Let me ask you a question: Are you grateful for all Christ has done for you? It’s more important than you think!

On the 22nd, I listed ten things that I think graduating seniors should know. Really, though, this list is for everyone. Here is the complete list, but we are focusing on number 8 today.

  1. What we do with our bodies matters.
  2. What we put in our bodies matters.
  3. What we put in our minds matters.
  4. Daily prayer and Scripture reading are ultra important to keep your relationship with the Lord fresh.
  5. Our friends matter because we become like them.
  6. Start your day right with the right focus.
  7. Make Psalm 73:23-26 the framework of your life.
  8. Live a life of gratitude to the Lord.
  9. Be formed, conformed, and transformed into Christ-likeness by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  10. Remember that the Lord is always with you and will never leave you.

Live a life of gratitude to the Lord.

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

This passage is huge! It speaks of the representation of Christ for all humanity.

We owe so much to Jesus for taking our sin on Himself and burying it in the tomb–and then rising from the dead and offering us that same new life! Living a life of gratitude to the Lord is easy when we remind ourselves everyday what Christ has done for us. How do we live a grateful life? Let’s start with this verse from Romans 6,

11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.

The apostle Peter says it this way,

24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

Our joy is wrapped up in our gratitude. When we think of the love that Jesus has for us, the lengths He went to get us back, and the privilege He offers us through a relationship with Him, our peace and joy meters should go off the chart!

So, let me ask you again: Are you grateful? I’ll bet you are! I know I am!

Abba, thank You, thank You, thank You for all You have done for us. We are, indeed, grateful to You. I am reminded of the lyrics to a song I wrote long ago,

We give You our lives, for what more could we give
to the One who is Master of all?
We give You our lives so that through them You’ll live;
O be Thou our Guide, in Your love we’ll abide;
Lord, we give You the gift of our lives.

May we live grateful lives for You and with You, Lord. Amen.


“He will keep to the end, He’s your dearest friend.” Truer words were never spoken.

We’re still jumping back in time to around 1993 and are perusing the music from a project that Randy (my brother) and I did in our neighbor’s garage with just a recorder, microphones and Randy’s guitar. The hymn, “The Nail-Scarred Hand,” is my absolute favorite. Here’s the story on the hymn (click the song titles to hear them):

The Nail-Scarred Hand

“The radiant and gentle life of B. B. McKinney exemplified his Christianity as he lived and walked among men. As one of our foremost and very meaningful song writers and singers, he was always so modest, never wanting any credit for his ability, but just ever trying to use the talent God had given him” (Wordwise Hymns, p. 50).
As to the origin of the present song, Mr. McKinney was teaching at Southwestern Seminary at the time, and came to Allen, Texas (fifty miles from Fort Worth) for a Sunday School Conference. In an evening session the speaker gave a strong evangelistic appeal, urging his listeners, “Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. B. B. McKinney says he was gripped by the words, and jotted them down.
He had planned to head back to Fort Worth after that evening session, but was prevented from doing so by a severe storm. He stayed overnight in a home, and the storm raged on, even endangering the little town. The musician wrote the song during the storm, and sang it at the conference the next day.

The Nail-Scarred Hand

1 Have you failed in your plan of your storm-tossed life?
Place you hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Are you weary and worn from its toil and strife?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

Chorus: Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
He will keep to the end, He’s your dearest friend,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.

2 Are you walking alone through the shadows dim?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Christ will comfort your heart, put your trust in Him,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. [Chorus]

3 Would you follow the will of the risen Lord?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Would you live in the light of His blessed Word?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. [Chorus]

4 Is your soul burdened down with its load of sin?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand;
Throw your heart open wide, let the Savior in,
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. [Chorus]

We all must come to a place where we realize that we need Jesus. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). He didn’t cause this world to bring us to our knees, but He knew that it would and He meets us there. In fact, the place where we kneel down is at the foot of the cross, Jesus’ cross. Just hours before He hung on that cross, here’s what He said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace” (John 16:33a). Jesus wants us to have peace. That peace comes when we surrender our lives to Him and place our hand in His nail-scarred hand.

Abba, You love us so much! Thank You, Jesus, for demonstrating that love on the cross. We sing, “Hallelujah!” for the empty tomb! You have forgiven us; You have freed us–if we will only come to You and receive the new life that You have for us. It’s a one-time thing (our position in Him), but it’s also a daily thing (our relationship with Him). Help us to trust You every step of the way. Amen.

Proverbs 3-30-23

Jesus cares for all of us. He even cared for the religious leaders who killed Him. The question is, do we trust Him for life?

“Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 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 in the Father.John 10:36-38

When Jesus cleared the temple, the religious leaders asked him where He got the authority to do such a thing. In their eyes, they were the ultimate authority. They were the ones who had the books of the law and who interpreted them. They also had the backing of Rome, so they could enforce nearly any ruling they made. Here’s the conversation:

23 Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
24 Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”
They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
27 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
Matthew 21:23-27

Keep in mind that this confrontation was public. The religious leaders thought they had Jesus on the grounds that He had not sought their approval on any of His teachings or actions. They did not know with whom they were dealing (obviously). When Jesus “turned the tables” on them, they found that He had trapped them–publicly!

The other thing to notice is their admission that they had not believed John. That in itself was a condemnation. It’s no wonder that they wanted to kill Jesus. He was making them look bad and was bringing on a change that they didn’t want. Here’s what they said,

47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. John 11:47-48, 53

It’s as if Jesus was goading them into crucifying Him. We know that He actually cared very much for them and wanted them to believe in Him (see His compassion for them in the John 10 passage above), but He also knew what needed to take place in His plan to get us back. Let’s thank Jesus today for going the distance for us. He died for us; we’ll live for Him.

Abba, there’s an old song that goes, “I don’t know why Jesus loved me, I don’t know why He cared; I don’t know why He sacrificed His life, Oh, but I’m glad, I’m glad He did!” Me, too, Abba. Thank You for all that You have done. I look forward to talking about the resurrection part soon. Amen.

Proverbs 1-30-23

Freedom of religion is a relatively new thing. Through the ages, the powerful set what religion the masses followed.

15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:15-18

As we study the “fuse” of history concerning the coming of Jesus to earth, we look at how the Romans used a different technique on the nations they conquered. From, “Person of Interest, by J. Warner Wallace, pages 20-22,

As they annexed another culture, they would also annex their languages, traditions, and gods. Rome’s early strategy was simple: allow each people group to retain its gods and traditions and embrace these deities as part of the larger Roman pantheon. Rome had done this earlier with the gods of Greece and had, in fact, adopted the Greek gods as their own, “Romanizing” the Greek pantheon.
All they expected in return was for the annexed groups to submit to Roman authority and to make offerings (however nominal) to the Roman gods.

There was an exception: The Jews. “The Romans allowed them to retain their monotheism, recognizing Judaism as a legal religion. The Romans allowed the Jews to coexist among the conquered people groups, even though they would not worship the Roman gods. Rome tolerated Judaism, even if it didn’t trust it.”

During the first years of Christianity, Rome considered it a branch of Judaism and did little or nothing to stop its growth.

“A thirty-year window of opportunity opened to spread the message of Jesus (prior to Emperor Nero’s maltreatment of Christians in AD 64). And even though some Roman emperors in the years ahead would persecute Christians, others returned to a version of Roman tolerance, allowing Christianity to flourish in every region under Rome’s control.”

Jesus arrived at this point in human history, when the Roman Empire embraced a version of religious tolerance unique to the history of the ancient world, providing a small window of opportunity. This window allowed Jesus to preach a message his followers could communicate to the world.

Tomorrow, we will look at Jesus Himself–and the major gods who came before Him.

Abba, You have always have the bigger picture in mind. Even though Your chosen people, the Israelites, were under the control of the Romans, You worked everything together to bring about the perfect conditions for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be spread quickly and efficiently. You are amazing! The more I learn, the more I am in awe of You, Abba. Praise Your name! Amen.

Proverbs 30 12-30-22

Jesus’ claim on our lives comes from His creating us. He knows what is best for us–and what destroys us. Let’s listen to Him!

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full [more abundantly]. John 10:10

Yesterday, we read where Jesus called Himself the Light of the world in John 8:12. The Pharisees accused him of speaking for Himself, which, according to the Law, rendered His testimony invalid,

13 The Pharisees challenged him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.”
14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.”

Jesus’ testimony combined with the Father’s was valid–if the Pharisees accepted Jesus’ claim that God is His Father. Jesus used a familiar word, patēr, which means, “father.” My Bible capitalizes “Father” because we know that Jesus is talking about God. How? Jesus says as much in verse 54, “Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father [patēr], whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” But, Jesus didn’t go there right away with them. In fact, they asked where His Father was,

19 Then they asked him, “Where is your father?”

Jesus’ reply was more than just about simple awareness. It had to do with perception and appreciation,

“You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

Jesus was calling them on their lack of faith in who He said He was. Their refusal to accept His claim of Messiah and of coming from the Father was their undoing. We might say, “I would never do that.” Yet, we claim Jesus as King of the universe and Lord of our lives, but live as though everything depends upon us. If He is, indeed, our Creator, then He alone knows what is best for us, what helps us grow and what destroys us. Let’s live our lives at the direction of the One to whom we have given our lives.

