Proverbs 20 4-20-22

Inheriting God’s kingdom…what does that mean? Let’s walk it through.

21 An inheritance quickly gained at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.

This verse is true for Adam and Eve. They doubted God and His love for them, and took matters into their own hands. Alas, just like Adam and Eve, we get in a hurry and doubt God’s love, His concern for us, and His plan, and take matters into our own hands.

Nevertheless, Christ offers us God’s kingdom! Our sin debt has been canceled and we are invited to join Christ in the development of His kingdom. We are ambassadors to the world inviting all people to join us in this kingdom. What are the prerequisites? Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Why will wrongdoers not inherit the kingdom of God? Because they have made the same mistake as Adam and Eve, which was to not trust God, His love and His plan. Out of this mistrust come all the actions mentioned in the passage. I also believe that Paul was just being nice when he said, “And that is what some of you were.” It’s actually all of us who fall into one or more of the categories that Paul mentions. The deception is strong–but the presence and message of Christ are stronger!

Verse 11 is where we live. We were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have His Spirit in our lives connecting us to God the Father. We are one with the Trinity! If we keep the message of this verse ever-before us, we will inherit all of the Spirit’s traits, we will grow in righteousness and godliness, and we will lead a procession into the kingdom of God. Why? Because our lives will be so attractive to people that they will want to join us!

Abba, thank You for such a great salvation and for restoring us to the place of sonship (see Luke 15:22-24). May we grow in You as we seek to become just like You. May others see the joy and peace in our lives and join us in our march to Zion. Amen.

Proverbs 19 4-19-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 18 4-18-22

Some of the best scientists in history took the Bible at its word and launched their research on that basis. Smart!

11 Honest scales and balances belong to the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making [the LORD is the creator of all things mathematical and scientific].

I’m reading a book called, “Traced*.” It is a microbiologist’s journey into the heritage of the human race. It’s quite interesting, albeit a little technical. Nonetheless, there are some very revealing historical notes in it. Here is one concerning slave trade:

The Trans-Atlantic slave trade was one of two major forced African diasporas. While the one in the Americas ( the Trans-Atlantic slave trade) might be more familiar, the statistics for it might not. Based on current evidence, around 12 million Africans were enslaved, with 10.7 million surviving the journey to the Americas. Fifty percent disembarked in South America. The remaining half were divided between the Caribbean (40%) and the U.S. (10%). Less than 1% ended up in Europe. Based on the few slaves (~100,000) that were rescued from slave ships near the end of the slave trade, about two-thirds of the slaves were men; the rest, women. In terms of geography, slaves were bought almost exclusively on the west coasts of both West and Central Africa. Though the Trans-Atlantic slave trade lasted more than 300 years, the late 1700s and early 1800s saw the peak in this nasty transport of human cargo.

Interesting, yes? It’s been 400 years since the slave trade was abolished, but since most Africans had no way of getting home, they lived their lives where they ended up. The inevitable “mixing of DNA” over time has made tracing back African lineage interesting, and the slave trade made it murky. Suffice it to say that African blood is intermixed across the board in the Americas and the Caribbean, and even Europe. What is even more interesting is that the DNA of Europe, Asia, and Africa all come together somewhere in the past even before that! I haven’t gotten to that part of the book, yet. I’ll let you know.

What about the second major forced African diaspora? We will look at that one tomorrow.

Abba, I love the way science and research is proving Your Word to be true. You say that mankind came from one couple; science is now proving that claim to be true. Keep revealing truth, Lord. We need it! Amen.

*”Traced” Human DNA’s Big Surprise, Nathaniel T. Jeanson, Masterbooks.com

Proverbs 17 4-17-22

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! This greeting has been shared for two thousand years. Let’s share it today.

15:30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

This video says it all.

He Is Risen

Abba, we praise You for keeping Your promise. Thank You for rescuing us from death and from ourselves. Rise in our hearts even as You rose from the grave on this day so many years ago! Amen.

Proverbs 16 4-16-22

Singing our faith locks the words in our hearts. It is why we sing.

Proverbs 29:6 Evildoers are snared by their own sin,
    but the righteous sing and are glad.

Ephesians 5:18-20 …be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an old Gospel hymn called, “Are You Washed in the Blood,” that is graphic in language, but Scripturally correct. Here is a verse from it:

Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Chorus: Are you washed in the blood,
In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
Are your garments spotless?
Are they white as snow?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

I have heard the phrase used, “I’m covered in the blood.” I get the sentiment, but it’s actually an Old Testament term. The concept of sacrificial offerings was to “cover” Israel’s sins. Each family made sacrifices and then the high priest would offer atonement for all of Israel once a year for the “temporary atonement” of their sins. Those sacrifices could not wash away sin; it was a way to remind them that a Redeemer was coming.

Jesus came to wash us all clean with His perfect atonement. The wrath of God’s judgment was death, but to God, death is not the end. GOD HIMSELF came to “reconcile the world to Himself” (Ephesians 1:9-10) by going through death and, through His mighty power–He IS God–rising again. I take great comfort in these words,

18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Revelation 1:18

From now on, this verse from our hymn is where we live:

Are you walking daily by the Savior’s side?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Do you rest each moment in the Crucified?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?

Abba, I love the way You love me. You have shown me how much You love me by dying on the cross, breaking my curse, and giving me eternal life. I want to walk daily by Your side and rest each moment in the beauty of the crucifixion. I look forward to worshiping You tomorrow as we commemorate Your resurrection. Amen.

Proverbs 15 4-15-22

Good Friday – What does it mean to you?

1:23 Repent at my rebuke! I will pour out my heart to you and make my thoughts known to you.

Jesus’ time had come. He had fulfilled the work that the Father had for Him, which was to demonstrate that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him through the signs given (healings and miracles). It was now time for Him to do what no one else could do: Kill death. The power of death held those who die in bondage in Hades. I’m not sure what all that entailed, but that is the general idea of what happened to those who died. Many people called it, “the sleep of death,” meaning that a person was held in stasis until they were awakened on Judgment Day (John 11:24). The story of Lazarus and the rich man indicates that people are conscious in Hades, but already receive some form of blessings or consequences there (see Luke 16:19-31).

Whatever the case was, Jesus came to break the hold that Satan had on His children. Jesus declared His intentions in John 12:31-32,

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

I love the phrase, “I will draw all people to myself.” How does Christ draw you? What does the cross mean in your life? Are you afraid of death? Many people work hard to feel secure and be healthy because they are afraid. Jesus wants us to look beyond this life to the one that He has in store for us. Can you trust Him for this new life? It starts the moment we let go of this world and grab hold of His nail-scarred hand. He is drawing everyone to Himself. How can we resist His awesome love?

