Proverbs 3 9-3-20

Concerning End Times, we may have the em-PHA-sis on the wrong syl-LA-ble. Let’s focus on His MOVING rather than His COMING.

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

I have always read this verse as a business verse, to which it can certainly be applied. Today, I read it differently in light of my beginning statement. We tend to take an “us against them” approach when we think of evil people. We must remember that WE used to be “evil people.” “At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” Titus 3:3. We must begin to think differently about those around us.

Proverbs 24:10-12 puts our job into perspective. Let’s look:

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,
    how small is your strength!
11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?

  1. What does it mean to falter? For us, it means that we take our eyes off the job we are to do. When things get tough living for Christ, we lean in on Him all the more! In fact, we should pray that God would make us “shine like stars in the heavens” (Philippians 2:15). The implication is that it must be dark before our lights can truly be seen. Let’s not worry about how dark it gets; let’s focus on increasing our light!
  2. God brings people into our paths everyday for us to influence for Him. Are we paying attention?
  3. Feigning ignorance just shows that we have been ignoring His commands. Not a good idea!
  4. Rewards, indeed, are coming, but I don’t think that they will be for what we have traditionally considered rewardable. The works that the LORD is looking for is in terms of OBEDIENCE, especially concerning sharing the Good News with potential followers and encouraging the flock to stay close to the Shepherd.

Jesus IS coming back, but before He does, how about praying for a great outpouring of His Spirit? I see every person I talk to about Christ as a potential catalyst for a great revival. When we cry out to God, let’s make it about lost souls!

Abba, You know my heart. I want more than anything–health, wealth, long life–for You to move mightily in our land. May Your Spirit fall on us in POWER, O LORD! May it not be anything we do, but–all of a sudden–people begin to cry out to You in repentance. Revival starts in the hearts of Your children, Abba, I know this. May we begin to cry out to You in repentance. May You begin a great revival in me today. Have Your way in me. Amen.

Proverbs 2 9-2-20

Our spirituality is our responsibility–to a point. It’s like getting our hair cut. We sit in the chair, but the LORD “cuts our hair.”

1 My child, IF you accept my words…IF you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding…IF you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, THEN you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (1-5)

The key to this passage is the CHOICE that is given by the Father and honored by Him. He allows the wicked to “walk in dark ways” (v13) and the adulterous woman to “ignore the covenant she made before God” (v17). Are we really trying to live righteously, relying on the Spirit to lead us and to strengthen us even as He coaches us? God “equips us with everything good for doing His will,” but are we letting Him “work in us what is pleasing to Him?” (Hebrews 13:21). Let’s take an inventory:

  1. Do we habitually sin and not care?
  2. Is there any Holy Spirit-conviction in our lives?
  3. Do we feel guilty when we do wrong or only when we get caught?

Last Sunday, I told of my recommitment. Johnny Bisagno took nearly 30 minutes to graphically describe a beating and crucifixion Roman-style. Jesus endured them both because of my sin. Sin separates us from the Father by taking us the wrong way–right off a cliff. It destroys us! THAT’S why God hates sin so much. Jesus took the ugly punishment for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. Why, then, do we treat His commands with such disdain? Why does sin not bother us? With Him living inside us, shouldn’t we hear or sense His crying out before we sin, during our sin, and after our sin?

Here’s a good litmus test: If you ever cop an attitude, I promise you that it’s because of your rebellious nature. We get in the flesh. “Attitude” is our version of playing God. In fact, we may even use the words, “If I were in charge…if that was my child…If I were God…” We’ve all been there; we’ve all done that; we all have the T-shirt.

James tells us what to do in 4:4-10. Let’s read it:

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world [to live like the people of the world do] becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Maybe we ought to try this approach one Sunday: We come in and fall on our faces before God; we begin by submitting ourselves to Him. We resist the devil by resisting the urge to get up before we have finished. We ask for the Spirit to wash us, to purify us, and to make us single-minded. We grieve our sin, mourn over lost opportunities, and wail for sinners who refuse to repent. We see this world for what it is: sick, sin-saturated, and in control of the devil. We then humble ourselves before the Lord and wait for Him to lift us up. What would He raise us up to do?

  1. Praise.
  2. Worship.
  3. Pray.
  4. Go.

The promise for us is success in giving the Spirit opportunity to convict of sin in someone’s life. That person may not accept it, but we must be faithful. We never know with whom He’s dealing nor His timing. Ours is to obey. We can only do that when we can clearly hear His voice. We can only do THAT when we are cleared of all sin–that which stands between us and the Father.

Did you pass the test? Then pass this one: Take extra time today to confess sin to the Father (He already knows). Give it up to Him and allow Him to replace it with His gifts of love, joy, peace, and whatever else is needed for the next step. You’ll never regret it.

Abba, I’ve reached a point where our complacency needs overhauling. May we spend as much time praying as we do anything else today. May we agonize over lost friends and relatives, neighbors and enemies (political and otherwise). May we be willing to give up anything and everything for the opportunity to be witnesses for You–even our rights as Americans, our safety, and even our lives if You deem it necessary. Ignite us, Father. Fan us into flame. Make us burn for You in a dark world. Amen.

Proverbs 1 9-1-20

The problem with Proverbs 1 is that it is impossible to do/keep humanly. We need the divine power of the Holy Spirit!

22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
    How long will mockers delight in mockery
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 Repent at my rebuke!
    Then I will pour out my heart and thoughts to you,
    I will make known to you my teachings.

God equips us. He gives us everything we need for godly living (2 Peter 1:3). The Holy Spirit within us IS GOD. He is Jesus in Spirit. We can equally say that Jesus lives in us (Colossians 1:27). How does God equip us? We have spiritual weapons:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

What weapons? There are three that I have found in Scripture that work individually as well as collectively. They are:

17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:17-18

The word of God confirms what the Spirit says to His children. If we hear something that cannot be confirmed in the word of God, we are to “take it captive and make it obedient to Christ.” If it is truly wrong, we reject it, refuting it with the word of God; if it needs correction, we correct it according to the word of God; if it needs explanation, we explain it using the word of God.

We need to keep in mind that the word of God was never intended to be used without the presence and participation of God, through Christ, with the Holy Spirit. Hence, prayer. Talking to God assumes that He is present and listening. Listening to God assumes that He has something to tell us. Both of these assumptions are good ones based upon the word of God (see today’s Proverbs verses).

There is one more weapon, and that is PRAISE. When we praise, we utter with our mouths truths about God, what we know about God, and how we feel about God. These thoughts become concrete in our minds and lives as we speak them through recitation, conversation, and song. Want to sense the presence of Christ? Speak audibly to Him!

2 Chronicles 20 is a great example of how praise is used as a spiritual weapon. Here is the main passage:

21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
    for his love endures forever.”

22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 

Here’s how it works: We pray according to the Word of God; we praise according to our faith that God hears our prayers and answers them. What did God tell us to do?

19 [Speak] to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. 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. Ephesians 5:19-20

This is not just on Sunday morning, but an all-week affair! If we truly want to have a flourishing relationship with the heavenly Father, then we will begin a conversation with Him when we first get up in the morning and go to sleep at night without ever ending the conversation. I guess we could say that we resume yesterday’s conversation with Him, which means that we NEVER stop conversing with God! Whether we address Him as Father, Jesus, or Holy Spirit doesn’t matter; they are all ONE. He just wants our fellowship and obedience. Why our obedience? Because we live in the enemy’s territory and our flesh still wants to drag us back into bondage–more on that later.

Today, let’s make Him our PRIORITY. Let’s use our weapons to combat the enemy in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

Abba, the more I study Your Word, the more I learn about You. The more I learn about You, the more the Holy Spirit confirms You and Your truths in my heart. The more He confirms, the more confident I am in believing that You have my best interests at heart and that I can trust You. In this trust, I pledge to obey You all day and in every way. Speak loudly, LORD; I’m a little deaf–literally and spiritually. amen.

Proverbs 31 8-31-20

Who we are determines what we do. Our character is much more important to the LORD than our acts of service.

10 A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

King Lemuel’s mother was a woman of great character. We find what she considers important in the first nine verses of this chapter.

Listen, my son! Listen, son of my womb!
    Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!

We find in this verse that she is a woman of faith. Because of her values, we can determine that it is the LORD to whom she prays.

Do not spend your strength on women,
    your vigor on those who ruin kings.

This verse deals with the temptation of kings to “overdo it” in the sexual department (is that a polite way of saying it?). God designed us to be one man for one woman for life. We are to keep it simple (the simpler things are, the easier they are to maintain). As wise as Solomon was, he failed in this area. His 700 wives and 300 concubines pulled him away from the LORD in his later years (1 kings 11:4).

It is not for kings, Lemuel—
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    not for rulers to crave beer,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
    and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.

The king (remember that we are the King’s children) must never allow himself to be without his wits. The only person/thing that is to control us is the Holy Spirit. Paul said it this way, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…” Ephesians 5:18.

Let beer be for those who are perishing,
    wine for those who are in anguish!
Let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.

We don’t know to what she is referring in these verses. Was it true poverty? Was it sickness? We don’t know what she meant by anguish. In our culture, we have medicines that bring health, so drinking to forget our woes is not necessary–and a bad idea! Talk about complicating matters…!