Abba, I am pointing my finger, which means that I have three others pointing back at me! There have been many times that I do not consult You, I ignore You, and sometimes I downright disobey You, all because I do not trust You fully. Increase my faith, Lord, even if it takes hard times. I will look to You all the more quickly. Amen.

Proverbs 30 11-30-22

There is no such thing as a post-Christian society. Maybe an anti-Christian one, but not post. Jesus is growing His Church!

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

The teachings of the Church*, which began at Pentecost, have been the same for two thousand years. Throughout these millennia, people have tried to steer it off-course; many others in ignorance have believed lies and been deceived. From, “A Grand Illusion,” page 34,

…most non-biblical Americans–including progressives–have five basic religious tenets:

  1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth;
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other as taught in the Bible and by most world religions;
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and feel good about oneself;
  4. God doesn’t need to be particularly involved in our lives except when he’s needed to resolve a problem; and
  5. All good people die and go to heaven.

What’s wrong with their theology? The first two aren’t wrong, but the third and fourth ones are way off. The fifth one needs a qualifier–who is good? They would tell us that they are good. But, according to Jesus, no one but the Father is good (Mark 10:18). So, they are right in that all good people go to heaven, but since there are no good people, no one goes. What are the teachings of the Church? Belief and trust in Jesus gives us His life (John 5:24). Continuing on page 34,

…the official position of the vast majority of established Christians churches is very unprogressive–founded upon the divinity of Jesus, convicted by his atoning death, proclaiming his coming judgment, believing in the authority of the Scriptures, calling for personal holiness, and so on. These churches include the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the quarter of a billion Orthodox Church members, the two hundred million Baptists, the tens of millions of Pentecostals, the millions of conservative, non-Western Anglicans and Methodists, Bible churches, most Community churches, and many other fellowships and denominations…More than 95 percent of the world’s Christians belong to churches that teach historic, orthodox Christianity.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Once you meet the Savior, all of the things mentioned above make sense and are a regular part of who we are and what we do. His Spirit in us gives us the desire to do them and then the power to live them out in our lives. May we seek His face every morning, walk in step with Him every day, and close our eyes at night praising Him and thanking Him for His continuous presence.

Abba, I take great comfort in knowing that there are many Christians in our world today. I look forward to meeting every one of them, past and present and future, in Your kingdom. In the meantime, I pray for them that they would know You deeper and more intimately every day. May their trials draw them closer to You; may their wealth create opportunities to bless You by helping others; may their disagreements be avenues to show grace to each other, and may we all seek unity in the Spirit. Amen.

*Church means, “Assembly.” Technically, the church began at Mount Sinai when Moses called Israel to hold a sacred assembly (Exodus 12:16). At Pentecost, Jesus expanded His Church to include Gentiles. The Church in the context above is the expanded Church that includes everyone who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation.

Proverbs 30 10-30-22

If people were to sit down with a piece of paper and write out the pros and cons of salvation, I bet they would opt for salvation every time.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

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?

We have discovered that we all need to be saved from sin, from ourselves, and from the evil one. We are not capable of saving ourselves. We need Jesus. It is Him and His name on which we call. His name represents all that He is as God the Son, Messiah Ha’Mashiach, our Savior and Lord. Everyone needs Jesus, and He’s already done all the heavy lifting. All we have to do is accept His gift of forgiveness and mercy and receive Him as our Savior and Lord. What shall we gain and what shall we avoid by becoming His followers?

We gain:

  1. Life- “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
  2. Love- “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1
  3. Joy- “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
  4. Peace- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
  5. Hope- “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5
  6. The Holy Spirit- “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 1:13
  7. A Family- “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:16-17

What we avoid-

  1. An empty life- “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Mark 10:22
  2. Being led astray- “…By your [Satan’s] magic spell all the nations were led astray.” Revelation 18:23
  3. Being cast out into outer darkness- “And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:30
  4. Eternal punishment- ““Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:46

As we can see, there is much to gain and much to lose. Yet, it is not a choice we can make on our own. Salvation comes from an invitation by Christ. The awareness of His invitation IS His invitation. If you have not taken Him up on it, “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Abba, I look back on the day You invited me to receive Your salvation with much gratitude. I have never truly doubted Your presence in my life. What I have learned is that, really, it’s my life in You. May you live Your life through me even as I live my life for You. Amen.

Proverbs 30 9-30-22

Those who look for counterfeit money don’t study counterfeits, but the real deal so they will know a counterfeit when they see one.

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

The term, “Progressive Christianity,” has been an increasingly popular topic. It is used to describe “new and diverging ways” to look at God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, salvation, and heaven/hell. The problem with many of these beliefs is that they do not take God’s Word (the Bible) as His truth revealed to mankind, which would mean that the Bible would not be the standard for truth. I personally believe that the Bible is God’s revealed truth to mankind. It is from the Bible that I learned who God is, who Jesus is and why He came, and who the Holy Spirit is and about His desire to live in and with me. He is with me right now confirming this very truth.

At the same time, especially after reading several books containing writings from early-era Christians, my view of Scripture has grown to include the humanity of the writers as they were carried along by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). As we read the Word today, Christ lives in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17) and we hear His voice–but, it can sound a whole lot like our own, so we need each other as we study the Scriptures to help us get a collective view of God through the lens of Jesus.

My hope is that we will continue to gain a solid foundation of truth and strive for unity around the basic truths of the Gospel. Let’s pray for each other that God will make all things clear to us (Philippians 3:15).

Abba, I know that Satan loves to twist Scripture and use it for his own use. I also know that he deceives and tempts mankind on a regular basis–even Christians! We ask you to “fill us with the knowledge of Your will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives” (Colossians 1:9). Help us to understand and to be patient with each other. Amen.

Proverbs 30 8-30-22

In Full View: It’s how we should live our lives.

20 This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Personal integrity is at the top of the list for Christ-followers. Why? Because what we do and how we are reflects directly upon our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His followers. An even bigger reason is because we have the Spirit of Christ in us (Colossians 1:27), and He is our Lord.

Romans 12:17 tells us, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Does this mean that we should do everything publicly? No. The Pharisees did because of selfish motives (Matthew 23:5-7). We do everything as if someone is watching so that everything we do brings honor and glory to Christ.

Abba, if we could ever get it into our heads that we are never alone, that You are always with us, we would forget about entertaining inappropriate and thoughts, and especially inappropriate deeds. Help us to think like Christ so that we can become like Christ. Amen.

Proverbs 30 7-30-22

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about lost children being reconciled back to their heavenly Father. Is that what you learned?

25:25 Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.

The point of yesterday’s post:

Instead of telling someone to accept Christ and asking Him to come into their heart and life
so that they can go to heaven when they die, let’s put the emphasis on heaven coming to them!
Why? So that He can fellowship with them even as He leads us through this world to His world.
We can’t make it without Him–that’s the point!
Having them focus on a future heaven puts the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-A-ble.

Today, we will look at what happens when a person “accepts Christ,” but never follows Him. Let’s look at the Parable of the Two Sons from Matthew 21,

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.

Jesus told them that they were correct, in a manner of speaking. We should think long and hard about this passage when quoting a simple prayer for people to pray in order to be saved. Jesus wasn’t about promises; He was about obedience. It’s the only way to make it through this world without being caught in a web of deceit, trapped in a snare, or self-destructing because of a lie or a feeling. Jesus is the ONLY One who can get us through to the other side of life with minimal scarring and damage. We’re not talking physical here, but spiritual, relational, and emotional. It is our souls He wants to save; He will replace these physical bodies with much better versions.

There are two reasons that I see for Him wanting our obedience:

  1. To keep us from destruction (we just talked about that);
  2. To be His hands and feet on this earth. We are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).

A person who prays a prayer but has no intention of following Jesus will self-destruct. He also is useless concerning–and even harmful to–the Good News of Jesus Christ. To put it bluntly, they give real followers of Jesus a bad name, they clog our churches, and sometimes hold places of leadership in our churches, which causes all kinds of problems. Like I said, let’s put the emphasis on heaven coming to them in the form of the Holy Spirit. He wants to bring healing and peace to our souls; He wants sweet and intimate fellowship with us, and He wants to walk us through life to His life while we share His Good News along the way.

Let’s be about sharing THIS Good News.