Abba, as we remember Your sacrifice through the offering of Your life for ours, may we take Your hand as You extend it to us. In You is peace, Your peace, not as the world gives, but as You give. In Your peace is love, hope, security, fellowship, and complete JOY. You tell us to ask for it, so I’m asking (John 16:24). May we rejoice in Your victory over the grave this weekend, O Lord! Amen.

Tonight at Brookwood: Good Friday Service at 6:30

Proverbs 14 4-14-22

Put yourself in Thomas’ shoes: The other disciples say Jesus is alive and visited them. Do you believe them?

15:30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart,
    and good news gives health to the bones.

Yesterday, we talked about our “sin nature” being our ability to choose, but as “children,” we are stuck in selfish mode. Jesus gives us both the desire and the power to break the cycle. The first thing we must do is make the Confession of Thomas. You’re probably going, “What’s the Confession of Thomas?” I’m glad you asked! Let’s read it,

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:28

When Jesus told Thomas to feel the scars in His hands and to place his hand in Jesus’ side, Thomas changed what he believed about Jesus’ resurrection. We must do the same. Look at Thomas’ confession:

My Lord- “Lord” means, “Master,” “Chief,” “Ruler,” who has authority, power, and dominion.

My God- Thomas was confessing Jesus is God incarnate, in the flesh, and thus was above all religious rules and codes, covenants and commandments. Jesus’ New Covenant wasn’t just God-ordained, it was God-initiated.

Think about this confession in your life. Have you made the confession? What would it look like if you did? What would it mean to you? It starts with a personal word from Jesus: A basic invitation for you to walk with Him. He has you surrounded. He wants to reveal to you who God really is; up until this point, our view of God has been limited at the least and twisted at worst. He wants to correct that view upfront and personal. Can He do it? Don’t forget Thomas’ confession: Jesus IS God.

As for perceiving Him as Lord, that’s the learning part. We don’t make Him Lord; He IS Lord, in fact, He is King of the universe, but He is also a loving Father and we are His little children. He has perfect patience, kindness, love, and gentleness. He interacts with us and teaches us to have success with our ability to choose wisely. Remember, we were never meant to go it alone; we were created for interaction with Him.

Let us praise Him for who He is, our Lord and our God!

Abba, I praise You for being my God and for being my Lord. I trust You implicitly with my life. May we continue to walk side-by-side and hand-in-hand. I want to walk instep with You, Lord Jesus. May the Spirit speak to me and may I respond quickly and completely. I’m lovin’ it! Amen.

Proverbs 13 4-13-22

We must beware of carrying the “behaving” part of the Old Covenant into the “transformed” part of the New Covenant.

5:1 My child, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.

I’m confused. I just read on GotQuestions.org that mankind has a sin nature and it’s pervasive, that we all are totally depraved. Here is a quote:

Proof of the sin nature abounds. No one has to teach a child to lie or be selfish; rather, we go to great lengths to teach children to tell the truth and put others first. Sinful behavior comes naturally. The news is filled with tragic examples of mankind acting badly. Wherever people are, there is trouble. 

I was inclined to agree until I thought through the matter. Yes, the news is filled with people acting badly; it makes attention-grabbing news. But, the news also carries stories of heroic acts, good deeds, and even penance by do-gooders who may or may not be Christians. So, to say that everyone is bad because we make bad choices ignores the opposite logic that we are good because we make good choices. I believe there are two basic truths that govern our actions:

  1. We are created with the ability to choose. In this ability is the choice to do right or wrong.
  2. We were never intended to make these choices on our own. God made us to be interactive with Him.

For instance, take Peter walking on the water,

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

When Jesus is with us, we need not be afraid of anything: wrong choices, other people’s wrong choices, death, etc. He exhorts us to take courage, for He is with us.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Peter wasn’t testing Jesus, he was trying to get to Jesus. Sometimes it seems like impossible circumstances. No Fear! Jesus is with us!

29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

I believe that if every disciple had jumped out of the boat, they would have all walked to Jesus. He wants us with Him. No Fear.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Here is where we get our wires crossed. Peter sinned. Now, before we condemn Peter, let’s look at what it means to sin. Sin means “to miss the mark.” It’s an archery term. The case here is not that Peter did something bad, but that the waves made him fear, which made him take his eyes off Jesus, which made him doubt Jesus and his own ability to get to Jesus. When Peter feared, he “missed the mark” of the truth about Jesus, himself, and his circumstances.

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Evidently, Peter was close enough to Jesus that all He had to do was reach out His hand to catch him. The point is that Jesus did, indeed, catch him. The phrase, “you of little faith,” is literally, “you little faithless one,” which was a term of endearment that Jesus used with them several times. Maybe we should all consider ourselves small children in this department.

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

This is the best part of the story. Peter was with Jesus, in the boat, and on calm seas. One Gospel says that they were immediately on the other shore (John 6:21). They all had a big worship service professing that Jesus is really who He said He is: God.

In the quote from GotQuestions.org, children fight with their God-given right to choose, but over time as they grow, they learn to control those out-of-control thoughts and feelings. Christian or not, most people learn to master their ability to choose. Those who do not pay a very high cost in life. Jesus offers us the wonderful gift of Himself to guide us and to help us make right choices. Tomorrow, we will look at how He guides us and helps us to make right choices. (hint: it has to do with what we think of Him)

Abba, our ability to choose is how we partake in the divine; to choose on our own is what makes us human. Help us to interact with You concerning all decisions. You want to be involved with every area of our lives including our thought life, love life, free time life, opinion life, what we say life, and our belief life. May we turn to You at every opportunity, because I know that at every opportunity You are waiting to pour out Your love, joy and peace, hope and grace on us. You love us; we are Your little children! I love you, too, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 12 4-12-22

Some teachings are very old. Is 1700+ years old enough? Let’s look at one of them.