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

These two verses give us our strongest clues to her character. She was concerned for the poor, for those who are at the mercy of the rich and powerful. She taught her son to rule with mercy and with equity. In these ways, he would be pleasing to the LORD.

We have an edge on King Lemuel’s mother: We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us! He gives us the desire and the power to do His will. We get to interact with Jesus all the time. In fact, this interaction was the point of the cross! The question is: Are we taking full advantage of our salvation? Are we interacting with our LORD all the time?

Whenever we are prompted to read our Bibles, pray, be merciful, take care of the needy, meet another person’s needs, etc. it is the Holy Spirit who is bringing it to our attention. If we see another person in need, but feel a tension/restriction that keeps us from helping, that, too, is the Holy Spirit. We must learn to discern. This ability comes through practice and dependence upon Him.

Let’s be people of character today, His character, as we interact with the Holy Spirit.

Abba, may You continue the process of transforming us by conforming us into the image of Your Son, Jesus. Chisel away, Father! 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 29 8-29-20

The only way to know God is first-hand. Anything else is hearsay. But, it takes a humble heart to come to Him.

23 Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.

Aaron’s sons burned unauthorized fire to the LORD. We read about it in Numbers 3:4. What’s the deal?! Evidently, they offered an incense offering to the LORD in the same manner that they would offer incense to one of the gods of Egypt. God was very specific about how to approach Him because of His holiness and their sinfulness. They had not been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, yet; the judgement of their sin was postponed until Christ took it to the cross and then the grave! In the meantime, God provided a way for them to approach Him by covering their sin with the blood of animals. Notice that their sins were covered; ours, through Christ, are forgiven, our record expunged, and our sins carried away as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:11-12).  

With this background laid, let’s talk about us. We have power in prayer. Do we use it in an unauthorized fashion when we assume that our prayers change circumstances and affect outcomes?

How IS prayer effective? “The prayers of a righteous person avail much” James 5:16. Can we “tip the scales” of a situation? Is the enemy thwarted? Do we “change God’s mind?” Or, does God have plans according to our prayers? When we participate by praying, does God enact what is dormant? Inactive? Does prayer unlock what is locked up? Is the Spirit waiting on us to come along so that we can participate with Him? Occasionally, I will read where God says, “ There was no one to act, so I acted by my right hand” (Isaiah 63:5). Is it because He prefers to include us in His activities?

I think so. He is ALL ABOUT the relationship. But, thinking that I have power to effect change, i.e. healings, salvations, outcomes, etc. is unauthorized fire. I am to pray for God to do what is best. I am to pray that the Holy Spirit is released. I am to pray that the enemy would be bound. I am to pray for healing. I am to pray for salvation. I am to pray that we bask in His presence. THIS is authorized fire. God wants to work and WILL work, but He also wants to include us in what He is doing and for us to allow Him to “part the seas,” so to speak, something that we would have never thought of.

In Experiencing God page 11, Henry Blackaby starts the seven truths of his study with:

God is always at work around you.

The second one is very important for us to know:

God pursues a continuing love relationship with you
that is real and personal.

And the third one, which is the crux of the book, is:

God invites you to become involved with Him in His work.

Let’s join God in what He is doing, which means that we don’t dictate to God what He is to do. We can ask, but we always answer like Jesus, “According to Your will be done.” Then, we watch God work amazing things first in us, and then those around us.

Abba, may I take my own advice here. You KNOW the desires of my heart and the constant war that goes on between my desire for You to be exalted in my life and the things I want in this world. May I seek Your face and obey Your voice as I hear You in the Scriptures, in my heart/head, and in others. Just because I cannot see you doesn’t mean that You’re not there. In fact, hearing You the way You speak to me gives me more faith than if You were here face-to-face. May I offer You authorized fire today, LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 28 8-28-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Proverbs 27 8-27-20

God desires a personal, ongoing relationship with us. Do we really think that He would let us go? He loves us too much!

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

This pleasantness is what Jesus brings to the relationship. His “heartfelt advice” is spot-on every time. He brings JOY to our hearts! We are His and He is ours. God gave us to Him. How can God give us to Jesus? As we come to God through Jesus, we place ourselves in His hands. We are, then, His to do with as He pleases. It just so happens that He pleases to give us to Jesus.

If anyone knew what Jesus meant by His words, “Those My Father has given me,” it was John. He walked with Jesus for 3 1/2 years and was part of Jesus’s inner circle. He met with Jesus after His resurrection and even got to see Jesus ascend into heaven! He was part of the birth of the Church when the Holy Spirit came and indwelt the disciples. He was friends with Steven, the first martyr, Barnabas, and Paul later on. He pastored the church at Ephesians up until he was banished to Patmos.

Let’s look at what John had to say about this phrase:

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30

Jesus was talking about those who believed in Him, which many Jews didn’t (see verses 23-25). If Jesus holds us and the Father holds us, then that’s a divine double-fisted grip! Ain’t nobody gonna break that grip! This is not the only place that Jesus refers to His disciples as the ones the Father gave Him,

“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. John 17:6

The idea of “once saved, always saved” didn’t originate with Baptists. The idea was stated by Jesus Himself. Once we belong to Jesus, there is no getting out of His grip. If a person were to want to, it really proves that he never really belonged to Jesus. Again, it is John who explains why:

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

Those who come to Jesus are GRATEFUL. They have passed from death to life (John 5:24). They have experienced the joy and peace and love of the Father. They are reborn and made new! There is NO WAY that a person would turn from all he receives from the Father UNLESS there is secret sin tucked away in his heart that he is unwilling to give up. Most likely, it’s the simple fact that he wants to be the ruler of his own life, the captain of his own ship, and the caller of his own shots. In other words, he never really repented.

As for God predetermining who gets saved, John says this:

11 He came to that which was his own [the Jews], but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:11-12

Did you catch the word, “all?” It’s kinda important. It refers to every person who believes and receives. The fact that the phrase, “Jesus died once for all,” is used 6 times in some form in Romans and Hebrews should be enough for us to believe that even though God foreknows everything, He does not choose for us. It is this ability to choose that He gave mankind when He created us (Genesis 1:27).

If we are not experiencing the love, joy, and peace of God, then something’s wrong. These fruit of the Spirit are given to us by God and we enjoy them regardless of our circumstances. How? By spending time with Him, by acknowledging His presence in our lives as well as His Lordship. By calling out to Him and seeking Him in His Word, we avail ourselves to Him for fellowship and we accept His leadership in our lives. Have we done this? Are we doing this?

Let’s carve out time in our schedules for God, to read His Word, and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him in prayer. Our spiritual lives depend on it!

Abba, You know I want more of You. I would love to spend more time with You in prayer and Bible study, but the cares and worries of this world–my job, my family, my house/yard, my cars/bikes, etc.–tend to take precedence. I hate the tyranny of the urgent! Help me to do “the balancing act” of keeping all the plates in my life spinning without neglecting You. Thank You for walking with me through the day. Our conversation as we go helps tremendously in how I respond to others, see needs, and do my job well. May I depend upon You more and more, Jesus. Amen.

 

 

Proverbs 26 8-26-20

Did you know that God likes to hear from us as much as He does Franklin Graham? He looks for a willingness of heart.

24 Enemies disguise themselves with their lips, but in their hearts they harbor deceit.

I’ve been reading a good book called, “Sons of Encouragement,” by F. Rivers about five supporting characters in the Bible: Aaron, Caleb, Jonathan, Amos, and Silas. The neat part of their stories was their willingness to be a supporting role in the lives of their leaders. While reading Jonathan’s story, I was following along in 1 Samuel 17 about Goliath. Here’s what I read:

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

As I was reading, I was remembering how in Sunday’s Cool (Sunday School) we discussed the fact that Goliath was changing the rules about warfare and steering them to his advantage. Armies go out and fight together, never one-on-one (unless you’re watching a Jackie Chan movie). We should never allow people to “change the rules” on us. We go by the Word of God and not man’s intellect or logic. People’s sense of loyalty and fairness can be manipulated by the enemy; we must know how God thinks in order to know what is right. How DOES God think? Let’s read it:

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9a
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. John 2:24
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16

As we can see, we are to think as God thinks, but be wary of mankind’s ways of thinking. The Israelites needed this advice! What they did was allow Goliath to define who they were–or, better, Whose they were. Read it again: Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul?” It is true that he was a Philistine, but it was NOT true that they were servants of Saul. Rather, they were servants of the Most High God! David recognized it right away,

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

Look at who David said they were: The armies of the living God. The Israelites had allowed Goliath to define who they were:. He successfully challenged them to fight on a plane that played to his advantage. Had they remembered Whose they were, they would have sought God’s plan for overcoming the Philistines as a whole rather than succumbing to their deceit and schemes.

We would do well to keep this story in mind when we are challenged concerning our sense of fairness, loyalty, manhood, pride, and even for the sake of others. We MUST remain true to our God and let Him sort out the fall-out. When it comes down to brass tacks, we must obey our LORD individually. Jesus was very clear:

21 When Peter saw him [John], he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”  John 21:21-22

Let’s have willing hearts before the LORD; let’s be wise as serpents and innocent as doves; let’s think about true, noble, right,  pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy things; let’s be fully committed to our LORD and follow Him. It’s the RIGHT thing to do.

