Proverbs 8 11-8-21

Every once in a while, God changes our viewpoint. He moves us to a different peak and sets before us a new vista. Are we ready?

7 My [wisdom] mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness. 8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse. 9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

2 Corinthians 5 is chocked full of wonderful insights and quotable verses. For instance,

  1. Verse 1- We have an eternal house (body) in heaven not built with human hands.
  2. Verse 5- God has fashioned us for our dwelling (body) and has given us the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing it.
  3. Verse 8- To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.

My favorite is,

14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose on their behalf.

This passage leads into the verse for the day, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (verse 16). Let’s break it down.

  1. By the term, “no one,” we can assume that Paul is talking about his brothers and sisters in Christ as well as–well, everyone.
  2. The viewpoint is from a worldly perspective, which assumes that everyone is in it for themselves. I’m sure there are other worldly perspectives, but that is the one that comes to mind.
  3. By viewing them differently, we must see them not for how they can benefit us, but for how they can be reconciled to God (verses 18-20).
  4. Before Christ’s Passion (trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection), all Jews saw Jesus as just another Jew with delusions of grandeur. After the Passion, many saw Him for who He really is: The Risen Savior, the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
  5. What I see is Paul telling us that it is REALLY important to see each other differently from the world’s viewpoint. If we see through the eyes of Christ, then we WILL see everyone differently: They are all prospective brothers and sisters in Christ.

This verse helps me to calm down when I get frustrated. It helps me chill when I am perturbed. It helps me have patience when mine is all used up. It helps me to love even when people are being…unlovable. Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. With the Spirit of Christ in us, we have availability to that wisdom every day! Let’s make good use of it by staying in a constant conversation with Him.

Abba, my prayer, my aim is to see things Your way. I know how important it is, so help me to overcome how I feel and just do the next right thing according to Your Spirit. Thank You for making it all so simple that even a child could do it–ME! Amen.

Proverbs 7 11-7-21

We cannot understand the Bible unless the Spirit gives us spiritual insight into the meaning of the Scriptures. Will we listen?

24 Now then, my children, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.

The apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). At a time when there were no New Covenant Scriptures and virtually no Christians, it made sense for Paul to tell the Corinthians to follow his lead. Nowadays, we have an entire culture based upon Judeo-Christian values (although, not so much anymore), the Old and New Testaments, and plenty of people to imitate concerning godly living.

But, Christian living is much more than imitation. We have the Holy Spirit in us to guide us along the way. The early Christians did, too, and leaned heavily upon Him for guidance through a very pagan world. It may be that our culture has made it too easy for us to be lax in our dependency upon Christ. As our nation drifts farther away from those Judeo-Christian values, we Christians will need to go back to the basics. What are those basics? They begin with knowing what Jesus said:

  1. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6. To know the Father, we must know the Son. To know the Son is to know the Spirit of the Son and the Father.
  2. “If you love me, keep my commands.” “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them” John 14:15 and 21.
  3. “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.

So far, we have us coming to Jesus, obeying Him and having Him and the Father and the Spirit coming to live in us. He (they) will tell us everything we need to know. These are the words of Jesus. He is our Lord and Master, King of the Universe. We are to listen to Him. Nothing else matters. If we knew nothing but these few verses, we would make it just fine because we have been promised that the Spirit would teach us what Jesus said and meant, and what the next step would be.

Caveat: I envision them coming to live in me much like the old couple in the car. She said, “Remember when we used to sit close together and cuddle as we drove?” He (who was driving) replied, “Honey, I never moved.” Like the Prodigal, the Father waits for us to come home even as Jesus comes to find us. Isn’t that exciting?!

Maybe losing our Christian culture would be the catalyst for revival among the Church (as a whole), especially in America! The Gospel is spreading like wildfire in restricted countries; why not here? Maybe we need some pruning. We certainly need some focus. Let’s be available to the Spirit to help us take the mighty stone of the Gospel and turn it into a mighty mountain that fills the entire earth (Daniel 2:35).

May we pledge our lives to Jesus Christ anew this morning.

Abba, I pledge my life to You. May we, together as partners, do mighty works that glorify Your name in heaven and earth. You lead, I will follow. THAT’S a partnership I can trust and enjoy! I love You, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 6 11-6-21

We tend to view things along certain parameters of knowledge and experience. Learning something new is uncomfortable.

10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest [spiritual inactivity]–and [spiritual] poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

People who look for counterfeit money do not study counterfeit money, but the real thing. Any abnormalities are immediately spotted. We want to do the same thing with truth. The problem is that our minds automatically adjust what we hear and read to a prescribed format. Take, for instance, the phrase, “They are now in the grave.” I typed this the other day and my auto-correct changed the word “grave” to “grace.” Even while I was making a note on my phone for this post it did it again! “Grace” not a bad option; it’s just not what I intended.