24:20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you [3,000+ years old], sayings of counsel and knowledge…

We ended yesterday’s post with this statement, “Since Jesus is life, to walk with Jesus is to have eternal life.” Later in John, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). John tells us in 1 John 5:12, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” The verse that we will discuss today is John 3:36, the last verse in that chapter:

36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

The big question to me is, “What is God’s wrath?” In order to answer this question, we go back to Genesis 2:16-17,

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The wrath of God, otherwise known as God’s judgment, is death. We could look at death as a punishment, but I see a redeeming quality in it. It’s wrapped up in Genesis 3:22, “…he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Death confines sin to this life. When we die, we are freed from its grasp. It used to hold mankind in Hades, but Jesus broke the power of death and took control of Hades when He died on the cross, went to Hades and took the keys of death and Hades away from Satan (Revelation 1:18). He then led a triumphant train out of Hades to His kingdom. There are multiple Scriptures supporting this statement (, as well as the Apostles’ Creed, written and spoken universally even before AD 300. Here’s what it says,

The Apostles’ Creed – Traditional version

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost,
the holy catholic (universal) Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

The point is that Jesus has defeated death for us. When we die, we proceed straight to His throne (2 Corinthians 5:8). We have what we refer to as eternal life, which is life in the Son (we’re already in it). Those who reject the Son* remain in darkness and suffer the “wrath of God,” which is life without Christ (they’re already in it). What about those who never get to hear about Jesus or are taught a wrong image of Him? Well, that’s a topic for another post sometime.

Abba, thank You for revealing Yourself to us so that we can believe in You and have Your life. We pray for those who don’t know You that You would reveal Yourself to them. May we be ambassadors of Your Good News, all the while basking in Your love, light and life. Amen.

*The Son of God, Jesus Christ, i.e. the Anointed One who came from God and IS God

Proverbs 11 4-11-22

John 3:16 is just the tip of the iceberg to understanding all that Jesus came to do.

8:20 I [wisdom] walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, 21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

Yesterday, we looked at the verses previous to John 3:16. Today we will look at the verses immediately following. As we look at context, let’s remember that this famous verse comes after the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, a religious leader. John 3:16 is a conclusion and explanation for why God came to earth as Jesus. For further explanation, let’s look at the following verses along with verse 16.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 

Here is the crux of the reason for His coming. Jesus came to save the world through His being lifted up (see vs.14-15). What does it take? Believing (trusting) in Jesus. What happens to those who don’t?

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 

So, there is a problem. We are stuck in death-mode and can’t get out. Just like the people who were bitten by the snakes (see Numbers 21:8-9) and chose to look at the snake on a pole, people who choose to look to Jesus are healed of death-mode. Those who choose to not look to Jesus are consigned to live in darkness without the light of life (see v.21). Jesus won’t force them to be healed (He has a strict non-interference policy concerning our free will).

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 

God does not choose for us (remember the non-interference policy); we make the decision to live in the light or to turn away from the light and live in darkness.

21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

This description describes what it means to be “born again.” Just as a baby moves from the dark world of his mother’s womb to the light of the outside world, we move from darkness into the glorious light of the presence of God. To what truth is John referring? The truth of who Jesus is: God in the flesh, God with skin on. When we begin to act according to His direction, we experience His presence, participation, providence, protection, as well as His love, joy, peace, hope, grace, and His company!

One more thing, since Jesus is life, to walk with Jesus is to have eternal life. Tomorrow, we will look at the end of this chapter and its conclusion.

Abba, Your word is like a treasure chest; as we pull out treasures, there are more treasures waiting for us! “Open our eyes that we may see wondrous truths in Your word” (Psalm 119:18). Amen.

Proverbs 10 4-10-22

Jesus related to Nicodemus in terms he couldn’t understand and in some that only Nick could understand.

8:17 I love those who love me [wisdom], and those who seek me find me.
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:24

As we continue our look at memorization, knowledge (knowing the passage), and proof texting (bending Scripture to say what we want it to say), we now turn our attention to context. “Text without context is pretext for proof text.” In other words, we need to stay true to the central idea of the text, or, the CIT. Back to John 3:16,

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

The setting for this verse is the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. Jesus makes two statements that are right up Nick’s alley in the way of Scripture. One is His reference to Daniel 7:13-14 and Himself. Let’s look at the passages side-by-side:

13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. John 3:13
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

Jesus was obviously speaking of Himself and was equating Himself with God, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things” (John 3:12)? Then Jesus identifies Himself with Moses by connecting the snake on the pole with Himself; in the same way that people who looked to the snake on the pole were saved (see Numbers 21:4-9), so is anyone who looks to Jesus for salvation, and He gives them eternal life. WE know that Jesus was foretelling how He would die on a cross. It is at this point that John shares with us how much God loves us and what Jesus’ plan was to save the world: God would give His Son, and the Son would give Himself. That’s a lot of love, folks!

Tomorrow, we will look at what is on the other side of this famous verse.

Abba, as we worship today, may we connect to You in Spirit. May we connect with our fellow believers through music, teaching, and haverim (the conveyance of the fellowship, partnership and mutual respect between friends). May we connect with folks who are seeking You, Abba. Everyone needs to meet Jesus. How can we help? Amen.

Proverbs 9 4-9-22

Which is better, memorizing or knowing? Aren’t they the same? Not necessarily…

1 Wisdom has built her house [preparation]; she has set up its seven pillars [done the leg work]. 2 She has prepared her meat [gathered her sources] and mixed her wine; she has also set her table [laid everything out in a proper order].

There is an old joke that a person took his Bible and opened it to a random page; he closed his eyes and pointed at a random verse, “Judas hanged himself;” He then closed his Bible, opened it again and repeated the process. This time, the verse was, “Go thou and do likewise.” If the person in the joke were to put these verses together and use them to advocate suicide, then the person would be proof texting. What is proof texting?

Proof texting is the method by which a person appeals to a biblical text to prove or justify a theological position without regard for the context of the passage they are citing. 

Proof texting is my taskmaster when reading Scripture because it forces me to know context as well as content. “As the saying goes, ‘a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.'” Let’s look at John 3:16 as an example since most people are familiar with it–you may even be able to quote it.

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. KJV

The first hurdle we come to is interpretation. John wrote his book in Aramaic, the language of commerce throughout the Roman Empire. It was translated into Latin sometime in the 4th Century and then into English in the 14th Century by John Wycliffe. The language, both Latin and English, has been updated, scrutinized, and re-interpreted many times up to today. There is also an ancient Greek version. For us, we will look at several interpretations from several versions:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. NIV

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. NASB

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ESV

16 This, you see, is how much God loved the world: enough to give his only, special son, so that everyone who believes in him should not be lost but should share in the life of God’s new age. NTE

Reading different versions is much like the game we used to play in school where we tried to find the differences in two pictures that looked much alike. Understanding that each version is the interpretation of people who didn’t live in that time, we need an overall approach to whatever version we are reading so that we read it impartially (well, as impartially as we can) to keep us from proof texting. For me, that approach is to run everything through Jesus, both in the pages and at the throne. In other words, The Spirit will help me by explaining what He wants me to know and applying it to my life. It will never be a full revelation, but it will be what I need for today.