Abba, may we always stop and pray so that we do not fall into temptation (Luke 22:46). It is important to ask You Your opinion and plan. What You say is not optional; it’s exactly what we need to do–exactly like You say to do it. Keep drumming this truth into my head! YOU define us, LORD: We are your people, and the sheep of Your pasture. Guide us, Good Shepherd. Amen.

 

Proverbs 25 8-25-20

As we read the NT, we come to a deeper understanding and ever clearer picture of sin and our role in it. We see why Christ died for us.

4 Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel; 5 remove wicked officials [or the wickedness from the officials] from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.

Even though we have been forgiven of all sin–past, present, and future–and have the Holy Spirit–Jesus Christ Himself–in residence in us, we still have a lot to learn about godliness–becoming like God. We need the wickedness removed from our hearts and from our flesh. Knowing that this process is a lifelong one and that it will not be fully completed this side of heaven, it is a daunting task. Aren’t we GLAD that it’s not about the process, but about our walking with Him through the process? We must constantly keep in mind that IT’S ALL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIP. This fact is why we can sin and not break our relationship with Him. It DOES interfere with our fellowship, but that is easily restored when we turn around (repent) and fix our eyes, focus, and will back on Jesus.

Let’s take a look at sin and its effects on the human soul.

The first thing we need to do is to define sin. It is rebellion- “resistance to or defiance of any authority, control, or tradition.” We all need the term, “rebellious,” added to the term, “sinner,” so that it reads “rebellious sinner” each time we refer to the human heart before coming to Christ. We are dead in our sins, which means that we have no spiritual life in us, we are in the enemy’s camp, and we follow OUR desires, which are manipulated by Satan (Ephesians 2:1-3).

As grand as our lives may be, there’s something wrong. Our connection to God has been lost and our souls know it. We have a God-sized hole in our hearts; we may try to fill it with pleasure, stuff, power, and self-fulfillment, but our hearts know what is needed. How do we get that connection back? Do we WANT it back? Some people are content to buy Satan’s line that we can do it our way and either there is nothing after death or that God will let us into heaven anyway. We might even believe that we come back to earth as something or someone else (reincarnation). According to God’s own testimony, THAT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN.

What are we willing to do and how far are we willing to go to be right with God? To answer this question, we look at Jesus Himself. He left heaven and all His glory to come to earth, live a humble life, be rejected by His own people, suffer, die on a cross, and be buried in a borrowed tomb. By the way, the reason it was borrowed is because He knew He wasn’t staying long. Kind of like an air BnB.

While we’re on the subject, what broke our relationship with God? SIN. Sin is our rebellion against God. We want our way instead of His way. We are rebellious sinners. The problem with sin is it destroys us, which is why God hates sin. Sin also separates us from God. We walk away from Him and straight into a tar pit, one that makes us filthy and sucks us down. We are stuck! We can’t clean ourselves off, nor can we clean others. No amount of good works or penance can do it. WE NEED JESUS. His blood is the ONLY thing that can cleanse us of our sin of rebellion. Once we are cleansed, then and only then can our relationship with God be restored. He even comes to live in our hearts and guides our lives! We have sweet fellowship with Him–just like it was always meant to be.

Knowing this “dirty little secret” about ourselves, we have a real appreciation and gratitude for all that Christ went through to get us back. The more we understand and comprehend our rebellious sinfulness and His great love and mercy, the more we want to put off our old nature and put on His new nature, the one that is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24.

A very good description of us is found in Titus 3:3-7,

Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

  1. We were slaves. It’s that simple. Satan ruled us. See John 8:42-44 for a further description.
  2. God saved us, washed away our sins, gave us new birth and new life through His Holy Spirit who now lives in us!
  3. We are right in His sight!!!
  4. We have confidence/faith that we will inherit eternal life.

Knowing these things makes us want to break out in praise like Paul in Romans 11:33-36,

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Abba, I join Paul in Your praise. You alone are worthy. May You become greater in my life as I become less. John the Baptist, indeed, had it right (John 3:30). Amen.

Proverbs 24 8-24-20

Why would God save us and make us His, but not remove our sin nature? Why make us work for godliness?

1 Don’t envy evil people or desire their company. 2 For their hearts plot violence, and their words always stir up trouble.
19 Don’t fret because of evildoers; don’t envy the wicked. 20 For evil people have no future; the light of the wicked will be snuffed out.

God wants people who want Him. Jesus “gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:14. In order for us to have free will to choose Him when He came to us extending salvation to us, He had to allow us to continue to choose Him as long as we are on this earth. Our saving grace is the Holy Spirit who lives in us giving us both the desire and the power to do His will (Philippians 2:13). Robin calls it the “want-to to want to.” I call it “our higher desire.”

Today, we will put off the low desires of our sinful nature and put on the higher desires of our spiritual nature:

  1. Entitlement –> Selflessness
  2. Pride –> Abandonment
  3. Pride –> Humility
  4. Impatience –> Kindness
  5. Selfishness –> Self-denial
  6. Sloth (laziness) –> Diligence
  7. Anger –> Compassion
  8. Lust –> Pure thoughts
  9. Spite –> Forgiveness
  10. Rage –> Gentleness
  11. Hate –> Love
  12. Gluttony –> Temperance (moderation)

Daunting, isn’t it? Only the Spirit can give us what we need to accomplish this task. His grace is available for the asking! The benefits of working with Jesus on these areas of our lives are:

  1. A certain satisfaction; it’s the right kind of gratification. We can “hear” the Spirit say, “Well done!”
  2. Fellowship with God–it’s the very reason for our salvation! In His presence we receive His love, His joy, His peace, and His hope for what is to come.
  3. Fellowship with others enhanced
  4. Influence increased –> Aroma (people can smell Christ on us–interesting concept, right?)
  5. Ability to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly
  6. Knowledge and experience (experiential knowledge) increased
  7. Moral authority: Believability; our stance brings conviction to wrong-doers
  8. More opportunities to be witnesses for Him

It doesn’t matter to us anymore that people think we are “Jesus Freaks” (to use a phrase from the Jesus movement in the 70’s). We hope to change their minds as Jesus changes their hearts!

Let’s be about the Father’s business today, which is aligning ourselves with Him and His Plan, making ourselves available for His use. WOW! What a calling!

Abba, You are the BEST BOSS! I love working for You. Your benefit plan is out of this world! Not only that, I get to experience You here on this earth, too. May I allow Your Spirit to have His way in my life. May I heed the direction of Jesus as He leads me along the straight and narrow path. May I allow Your Spirit to empower me to be righteous, holy, blameless, and zealous for You. Lead on, my King! Amen.

Proverbs 23 8-23-20

Can we succinctly state what we believe? If someone asked you, could you tell him why you are a Christian?

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.

A few weeks ago, I wrote in my post what I believed concerning my faith in Jesus Christ and what it means to me to be a Christian (Proverbs 7-29-20). I would like for each of us to do the same so that when the time comes that someone asks us, we will be able to state our beliefs succinctly and plainly without any “churchy terminology.” Here is the outline of what I did:

  1. Begin with “I Am a Christian.”
    1. A categoric phrase about who you are in Christ
    2. What you believe about Jesus Christ and His mission
    3. Restate “I Am a Christian.”
  2. The Holy Spirit
    1. A statement about the Holy Spirit’s role in your life
    2. Something you believe that the Holy Spirit does/is doing in you
    3. Restate “I Am a Christian.”
  3. The Transformation
    1. A statement that God is making you to be like Him
    2. Something you believe about God and His goodness and/or being like God or Jesus
    3. Restate “I Am a Christian.”
  4. Daily Living
    1. A statement about what and who guides your life
    2. Something you believe about His divine power in us
    3. Restate “I Am a Christian.”
  5. The Importance of the Gospel
    1. A statement that sums up what you are willing to do or give up for God, Jesus, and/or the Gospel
    2. Something you believe about living and dying for Jesus
    3. End with “I Am a Christian.”

As I worked on the memorization of my personal manifesto, I found out that because it was in my own words, it was much easier to recall. Also, I have found myself “fleshing them out” a bit each time I go over them. In your written copy, include as many verses as you can to support your statements, but don’t try to memorize those with your manifesto–that’s not the point. Whoever you are telling will probably not care what the verses are, and if they do, then you can call up your original (take a picture of it so you will have it on your phone) and show him.

How important is this project? That depends upon what you think the future holds. Do you think that you will ever be asked what you believe? Or be offered something that is immoral or unethical and you are asked to explain why you refuse it? Do you ever need reminding of what you believe? It sure helps me to restate it out loud or in my mind!

All I ask is that you start. Open the NOTE feature on your phone and start jotting down ideas. Once you have several, then you can start grouping them and rephrasing them to fit the outline. Your personal manifesto is yours, but you might have someone check it for biblical accuracy. It’s important to get it right if we are going to share it with others. Another thing that might help is to copy the outline and create another “note” for easier reference.

May God’s grace be upon you as you undertake this endeavor.

Abba, I pray for all who accept this challenge. May You give them clarity of mind, plenty of information, and a desire to let You lead them in this endeavor. I also ask that You give them plenty of opportunities to share it. May it become part of us, LORD, and how we share our faith.

Looking forward to worshiping You with my brothers and sisters. May You inhabit the praises of Your people today. Amen.