Abba, I feel like I am just now getting a firm grasp on what to share with people concerning You and Your Gospel. For decades, I have been leading people to pray a simple prayer to be saved; fortunately, I have poured into most of those people the importance of establishing a close relationship with You. Now, when I share, it’s less about heaven and more about You. It’s less about a certain prayer and more about a conversation with You that goes on forever. It’s less about a one-time event and more about a daily walk. May You give me plenty of opportunities to share this Good News with people. Amen.

Proverbs 30 6-30-22

“Different is as different does.” If we truly believe in the resurrection, then we will hold loosely to the things of this world.

24:10 If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!

The early Christians didn’t have the luxury of a government that cared for their rights. In fact, the government was against them for 300 years until Constantine made Christianity legal. A little known fact is that Rome was a bad environment for Christians, but Alexandria, Egypt, was much worse throughout the second and third centuries. Most of the games in the arena where Christians were used as sport took place in Alexandria. Here is one such example:

On March 7, 203, “the proconsul Hilarianus scheduled a public event–a day of games and spectacles to be performed in the city’s amphitheater to celebrate the birthday of the emperor’s son, Caesar Geta.
Gladiators were expensive, of course, but criminals were cheap*.”

According to Britannica.com, there was a 21 (or 22) year-old prisoner named Perpetua who was a Christian. Recently married and more recently a mother, she and four of her friends had been arrested for their conversion to Christianity. The interesting thing is that another of her friends voluntarily joined them. The six were tried, refused to renounce their faith, and were condemned to death in the arena. Perpetua’s dearest friend, Felicity, was very pregnant, but wasn’t due. They prayed fervently, and she delivered two days before their execution. Their solidarity made a great impact upon the crowd and many came to believe because of the girls’ testimony. Learn more about Perpetua.

Revelation 12:10-12 that describes their bravery and devotion to Christ,

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.”

The church leader, Tertullian, helped people in his network to get ready for prison by means of fasting and other ascetic practices**. How could they do such a thing? Because they BELIEVED in the resurrection. It wasn’t something in the distant future for them, but a present reality.

What would happen if Christ’s church today believed in the resurrection like our early church followers? Could we let go of our wealth, health, and lifestyle for the sake of Jesus and His Bride? It’s a sobering question.

Abba, please rid us of anything and everything that comes between You and us. May our lives be different enough so that people will be attracted to Christ. Help us to know how to be different for You. Amen.

*”The Patient Ferment of the Early Church” pg. 44
** Ibid, pg. 50

Proverbs 30 5-30-22

Being called a little child can be offensive, but that is exactly what we are spiritually.

[4:1] Listen, my children [Solomon speaking], to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
[2] I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
[3] When I was a boy in my father’s [David’s] house,
still tender, and an only child of my mother [Bathsheba],
[4] he taught me and said,
“Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands and you will live.”

Yesterday in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School), we were looking at Matthew 18. In that chapter, the disciples asked Jesus who the greatest of them was in the kingdom. Jesus took a small child into His lap and told them that they must become like that child in order to be part of His kingdom. What was He saying (to them and us)?

  1. Children had no rights; we must give up our “rights” in order to accept His kingdom.
  2. Children trust with pure hearts; we must be willing to trust completely, too.
  3. Children don’t need to know why, but they trust the person to know why; we must do the same with God.

The next portion of Scripture had to do with causing another child to stumble, in this case, the religious leaders who were keeping the people from believing and following Jesus. He then broadened His approach to include anything that tempts us away from Him. Jesus used hyperbole in order to get His point across. Let’s read it:

If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

The hyperbole that Jesus uses in this passage is extreme. One would think that these verses warn against hell, which they do, but not in the way we usually understand hell. “Fire” is “pur” and is defined as “the fire of God; He that transforms into light and likeness with Himself.” It gives the concept of God being a consuming fire that consumes all of a person’s dross, thus purifying the person (see Hebrews 12:29) like silver (Psalm 12:6). Painful, yes. Condemning, no.

As we talked, it became apparent that our view of hell in this passage was about more than just beyond the grave. It called to attention the fact that we are eternal beings right now, living in either heaven (walking with Christ) or hell (walking without Christ). Jesus is burning out the dross and transforming us into light so that we become children of light (Ephesians 5:8). We are becoming like Jesus.

Jesus points out things in our lives that tempt us and He asks us to give them up, or to allow Him to help us put guards around them. He asks that we look to Him for strength and patient endurance. We are to keep in mind that we are to give “joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-13).

Remember that how we think determines our actions. Keeping this passage in mind helps us to focus our sights on Jesus and keep them there.

Abba, I live by this verse and look forward to its realization in my life. May I keep You and Your plan in mind as I walk through each day; it will help me keep my eyes focused on You, Jesus. You are the Beginner and Finisher of my faith. Amen.

Proverbs 30 4-30-22

We remember word pictures (metaphors) much better and longer than we do facts. It’s why Jesus told stories.

4:3 For I too was a son to my father,
    still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
    “Take hold of my words with all your heart;
    keep my commands, and you will live.

The metaphor of the Vine that Jesus uses in John 15:1-8 is chocked full of word pictures; some translations can give the wrong impression. Here’s the verse that bears the brunt of such impressions:

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. NASB

6 For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all. The man who does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dry sticks that men pick up and use for the firewood. J.B. Phillips

I chose to share the Phillips version because of its unique description of what happens when we don’t abide in Christ. Abiding in Christ has many word pictures all of its own, but, to me, it all comes down to relationship. The interaction between us and Christ is vital for spiritual health and growth. Another word picture would be a coal that is removed from the fire. Over time, it cools off and has no more heat; put it back in the fire and it glows once again.

Christ was talking to His disciples; Judas had left (John 13:30), so He wasn’t talking to him. Jesus was preparing them for the coming of the Spirit (John 14:26) and wanted them to be prepared for what was coming (Pentecost). His warning about not abiding was not about salvation or eternal destination, but about connection. We, too, must learn to turn in our minds to the Spirit within us and listen to what He is saying. The small tensions that we feel are from Him! When we head in the right direction, we feel His peace.

We need not worry about being deemed worthless like the branch that was cast into the fire. Our worth is not wrapped up in what we do or don’t do for the Lord. He loves us just as we are. We are worth “more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31).”* The worth of something is figured on how much a person is willing to pay for the item. In our case, Christ paid the ultimate price for us: His life. Why? To show us just how much the He loves us! Not only that, the Father wants us to join Him in His redemptive work in and among mankind. Let’s join Him!

Abba, joining You in Your work is such an honor. Thank You for inviting us! May we treat this honor with the gravity it deserves. Amen.

*Romans 3:12 is translated “worthless” in many translations, but the actual translation is, “useless, corrupted.” The idea is that we are unwilling and resistant vessels in the Father’s hands. The NASB gets Romans 3:12 right.

Proverbs 30 3-30-22

Jesus said that the heavenly Father loves us dearly. Do you believe Him? Your answer reveals your view of God.

5 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him [Jesus is the Word of God; see John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13; He is our Shield].

A question was posed to me the other day concerning Jesus’ comment to His disciples in the upper room on that fateful night,

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father. And I will love him and will reveal Myself to him.”

If we are not careful, we can get the idea that Jesus’ love for us is works-based, which is not true. In order to know what Jesus is talking about, let’s do some digging.

In Matthew 4:17, Jesus said, “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “Repent” means to change direction (usually the opposite direction) and change the way you are thinking. So, here is their first command. The second command is found in John 6:29, “This is the work of God, that you believe [trust] in Him whom He has sent.” Both of these commands have to do with what we believe about God and Jesus Christ. What does this tell us about the commandments Jesus wanted them to keep? They were not about doing, but about thinking and believing.

What we believe affects how we feel, which then affects what we do. Jesus knew this fact and was telling His disciples to believe and trust in Him; then, and only then, would they comprehend His love for them.

“Change the way you think, and you’ll will change the way you feel;”*
change the way you feel and you’ll change what you do.

Jesus was not setting up a merit/demerit system; He was establishing their faith in Him. Paul said in Romans 12:2,

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

We reveal our love for Jesus by believing Him and trusting Him. Look at the promises:

  • The heavenly Father will love us; actually, it’s a given since Jesus and the Father are One (John 10:30).
  • Jesus will love us (see above explanation).
  • Jesus will reveal Himself to us. Why? Because we are looking at Jesus and not into the darkness anymore. Our eyes will be full of His light and will fill us completely (Matthew 6:22).

What a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus! Let’s let God transform us into new people by changing the way we think. Then we will learn to know God’s will for us, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Abba, You are amazing. Revealing Yourself to us is what the cross was all about. You revealed Your love for us by taking every bad thing mankind could throw at You and then forgiving us–even while You were dying! Thank You for finding us and taking us home when we were lost. You are the loving heavenly Father and our Good Shepherd. Amen.

*Beth Moore

Proverbs 30 1-30-22

Part 2: Two ways of looking at things concerning death, the kingdom of God, and heaven.