As I have grown in Christ, the Spirit has shown me these things about John 3:16:

  • He loves me so, so much;
  • He came as Jesus–God with skin on–to die for me, come to life again, and offer me that new life;
  • Believing in Him as my Messiah (Savior and Lord) means trusting Him with my life;
  • Eternal life is life with Him beyond my physical death, but it begins here on earth with Him and me together.

Tomorrow, we will look at context. Do you know the verses around John 3:16?

Abba, I can only trust man’s opinion so far, but I can trust You completely. Your Truth never changes; our perception of it does, though, according to when we live, how we live, and what we know. May You keep revealing truth to me as I study my Bible and listen for Your voice. Help it make sense, Lord. I can’t understand it without You. Amen.

Proverbs 8 4-8-22

Does God need the Bible to speak to us? No. Does He use the Bible to speak to us? Absolutely!

6 Listen, for I [wisdom] have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.

Memorization is hard. I remember in my Sophomore year in high school, my English teacher had rules for writing that she wanted memorized exactly. To miss anything meant that we failed the test. I took that test four times before I got it right. Do I remember them today? No, but she did show us how to implement the rules, which I still follow today.

In the book, “Growing Up,” this week’s chapter for my group is about Scripture memorization. It is based on Psalm 119:11, “I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Many of us may remember this verse because of Vacation Bible School (it’s in the pledge to the Bible). In the book, the author does a quick history lesson:

The art of memorization is quickly becoming a thing of the past. In the first century,
however, memorization was critical. In an age when the only way to store and transmit
material was to copy it by hand, men and women had to commit information to memory.

In Deuteronomy 17:18, Moses instructed the people to have their (future) kings to do this:

18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees

What about us today? How do we hide His word in our hearts? Most people today will pick a verse (or have one picked for us) and we memorize the verse. We commit it to short-term memory and can usually remember it long enough to pass the “test” in our next class. I come at it a little differently. Let’s take a verse that is near and dear to my heart,

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Here’s what I do:

  1. I ask myself, “Do I need to memorize the entire verse?” What is it that draws me to the verse? If the part I like is, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” then that’s the part I work on.
  2. Is there another version that I like better? Check them out. One uses “message” instead of “word,” and “among” instead of “in.” These words give a little different flavor to the verse.
  3. Where is the verse found? In this case, it’s in the third chapter of Colossians. Colossians has four chapters that are roughly split up into the first two chapters dealing with doctrine (basic teaching) and the last two chapters dealing with application to our lives. Chapter 3 is the meat of the book concerning application, which is what our verse is about. Interestingly, our verse has the same “address” as a very popular verse, John 3:16. That helps.
  4. Reading it in a hands-on Bible helps, too, because I can envision where the verse is on the page. I know that there is a header after verse 17, and the verse I like is one back from there. Every little thing helps.
  5. There are two more “cheats” to memorization. One is repetition. Say it over and over again. The other is to teach it. Once you’ve researched the verse and explained it out loud, you stand a good chance of moving it from short-term memory to long-term memory. By the way, teaching is part of the verse!

I’m sure there are more tricks of the trade, but that’s how I do it. I would be interested in you sharing your unique way of memorizing Bible verses with me. Tomorrow, we will look at why we memorize Bible verses.

Abba, I love the idea of singing our faith. May we be faithful to the message You have given us in our worship of You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 7 4-7-22

Easter is the commemoration of Resurrection Day, the day that Jesus rose from the grave thus breaking the power of death.

1 My child, keep my words [the account of my coming] and store up my commands within you.

We were encouraged Sunday night to read John 12-18 this week. John 12 holds a particularly strong statement made by Jesus that defines the wrath of God. It is,

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out.

The first half of the verse tells us what: Judgment; the second half tells us who: The prince of this world, i.e. Satan. From this verse, we can derive the definition of the wrath of God. That wrath is directed toward anything or anyone (namely, Satan) that deceives, damages or destroys His children. Jesus destroyed death so that we will not longer fear it (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Athanasius of Alexandria (296-373 AD) talks in his book, “On the Incarnation,” about how Jesus allowed his enemies to choose the form of death for Him (pg. 75). That way, when He won, no one could say that Jesus set the whole thing up. Just like a wrestler who takes on all opponents in whatever style of wrestling they desire, Jesus took on the cross, mankind’s worst torture/death tool. From Athanasius,

…but he [Jesus] accepted and endured on the cross that [torture and death] inflicted by others, especially by enemies, which they reckoned fearful and ignominious and shameful, in order that this [way of death] being destroyed [by Christ’s resurrection], he might himself be believed to be Life, and the power of death might be completely annihilated.Page 74-75

He goes on to say that the cross became “the trophy of his victory over death.” Jesus really was on a rescue mission to save His creation, mankind. Remembering that the Trinity was present at and on the cross with Jesus, Athanasius posits that the Trinity became flesh and blood in Christ so that death could be experienced and subsequently dealt with.

Athanasius continued, “that by the grace of the resurrection [Jesus] banished death from them [us] as straw from fire. For the Word [Jesus], realizing that in no other way would the corruption of human beings be undone except, simply, by dying, yet being immortal and the Son of the Father, the Word was not able to die, for this reason he takes to himself a body capable of death, in order that it, participating in the Word who is above all, might be sufficient for death on behalf of all, and through the indwelling Word would remain incorruptible, and so corruption might henceforth cease from all by the grace of the resurrection.” Pg. 57-58

Put plainly, love wins. From now on, we see God as the merciful and hospitable Father, who wins by love, whom we don’t have to fear, who accepts and adores us while we’re still a mess, and sees us as we are and heals us with hugs and Fatherly affection. He’s particularly fond of us, you know! His kindness, forbearance and patience lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and by His grace we have salvation and His direction in our lives (Titus 2:11-12).

What a joyous time of year it is as we remember all that He has gone through for us!

Abba, thank You for going to so much trouble for us! I am both humbled and lifted up knowing that we humans, Your creation, are very valuable to You. Thank You for saving us. May we make known the marvelous mysteries of Your grace to each other and to those who don’t know You (yet). Amen.

Proverbs 6 4-6-22

Created in the image of God? You bet we were! Deceived by the enemy, yes, we were. Still loved by God? Indeed!

16 There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
17         haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
18         a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19         a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Why? Because they draw us away from the Fellowship of the Trinity and destroy us.

Evidently, Jesus sees something in us that He likes. Are we good? He thinks we are. Do we have worth? He thinks we do. He came to save us from the deception that because of what we DO, God can’t love us anymore and we are worthless. On the contrary, we are God’s creation and He sees us as very good*; there is nothing we can DO to make us any less than His creation. John had plenty to say on the subject:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

Obviously, Jesus saw something good in us. He came to get us back, which is why the Word became flesh.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Again, God loves us; that in itself says everything.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— John 10:14

Jesus calls us His sheep. Sheep have worth.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

The vine gives the branches their worth. Our connection to the vine proves we have worth.