P.S. I sure would like a copy of your manifesto…
P.P.S. Don’t be shy. It’s not bragging.
P.P.P.S. I would love to help you with the project if you so desire. You may even use mine as a pattern. Go to Proverbs 7-29-20. It’s in the middle of the post.

SS 8-23-20 Submitting to the Sovereignty of God part 1

SS 8-23-20 Submitting to the Sovereignty of God

Our expectations of what should happen in any given circumstance depends upon what we have been brought up to believe. Most Baptists believe that God answers His children when they pray. There are several ways God answers our prayers depending upon what He is wanting to accomplish–which is usually more than just one thing. It is His very sovereignty of which we will speak today.

We begin with 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Let’s read it:

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

In order to wage war, we must know how to use the weapons God has given us. Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, we are in a world that is hostile to Your children. We do not think like they do nor do we fight like they do. The weapons You have given us are designed to break down the barriers that keep a person from recognizing their need for Christ. We take every thought captive so that we can focus on You and what You have in store for us today. Teach us to pray for others that their thoughts would be taken captive by Your Spirit so that all people would become obedient to Christ. Amen.

We need a biblical example of someone submitting to the sovereignty of God–His Father. Whom might that be? Jesus Christ! We begin by reading Philippians 2:5-11.

One of my favorite verses is John 17:24 because it reveals several things. Someone read it for us.

  1. God is His Father.
  2. God has given us to the Son (see verse 20).
  3. We will be where Jesus is, which is seated at the right hand of the Father (see Eph. 1:20).
  4. We get to see His glory, which was His before the creation of the world!

Let’s look at some of Jesus’ teachings and see if we can spot God’s sovereignty in them. For this exercise, we will go to the Sermon on the Mount. This mount is somewhere in Galilee, maybe even on the hillside outside Capernaum that goes down to the Sea of Galilee. We will take the Beatitudes one at a time:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In each of these, God is assumed as the Initiator, Sustainer and Rewarder. Let’s look at the next two examples. Read Matthew 5:13-16.

The first example tells us that we are to keep pure from foreign (worldly) ingredients, meaning…?

The second example tells us that we are to live our lives so that they point to Jesus–by doing the first example. Is this example our goal in life? Are we walking with Jesus and living obedient lives to His Spirit so that we remain pure from the world and thus let our lights shine for Him? Are we attractive to people who are looking for God? Or, even something different than the world?

The biggest example of Christ’s submission to the sovereignty of God is found in Matthew 26:42, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your will be done.” We know that God’s sovereign plan was for Christ to die for us and be resurrected so that we, too, can be resurrected! Read the rest of the Plan in Ephesians 1:9-10.

Now, that’s worth the wait and the work!

There was a picture at Mardel with the Scripture passage 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says,

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Robin and I discussed it and this is what we came up with: 

Giving thanks in all circumstances will result in rejoicing always as we pray continually. 

This is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.

God’s plan for us is to be with Him–or, Him in us for now. Our obedience is us going in His direction! Submitting to the sovereignty of God is not a hardship at all. Rather, it is agreeing with God that what He says is best for us is, indeed, best for us; it is spending time in His presence and becoming like Him without ever realizing it; it is believing what He said/says and enjoying the pleasure of His company, finding all along that He is trustworthy. 

Next week, we will look at Paul, what he taught about the sovereignty of God and how he lived according to the sovereignty of God.

Questions:

  1. Do you enjoy talking to God or would you rather do something for Him? 
  2. How do we relate to God in regard to the five Love Languages, i.e. Time, Words of Affirmation, Touch, Acts of Service, and gifts?
  3. In light of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, do you believe that God has us going through our circumstances for our good? 
    1. Do we sometimes cause our circumstances?
    2. Does God ever let us simmer in our circumstances?
    3. Does it ever take much longer for God to get us out than we expect?
    4. Does unexpected good ever come from bad circumstances?
    5. How easy is it for God to move us from our present circumstances to where He wants us to be? For instance, the Israelites on the shore with the Red Sea in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them: The waters part, and the Israelites move through. It seems that God had to let the circumstances get pretty grim before the Israelites were willing to trust Him in the matter. How about you? Have there been any grim circumstances in which trusting God was your only real option?

Proverbs 22 8-22-20

As children of the LORD, we must be taught what is good and what is evil. We need the Spirit to teach us.

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

The key to longevity in the Christian life is not just “being a good Christian,” but by deepening our relationship with the LORD. HE is our priority. The more we get to know Him, the more we figure out that we need Him daily–continuously. The fact that we receive His love, His joy, His peace, His direction, His insight and His strength as we walk with Him is what makes believers out of us!

Each Saturday, I pray for every member of my Proverbs Club, whether by text who’s name I know and pray for individually, by following on my website, or by Facebook.

NOTE: If you follow on my website or by Facebook
and would like for me to pray for you by name each Saturday, contact me and I will put your name on my list!

Here is what I pray:

“LORD, I pray for my brothers and sisters in You that they would be categorically committed to You, devoted to Your Way, and convinced (fully persuaded) that You are worth following. May their lives now be simply a shifting and sorting of priorities, a trading of theirs for Yours.”

It’s the “theirs” upon which I want to expound. What do I mean by “theirs”?

  • Life, will, agenda, schedule
  • Desires, goals, pleasures, knowledge
  • Mind, attitude, hopes, dreams, wishes and aspirations
  • Thoughts, truth, reality, worldview
  • Heart, passion, heroes, personality

Has it ever occurred to you that Jesus wants ALL of you? He wants you to turn over each of these and allow Him to recreate His temperament in you. EVERYTHING is based upon Scripture, which is why it is so important for us to read it everyday, study it, talk about it, and apply it to our lives as often as we think about it. He will remind us of what we have read, studied, pondered, and applied as the need arises. The prayer is based upon these verses:

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. Romans 8:14

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. Romans 4:20-21

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. Romans 8:18

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies goldthough your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7

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.” –Paul in Acts 20:24

Let’s see…we touched on being led by the Spirit, being fully convinced that Jesus is worth following, that He has amazing things awaiting us, that our faith, while tested, brings much praise and glory and honor to Him, and that our lives here on this earth are worth nothing in light of eternity unless we finish the work assigned to us: Being salt and light to those around us (see Matthew 5:13-16).

May you be encouraged to know that someone is praying for you. Paul urges us to pray for each other as well as “for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would take to heart today’s post. May they take seriously their commitment to You through Christ as He walks with us daily via His Spirit. May they pick up Your Word often and listen to Your voice as they read and as You apply Your message to their lives. Convict us, LORD; may we suffer for Your sake, because we know that “he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.” 1 Peter 4:1. I want to be done with sin; may my readers adopt this same attitude. Make it so, LORD Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 21 8-21-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

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

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

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

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

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

Proverbs 20 8-20-20

Why do we do the things we do? We need to look inside ourselves using the lens of Scripture and the Spirit.

5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.

A few days ago, I wrote out what I call a Rite of Passage for myself. Because of my role as husband, father, and minister, I tailored it for leadership, but it can easily be tweaked for whatever role in which a person finds himself/herself. Alright, guys, here goes:

Rite of Passage For All Men
Who Follow Jesus

  1. I must recognize and acknowledge that I am not the center of the universe. God is. In fact, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
  2. I have responsibilities beyond myself. Everything I do affects someone, therefore I have a responsibility to lead. “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” Proverbs 10:17
  3. Putting my faith in Jesus Christ and walking with Him daily enhances my ability to lead in the best way. In walking with Christ I become more like Him, which makes me godly, which in turn makes me a better leader. “Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for [leading and] doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
  4. In order to follow Christ, I must always be in control of my mind and body. I must always have my mind sharp and my body conditioned so that I am ready and able to serve in any capacity I am asked. “Don’t be drunk with wine, which leads to [an ungodly life and destruction]. Instead, be [continuously] filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
  5. Building others up in love is essential, so I will choose only kind words and phrases that build security and confidence in them. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29, 32
  6. I choose to see even my adversaries as potential brothers and sisters in Christ and will do whatever it takes (as led by the Spirit) to win them to Christ. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45a
  7. I take my relationship with Jesus as seriously as He does with me. I will do whatever it takes to have a personal time with the LORD everyday. I will read His Word, Talk to Him, listen to Him, and then obey Him. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”Mark 1:35              Jesus’ Prayer Life
  8. I will treat every woman as I would my sister in Christ with respect for her body, her mind, and her soul. “Likewise, husbands [men], live with your wives [all women] in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel [like fine china or a delicate instrument that is finely tuned], since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7
  9. I will treat older men (10+ years) with respect and deferment, younger men (10+ years) as sons in Christ, and my friends as those for which I would die. “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.” “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.” “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned,” Titus 2:2, 6-8
  10. I must forgive even as Christ has forgiven me: My father or mother, my sister or brother, a relative, a former boss or partner, classmate, teammate, anyone who has hurt me or betrayed me, I will forgive and bless—daily, if need be—until I mean it! Then, and only then, will I have victory over the hurt, and I will experience God’s love and peace and favor. I will also be a lot like Jesus! Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

This covenant I have made for myself is one that I intend to live out everyday. I pray that you will adopt it (or one like it) and strive to live it out everyday in your life.

