning,

Oh, I’m running to Your arms, I’m running to Your arms!
The riches of Your love will always be enough.
Nothing compares to Your embrace;
Light of the world, FOREVER REIGN!

Abba, may we run to Your arms every morning. You offer love and joy and peace; You give us Your security and Your presence. You speak to us in the quiet times and through Your Word. You prepare us for the day, and give us rest at night. You relieve the weight of today’s burdens and remove the worry about the future. I don’t need to know what You are going to do; I just know that You’re in control. I TRUST YOU. Have Your way in me today, LORD. Amen.



Proverbs 28 8-28-20

Sometimes, we just need a little reminder to get us thinking straight. These articles were poignant for the times.

23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

We want the truth, don’t we? Then, it’s up to our leaders to share that truth with us, regardless if it hurts our feelings or goes against how we feel. Hance Dilbeck, our Oklahoma Baptist Executive Director–and good friend of our beloved pastor, Bryan Gilbert– and Brian Hobbs, Editor of the Baptist Messenger, had great articles in the Baptist Messenger. Here are synopses of their articles:

Hance Dilbeck
Encourage: Focus on Fundamentals
After giving an anecdote about being unsure about where we are going as church leaders but moving very fast, Hance encourages us from the letters Paul wrote to Timothy. He calls us to slow down and give focus to some fundamentals.

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers [lead them on the straight and narrow road].

  1. Set a good example for your people.
  2. Read, teach and preach the Word of God.
  3. Do the work of personal evangelism.

These were good things to hear during this season of social distancing. There is still work to be done, it’s just different work than the ordinary. Maybe it’s one of the ways that God is using Covid 19; we get shaken out of our routines and He points us in new directions for the kingdom’s sake and His glory!

Brian Hobbs
Sword & Trowel: Apocalypse now?
Brian starts out describing an “end times” scenario. The catch is that it was from 1000 A.D. rather than today. He says that a new Lifeway Research poll showed “almost 9 in 10 pastors see at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns to earth…” We are, indeed, “closer to the end,” but we must realize that events can be misinterpreted.
Brian states that for some people, “an apocalyptic sense of urgency becomes, not a call to prayer and evangelism; it instead devolves into an excuse for either extreme actions or extreme inaction.”
On extreme action, he calls it “short-term survival mode” where people do things and say things that they would not ordinarily do or say based upon Jesus’ impending return. Regardless if He is coming tomorrow, we NEVER have an excuse to be rude or selfish in our behavior and words. Let’s let Him find us being faithful in word and deed.
On extreme inaction, people use it as an “excuse to avoid the long work of obedience.” We hope for Christ’s imminent return, but plan–and work–like it will be in a thousand years (it was for the first millennials).
He finishes his article with this charge: “Brothers and sisters, whether we are living in the last days or not, we cannot be lulled into inaction or extreme action in a sinful manner. Instead, Christians ought to do what we know to do. Live out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment with love and humility, as we advance the Gospel together. These are the great tasks given to us from Jesus.”

This Sunday, Bryan Gilbert will be giving a synopsis of several views on the Return of Christ. What we need to keep in mind is that they all have one major theme: Christ IS Returning. This theme is our rallying point. Our differences of beliefs concerning interpretations of particular passages CANNOT BE BREACHES OF FELLOWSHIP. Christ will return in His time and in His way regardless of how we believe it will happen. Therefore, it CANNOT be a point of contention among the brethren. We must remember that God hates “a man who stirs up dissension among brothers (Proverbs 6:19).”

We all can rejoice in the hope of His impending Return. In the meantime, let’s do the work He has called us to do so that He finds us faithful when He comes for us individually (in death) or collectively (His Return).

Abba, I look forward to seeing how you do it! I suspect that NONE of us has it exactly right–in fact, I’m counting on it. I KNOW that it will be beyond comprehension!!! In the meantime, LORD, direct me to souls that need encouragement (music), souls that need direction (teaching), and souls that need saving (witnessing). I am Your humble servant. Do with me as You will. Amen.


Proverbs 28 7-28-20

Who is it that you seek to please? Yourself or God? Everything we think, say, and do emanates from our answer.

5 Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
14 Blessed is the one who always trembles [lives in a state of awe] before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom [seeing from God’s perspective; it comes from hanging with God] are kept safe.

During the main portion of King David’s life, he lived a life devoted to the LORD. Let’s look at portions of his masterpiece, Psalm 119:

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
    who walk according to the law of the Lord.

It would seem that we are judged by what we do. There is an equation at work here: If our thoughts are pure and holy, then as they pass through our heart, our passion and zeal are amplified, thus culminating in works that bring praise and honor to our LORD. We have pure and holy thoughts when we wash our minds with the water of the Word, when we transform our thinking according to His commands, and when we turn to the Savior for His words to guide us. His Spirit leads us into good works, which are works of obedience. We were never meant to make decisions on our own; the Spirit wants to make those decisions with us. It is His guidance and direction that will make us pure and holy.

Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
they do no wrong
but follow his ways.

Nothing else can get in the way of our seeking Him. No one else’s opinion matters. Only His. We consider others’ opinions, but we always weigh them against what He is saying to us.

4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.
Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.

These verses have to do with character. God has listed them, explained them, and illustrated them in the law. David was trying his best to learn them, but his heart kept leading Him astray. Today, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit–and we STILL have trouble steadfastly obeying Jesus!

I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.

Praise the LORD that we don’t have to learn about God through the Old Testament law! We can study it to see where God was going with it all, which was Jesus Christ and His completion of the law by fulfilling in His body the sacrificial system. Now, all of us who have Christ in our hearts as LORD can praise God with an upright heart even as we learn daily more and more about His righteousness and holiness.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14

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, [which has been] created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would revel in Your grace today, that they would learn to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to say “Yes” to self-controlled (actually, Spirit-controlled), upright and godly lives. May we please You with our submission to Your will and Spirit even as we praise You and bless You with our lives, our mouths, and even our thoughts. Keep us focused on You, LORD. Amen.