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Want to know what Jesus thinks of you? Here it is! He wants us with Him and to see His glory. He wants us to take part in the Fellowship of the Trinity! He doesn’t just love us; He likes us. He is “especially fond of us.”

Jesus speaks of kernels of wheat in John 12:24. The kernel needs transformation. We are the same way. We need the transformation of the Spirit, “…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” Romans 12:2. His Spirit is the Activator of the new life that is in each of us, just like that kernel of wheat.

The greatest verse about what Jesus thinks of us is John 19:30, 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jesus proved His love for us, our worth to Him, and that we are good because we are His creation, His sheep, and His branches. He desires our company forever! I love this quote:

I asked Jesus how much He loves me.
He said, “I love you this much,”
and He stretched out His hands and died.

The next time the enemy tells you that you are no good, turn to Jesus and ask Him what He thinks of you. I promise you that He will always affirm you as His child with all the royal benefits that go with that position.

Abba, thank You for holding up a mirror to me and explaining what I was looking at: Your creation, created very good. Your death on the cross and subsequent resurrection proved Your love for me and sets me free from believing the lies of the enemy. Your presence in my life sustains my true view of You and of myself. Your Spirit transformed my little kernel into a stalk of spiritual life. It’s what You do in each of us as we give ourselves to You. The refrain of “Forever Reign” speaks my heart to You,

Oh, I’m running to Your arms, I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

Amen.

*Genesis 1:27, 31, Jeremiah 31:3, Psalm 139:13-16, 1 John 3:1

Proverbs 5 4-5-22

The similarities between Peter’s story and Judas Iscariot’s story are striking. Let’s look…

1 my child, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight…22 the evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast [Jesus will set them free].

Most people know the story of Peter:

  • A fisherman
  • Married
  • Leader
  • Hotheaded

Many people know the story of Judas Iscariot:

  • Keeper of the moneybag
  • Dipped into the moneybag occasionally (John 12:6)
  • Rebuked Mary for “wasting” expensive perfume
  • Took 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus

So far, there’s not much similarity, but here’s where it changes. They both were told that they would fall to weakness: Peter to fear and Judas to greed. Peter denied Christ; Judas betrayed Christ. Lest we get the idea that they are worse than the other disciples, read Matthew 26:56b, which was prophesied also,

56 But this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled [see Matthew 26:31].” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Both Peter and Judas had great remorse for their “falling away.” Peter was reinstated by Jesus (John 21:15-17); Judas hanged himself after throwing the money back into the temple (see Matthew 27:3-5).

Most people think that when Jesus said, “It would be better if he had never been born” (Mark 14:21), and that he was “doomed to destruction (John 17:12), that Judas is burning in hell right now. I wonder if there is another option. Consider:

  • Judas died before Jesus did;
  • Jesus descended into Hades and led a triumphal train out of hell (1 Peter 4:6, Apostles’ Creed, 2 Corinthians 2:14);
  • Judas may have been the last person to enter Hades before Christ got there and freed the captives (Isaiah 61:1), which means that he also may have been the first person out of Hades with Christ!

The lesson here is not so much to champion Judas, but to warn against assumptions. We must always read Scripture through the lens of Jesus: Jesus said, “love your enemies,” “forgive seventy times seven;” did He not extend forgiveness to the very soldiers who crucified Him? It’s worth considering.

Abba, I don’t know where Judas is today, but I know You well enough to know that You practice what You preach. I would like to believe that Judas was right on Your heels on the way out of Hades and to Your throne! Thank You for Your wonderful grace that extends to every human being on the planet, past, present and future. Amen.

Proverbs 4 4-4-22

Where was God when Jesus was crucified? He was right there with Him! The Spirit, too!

18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter [He continuously reveals His light to us] till the full light of day.

The anointing of Jesus in Matthew 26:6-13 is an Integral part of the Passion of Christ. It is the official beginning of the end, so to speak. Up to this point, Jesus had

  • turned His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51);
  • Healed Lazarus (John 11:1-46);
  • Ticked off the chief priests and Pharisees to the point that they planned to kill Him (John 11:50-53).

Let’s look at the passage combining Matthew’s point of view and John’s point of view:

M- While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

J- 12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

M- When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

J- But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

M- 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

J- “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Comparing the two accounts, we find that the woman was Mary, the objector was Judas, his motives were selfish, and the perfume/oil was for Christ’s burial. Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit (Oil as Symbol). We now have the entire representation of the Trinity (the presence of the Father is stated by Jesus in John 8:29). The willingness of God the Father to lay down His life through God the Son, Jesus Christ, shows the great, great love of the Trinity for mankind, His creation. The Spirit is in agreement, and is present on the cross through the entire process. The last words of Jesus were, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” All three of the Trinity are represented in that statement.

What is so important about the Trinity being present on the cross? Their presence turns what might be considered as a punitive (punishing) action into a rescue mission of mankind! The wrath of God was poured out, not on Jesus, but on sin and death. Jesus took them both to the grave and left them there. We have nothing left to fear! Now, THAT’S good news!

Abba, the degree of love You showed us through the Passion tells us just how crazy You are for us. You showed us Your “self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love*.” May we believe in that love, receive that love, and then share that love with everyone around us. Amen.

*A More Christlike Way pg. 57

Proverbs 3 4-3-22

One of Jesus’ titles is the Great Physician. Ever wonder where it came from? Read on…

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.

When Jesus called Matthew to follow Him, Matthew threw a big party and invited many of his cronies and other associates. The religious leaders criticized Jesus for attending the party. Let’s pick up the narrative in Matthew 9:12,

11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

There are other references to Jesus being a doctor. One is found in Luke 4:23, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” Jesus was doing more than treating people; He was healing them!

The healings were the testimony of God the Father in Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus said in John 5:31-32,

31 “If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

Pair this passage with John 10:25, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me,

And John 10:38, “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.”

My take-away from these passages is that the miracles of Jesus, which include all the healings, were to bolster faith in Him as God coming down from heaven (Immanuel=”God with us”). When it comes to our health, the Father pretty much leaves us to our own choices and the continuing natural fall-out of sin. Jesus’ plan for us is expressed in John 17:24,

24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

He wants us with Him! That’s exciting, and something to which to look forward. We no longer have to fear death, so if we live, we live for Christ, and if we die, we gain (Philippians 1:21).