Abba, I pray for my readers that You will instill in them the desire and determination to live righteously according to Your Spirit within them. May they prosper even as their souls prosper; may their health be according to Your will for their lives–use even bad health to place them in situations to further the Gospel! LORD, we place ourselves in Your capable hands. Use us as You will. Amen.

Proverbs 19 8-19-20

So, you’ve decided to follow Christ. Now what? The first step is taken; what’s the next step? and the next?

2 Desire without knowledge is not good–how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

NOTE: Scriptures in red have links.

We have been forgiven much, so much that we simply cannot fathom His grace. We will spend the rest of our lives–both here on earth and in eternity–delving the depths of His love for us. The best news is that He now lives in You. You are partners with Him from now on. Every thought you have is fused with His thoughts; every motivation you have is fused with His will; the voice you hear is fused with your voice. But, how do we distinguish His voice from our voice? His will from our will? His thought from our thoughts?

The best place to start is understanding where we were before coming to meet Christ.

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. Ephesians 2:1-3 NLV

  1. We were dead spiritually. Jesus told us that we needed to be born again (John 3:3).
  2. We were children of the devil, obeying him. Jesus told the Pharisees (the most religious people in Israel) that their father was the devil (John 8:44).
  3. We followed the passions of our hearts, which were amplified desires (Romans 1:24).
  4. We were children of God’s wrath and anger. God has revealed ours to us (Romans 1:18)  and we, therefore, turned from our sin and sought forgiveness!
  5. THEREFORE, any thought, motivation, or voice that runs along the vein of the old self is us and can be influenced by the Enemy.

The best place to go after such a pitiable start is:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7 NLV

  1. God is rich in mercy, and He loves us so much! Here’s a quote I learned in high school, “I asked Jesus how much He loved me. He said, ‘This much,’ and He stretched out His arms and died.”
  2. He rose from the dead so that we could rise from the dead! He holds the keys to death and hell (Revelation 1:18) and He says that we need not fear death again (John 11:25-26).
  3. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places (don’t ask me to explain this one).
  4. We are examples of His grace and kindness that He shows the world. We attract people to Jesus (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
  5. THEREFORE, we can count on Him reminding us who we are and what we are about. We are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), and righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

May we never forget these words, And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. 1 john 5:11-12 NLV

It’s always good to remember that we have been saved from sin, forgiven and adopted into God’s family; we are being conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29 NIV); one day, He will take us to be with Him (John 14:1-3, John 17:24). Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

Abba (Daddy), You are wonderful! You are amazing! You are inspiring! May I follow closely on the heels of Jesus today. Jesus, guide me with Your counsel (Psalm 73:23-24). Holy Spirit, teach me, rebuke me–it is a kindness! (Psalm 141:5)–correct me and train me in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). My worst day in the woodshed with You, O LORD, is better by far than the best day here on earth with the rich and famous (it’s a lot like fishing and work, i.e. The worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work). Lead on; I will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 18 8-18-20

Our faith is based upon what God said about Jesus, and what Jesus proved Himself to be: The Son of God.

10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

While Jesus walked this earth, He claimed to be many things: God’s son, the Light of the world, Living Water, Bread from heaven, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We take Him at His word that He is all of these. Why? Because of this statement He made to the Pharisees:

28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:28-29

Luke was a little more specific:

10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 12:10

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ. When the Spirit comes to live in our hearts, it’s actually Jesus Christ who is coming to take up residence. What Jesus is saying is that if a person rejects the Holy Spirit, then He cannot come in and save him. THERE IS NO SALVATION OUTSIDE OF CHRIST. Jesus wasn’t kidding when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 If we believe what Jesus said, then it follows that a person who rejects the Holy Spirit rejects Christ and therefore cannot be saved until he repents and believes what Jesus said about Himself:

  1. He came from God because He IS God. John 8:12, 14, 16, 23, 38, 40, 42, 49, 54, 58
  2. He came to lay down His life–to take it up again. John 10:17-18

He must also believe what Jesus did for him:

  1. Died in his place on the cross for the payment of his sin against God;
  2. Was buried for three days (the legal time to be declared dead);
  3. Rose again three days later to prove that He is God!
  4. Upon believing, he must confess with his mouth Jesus as his LORD, his King, his Boss.

According to Romans 10:9-10, these are the requirements for salvation. When we believe these truths, then we open our hearts to Him and He becomes our LORD and Savior. Thus begins a wonderful and beautiful relationship that will continue into eternity!

There’s more to the story. Jesus made a declaration from heaven to John in Revelation 22:16-17,

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

  1. Jesus declares Himself to be the Messiah, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, when He says He is the Root and the Offspring of David. Isaiah 9:6-7
  2. The Spirit is the One who convicts of sin. John 16:8-11
  3. The Bride is the Church Ephesians 5:25-33; we are the ones who share the Good News with those who don’t know Jesus.
  4. The invitation is for anyone who hears the message and believes the claims of Jesus. The Spirit makes him thirsty for the Living Water (Jesus). John 7:38-39
  5. The Water of Life is free in because the price has already been paid.

Lest we get the wrong idea about salvation, the payment for our sin has been made, but the goal is godliness, the kind that only comes by dying to ourselves and allowing Jesus to live through us. We were created for a partnership with God! We were NEVER meant to live life alone.

The Old Testament was written to tell us the story of mankind, what happened, and to show us what we need. The New Testament is written to show us the Remedy to sin, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who comes through Jesus Christ. Much of the NT is explanation of what happened to us upon salvation. Let’s study it, learn it, and share it!

Abba, the word that comes to mind as I study Your salvation is “Grateful.” That’s what I am because of what You have done for me. An old song describes how I feel:

Lord, I lift Your name on high,
Lord, I love to sing Your praises;
I’m so glad You’re in my life,
I’m so glad You came to save us.

You came from heaven to earth to show the way,
From the earth to the cross my debt to pay,
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord, I lift Your name on high!
Rick Founds, 1989

Amen.

Proverbs 17 8-17-20

Being all-knowing means that when God tests us, it’s not so that He knows what’s inside, but so that we know. It’s the same as in school. The material has been covered in class; the test is to show that the students have learned the material. The same goes with Karate testing. The students test to show what they have learned.

3 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

By the way, anytime we read the word LORD in all caps it stands for Adonai, the Lord our God. “Adonai ( אֲדֹנָי‎, lit. “My Lords”) is the plural form of adon (“Lord”) along with the first-person singular pronoun enclitic. As with Elohim, Adonai’s grammatical form is usually explained as a plural of majesty [Genesis 1:26]. In the Hebrew Bible, it is nearly always used to refer to God (approximately 450 occurrences).” -Wikipedia

In Sunday’s sermon, my pastor made a statement worth writing down (he said it wasn’t original). It is about 2 Timothy 3:16-17,

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

Other versions use the word “reproof” instead of “rebuking,” but the meaning is the same. This version is the NIV and is the one I memorized. Here is what Bryan said,

“God’s Word teaches us what is right,
rebukes us when we are wrong,
corrects us in how to get right,
and trains us in how to stay right.”

Look at the rest of the verse:

  1. the servant of God- that’s all His dear children!
  2. may be thoroughly equipped- that includes knowledge, training, experience, and His Presence.
  3. for every good work- our work is to be obedient. In our obedience, we get to do a lot of things. But, it still all boils down to obedience.

This passage is one of those that we would do well to memorize and quote to ourselves each morning. It’s a mindset-setter. Yesterday morning in Sunday’s Cool, we looked at another mindset-setter, Psalm 73. The key verses are:

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

2 Timothy 3:16-17 fits nicely into the first part of verse 24, “You guide me with the counsel of Your Word as you teach me, rebuke me, correct me and train me in righteousness so that I am thoroughly equipped for every good work of obedience.” Like I said, it’s a mindset-setter.

Let’s learn to put His Word into action in our lives. In doing so, we give the Holy Spirit handles by which to speak to us and to direct us along the straight and narrow path.

LORD, I acknowledge that You are plural, yet one God, that when I pray, I am praying to You the Father, through Jesus the Son, in the Holy Spirit–who prays with me and for me (Romans 8:26). May I put Your Word to the test in my life so that You can make me pure and holy. YOU know what’s inside me; You want me to know what’s there, too, so that I can become righteous like You. Have Your will and way in my life today, O LORD. Amen.

Proverbs 16 8-16-20

Much thought has been given concerning Christ’s Return. We know this: HE WILL RETURN SOON! He said so.

1 To mankind belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

We must be careful to state ONLY what Scripture shows. Jesus told us in Revelation 22:7, “Look, I am coming soon!” and again in verse 12, “Look, I am coming soon!” This promise we can count on. WHEN He is returning is entirely up to Him. We have hints and some vague signs, but nothing that we can nail down as definitive. Because of the mystery behind His coming, we must make sure that our motives are correct when discussing this topic.

2 All a person’s way seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD. 

We can get in the flesh really quick when someone disagrees with us, especially if he does it in a disrespectful or aggressive manner. We must guard against rash actions that might pop into our heads. Usually, it’s not a physical fight we desire, but one of words. Verbal sparring can be fun, but can easily slide into warring words. Ephesians 4 tells us to guard against such behavior:

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another,forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.