18 Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand…

We ended yesterday with the thought that Jesus may have been referencing something other than His ultimate return or individual “return” for each of us. As we look into the rest of Jesus’ teaching that night, we find clues that give a different picture. His promise to come again is restated in 14:18 and again in 14:28. Jesus began to talk about the coming of the Spirit. He is called the Helper (14:16, 26, 15:26,16:7), the Spirit of truth (14:17,15:26, 16:13), and the Holy Spirit (14:26).

The idea of not leaving them as orphans (14:18) leans heavily toward this perspective. Verse 17 says that the Spirit dwelt WITH them at that time, but would be IN them once Jesus sent the Spirit to them (at Pentecost). The greatest promise is found in 16:22, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” He finishes His teaching with these comforting words in 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Paul wrote a great synopsis on the love of God and Christ in Romans 8:31-39,

33 Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who declares them in the right.
34 Who is going to condemn?

It is the Messiah, Jesus, who has died, or rather has been raised;
who is at God’s right hand, and who also prays on our behalf!
35 Who shall separate us from the Messiah’s love?
Suffering, or hardship, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As the Bible says,
Because of you we are being killed all day long; we are regarded as sheep destined for slaughter.
37 No: in all these things we are completely victorious through the one who loved us. 38 I am persuaded, you see, that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor the present, nor the future, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in King Jesus our Lord.

The neat thing about this love relationship is that it is NOW. We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven. In fact, the kingdom of heaven is in us because the Spirit of Jesus is in us. From the moment we believed in Jesus Christ, we have been progressively becoming Kingdom Citizens. He starts with our hearts and progresses with our minds and will ultimately transform our bodies (see Philippians 3:20-4:1).

As good as this argument is for what Jesus meant by going away and coming back, there is another one, which we will discover tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for the Holy Spirit coming to live in us. WOW! We get to join in the Fellowship of the Trinity–and we don’t even have to wait until we get heaven because You brought heaven to us. I’m with Paul in his doxology, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)” Unto You, O Lord, be glory forever. Amen.

Proverbs 30 12-30-21

Metaphors are word pictures. They are man’s attempts to describe the indescribable. Don’t build your theology on them.

4 …Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
14 There are those whose teeth are swords, whose fangs are knives, to devour the poor from off the earth…
33 For pressing milk produces curds, twisting the nose produces blood, and stirring up anger produces strife.

These are examples of similes and metaphors, word pictures and illustrations, and they all help us get a more specific idea of what the writer wants us to know. Jesus used these types of descriptions along with parables (short, allegorical stories to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson) because ALL of His concepts were bigger than the people’s–and our–brains could handle.

In Mark 10:35-40, James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ right and left hands when He came into His glory. Verses 41-45 describe the other disciples’ indignation and Jesus’ instruction. Let’s read it:

41 Hearing this, the other ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

I understand being a servant, but not a slave, so I looked up slave, and the word means, “bond-servant,” which was a person who was a technically a slave.

A bondservant is a slave. In some Bibles the word bondservant is the translation of the Greek word doulos, which means “one who is subservient to, and entirely at the disposal of, his master; a slave.” Other translations use the word slave or servant.
In Roman times, the term bondservant or slave could refer to someone who voluntarily served others. But it usually referred to one who was held in a permanent position of servitude. Under Roman law, a bondservant was considered the owner’s personal property. Slaves essentially had no rights and could even be killed with impunity by their owners.
The Hebrew word for “bondservant,” ‘ebed,’ had a similar connotation. However, the Mosaic Law allowed an indentured servant to become a bondservant voluntarily: “If the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life” (Exodus 21:5-6).
From GotQuestions.org

Jesus used the term with the intention for His disciples to voluntarily make themselves slaves to each other. Jesus Himself took this role voluntarily, but He also “gave His life as a ransom for many” (v.45). I looked up the word, “ransom,” and it means, “ransom,” but not like we Westerners think of it. Our first thought is to pay off a kidnapper who takes a loved one and demands payment to get the loved one back. In Jesus’ day, a ransom was what a person used to purchase a slave. Jesus not only became a “slave” for our sakes, he also bought us all out of slavery.

This description of Jesus’ work on the cross is true, but His work was much more than just a payment. Jesus gives us another word picture that denotes more of a hostile takeover than a simple transaction. We’ll look at it tomorrow.

Abba, thank You for being patient with us and for helping us grasp spiritual concepts and realities with our finite minds. Keep stretching and growing us, Lord. We’ll get it someday–when we stand at Your throne in Your presence! I can hardly wait. Amen.

Proverbs 30 11-30-21

What does being reconciled mean? It means returning to what was. The past is not forgotten so much as canceled.

Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, [God holds nothing against us; He just wants us back]

We begin where we left off yesterday, which was,

Why does the Trinity interest me so?
Because I do not think that God the Father turned away
from God the Son on the cross even while God the Spirit
was at work expunging sin. More on that tomorrow.

We learn from Saint Paul that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. How? By being in Christ while Christ was on the cross, as the Spirit reconciled us to Him (Them). Let’s read it:

So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view. Though we have known Christ from a human point of view, now we no longer know Him in this way. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away. Behold, new things have come. 18 But all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting people’s sins against them [but canceling them]. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Concerning this Triune God, the Jews have an ancient creed. It is called the Shema. It begins like this:

“Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! Deuteronomy 6:4

Let’s analyze it:

  • “Shema” (pronounced, Shem-ah’) is the Hebrew word for “hear.” It makes sense that they call it the Shema.
  • It is for all Israel to say and believe.
  • The “Lord” is “Yahweh,” and it is the proper name for the God of Israel.
  • “God” is “Elohim,” which is a plural form; it’s the Trinity! See Genesis 1:1-3 combined with John 1:1-3.
  • Yahweh is One Triune Being!

I said that the English language is a poor interpreter of Hebrew. Well, it turns out that it’s not much better translating Aramaic or Greek, either. Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment was. We find His answer in Mark 12:29-31,

29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Notice how Jesus began with the Shema. But, there is a difference. The Greek words don’t match up.

  • “The Lord” does not use “Yahweh,” but “Kurios,” which means, “Master, Lord.”
  • “Our God” does not use “Elohim,” but “Theos,” which simply means “God.”
  • It comes out as, “God is Master.”

What Jesus says in the Greek is true, but it is not the Shema that Moses said and the people of Israel chant today. What happened?

  1. Jesus spoke Aramaic. It was the language of the day and the region.
  2. When Mark wrote down what Peter said, it was either in Aramaic or Greek.
  3. Someone copied it or translated it into the Greek we have today.
  4. It was then translated into the English version that is in our Bibles.

Did Jesus deliberately change the Shema? Was it changed for Him by translators? Did Peter mean to have Mark write it like that? I don’t know. All I know is that it is different. It is NOT the Shema that speaks of a Triune God, the Trinity. My conclusion is this: Even when we know something that has been passed down for centuries, time doesn’t make it right or accurate. Jesus makes things accurate. In this case, Jesus is the living Proof of a Triune God. He’s God the Son. So, I believe the Moses version and I believe Jesus’ version. In fact, I have no problem melding the two. The Spirit testifies that Jesus is the Son of God and is the Second Person of the Trinity. We know that God is the Master of the Universe, so both statements are true regardless of how they came to be.

We listen to the Word of God (Jesus) to explain the word of God (the Bible).

Keep digging! Exciting stuff!!!

Abba, I am constantly in awe as I study Your Word. Thank You for the enlightenment of the Spirit, especially concerning Jesus and His interaction with people. May I garner in myself His characteristics and put them to good use; I know I will with Your partnership. Amen.

Proverbs 30 10-30-21

The Word of God is like an onion with layer after layer of meaning. We peal one layer away to reveal a deeper and larger picture!

5 Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him [notice that the word of God is actually a Person: Jesus Christ, the revealed Word of God (see John 1:1-4, 14)].

Psalm 22 is a Messianic psalm about the passion of Christ on the cross. Jesus quoted several verses from it while on the cross. Let’s look at verse 31,

31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

I have always heard that the last verse is linked with Jesus’ sixth word (statement) on the cross, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) The Hebrew word in Psalm 22:31 is “asah” in the Strong’s Concordance (6213). Here is what it says:
a primitive root; to do or make, in the broadest sense and widest application (as follows):–accomplish, advance, appoint, apt, be at, become, bear, bestow, bring forth, bruise, be busy, X certainly, have the charge of, commit, deal (with), deck, + displease, do, (ready) dress(-ed), (put in) execute(-ion), exercise, fashion, + feast, (fight-)ing man, + finish, fit, fly, follow, fulfill, furnish, gather, get, go about, govern, grant, great, + hinder, hold ((a feast)), X indeed, + be industrious, + journey, keep, labour, maintain, make, be meet, observe, be occupied, offer, + officer, pare, bring (come) to pass, perform, practise, prepare, procure, provide, put, requite, X sacrifice, serve, set, shew, X sin, spend, X surely, take, X thoroughly, trim, X very, + vex, be (warr-)ior, work(-man), yield, use.