So, now you know how Jesus got the title of the Great Physician.

Abba, I understand why You don’t heal everyone now in this life. You have a far, far better life awaiting us with You. I look forward to seeing You in Your glory, the glory You have had since before the creation of the world! My trust is in You, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 2 4-2-22

God is Jesus is Spirit is Jesus is God. Each Person of the Trinity is His own person, yet one in nature and character.

6 For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Here’s a little review from yesterday’s post concerning one of my favorite Bible verses, John 18:5:

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)

My footnote for “I am he” reads, “The ‘I am’ is here”; or “I am the Lord”; Greek reads I am; also in 18:68.

In Exodus 3:14, God tells Moses this, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” The interesting thing about “God” is that it is “Elohim” in Hebrew, which is plural, i.e. the Trinity. When Jesus used the same name, He was talking about the Trinity, of which He is a member.

Another time when Jesus used this name is John 8:58, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” Jesus was referring to a time even before Abraham who lived over 400 years before Moses. I think He was referring to before the creation of the world, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” John 17:24.

Why is His usage of this name so important? Because Jesus was headed to the cross. And, if Jesus, as part of the Trinity, was on the cross, then so were God the Father and God the Spirit. There is no separating them! When we think of Jesus, just remember that God the Father loves us just as much and in the same way as God the Son and God the Spirit. They were showing us how much they love us by dying for us. Then they showed us the way back to them by rising from the dead! One of my other favorite verses is,

18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Anything that makes us fear God the Father must come from the great deception of the evil one. Even James had something to say about it,

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

The writer of Hebrews said, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If one is the same, then all three are the same.

Let’s ask the Father to show us what, if anything, makes us fear Him. I have faith that He will reveal it to you just as He did me.

Abba, thank You for revealing to me what causes me to fear You and to let it go. As You reveal more of myself to me, may I be as willing to let go of other things, as well. It’s a process, Lord. My goal is to be just like You. Amen.

Proverbs 1 4-1-22

Encountering Christ first-hand is life-changing. Without this encounter, Christianity is just a set of rules.

33 Whoever listens to me will live in safety (of soul) and be at ease (in heart), without fear of harm (from God or anyone).

My SS class knows that I have several favorite Bible verses. My newest one is John 18:5,

“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.)

My footnote for “I am he” reads,
18:5b Or “The ‘I am’ is here”; or “I am the Lord”; Greek reads I am; also in 18:68.

“I AM” is the name God told Moses when Moses asked God whom he should say sent him (see Exod 3:14). What happens when people are face-to-face with God? Let’s read the next verse and see:

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Everyone? Everyone! Even Judas. It makes me wonder if everyone falls to the ground in the presence of Jesus. Oh! That reminds me of another set of my favorite verses,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:10-11

So, if everyone will fall to their knees and confess Jesus is Lord, then will they do so willingly or unwillingly? What about those who have never heard the name of Jesus in this life? What about those who only know the Jesus they have been presented (a distorted image of Jesus)? The character of God precludes Him sending anyone to hell without a chance to know Jesus. In fact, does He send anyone at all? Is it not a choice that people make when they reject Him?

When I consider Saul (later to be called Paul) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19), I get a pretty good picture of what a murderer would do when he meets Jesus face-to-face. His words were, “Who are You, Lord?” Saul had been persecuting Christ’s church and was on his way to Damascus to do the same, but Jesus didn’t hammer him; instead, He introduced Himself to Saul, “I am Jesus, the One whom you are persecuting.” There was no accusation or judgment in His statement, only truth. Then, Jesus told Saul what to do next, “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Saul was His from then on.

It was dangerous for the early Christians to share their faith openly. They relied on Jesus to bring people into His flock Himself. You know what? By the year 300 A.D. it is estimated that half the Roman Empire was made up of Jesus followers! Even today, Jesus is revealing Himself to people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. See More Than Dreams.

Let’s pray for more people to encounter Jesus in their dreams. Let’s pray for His Church to keep advancing. Let’s pray for a worldwide awakening to the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Abba, You are, indeed, building Your kingdom–one person at a time! It is very freeing to realize that You don’t need us to tell people about You, but You love for us to join You in the process. May we count it a privilege (not a duty) to join You in where You are working. Amen.

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 31 3-31-22

Our view of God matters more than we might think. If we fear Him, we will not draw close to Him. “God is love.”

26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Today, we begin with a description by John about God’s character:

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. God is light, therefore, there is nothing to fear.

In case that verse is not enough, John gives us another character trait of the Father in 1 John 4:8,

But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God doesn’t just love; He IS love.

How do we apply what we know about God to what we might have been taught about God?

Imagine a judge in a small town whose son commits a crime. When the son came before the judge, though he loves his son very much, the judge would have to pass sentence on him to pay for his crimes. This type of judgment is costly to both the father and the son, and does not express the love the father has for the son.

Imagine now a rich father whose son gets caught up in drugs. The son steals money from the safe along with several very valuable art pieces from his father’s collection. The police catch the son trying to sell the art pieces and contact the father, asking if he wants to press charges. The father, who loves his son very much, says, “No. Bring him home.” The father then gets the son the help he needs and pays for it out of his own pocket. This type of judgment is beneficial for both the father and the son, and expresses the deep, deep love the father has for the son.

This second illustration also reflects the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15:11-32.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

As we can see, the son’s former behavior was nothing to the father compared to him having his son back. And so it is with our heavenly Father. Our former behavior is nothing compared to Him having us back in relationship with Him. We are “safe and secure from all alarms” as we lean on Jesus.

Abba, if we could just get over feeling like we have to do something for You to like us, I think we would come to understand just how much You love us. Transform our minds, Lord, so that we can at least catch glimpses of what it means to rest in the security of Your loving arms. We really are safe! Thank You for being such a loving Father. Amen.

Proverbs 29 3-29-22

Knowing God is a never-ending quest, a continuous feast, and an ever-unfolding revelation. Keep seeking Him!

3 A person who loves wisdom brings joy to his/her father…

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of church history lately. It’s something that I was never taught, so I am learning it now. The more I learn about His-story, the more I realize that I tend to interpret things through the lenses of my own bias. Also, I have found that I am not alone in this tendency,

“The stubborn fact is that whatever we say about God or for God with great certitude is sifted through
the thick veils of our religious traditions, cultural assumptions and personal interpretations.”*

In the words of Yoda (applied to myself), “You must unlearn what you have learned.” The idea is to take a step back from how I look at Scripture and history to take in a new perspective. Notice that I didn’t say that I step back from what I know; I know a lot of Scriptures, but when it comes to interpreting them, there’s a lot about the culture in which they were written of which I am unaware (ignorant may be a better term). The one thing I do not want to do is create an image of God that is untrue, but we all do it because we all have a partial image of God and project that image as all He is. Christ’s intention is to get us all together so that we can have a full and complete image of Him in each other: “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, which are in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:10 MEV).