When discussing end times, let’s make sure that our goal is to broaden people’s perspective and to help them grow their faith by believing in Christ’s imminent return. Assurance in salvation is one of the first orders of business. Staying connected daily and continuously to the Spirit is next. Being open with our faith follows after that. We plant, water and weed, and trust in God to give the harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6-8).

4 The LORD works out everything to its proper end–even the wicked for a day of disaster.

God has a plan and He is working that plan. How much choice we have in it depends upon our view of Scripture. I happen to think that because I have choice at all means that there is maneuverability within His plan. Knowing that He is omni-present (everywhere at once), I believe that God is everywhere in TIME, also, which means that all of our decision are dynamic to Him: It is always NOW to God. He can know the beginning and the end at the same “time” because it’s all the same “time” to Him. I believe that we have limited choice for all decisions, which is limited to obedience and disobedience according to His Spirit. Believing the way I do is why I teach total dependence and complete trust in the Holy Spirit for EVERY decision.

There is one more verse from today’s chapter that I would like to discuss:

5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

Our attitude toward others, especially concerning discussions about end times, must be done in love and in humility. We DO NOT want to be disciplined by the LORD. Instead, let us see each other as puzzle pieces: each of us has partial knowledge; it’s only when we get together in love and harmony that we begin to see the bigger picture. That picture grows as more and more of His children get together. One day, we will ALL get together and we will have the whole picture–in His Presence! Of that day we are assured. Jesus is, indeed, coming soon!

Today, let us draw close to Jesus in worship and fellowship, in Bible study and prayer. It’s important to Him and it’s important for us.

Abba, You keep showing me pieces of the puzzle of what is to come. I know that I will not fully understand until I see You face to face. I’m okay with that. I trust Your judgement and Your timing. Today, may I worship You in spirit and in truth; may I sing Your praises and lift Your name high both in song and in my daily life. Blessed be Your name, LORD Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 15 8-15-20

Of all the things we do today, getting in touch with the LORD is paramount. It may–and should–set the tone for our entire day!

The LORD is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

Calling on God should become second nature to His children. We pray to God in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. Not only does He hear us, we have the Holy Spirit praying for us, as well (Romans 8:26)! Let’s look at some verses that help us understand the process:

Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

This verse is known as “God’s Telephone Number.” The triple 3’s can be associated to the Trinity. It’s God’s invitation for any and all of us to join Him in a conversation. This conversation doesn’t need to end, either. It’s an open line to Him. All we have to do is access it.

John 16:23 “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

Jesus was directing their attention to the Father. Why would He do that?

John 16:26-27 “In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” 

The Father loves them because they believe in His Son. But, wait, there’s more:

John 16:25 “Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father.”

How does Jesus tell us plainly about the Father? THROUGH HIS SPIRIT!

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

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” John 15:26

13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the 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. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:13, 15

How is it that the Spirit knows so much about God?

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. 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.  1 Corinthians 2:10:11

It gets better:

16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

I am not saying that there is a formula for how to pray, or a hierarchy to Whom we pray. In fact, the Trinity is so completely unified that we can pray to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit with equal confidence that our prayer will be heard and answered! His answer may be just His presence and participation in our lives, or it may include a miraculous answer. We don’t know and it’s “above our paygrade,” so we simply trust Him.

Our assignment is to link up with Jesus and spend the day with Him. You will notice that much of this post is Scripture. There’s a reason for that: IT’S HOW WE COMMUNICATE WITH HIM AND HE WITH US. Informed prayers come from informed Christians. READ HIS WORD!

Abba Father, I pray for my readers that they would make time for You today reading Your Word and addressing You with their adoration, their needs, their concerns about lost people in their lives, and enjoying Your love, joy, and peace that You are waiting to give us–in fact, they emanate from Your sheer presence! I know that when I sense Your love, feel Your joy, and rest in Your peace that I have a sense of calm and direction, and Holy Spirit, I sense Your presence; I KNOW that You are with me! There is no safer place to be nor a more substantial feeling. I look forward to it all day and again tomorrow, LORD Jesus. Thank You for living in my heart. Amen.

Proverbs 14 8-14-20

“Every trial that comes will strengthen or weaken our faith. It reveals the source of our faith [it’s foundation].” -Francine Rivers

8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways [in light of their circumstances], but the folly of fools is [their self-] deception [unwillingness to bend in it].

Whether God caused our circumstances or not doesn’t matter. Instead of asking, “Why?” we should be asking, “What now, LORD?” To assume that God owes us an explanation or that He is “punishing us” is a sure sign of EGO. Our ego is at the heart of our sin nature. It’s the very thing that needs to be uncovered and laid bare so that we can give it to Jesus and be rid of it!

Here’s another reason that God doesn’t owe us an explanation: His thoughts and ways are beyond our understanding because they take into consideration EVERY person’s life, death, and interaction with family members, friends, and even enemies (Isaiah 55:8-9). Just because WE can’t see it [the reason things happen the way they do] doesn’t mean that He’s making it up. Neither is God capricious (given to sudden and unaccountable changes of mood or behavior); it goes against His goodness, which is the very fibre of God’s character.

When my grandfather passed away, Robin and I went back to Shawnee to our apartment (we were at OBU). I cried out to God, “Why?!” He didn’t speak audibly to me–it was much louder than that (thanks, Jimmy Cox, for that description). He said, “It’s okay for you to ask, “why?” Just don’t expect an answer.” I replied, “Yes, sir.”

We must remember that it’s not about us, but about Him: “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6. With this in mind, let’s draw as close to Him as we can during our times of inconvenience, frustration, discomfort, distress, and especially during our grief. For, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. In fact, the next verse tells us that everything that happens to us He uses to make us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Let’s not waste another trial!!!

Abba, I tend to learn the most during a crisis, so, if that’s what it takes for me to become the most like Jesus, then I am willing! Learning to depend on You in ALL circumstances is my highest priority. I have head-knowledge, LORD, but I need experience in order to drive what I know into my heart. May I be a quick learner! Amen.

Proverbs 13 8-13-20

There’s a reason we meet to hear God’s Word read and expounded upon. There is POWER in the spoken Word of God. Our speech is the same way in that when we speak, meanings become more clear and our convictions become more solidified.

2 From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things [when they speak uprightly], but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence [both vocally and physically; in other words, they like to fight].

To emphasize the importance of speaking our faith, consider how we got saved. Let’s read it in Romans 10:8-10,

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. NIV

In the spoken word:

There is power-God created the heavens and the earth with His spoken word.

There is concrete– Speaking something out loud solidifies it in our minds. Many people process out loud because it helps them get it out where they can “see” it.

There is connection– speaking how we feel is like pressing the “enable” button; we say, “I love you,” and–POW! We feel love for that person. Compassion works the same way.

The spoken word enables us to believe in our hearts. When we say, “I trust You, LORD,” we click the enable button in our hearts.

Jesus said, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:37. Yes, God looks at our hearts, but our mouths reveal what is in our hearts, so be careful! The next verse in today’s chapter says, 3 “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”

Sometimes it helps us to read passages in other translations. Here is Romans 10:8-10 in the Nee Living Translation and the New Life Version:

In fact, it says,

“The message is very close at hand;
    it is on your lips and in your heart.”

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. NLT

This is what it says, “The Good News is near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart.” This Good News tells about putting your trust in Christ. This is what we preach to you. If you say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved from the punishment of sin. 10 When we believe in our hearts, we are made right with God. We tell with our mouth how we were saved from the punishment of sin. NLV

Let’s practice speaking God’s Word today along with professing our love for each other, having compassion on those who are our potential brothers and sisters in Christ by praying out loud for them. In doing so, we will experience God in a whole new and powerful way!

Abba, You speak to is in our spirits; it’s how we know You are real in our lives. May we pay close attention to You and what the Spirit is saying so that we can be obedient children and followers of the Way. “Speak to our hearts, LORD Jesus, speak that our souls may hear.” Amen.

Proverbs 12 8-12-20

Yesterday, I called us to get serious about our relationship with Jesus. Today, we look at HOW to do it.

11 Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies [mirages, smoke and mirrors] have no sense.

The blessings of Christ may be different than you were led to believe. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John 18:36), and neither are most of His blessings. He DOES take care of our earthly needs, such as food, drink, and clothing (Matthew 6:25-32). What He asks of us is to seek His spiritual kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Chasing after the things of this world only leads to slavery of the soul (John 8:34).

12 The wicked desire the plunder of evildoers, but the root of the righteous endures.
23:17-18 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

I’m going to go a step further. Anything we think, say, or do that is NOT HOLY SPIRIT-GUIDED leads to sin–in fact, it is sin already because it is done in OUR power and by OUR will, not His. If we understand this statement, then we are ready for the HARD passage:

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. Matthew 18:8-9

A rather gruesome illustration, isn’t it? Jesus got graphic because the topic is REALLY IMPORTANT. Things in our lives that cause us to look away from Him lead us back into sin and slavery. SIN DESTROYS US. Salvation is NOT just a one-time event, but rather the beginning of our relationship with Christ that leads us out of a life of sin and into His glorious light. Jesus gives three examples:

  1. Our hand- It is representative of what we do. All we do must be Spirit-led or it is of the flesh (our sinful nature). We are either gathering with Jesus or scattering against Him (Matthew 12:30).
  2. Our foot- It is representative of where we go. Jesus said, “Follow Me.”  It wasn’t a suggestion; it’s a way of life, THE WAY of life. Jesus is the Way, He is our Truth, and He is our life. HE is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). When we seek the Father daily, we seek Him THROUGH Jesus.
  3. Our eye- It is representative of what we see. Peter had his eyes on Jesus and he was walking on water! (See Matthew 14:22-33). But then, he looked at the wind and waves and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus, who reached out and lifted him up. They walked on water together back to the boat. The writer of Hebrews tells us that when we fix our eyes on Jesus, we can endure anything (Hebrews 12:1-3).