The NIV, which is based upon the Masoretic text* is, “He has done it!” Done what? Fulfilled the role of the cross. What was the role of the cross? To take us back. Jesus undid what Adam did in the garden of Eden. Where the doors of death and hell were locked from the inside, Jesus went and took the keys away from Satan and unlocked the doors! We are no longer bound to death. You may ask, “Then, why do we die?” It is because these bodies are of the Old Covenant. Jesus promises us new bodies to go with our redeemed and risen selves! Pretty cool, huh? As for the Greek word, “tetelestai,” which Jesus used in John 19:30, really does mean “paid in full,” but it is a cancellation rather than a fulfillment of a debt. God cancelled the debt we owed. By dying, He took death with Him to the grave–but, because He is God, He arose and left death there in the grave. THAT is why we have all died with Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). It’s also why we are raised with Him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Paul wrote:

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us [Greek: charizomai– freely pardoned; forgiven, as in Acts 2:38- aphesinreleased, dismissed] all our sins, 14 having canceled [Greek: exaleipsas1813: to wipe out, erase, obliterate] the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

The Septuagint text** from the Orthodox Study Bible is interpreted into English as, “because the Lord made them,” which brings yet another layer of meaning to the text. The implication is that the Lord made us and wanted us back. He removed all that stood in the way between Him and us–basically, our shame and the consequences of our Spirit-less nature–so that we could be reunited with Him, just like the father and the prodigal son. Who we DON’T want to be is the older brother, who refused to come in and celebrate. He chose to live outside the house, and, in a sense, chose to live in a hell of his own making.

My take-away from all this? We are made new! It’s like being born again–wait! That’s exactly what it is! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says,

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]
the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. NASB

The deeper I look into the mystery of the cross, the more expanded my perspective. Please pray for me as I delve into these mysteries. Pray that “God would make known to me the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). I will pray the same for you.

Abba, thank You for not letting me grow stagnant in my study of Your Word–Your revealed Word by Your Spirit. I thank You, also, for bringing to my attention more translations and writings for me to study. My horizons are definitely broadening! May I stay true to You and to Your Word–every word You’ve spoken to the writers and to my own heart. I pray for my readers that they, too, would begin to seek You in the text. May they use the Bible as a map that leads them to You, the True Word of God. Keep speaking, Lord Jesus; I will keep listening. Amen.

*”Masoretic text, (from Hebrew masoreth, “tradition”), traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible, meticulously assembled and codified, and supplied with diacritical marks to enable correct pronunciation. This monumental work was begun around the 6th century AD and completed in the 10th by scholars at Talmudic academies in Babylonia and Palestine, in an effort to reproduce, as far as possible, the original text of the Hebrew Old Testament. Their intention was not to interpret the meaning of the Scriptures but to transmit to future generations the authentic Word of God. To this end they gathered manuscripts and whatever oral traditions were available to them.” Jewish Bible/Britannica. The problem is that these Jews did not believe that Jesus is the revealed Word of God and missed the point of the Scriptures–or, to Whom the Scriptures pointed–entirely.

**”The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and used by the early Church.  The Septuagint is also called the translation of the seventy because tradition states that the Septuagint was translated by seventy.  In academia, the Septuagint is often abbreviated as LXX (the Roman numeral for seventy) in honor of this tradition.” The Septuagint: LXX

Proverbs 30 9-30-21

What is prayer? How does it work? Why are we required to do it? How does it benefit us? Continued…

5 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his [God’s] words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Jesus is the revealed Word of God (John 1:1-4, 14). He is with us always (Matthew 28:20, John 14:23). Knowing this helps us to rest secure in His care. When we pray, we are connecting to Him on a conscious level. When we do, there are a few things we need to keep in mind:

  1. We cannot unbind God’s hands because they are never bound. It’s not a matter of asking Him for things. Jesus said, “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8). If you, then, though you are evil [in nature], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11). Jesus wants us to focus on one thing and that is to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
  2. God works naturally in a natural world. We can pretty much count on natural consequences happening to us when we do stupid stuff. Also, we live in a fallen world that has some pretty extreme natural consequences going on. God works within His natural world. Getting sick is not God making us sick, but rather it is us catching one of more than 200 cold viruses that are out there. He has determined all things to work in a natural course of action/reaction. Our joy as humans/kings is to figure out the process and live in it (Proverbs 25:2). How? Through prayer and study. We ask God to open our minds; we trust Him to lead us to truth. We read the Bible and other works in order to know, and then we pray asking God to guide us through all the information to the truth. We may never know the full truth while on this side of heaven, but we trust God to know.
  3. God is continuously warning and preparing His people for what is coming. Sometimes, He warns us to change paths; other times, He simply prepares us. Either way, we are interacting with the Father. God is in control of the overall destiny of mankind and this world. Most of His influence, though, is through the Church, His people. What does that influence look like? That depends upon how well we stay connected to the Father in prayer.

We are benefited in several ways through prayer:

  1. We connect with God and each other, thus forming a family and protection.
  2. We “see” where God is working and, to a degree, understand what He is doing.
  3. We join Him in what He is doing.
  4. We are equipped and prepared for what whatever comes.

Asking God to reveal to us what He is up to is a good way to focus on the spiritual rather than the physical aspects of our circumstances. It’s usually a progressive revelation, which is part of the dialogue we have with Him. We don’t have to know the destination or the details, only that we are with God and He is with us. He is good, and we can trust Him.

We’ve only scratched the surface concerning the topic of prayer. The best way to learn is to do it.

Abba, I KNOW I don’t have a very good grasp on the topic of prayer. It’s hard for me to stay in the moment. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not more of being in contact with You than it is focusing on talking to You. May I remain open to You at all times. I know I am tempted to shut You out when I want to sin. I am learning that whatever the payoff for sin is, it’s not even close to the benefits and blessings I receive from staying connected to You! More of You, less of me, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 30 8-30-21

When we walk with Jesus, He talks to us about everything. It usually sounds like us, but there’s a difference–and we know it!

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

What I have noticed is that people who follow Jesus up close and personal encourage those around them to follow Jesus up close and personal. In fact, they can’t help it; it’s just what they do.

Conversely, people who follow Jesus from a distance are not able to encourage others to follow Jesus up close and personal; ignorance, fear, accountability, and pride step in and prevent them from saying anything or looking for ways to show His love. They can show love, but it can easily be interpreted as a natural love rather than a godly love. I’m not saying that we have to say something about Jesus every time we help someone or show love to someone; it’s just that Jesus oozes from those who follow up close and personal. People see it.

The passage that Jesus uses to describe these two sets of people is Mark 4:1-20. We will look at verses 18-20,

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”

One set of folks wants Jesus as Savior, meaning that they don’t want to go to hell and don’t mind living a kinda-sorta righteous life–just as long as they don’t get too radical with it. Their eyes are on what the world is offering. There’s not a lot of room there for Christ.

The other set of folks has found a hunger and a thirst for Him. He smells good to them (2 Corinthians 2:14) and they desire to be close to Him. They will do whatever it takes for Jesus to run their lives. The first thing they do is:

  1. Start talking to Him. Not so much a “Dear Heavenly Father,” although there’s nothing wrong with that approach, but I’m talking the “He’s right there with you in the moment” kind of prayer: “Hey Jesus, I’m feeling a nudge to go talk to that person. Is that what You want me to do?” or, “I hear You, Lord. I told You that I wanted to get up a little early and read with You, but thirty minutes early? Okay…”
  2. Speaking of reading, the Bible can best be described as a treasure chest that a person finds buried in a field. He re-buries it, then goes off and sells everything he has to have the cash to buy the field, and then goes and digs it back up. Sound familiar? It’s Matthew 13:44. These people are willing to give up anything they have in order to find the treasures in knowing Jesus. He’s in the pages, folks! He is wanting to share with You great and unsearchable (can’t find it on your own) things. Don’t believe me? Take HIS Word for it, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” Jeremiah 33:3 (God’s phone number).
  3. They can’t wait to meet with other Christians and share what they have learned.
  4. They look for opportunities to meet with younger Christians and encourage them in their walk with Jesus.

Jesus loves us right where we are. We don’t have to clean up to come to Him. At the same time, He loves us too much to leave us where we are. He has great plans for us:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:11-12

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—  the things God has prepared for those who love him—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Let’s work at being the set of folks that loves Jesus up close and personal. Trust me, you will not regret it!

Abba, thank You that You even want to have me close. Thank You for walking with me through every day and every night. Thank You for Your Spirit who resides in my heart. May He rule there, as well. Thank You for revealing Your wonderful truths to me. Keep’em comin, Lord! Amen.