“My point here is that those of us who claim to believe in ‘the God of the Bible’
must become more aware of how we read the text through thick lenses of our
own unconscious biases. From these distorting filters we are prone to construct
idols of God in our own image.”*

But, reading Scripture was never meant to be done alone. The Holy Spirit is present every time we read; are we listening? We “need Him to reveal Himself in a way that can be known.”* The further we step back, the more of the entire picture we can see. In fact, one day we will step back into eternity and we will see the WHOLE picture!

So, now when I read my Bible, I read it holding what I think I know loosely and allowing the Spirit to guide my thoughts. Another thing I do is listen to different Bible scholars, especially those with differing views than mine (within Christianity). Then, I weigh what they say against what I know and what the Scriptures say even as I pray for wisdom and insight, understanding and discernment. It’s funny how the verse that comes to mind is, “God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). My goal is to become more like Christ, more like my heavenly Father. The way to do that is to find out as much as I can about Him even as I walk with Him daily.

Let’s determine “to know Christ in the power of His resurrection, share with Him in His sufferings, and then somehow attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10).

Abba, I have walked with You for 55 years and I just now feel like I’m learning who You are. Is it like that for everyone? If so, then older truly is wiser. Keep revealing Yourself to me as we walk together. Amen.

*A More Christlike God, pg. 4-5

Proverbs 28 3-28-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s an interesting tidbit:

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

The rest of the story:

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 27 3-27-22

In order to hear God correctly, we need to know who He is and what He thinks of us. The Bible has the message; the Spirit confirms it.

9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the hearts, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

The last two days, we have been discussing Hearing God and what His voice sounds like. Yesterday, we looked at God’s approach to us vs. the enemy’s approach to us. Today, we will deal with the enemy’s greatest weapon: Our feelings.

If the enemy can get us to believe the lie about who God is and/or who we are, then he can manipulate our feelings. For instance:

  • If he can get us to doubt God’s motives (he did Eve), then we take matters into our own hands;
  • If he can get us to doubt God’s love for us, then we go searching for love in all the wrong places;
  • If he can get us to see God in any other way than a loving Father, then we fear Him and keep our distance;
  • If he can get us to think of God as the Great Manipulator of circumstances and events, then we resent Him for bad things that happen.

When the Trinity created us in Their image, They gave us free will (see Genesis 1:26-27, 2:16-17). Our ability to choose is what makes us most like the Trinity. When we buy the lie of the enemy, we see God differently than who He really is and ourselves as other than we really are. The list in yesterday’s Proverbs demonstrates how successful the enemy is! We can be manipulated into being impatient, merciless, envious, proud, rude, self-centered, irritable, resentful, deceiving, despairing, and complaining (see the post below this one).

If we ever wonder how God feels about us, all we have to do is remember these two verses:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

16 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

If the heavenly Father thinks we’re worth being loved, and He respects us enough to allow us to make our own choices, let’s choose to love Him!

Abba, Thank You for loving me and for showing me how much You love me (and everyone) by dying on the cross. Thank You for rising from the dead and offering me a seat at Your table–even to sit with You on Your throne! You really DO love us, don’t You? “I worship You, Almighty God, there is none like You (sung by Charity Gayle).” Amen.

Proverbs 26 3-26-22

Having trouble trusting God? How we see Him determines whether or not we trust Him.

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin [Satan comes to kill our relationship with God, steal our joy, and destroy our trust in God; don’t believe him, especially what he says about God!].

We’ve been discussing hearing God these past two days. Today, we will use 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as a guide to God’s characteristics. Let’s look at the text,

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

The reason we can attribute these characteristics to God is because John does in 1 John 4:8 and 16,

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love
16 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 

If God is love and love is patient and kind, then God is patient and kind, and so on. God will always speak to you out of these characteristics. It is when we have a wrong perception of God and a wrong perception of who we are in Him that we “buy the lie” that the enemy whispers in our ear.

Let’s look at the contrast between the approaches: God vs. the enemy.

  • Patient vs. Impatient- “God is taking too long. You can’t trust His timing.”
  • Kind vs. Merciless- “They don’t deserve kindness.” “You don’t deserve kindness.”
  • Not envious vs. Creates envy- Focuses thoughts on comparisons with others.
  • Not boastful or proud vs. Self-importance- Arrogant, thoughts that belittle others.
  • Not rude vs. Rude- Uses damaging words/thoughts towards others and/or towards ourselves.
  • Not demanding of his own way vs. Self-centered- uncaring and apathetic to the needs of others.
  • Not irritable vs. Easily irritated- Short-tempered, having unrealistic expectations.
  • Keeps no record of wrongs vs. Rehearses wrongs – of past hurts and mistakes (our own and others).
  • Rejoices in truth vs. Distorts truth- “You can’t believe ___________ because of_________.”
  • Never gives up vs. Easily gives up- rationalizes why things will never work. “What’s the use?”
  • Never loses faith vs. Doubts- “Did God really say…?”
  • Always hopeful vs. Hopeless- “Things always turn out wrong.” “You’ll never get it right.” “You are hopeless, why do I put up with you?”
  • Endures through every circumstance vs. Complains and looks for an easy escape- “Why keep trying?” “This is too hard.”

The enemy speaks in general terms and in lies: “You’re no good.” “God doesn’t love you.”
The Spirit speaks the truth specifically and lovingly.

Is the Holy Spirit creating a desire in you to change how you think about Him and spend time with Him? Remember, He won’t just tell you to “do better.” He will be drawing you and encouraging you with specific instructions that He will then equip you to do!

Abba, I love the way You love me. To think of You as loving and kind, and of keeping no record of wrongs changes the way I feel about You. I can trust You! Knowing that you are always faithful, hopeful, and that You never give up on me makes me want to follow You. Together, I know we can endure every circumstance, and that we will never fail because, “love never fails!” Amen.

Proverbs 25 3-25-22

There are certain things God won’t say to us, but there are also certain things that He is constantly saying to us: “I love you!” is one of them.

11 A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

Yesterday, we began a conversation about hearing God and what He would say to us. Today, let’s continue using excerpts from the book, Hearing God, by Peter Lord.

“Some well-meaning Christians tell us that ‘many things are necessary’ to grow spiritually. But we must remember that it was the Lord Jesus Christ who said, ‘only one thing is necessary.’” (See Luke 10:41-42).