We must be willing to give up anything and everything that hinders us from setting our eyes on Jesus and keeping them there. The ONE thing that I don’t want to happen is for Mark 4:19 to come true in my life: “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word [the things Jesus told me], making it [me] unfruitful.”

How about you? Are your ready and willing to lay everything on the altar–even yourself? It’s what it takes to follow Christ. “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies [lives] to God because of all he has done for you. Let them [our lives] be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” Romans 12:1.

Abba, I am willing. I’ve been willing through the years, but I must keep on being willing. I want to finish well. My goal is to hear You say to me, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master’s happiness (Matthew 25:21).” May I die to myself daily, take up my cross and follow You wherever You lead (Luke 9:23). I know You’ll equip me, energize me, uphold me, and eventually deliver me right into my Father’s arms! I can hardly wait, LORD. Until then, I remain Your humble servant.

Proverbs 11 8-11-20

The trouble with American life is that there are few apparent consequences–in fact, there are just the opposite!

4 Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from [the second] death.
“The one who is victorious [over the cares of this world] will not be hurt at all by the second death.” Revelation 2:11b
7 When a wicked man perishes, his hopes die with him; all the promise of his power [by the devil] comes to nothing.

We are an “instant gratification” society. We want what we want–NOW! Tim Hawkins makes fun of “Taco Express” (approximation): “Like, it’s not fast-enough food? What are they going to do? Shoot it out of a cannon as you drive by?” Many times we don’t see what our choices are doing to us on a comprehensive basis. Each bad decision adds to other bad decisions and will cause us to drift off-course. Here are a few that we don’t see coming:

  • If we don’t tithe, we get to use the extra money to buy something we want. What we don’t see is the gradual inward-turning that our souls do to the point where we become very self-centered. We may even “forget” God (see Proverbs 30:7-9 for a great prayer to pray).
  • If we refuse to say anything about our values, we get to be a part of whatever group interests us. What we don’t see is that we become the company we keep. “Don’t be misled: Bad company corrupts good moral character” 1 Corinthians 15:33. Proverbs 13:20 tells us, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” 
  • If we don’t share our faith, then we are not criticized, ostracized, or persecuted. What we don’t see is that if we don’t acknowledge Jesus to others, then He will not acknowledge us before the Father. IT’S A BIG DEAL! “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns [does not acknowledge] me before others, I will disown [acknowledge] before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 Also, we miss the blessing of being useful to Jesus in reaching others for Him. Each grain of salt (a comment, an explanation, even a stance) makes a difference when the Holy Spirit uses it to bring conviction in someone’s life.
  • If we don’t go to church, we can claim any excuse we like and no one can disprove it–especially with online services! What we don’t see is that it’s not about pleasing others or even looking good in their eyes. It’s about pleasing the Father, and He sees the heart!

The real issue is with our relationship with Jesus. He went through so much so that He could be with us and in us. Yet, we treat this miracle, this mighty act of salvation, with disdain and contempt. Do we forget how much it cost Him?!

Let’s not worry about what it will cost us. Even though we may not see the results–and even blessings–of our faith in this life, we trust Christ’s promise that we will receive:

  1. A crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8)
  2. A hundred times as much of whatever we lost (Matthew 19:29)
  3. Eternal life! (Matthew 19:29 again)

Do you believe what He said? Then act on it!

Abba, I call all readers today to take You seriously. You paid a heavy price for our freedom and I KNOW You don’t want us walking back into the very “tar pits of sin” from which You saved us. May we take seriously our commitment that we made when we trusted You for salvation and the calling You now have on our lives. We are Your humble servants. May we start acting like we are Yours. (dare I say amen?)

Proverbs 10 8-10-20

What are you eager to do? What floats your boat? What gets you up in the morning? Is it pleasing Jesus? It is the key unifying factor of ALL Christians. Our desire to do good is the key to today’s entire chapter.

3 The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but He thwarts the craving of the wicked.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6. Is righteousness our goal? If not, then we need to check with the LORD and make sure that we are truly His. “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5. 

We all slip back into old habits and routines, so let’s add a couple of words to this verse: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are [walking] in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is [president] in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” Once Christ saves us, we are positionally seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is our relationship, our fellowship, with Him that is contingent upon our willingness to die to ourselves everyday and live for Him.

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

If you’re like me, part of me WANTS to live for Him while another part of me balks at the labor involved. It’s HARD WORK serving Christ! The good thing is that His Spirit within us gives us both the DESIRE and the POWER to do His will:

12 Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe [fear] and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). 13 [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the desire and power], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Philippians 2:12-13 AMP

NOTE: Be sure to make notes in your Bible concerning these verses. In most versions, the translation can be misleading.

Concerning our chapter for today, are we EAGER to:

  • Bring joy to our heavenly Father (1)?
  • Have diligent hands (4, 5)?
  • Use our mouths to spread righteousness (6, 11, 31, 32)?
  • Accept His commands (8)?
  • Walk in integrity, doing what pleases Him when only HE is watching (9)?
  • Cover all wrongs with love (12)?
  • Store up knowledge (14)?
  • Heed discipline (17)?
  • Speak the truth in love (18, 19, 20)?
  • Find no pleasure in wicked schemes–even in jest (23)?
  • Fear the LORD in reverence and awe (27)?
  • be joyful at the prospect of living for Jesus (28)?
  • Run to Jesus for refuge (29)?

Let me ask again, what are you eager to do? Is it to please the LORD? Then, I’ll let you get back to your Bible study! I’m headed back in, myself!

Abba, may we meet with You in Your Word today. May Your Spirit speak to us as we read Your words. May You open our minds to Your righteousness and truth. Then, help us to discern opportunities to put our new-found knowledge to good use. Increase our eagerness, O LORD! Set us on fire for You (I think that’s called revival)! May Your fire fall on us today. So be it!

Proverbs 9 8-9-20

Proverbs is designed to be an encouragement. Are you being encouraged by reading the chapter and THEN my post?

9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

The Proverbs Club began about 12 years ago with six guys who committed to read a chapter of Proverbs a day (there are 31 chapters in a month, so the chapter we read corresponds with the day of the month). I sent them a small, encouraging text each morning to remind them to read. When I learned about WordPress, I began to write a Proverbs message and then send it out to them as I do now. That was over 10 years ago.

The question is: As a member of the Proverbs Club, do you take time each day to read the chapter and ask the LORD to apply some aspect of it to your life? If you take time to go to my post, then I consider that gravy! The chapter comes first. My thoughts may be based upon the Word of God, but the Word of God ALWAYS trumps human thoughts.

For instance, take today’s chapter. It is about foundations and our need to seek Him in His Word daily. Taking the easy way out always ends in trouble. Let’s look:

1 Wisdom has built her house;
    she has set up its seven pillars.

The Word of God calls us to build on a firm foundation. JESUS AND HIS COMMANDS are our firm foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). By the way, when Scripture addresses are in red, there is a link to that passage in BibleGateway.com.

I add my own commentary: I consider the seven pillars to be the seven admonitions of Proverbs 1, which are wisdom, knowledge, insight, understanding, discernment, prudence, and discretion (verses 2-6).

The promise in this chapter is that we will be wise and that our wisdom will reward us (v12).

There is also one of the most revealing insights into human behavior I know:

“Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” Verse 17

There is a thrill to sin, to being our own boss and calling our own shots, to being the master of our own ship. That’s the up side. The down side is the next verse:

But little do they know that the [spiritually] dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead. 

In other words, IT’S A TRAP! There are no shortcuts to godliness. It takes hard work and repetition, which requires TIME. We tend to be impatient with ourselves. God is not. He understands that it’s a lifelong process and that we will not really get it completely right until we step across the threshold into His kingdom and are glorified. So, let’s relax and be “completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Let us “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Let us keep the faith according to God’s Word.

Abba, I KNOW that if I focus on You, worshiping You and spending every waking moment aware of Your presence, talking to You even as You prompt my heart, then I will live righteously simply because I am obedient to Your Spirit. You will NEVER lead me into sin, but will save me from it–or lead me out of it. LORD, David said it best, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My heart and my flesh fail, but You are the strength of my heart and my portion [my everything, all I need] forever” Psalm 73:23-24. May we worship You in spirit and in truth today. Amen.

Proverbs 8 8-8-20

Are we fighting the good fight? Are we intentionally “taking up arms” against our enemies: Self and Satan?

5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.

The catch is that we ALL are simple [“gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil” (my note on the bottom of the page in my Bible)] and foolish. We don’t ordinarily look for the godly way to do things. Satan would like to keep us in the dark spiritually. Therefore, we must assume that there is a spiritual battle going on behind the scenes in every circumstance and difficulty.