Proverbs 30 6-30-21

The separation of church and state is bigger and more catastrophic than we realize! It’s the parting of the ways.

20 This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I’ve done nothing wrong.” This attitude is what is wrong with America today. The majority of Americans have left the Judeo-Christian values on which this nation was built.

There is a passage in the Bible that deals with the relationship between church and state, or the Bride and America. I understand that the analogy is not perfect; Christ is our Bridegroom, not America, but the principle is still the same.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.
1 Corinthians 7:12-15

The Puritans and others moved to America to get away from the Church of England so that they could worship the Lord as they saw fit, which was in many ways contrary to what they were forced to do in England. They were Bible-believing, Jesus-worshipping rebels who left the established church to start one of their own in a new land.

When the United States was established, many of the authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were Christians, while some were Unitarians, who followed the Judeo-Christian values of the Bible. The Bride of Christ needs no established government in order to survive and even thrive, but the nation needs the Bride of Christ to help it keep its values. The Church sanctifies our nation through these values. God’s laws carry natural consequences and blessings. By abiding by those laws, blessings come, of which our nation has experienced many over the past 200+ years.

The divergence of our nation from these values carries those consequences. One need only to look at Israel to know what happens to a nation who separates itself from God’s laws (Jeremiah 7:17-19, 11:7-8, 19:3-5). By the way, God’s laws are simply the stating of what righteous people do and what unrighteous people do and the subsequent blessings or discipline. People with the Spirit of God have His laws written on our hearts and need no form of government in order to live together. The laws of our land were written for those who are unrighteous and need some kind of outward control. There is no Spirit in them.

As the “husband” rebels against his “believing wife,” he leaves the safety and sanctification that the believing wife provides. It is this rebellion that America is having against the Church, the Bride of Christ. How does this “parting of the ways” affect the Church? Foundationally, not at all. Culturally, it will become more difficult to live in the culture of the world. The Church will have to pull out and become a culture unto itself. Ironically, this counter-culture is exactly how the Christians lived in the first, second and third centuries! Even more ironic is the fact that the Church exploded during those centuries. Why? Because their Christianity was authentic; there was no advantage to be gained by pretending to be a Christian.

I pray that our churches would be filled with authentic Christians. How that may be achieved is up to the Lord. Will you begin the process of removing the world’s culture from your Christianity?

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would begin to remove the world’s culture from their lives. It begins with a simple question, “Lord, what would You have me do first?” From there, I know that You will guide them. I pray that You would continue to do the same in my life. May I replace time-wasters with reading Your Word, Christian books and studies, and time with other Christians. May we do everything we know to do to ignite the flame of revival in our own hearts so that it may spread to others. Purify Your Church, O Lord. Amen.

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 2:13-14

Proverbs 30 5-30-21

Get up! We get to go to church! The people of God love to get together and praise our heavenly Father and His Son.

5 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him [and His word].” from Psalm 12:6, And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.

Today is about the sermon: Acquiring Knowledge [for Praising God (Instruction from God’s Word). We have discussed Recognition of God’s Character (Adoration), Acknowledgement of Our Character (Confession), and Affirmation of Grace in Christ (Assurance), Expression of Devotion (Thanksgiving), and Desire for Aid in Living for God (Petition and Intercession).

If someone asks you why you believe the Bible, here’s a good answer:

The Bible is God’s revealed word to mankind [truth].
God speaks His word to me in my heart [personal experience].
I have experienced Him through the Bible because I have taken Him at His word,

tested His promises,
and found Him to be Faithful and True [Jesus’ title from Revelation 19:11).

When the pastor speaks to us, we assume that he has spent time in prayer and then in the Bible and has heard from the Spirit a message for us. Concerning my pastor, I can speak of first-hand experience that he does, indeed, spend time in prayer and then in the Bible. He works long and hard on his messages. Sometimes, I even get a preview! I trust him to give us the message that the Spirit has given him.

When we listen, let’s make the most of our opportunity to learn:

  1. Pray for your pastor before he gets up to preach that he would be bold and filled with the Holy Spirit.
  2. Know beforehand what the topic is. Our church has notes; read through them early and know what’s coming.
  3. Listen with an open mind. Allow the Spirit to interpret what you hear.
  4. Have something on which to take notes. Don’t let those nuggets of wisdom and revelation get away from you. Many people have a problem with having phones in church; I don’t. I use mine for my on-the-go Bible and for note-taking. I just have to be careful to keep myself “in the moment” and not let other things on my phone distract me from the sermon.
  5. Write down any questions and look them up later. Ask someone for clarification if necessary.
  6. Talk about the sermon with others at dinner–just be careful not to have “roast pastor” for the main course! We are to “let our conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6); also, we are charged with this command, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29.
  7. Apply what you have heard as the Spirit confirms the message in your heart. If we don’t apply the lesson, then we will have wasted the opportunity to learn and to grow.

The last element is Living unto God with His Blessing (Charge and Benediction). It is best summed up in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The charge is the benediction of the service. A good slogan is, “As you go out those doors, you are entering the mission field.” Both of these charges point our minds and hearts to live with God and for others.

As we go to church this morning, let’s get the most out of our worship today by remembering that God is calling us to assemble, we acknowledge Him as God, we confess that we need Him, we tell Him how much we love Him, we listen to the word of God, we pray to the Father, we sing with glad hearts, we listen to the message that God has for us through our pastor, and then we go out in Jesus’ name and power.

Abba, may You be lifted up and magnified today. Enlarge our knowledge base so that we can grow in wisdom. May we experience You in a whole new way. We love You. Amen.

Proverbs 30 4-30-21

When we signed up to follow Jesus, did He really ask us to give up everything for Him? Do anything for Him?Be His for life?

4 Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!

In, The Chosen, Season 1, Episode 2, Mary Magdalene tells Nicodemus, “Of this one thing I am sure. Before, I was one way; afterward, I was another, and the only thing in between was Him [Jesus].”

Mary was giving her testimony. She was telling what Jesus did for her. Without any other training, she gave the best proof for the reality of Jesus. Nicodemus could have argued with her about the law, but he couldn’t ignore her experience.

Baptists are leery of “experiences”–and with good reason. When it comes to spiritual experiences, they had better be grounded in Scripture. Otherwise, they may need to be considered simply an emotional experience, or quite possibly, heresy. At the same time, our salvation is based upon an experience. It just happens to be Scripturally grounded:

  1. The Spirit opens our eyes to the fact that we are missing something, which is a relationship with God the Father.
  2. Our awareness of our sinful state is not as important as wanting Jesus in our lives. Many people respond to conviction of sin and our need for a Savior, but there are many people who are desperate to know Jesus and are willing to give up anything to know Him. Which is right? They BOTH are!
  3. Technically, we don’t have to ask Jesus to forgive our sin; it was paid for on the cross. What He really asks of us is for us to trust Him and follow Him. Our response to the Spirit’s request/invitation is the experience of salvation. It is when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and regenerates us, quickens us, and breathes new life into us. We are born again!

Following Jesus means being with Him, learning what He teaches, and doing what He commands. As we consider following Jesus each morning when we get up (not for salvation, but for relationship), may we remember Paul’s testimony:

22 “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, 23 except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. 24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 2:22-24

What lies ahead for us? We don’t know. What we DO know is that wherever we are and whatever happens to us, He is with us and is leading us. More than likely, our circumstances are designed for us to be in a certain place to meet a certain person. We must be ready to live as He tells us to live and speak what He tells us to say. Here again, it probably has something to do with our testimony, our experience with Christ, that they need to hear.

Are you prepared to share your story? The power is not in the presentation; it’s in the story itself. Make it about Christ and He will use it for His glory. You will shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15).

20 “Go, stand in the temple courts…
and tell the people all about this new life.”
Acts 5:20

Abba, I thank You for the day You came into my life and made me Your child. I promised then to follow You always, and–except for a few months of confusion in my youth–I have done so, not because of my goodness, but because of Your faithfulness! May I be willing to share my story with people with whom I come in contact, especially those with whom You have connected me. Use me, Lord; I am Your willing servant. Amen.

Proverbs 30 3-30-21

What would Jesus say about our lives? Do we routinely give Him control and lean on Him for direction? Is He truly our Lord?

11 There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers [see Mark 7:6-13], 12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth; 13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful; 14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind [contempt].

It was time for Jesus to stir the religious leaders into action. They either needed to repent and receive His words or kill Him. Most of them chose to kill Him. Read now Jesus’ final condemnation:

13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 

The scribes and Pharisees didn’t want the system to change, which is exactly what a Messiah would do. In other words, they really didn’t want Messiah to come. Therefore, they rejected Jesus even with all of the evidence of healings right in front of them.

14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

This woe is another example of what the leaders did: They would make a law that gave them what they wanted, and then make another law excusing them for their misdeed. But, the Lord knows and has said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay” Deuteronomy 32:35.