That “one thing” is to hear the Lord Jesus speak to us. If we hear Him, then He will lead us in the next thing to do or say, and it will always be right, even if things get messy or end badly. He is leading and we need to trust Him.

If we do the “one thing,” these are some of the things we can expect to hear God speak to us:

Many have perceived God in the past as:

  • Boss
  • Judge
  • Distant father
  • Critical parent

Jesus portrayed God as:

  • Loving Father
  • Caring Shepherd

Two of my favorite quotes from this book are:

“In my experience walking with God, He has done very little shouting and no threatening at all.
If you feel threatened or fearful, it’s safe to say that it is not God talking to you.”

“God is love and it seems that’s the only force He is going to use with us.”
*Excerpts from Hearing God (pp 14-79) by Peter Lord

There are lots of gold nuggets in here! Ask the Lord which one He wants you to take with you today. He will use it to settle your heart and mind with His peace. Enjoy His intimacy today!

Abba, just knowing that I can trust You makes the day easier. I don’t have to please You, but I want to. I don’t have to earn Your approval, but I want to live in a way that is approving. I don’t have to worry about offending You, yet I watch what I say and do so that I don’t offend others. Knowing You love me is all I need, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 24 3-24-22

Knowing God is not as difficult as it may seem. He is God and He wants to know us. Doesn’t that make it easier?

3 By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures [God provides all three for us!].

in 1 Corinthians 2:9-13:

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.

This quote is from Isaiah, who lived 700 years before Christ. He got a glimpse of the coming Christ, but we get to experience Him first-hand because of the Spirit of God who lives within us. The Spirit provides the wisdom, understanding and knowledge it takes for us to build godly temples for the Lord.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

How can we discern the Spirit’s voice? Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;” we discern when the Spirit is speaking to us versus our own thoughts or when the evil one is whispering to us. It is critical that we know the types of things the Spirit will say to us and what the Spirit won’t say because the devil “is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

There are two things that are very clear:

  1. God will never speak to you in negative generalities, such as, “You are a loser.” “You’ll never be good enough.” “Oh, you messed up! Shame on you!” These are lies from the evil one.
  2. God speaks to us in specifics and encouragement, such as, “Let me help you in this area.” “You are mine and I love you.” “This is what I want you to join Me in doing next…”

We will look more closely at hearing His voice tomorrow. For today, focus on what our heavenly Father WILL say to us.

Abba, thank You for being such a loving Father. Many people do not have a good role model of what a loving father is, but I do. Thank You for my dad and his shining example of a loving father. May You reveal to everyone how much You love them and desire a personal, ongoing relationship with them. Help us to hear You clearly, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 23 3-23-22

Mercy is the compassion of God. Want to experience His mercy? Just ask for it!

15 My child, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed; 16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.

There is a prayer in liturgical churches that echoes the prayer of the “sinner” in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:13), which says, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” The secret to the mercy of God is not our having to beg for it; it was given freely by Jesus Christ on the cross to everyone. Paul told us that it was God’s plan all along,

32 For God has shut up [sugkleio-enclose together] all in disobedience so that he may show mercy on them all. Romans 11:32

“‘Lord, have mercy’ doesn’t activate Abba’s mercy–
rather, it leads me beneath the ever-flowing spring
to receive mercy’s continuous downpour.”*

Once a person understands that all he needs to do is receive the mercy and grace that God is already pouring out on all mankind, our whole perspective on life begins to change. When we turn from the darkness of our own blindness to the light of His love, it’s like being born again, like being brought from death to life, or like moving from living in a black-and-white world to one of color (much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she stepped out of the house into Oz).

The word, “sinner” does not identify us; it describes the human condition. It could be said that sin is not something we do as much as it is what we believe. If we “miss the mark” of understanding that we are made in God’s image and are His beloved children, then we will live as if He doesn’t exist, or that we are “pond scum” and undeserving of His love. I used to believe in “the total depravity of man,” but I have come to understand that way of thinking as a deception of the evil one. Jesus reveals our worth to Him. We are valuable to Him. He said,

How much more valuable is a person than a sheepMatthew 12:12

Paul explained it this way, “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, [who died to show us how much we mean to Him] overflow to the many!Romans 5:15

Christ did not die to make us valuable; He died BECAUSE we are valuable to Him. Now, if that doesn’t make us want to trust Him and follow Him, then I don’t know what will! To me, it’s like I woke up to something that I had always hoped, yet thought was impossible: I really am precious in His sight. Jesus really does love all the little children (that’s us, folks) of the world!

Abba, as I ask for Your mercy, lead me to that fountain that flows from Your throne, the one that pours down love, joy, peace, hope and grace–mercy! Please help me to get my head–and heart–around the truth that I am Your child and You love me. I always have been, and You always will. I love You, too! Amen.

*A More Christlike Way, pg. 206

Proverbs 22 3-22-22

World events are crazy right now. Even as war breaks out, the Gospel is reaching people all over the world!

12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but He frustrates the words of the unfaithful [with truth].

On Sunday, I mentioned that Israel has 30,000+ professing Christians, but according to One For Israel, the responses and testimonies they receive daily from new seekers tell a different story. They believe that number “is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands more underground seekers and new believers still afraid to come forward with their faith.”

“In the most closed countries, from the Islamist Gaza Strip to the fields of Afghanistan,
social media reaches places no minister could ever preach.
This is where we make our stand, in the online streets of the Middle East.”

You might be wondering why One For Israel’s online footprint is so big. Israelis lead the world in social media usage. The average Israeli spends 11+ hours a day on social platforms, almost double the global average! Subsequently, their “market” is virtually everyone, including Bedouin Israelis. “In the last 50 years, illiteracy was reduced in the Bedouin community from 95% to 10%. Many are online today and can hear the Gospel from our online outreach.”

It’s amazing the avenues God uses to reach us. Who ever thought that the Pandemic would be so fruitful for the souls of mankind? May we pray for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, to spread like wildfire in the Middle East, and may He use One For Israel as one of His vessels.

Abba, even before I visited Israel, I loved her. The rich history and the tangible historical sites are like a cord that ties my heart to her. Draw the people of Israel and her surrounding neighbors to Yourself, Lord Jesus. I look forward to the day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that You are Lord. May it be soon. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

Proverbs 21 3-21-22

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

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

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

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

Jesus said, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). He also said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). If we believe this commission to still be in effect, then we must believe that sending missionaries into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria–as well as the Gaza Strip, Jordan, and all neighboring countries–is still in effect, as well. This college is fulfilling the Great Commission in a literal way!

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

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