  1. If it is our own fault, then the battle is in our own souls for dominance. We are rebellious in nature. We must drop to our knees immediately and allow Christ back on the throne of our hearts!
  2. If it is someone else’s fault, then we must drop to our knees immediately and ask for wisdom and discernment on how to handle the matter. We ALWAYS deal in compassion and love even if we must mete out justice. For the most part, leaning toward mercy and grace is the best way to go.
  3. If it is circumstances, then we accept that bad things happen in this decaying world, and that God has allowed these circumstances. Therefore, we drop to our knees and ask for insight and direction concerning what to do next.

May all we do bring glory and honor to Him as we wage war on every argument (whether in our heads or by someone) and bring it captive to Christ.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Look at all the promises we are given if we do:

  1. We find all of wisdom’s words to be true, just, right and upright (vs7-9)
  2. We will find wisdom, which is seeing from God’s perspective (v17).
  3. Spiritual riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity await us (v18).
  4. The treasuries of our hearts will be made full (21).
  5. We will be blessed (v34).
  6. We will find true life and favor from the LORD (35).

May we seek Him today in His Word as He prompts us to read, study, ponder, and live His instructions. If you haven’t been doing so, then TODAY is a great time to START!

Abba, may You move in our hearts today prompting us to read Your Word, to study it, to ponder it as we ask You to explain its meaning, and then to put it into practice in our lives. Your Word is TRUTH. May we guard it and allow it to guide us even as You speak to us through it. I’ll be listening. “Speak, LORD, Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Amen.

Proverbs 7 8-7-20

Today’s chapter reminds me of Hansel and Gretel. Did she know she was a pawn in Satan’s hand? The result was the same, “Many are the victims she has brought down…” (26).

10 Then out came a woman to meet him,
    dressed like a prostitute…
13 She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
14 “Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!

Notice the progression:

  1. She was dressed provocatively. Guys are visually tempted.
  2. She kissed him. She really had his attention now! The kiss was like the first hit on a cigarette or cocaine: it gives an incredible high and wraps the brain receptors around the drug. From that point on, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DRUG!
  3. Her words were well-chosen with just the right amount of tease with an enticement of food and wine. She appealed to his stomach, as well!
  4. She lied to him! He could have been anyone. She was waiting for any unsuspecting soul to come walking by that she could snare. This guy was the (un)lucky one.
  5. Her den of iniquity was fixed up in such a way that it appealed to his senses: Linens from Egypt, perfumed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. It sounded like a tasty treat and smelled good, too.
  6. The invitation: “Come, let’s together have some real fun. Never mind that I’m someone else’s wife and property.”

At this point, if the young man (or woman, depending on reverse circumstances) has the Holy Spirit within him, the Spirit says, “NO!” If he desires to please God above Himself, then he will walk away–miserable, of course, for a few minutes, but victorious. But, if he has not settled in his heart who is God, then he is fertile soil for such sinister seed.

21 With persuasive words she led him astray;
    she seduced him with her smooth talk. She knew he wanted her. She had him!
22 All at once he followed her  He made the decision. It is certainly too late to turn back now–not without outside intervention.
    like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
23     till an arrow pierces his liver [deadly shot],
like a bird darting into a snare,
    little knowing it will cost him his life.

Sin makes you go further than you intend to go,
stay longer than you intend to stay,
and pay more than you want to pay.

22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

We must decide NOW how we will react THEN. We must learn to call on the Holy Spirit at the BEGINNING of the temptation rather than near the END of it. Guarding the way we think will govern how we feel when tempted. If we know that we have a weakness in a certain area, then we STAY AWAY from that certain area, or have someone with us who will keep us accountable. OUTSIDE INTERVENTION is an acceptable option–and a life saver!

Let us:

  1. Die to self. We died with Christ and went into the grave.
  2. Live for Him. We are resurrected to walk in newness of life with Him.

This pattern of living is something every faithful Christian does everyday, every hour, every decision. It’s a WAY OF LIFE.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they will take this pattern seriously. They will never get to know You unless they do. Oh, how You want them to know You! But, ultimately, You leave the decision to us. I choose to die to self and live for You. May they do the same. I love You and thank You for Your sacrifice on my behalf. I choose You, Jesus. Reign in my heart as we walk together today. Amen.

Proverbs 6 8-6-20

We forget–or ignore– that Christ came humbly the first time; the second time He will come as a Warrior King!

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
    if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
you have been trapped by what you said,
    ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself,
25 Settle matters quickly with your adversary [who is Christ] who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25-26
How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
    When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Lest we get complacent with our position in Christ, we must remember that we Americans live in an entitled state. In other words, we are spoiled. In fact, even our salvation can be faulty because we base it upon OUR decision to receive Christ (almost in a condescending way). Because of our tendencies, salvation has been made a tricky thing. Our western understanding is that a transaction has been made and that’s it. That’s all it takes. Jesus cleanses us from our sins and we’re good with God now. We continue to live our lives for ourselves, but when things don’t go the way we think they should, we call on Him and He gives us what we want. He is our heavenly vending machine–NOT! It’s also why so many “Christians” leave the faith when God doesn’t perform like they think He should.

Salvation is offered by God through Jesus Christ for anyone who is ready to die–to give up who they are and to become like Christ: Holy, Righteous, and without fault. Impossible? YES, without Christ Himself living in us. Without this willingness everyday, our willful spirits keep Him from “taking the reins” and leading us heavenward. Consider the rich, young ruler:

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

  1. Notice that the emphasis is on what he must do. Ephesians 2:8-9 clears that up: God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
  2. Jesus made it clear that only God is good, yet in verse 20, the man declared himself on the same plane as God. Jesus knew better. In fact, Jesus knew exactly what stood between the man and God: his money.
  3. Still, Jesus loved him. He had compassion on him. He gave him a chance to come clean and walk with Him.
  4. The man did not take it–then. We do not know what transpired in his life as Jesus went to the cross and then rose again. We can hope to see him in heaven!

The promise that Jesus gives us is that when we allow Him full access and complete control of our lives, He becomes very involved in our lives. We sense His presence, we feel His love for us, His joy in our decisions, and His peace that He gives to His disciples (John 14:27). We see Him moving and shaking in our lives as He weeds our vineyard, prunes our  vines, and rebuilds the walls around our vineyard (Proverbs 24:30-34).

Are we willing to take His offer of salvation seriously? Every day? We don’t need to be saved but once, but the commitment is and must be the same everyday.

Abba, I pray for my readers that they have given their hearts and lives to You. It is my hope that they have died to themselves and now live for You, with You, and in You even as You live in and through them–and me! May Galatians 2:20 become our mantra: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live in the body I live by faith [trusting what He has told me in His Word] in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me.” Hold me to it, LORD. Amen.

 

Proverbs 5 8-5-20

Ever wonder why God allows our lives to fall apart? It is so He can direct us in how to put things back together.

12 You will say, “How I hated discipline!
    How my heart spurned correction!
13 I would not obey my teachers
    or turn my ear to my instructors.
14 And I was soon in serious trouble
    in the assembly of God’s people.”
21 For your ways are in full view of the LORD,
and He examines all your paths.

I am sure that there are times when God actually afflicts His children. I think that there are times when He doesn’t stop the natural circumstances of this world, i.e. cancer, natural disasters, accidents, genetics, etc. But, I think that most of the time that which we perceive as His afflicting us is actually Him allowing us to reap the consequences of our choices, some that are deliberate rebellion and others that are made out of ignorance. Either way, we learn from these afflictions. King David did:

Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.

In Christ, life becomes a practice field for us. We no longer need to worry about “making the team.” It’s all about learning to be obedient to the Spirit in how to be like Jesus: How to represent God to the world. There may be times when He tells us to “drop and give Me twenty.” In that case, it’s an attitude problem. David had them:

75 I know, LORD, that Your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. 76 May Your unfailing love be my comfort, according to Your promise to Your servant.

The key to this passage is in believing what Jesus has told us, what He has promised us. For instance, in Hebrews 12:4-8, we have this promise:

 

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
(“as a father the son he delights in” Proverbs 3:11-12)

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 

In my own personal creed (see Proverbs 7-29-20), I stated what I believe according to His promises to us:

In fact, I know exactly how David felt when he wrote:

92 If Your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Had I not known the above verses and believed them and cherished them, then I would not have learned from my situation and may have been doomed to repeat my mistakes until I learned the lesson–not by God’s hand, but by my stubborn will and poor decisions.

If we will see every problem in our lives as opportunities to grow in Christ, then we would see how God uses these predicaments to bring good for us. There is a verse that tells us this good news, but there is a catch:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

The catch is in the phrase, “who have been called.” It implies those who are following the LORD closely, “according to His purpose.” We MUST be following the LORD closely to see the good that God is bringing out of our afflictions, both for ourselves and in ourselves and for and in others. The key is in Him asking, “Do you trust Me?” and us responding, “Yes, LORD, Yes, to Your will and to Your way.”

May we read His promises and base our next decisions on those promises. Soon we will be able to say with David, “It was good for me to be afflicted” (73).

Abba, You have taken me through some rough times. I know that TRUST COMES FROM TIME PLUS BELIEVABLE BEHAVIOR. T+BB=Trust. You are always believable and trustworthy. Thank You for Your unfailing love! May I always trust in You as I become trustworthy to You. Amen.