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Lest we get the idea that they took in foreigners, they were looking for Jews to become their disciples. Then, they would teach them to be “good” Pharisees–whose practices Jesus detested.

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.

These woes show the inner drive of the religious leaders: Gold and gifts. They were all about the things of this world. Jesus was NOT. In fact, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world” John 18:36.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

The leaders were all about their rules, even tithing on their spices, but they neglected the more important matters of the law, which were justice and mercy and faith. A gnat was an unclean animal, but very small. The camel also was an unclean animal, but very large. It’s a great analogy that is lost on most Gentiles.

25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Jesus wanted repentance of the heart. All their deeds meant nothing if their hearts were not right with God.

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The religious leaders were all about how they looked and appeared to the public and to each other. Since they set the standard on what was considered holy and righteous, they knew how to look very holy and righteous. Jesus condemned their actions concerning giving to the needy in Matthew 6:1-4, prayer in 5-15, fasting in 16-18, and treasures in 19-21. They were dead inside; they needed His life, His Spirit; Him!

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ 31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. 33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

History proved that the religious leaders did the same thing that their forefathers did, which was to kill the Messiah, the Prophet spoken of by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:14-19. Jesus would hold them all responsible for all the prophets’ deaths. When? At the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

How about us? Are we continuing on the same path as our forefathers? If they were godly, then let us continue upward. If they were not, then let us forge a new path as we partner with the Spirit, leaning on Him and trusting Him to direct our paths.

Abba, I pray that I would be a devoted follower of You. May I use my fear of what You Could do to motivate me to depend upon Your grace, trusting in what You Won’t do because of Your great love and my devotion to You. Bless me even as I bless You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 30 1-30-21

God’s desire is for our fellowship. Everything else: our forgiveness of sin, our sanctification, and our glorification is due to Him fulfilling this desire.

3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I attained to all the knowledge of the Holy One [thankfully, we don’t have to in order to enjoy His company].

It is not for us to clean ourselves up, but to allow Him to give us life, His life–Himself! Once we have Him in us, He gives us His righteousness, so we are instantly clean. From then on, we learn how to walk in that righteousness as He teaches us in perfect patience, gentleness and love. It’s all about the relationship. Jesus said,

“Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean…” John 13:10

This washing is mentioned in Ephesians 5:26, which is a major stone in our foundation:

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,”

We are sanctified (made righteous) by God’s truth.
Jesus said that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17).
Therefore, we are washed every time we read and heed God’s Word.

Could it be that when we read and pray that Christ comes and washes our feet, thus making us holy? The precedent is there in Scripture (John 13:5-11). Whether it is metaphoric or spiritual, we can bank on the truth that we are made new every “morning” (it’s a continuous process), as are His mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23, 2 Corinthians 4:16). That process is accelerated when we read and pray.

Today, let’s allow Jesus to come and wash our feet and fellowship with us as we read His Word. There is much we don’t understand about what we read, but it doesn’t matter. It’s more about the relationship than the knowledge (although, that, too, comes with time, regular reading, and experience).

Lord Jesus, I want You in my life leading me, talking to me, directing me and counseling me. My determined desire is to know You more, better, and more intimately. If that means more victories, then great, but if it means sacrifice and suffering, then I am for that, too; whatever is going to allow me to know You the most. Right now, it’s all about Bible study and prayer. As I do these two things, You are directing my path in leading others and reaching others. Thank You! Amen.

Proverbs 30 12-30-20

Have you ever wondered why evil people live so long? Why doesn’t God kill them and save humanity from people like Hitler?

11 “There are those who curse their fathers and do not bless their mothers;
12 those who are pure in their own eyes and yet are not cleansed of their filth;
13 those whose eyes are ever so haughty, whose glances are so disdainful;
14 those whose teeth are swords and whose jaws are set with knives
to devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind.

I believe that the answer is in Ezekiel 18. The key verse is in the last verse:

32 For I take no pleasure in the [spiritual] death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

The whole chapter is about getting what you deserve. If you are evil, then when you die, you will be judged accordingly, and if you are righteous, then when you die, you will be judged accordingly. Sounds very Old-Testament, doesn’t it? But, then we come to verse 21 and that’s where we find the heart of God:

21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live [be judged as righteous in heaven]; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them [at death]. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live [spiritually]. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the [spiritual] death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

For the most part, mankind is given 70 years to turn from our wicked ways and turn to the LORD. In the U.S. 90% of men and 93% of women will live to be 70 years old. 62% and 71% live to be 80 (my parents were 82 and 83 when they died), and 22% and 34% live to be 90 (Robin’s parents are currently 90 and 87). We have it on record that God does take some people early because of their wickedness (Genesis 38:7), but for the most part, God allows humanity to live naturally for 70-80 years (Psalm 90:10). God gives them time to repent of their evil ways and turn to him. Peter restates this character trait of God in 2 Peter 3:9,

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

God has NEVER wanted His creation to perish. Even the Great Flood was a last resort, so to speak. God allowed humanity to come down to one man and his family–that in itself tells us just how wicked mankind had become! As long as there is breath in a person, he has the opportunity to repent and come to Christ.

One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” There is not a truer statement. Since Jesus and God are one along with the Spirit, we now know that God has always been GOOD even as He is GREAT. Let’s rejoice in having such a great God as our heavenly Father who invites us to be ONE with Him now and forever.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodnessThrough these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Abba, I praise You for Your patience and Your long-suffering. Your goodness knows no bounds! Thank You for offering to me eternal life through Jesus Christ my Lord. I particularly love the fact that I don’t have to wait until I die to reap the benefits of such a great salvation. I enjoy Your presence and participation in my life RIGHT NOW! I invite You, once again, to be my Guide and Companion. You lead; I follow. Amen.

Proverbs 30 11-30-20

“The Word of God is living and active!” Here are some verses that have transformed my way of thinking:

6 “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

John 17:15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Let’s take the second part first. Our sanctification (becoming like Jesus in true righteousness and holiness) comes through the truth, which is the Word of God. If we ever needed a verse upon which to base our lives, this one is it.

As for protection, Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane:

Luke 22:46 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Mark 14:38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit [His Spirit and/or your soul] is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus is not so much concerned about our physical predicaments; He can use us anywhere, anyhow. He never leaves us! He’s concerned about our susceptibility to the Enemy’s lies. He foreknew that the disciples would not be able to stay awake and would run away. It didn’t matter. He was the only One who could do what He was about to do. What was it He was about to do? He was about to join eternity with history at the cross. It is, indeed, the crossroads of history. His love and grace reach both backward in time to Adam and Eve and then forward to the last person who will receive Him as Lord.

Interesting note: When Jesus said, “Keep watch,” He was referring to the practice/command of Exodus 12:42,
42 Because the Lord kept vigil [watch] that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil [watch] to honor the Lord for the generations to come.
In other words, He wasn’t asking them to do anything out of the ordinary. In fact, they probably observed the practice most other times. So, what happened? They were unprepared for the Enemy’s attack! But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. Matthew 26:56, which was a reference to Zechariah 13:7. Matthew and Mark even quoted it in Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27. Why? Did Jesus choose for them to desert Him? NO. He just knew ahead of time, as did Zechariah–and Isaiah 59:15-21 (neat passage!). He had to save mankind on His own.

Tomorrow, we will look at Titus 2:11-14 and how it has transformed my life.

Abba, may You impress upon us the importance of making Your Truth first in our lives. May we discover Your Truth in Your Word. Make it vital to us, O LORD–hopefully, not by removing it from our accessibility! May Your words be precious in our sight even as it was to King David in Psalm 19. Speak to our hearts, LORD Jesus, speak that our souls may hear. Amen.

Proverbs 30 10-30-20

Is “dishonoring the name of the LORD” a big deal to you? Is representing Him to those around you your goal?

9 …Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.

We are representatives of the LORD here on this earth. In fact, Christ makes His appeal for people to be reconciled to Him through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). EVERYTHING we say and do must be considered and run through a series of filters BEFORE we say/do them. Some of these filters are:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it appropriate?
  3. Is it uplifting?
  4. Have I asked the LORD if He wants me to say/do it?

One of my favorite passages for guiding my thoughts, words and actions is Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brothers and sisters [all of us], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink on such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Notice the list: TNRPLAEP. Pronounced “tenorplape”. We THINK on these things before we act. The next thing that we do is LRH (I’ve no idea how to pronounce that), which is the action part and is learned through Paul’s letters, such as this one. The promise is that God’s peace will guide and guard our hearts. If we go back to verses 4-7, we get a great picture of this peace:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The progression goes like this: Rejoice and be gentle. Pray about everything while being thankful. The confidence we have that God has the situation well in hand gives us great peace. It’s a special peace that is wrapped up in His presence. Christ brings His peace with Him when He comes to us. We access that peace when we acknowledge Him in our hearts and lives. Daily. Continuously.

Let’s consider everything we think, say and do today as we represent Christ to those around us.

Abba, the best and greatest place to represent You is at home, especially during this week as we wait for electricity to be restored to my family. May You guide us GENTLY even as we learn and practice GENTLENESS to those around us. Empower us with Your mighty Spirit, O LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 30 9-30-20

The desire for godly wisdom is the first sign of Christian growth. A lack of desire reveals a conflict of interest.

“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

Do you see the balance in these verses? There are those who would lie to us and tell us that riches will solve everything or that to not have anything means no responsibility. We may even be lying to ourselves! God knows how much of anything that we need, so we learn to trust Him.

Do we have a desire to know God? to obey the Spirit? to fellowship with the LORD Jesus?  You probably set an alarm to get up, made coffee, and may have even set down to breakfast. Then, you had the desire to read this post, which means that you have desire. This desire is from the Holy Spirit within you.

Which would you rather have:

  1. Someone telling you what you should be doing, or
  2. Someone who gives you the desire to do what God wants you to do for and with Him?

Notice that the first option is Old Testament and the second option is New Testament. The difference is in RELATIONSHIP. God wants to have an ongoing and intimate relationship with us through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Our struggle comes in recognizing that desire as Him in us. We must learn to discern His voice from our own voice. Proverbs 24:3-4 gives a beautiful description of how:

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

Wisdom is how the house is built;
Understanding is how it is established (how it works);
Knowledge is how the rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

All of these traits can be found in the Word of God. We just have to dig for them.

Consider yourselves disciples of Christ. Study to show yourselves approved by Him. Learn to rightly divide/decipher/parse the word of truth. Be good workers who need not be ashamed (based on 2 Timothy 2:15). Is this desire in you? OBEY IT! OBEY HIM!!!

I mentioned a conflict of interest. If our interest is divided between what Christ wants for us and what we want to do, then we will always be at a standstill with Him. We can’t build our house; we can’t establish our walk with Him; we can’t fill our lives with the rare and beautiful treasures that He has for us. Let’s decide today to give our whole lives to the LORD Jesus. It will feel a whole lot like salvation, but know that it’s really just moving up to level 2 in our relationship with Him.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would take seriously this call to commit all to You. You have SO MUCH in store for us if we will only believe You. May we be like the man in Mark 9:24 when he says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” May we place our lives in Your capable hands. Make us, melt us, mold us, and fill us, LORD. We are Yours. Amen.

Proverbs 30 8-30-20

Each of us has our own miracle story of how God pursued us and reached out to us. Here’s mine.

4 What is His name, and what is the name of His Son? Surely you know!

I do, indeed, know.

My story has three parts:

  1. Salvation
  2. Recommitment
  3. Full-time vocational service

Salvation: At the age of six, I was riding my bike at Mindy Means’ house in Denton, Texas. She mentioned that she was going to be baptized soon. I asked her why and she told me that she had invited Jesus into her life. My interest was piqued. I listened to the sermon that Sunday very closely. That week, I popped into the kitchen and asked my mother, “How do I get saved?” My mother told me to tell Jesus that I know I’m a sinner, but I want Him to forgive me and come into my life and be my Savior. I asked her to help me, but she told me to go into my bedroom, get down on my knees, and do it myself. She said that it was between God and me. So, I did. I remember sensing a man in the room with me, kind of behind me and to the right. He was smiling. When I turned to look at him, he was gone! But, I knew that Jesus had come into my life. I have doubted that day twice since then (as a child), but both times, God confirmed that He did, indeed, save me that day.

My recommitment came after a year of doing things that I ought not to have been doing. I was coming out of the eighth grade and going into high school and was hanging out with a friend, who was four years older than I. We were at Falls Creek; it was Tuesday at the noon service (11:15). Johnny Bisagno was depicting the crucifixion of Christ and what He went through physically. I was riveted. At the end of his sermon, he said, “If Jesus endured all that for you, can’t you live for Him?”

That afternoon, my friend and I went hiking. We found a quiet place and talked about the sermon. We decided that Jesus was worth following. That week marked the re-instatement my fellowship with God, which carried me through those hectic years of high school and even my first year of college.

My call to full-time vocational service also came at Falls Creek. I was working there as a lifeguard and volleyball referee my freshman year at college. At one of the evening services, I was near the back of the tabernacle (it was open-air then). The speaker was being very blunt about our commitment to Christ and how we are to take it seriously. The Holy Spirit directed me to go down front, so I did. In the counseling room, they gave me a card and had me fill it out. It asked me what decision I had made and gave me some choices. Since the Spirit hadn’t given me any specific direction for ministry, I checked, “other.” Boy, was that an accurate statement! In my ministry, I have been Youth Director (eight years), Music Director (all but six months), Associate Pastor, bus driver, Senior Adult Minister, Sunday School Director, Nursery Coordinator, Janitor, and numerous other jobs that don’t have titles.

In each decision, I felt a desire to follow Christ “higher up and farther in.” I still have that same desire that gets me up in the mornings (most times at 4:30) to spend time with Him. I never lose that desire to follow Him as I go throughout my day. I don’t get life right lots of times, but as long as I am repentant and determined to try again, my relationship with Jesus just keeps getting brighter and brighter.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. Proverbs 4:18

That pretty much sums up my relationship with the Father and fellowship with the Son. Do I know Him? YOU BET I DO!

Abba, it’s been 53 years now, and I still feel like a novice at Christianity. At the same time, we have walked together so long (from my perspective) that I cannot fathom ever considering forsaking You for any reason. I look forward to death because I want to see You face to face! At the same time, I think that You still have things for me to do here on this earth. I’m with Paul, who stated the same sentiment in Philippians 1:20-26.
I’m looking forward to church today when I get to lead Brookwood in praise and worship of You. Come and inhabit the praises of Your people, O LORD! Amen.

Proverbs 30 7-30-20

“If we change the way we think, we will change the way we feel.”* The more we think of God, the more we want His ways. Without the Holy Spirit, good things become twisted, perverted, and abused. But, WITH the Holy Spirit, our bad ways begin to transform into good, right and true thoughts and actions (Ephesians 5:9).

5 Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 119 was written by King David. He was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Here is what he wrote about keeping our ways pure:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.

Is it possible for a person to stay on the path of purity? How can he/she maintain it for a lifetime? Yes! By living according to the word of the LORD daily.

10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.

How do we live according to His word?  By seeking Him with all our heart, soul, mind and with all our strength. The promise is that He will guide us and keep us on the right path. When we do wander off, He will bring us back to the straight and narrow road. Hopefully, it will require only a minor course correction. If not, then we may get caught in a loop of rebellion. This loop will continue until we are willing to look up and acknowledge His Lordship in our lives. King Nebuchadnezzar is a perfect example of this truth, Daniel 4:26-34.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

Our souls train our hearts by filling our minds with the word of God. Hiding God’s word in our hearts is vital to all believers. If a believer wants to move up to being a follower (living a victorious Christian life), then he/she will memorize Scripture. It’s not necessary to memorize it verbatim or even its address, but that we know the gist of it (a paraphrase) and at least the book in which it is found. Context helps.

12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.

Praise to the LORD engenders a submissive spirit and a willing heart. We are eager to do what is good, which is whatever He says. What does He say? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” Colossians 3:16. We implore God to teach us His decrees and statutes of righteous living. Otherwise, there is NO WAY to really learn them.

15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees

We “set our face like flint” (Isaiah 50:7) to keep His commands first and foremost in our minds and hearts. We meditate on them; we delight in them–can you feel the enthusiasm and joy that Jesus feels when His children walk in truth (3 John 1:4)?

 I will not neglect your word.

“I WILL NOT NEGLECT YOUR WORD.” Really? Will you vow to keep this promise? The Holy Spirit will assist you in keeping your vow by reminding you, prompting you and convicting you about it constantly. Sound annoying? IT’S NOT! WE are interacting with the God of the universe!

Computers typically don’t erase old data; they just overwrite it. This process is EXACTLY what we need to do with our minds: Overwrite old ways of thinking with God’s words. Not only will they give us a new way of thinking, they are ALIVE with the Spirit of God! He talks to us even as we read His words. Hebrews 4:12-13.

It boils down to this question: Are you really interested in being like your LORD Jesus Christ? Then you will do anything and everything necessary to learn His ways, His likes and dislikes, His character traits, His convictions and what He considers important. Let’s see, what’s important to Jesus? “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17. Folks, it doesn’t get any plainer than that!

LORD, I pray that You will sanctify us according to our reading and study of Your word. I pray that we all will be on fire when we get through with our Bibles! I know that there will come a day when I will wish I read more, studied more, and memorized more of Your words. May I begin NOW changing that outcome. May my readers join me in this endeavor. Bless them, LORD, with Your presence and sense of pleasure as they read Your word. Amen.

*Beth Moore