Our theology works the same way. In order to consider a new idea or concept, we must be aware that we have certain precepts built into our background, which is good–to a point. So, how do we determine what is good and what needs scrutiny? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). In other words, He is the way to truth and life. Let’s run everything through the lens of Jesus, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Trust me, it’s not easy! In fact, it’s downright mind-blowing!

Jesus said that He came to fulfill (complete) the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). Jesus completed their job, which was to point to Him (John 5:39). Jesus inaugurated a new covenant at the Lord’s supper and was referring to His blood that was to be spilled out during the crucifixion (Luke 22:20). From that point on, only Jesus matters. If it doesn’t line up with what Jesus taught, then we are to not put it on the same level with Jesus’ words and teachings. Here is a for-instance:

I have heard it taught that God turned His face away from Jesus while He was on the cross. Not True! I get their reason: God needed to punish mankind for their sin, so He poured His wrath out on Jesus. But, consider this:

  1. The Psalm that Jesus quoted was Psalm 22. Verse 1 is exactly what Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Taken at face value and if we read and know nothing else, I can see how a person might see it as God turning away. But, if you read the rest of the psalm, you find that in verse 24, it says, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one [Jesus]; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
  2. A technique of writing is the question/answer kind. The psalmist begins with a question and then answers it later in the psalm. Psalm 22 is just such a psalm, as is Psalm 6 (verses 3 and 9), Psalm 13 (verses 1 and 5-6), Psalm 62 (verses 3 and 5-6), Psalm 94 (verses 3 and 15, 23), and several others.
  3. Nearly all Jews knew Psalm 22. It was part of their early memorization and part of their weekly synagogue readings. Once Jesus began the psalm, every Jew within earshot would finish it in their minds. That particular psalm has several specific references to the crucifixion, which was going on at that time:
    1. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.” Compare to Matthew 27:39, “those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads.”
    2. 8 “He trusts in the LORD, let the LORD rescue him.” Compare to Matthew 27:43, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.”
    3. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” The body weight pulls the bones out of joint.
    4. 16 “They pierce my hands and my feet.” Compare to John 20:25 and 27, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” “Thomas, put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” The feet are implied as per crucifixion methods.
    5. 18 “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” Compare with Mark 15:24, “And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.”
    6. 31 “He has done it!” In the Greek of the day, “It is finished!” Compare with John 19:30, “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.'”
    7. Jesus’ reference to this particular psalm identified Him as the Messiah, for it was considered a Messianic psalm.

My conclusion: Knowing that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3), I can say with confidence that God died in Christ that day on the cross. His body took all our sin and the spiritual consequences (separation from God and its torment) and deposited them in the grave. That’s not a court room scene; that’s a Rescue Operation! And that’s how I choose to see God, as one of love, one who loves the world so much that He came to earth to rescue mankind so that we can be reunited with Him. It’s all there in John 3:16-17.

Abba, thank You for loving us and coming to rescue us. You are amazing! I love You! Amen.

Proverbs 5 11-5-21

Heaven is a great selling point for salvation, but it’s the wrong selling point. The love of Jesus is.

23 For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life.

Here’s how salvation should go:

  1. Jesus prompts a person to ask questions about spiritual things. There’s an interest.
  2. As those questions are answered, the person feels drawn to Jesus.
  3. At a given point, that person receives Christ as his Savior and Lord, along with a pledge of obedience.
  4. The person begins to walk with Jesus as a new creation in Christ.

Let’s take these four steps apart:

  1. Many times, the questions come as accusatory remarks. There may be a lot of hurt behind the question, like, “Why did God kill my father?” We must always assume that the question is real and the person is seeking an answer, something that he can believe. The answer is, “God didn’t kill your father; sin did. Maybe not his personal sin, but sin in general has caused all people to die. The result is evident in our world. God loves your dad, and He grieves with you as you grieve.”
  2. As we talk to him about how much Jesus loves him, we stress that Jesus wants a personal, ongoing relationship with him. This relationship begins with him recognizing Jesus as Lord, King of the Universe, and pledging his life to Him. The idea of Jesus being our personal Guide through this world needs to appeal to him.
  3. The realization of our inability to make good choices in life because we are subjective (living in it) enables us to trust Jesus for His leadership. The more we trust Him, the more trustworthy He becomes, and the more trustworthy He becomes, the more we trust Him. The person’s willingness for Jesus to transform him from the inside out is big. If a person wants Jesus, he will have to give Him all rights and all controls to his life.
  4. A mentor is a great idea for a young follower of Jesus. We can explain the fellowship we share with Christ in everyday life, teaching him what happened when he was adopted into the family, when he was reborn, and how Christ is transforming us into the likeness of Jesus (who is God). We want to be like Him in character. It is this desire that reveals the heart of the person.

If we explain that hell is not having a relationship with Jesus and that heaven is having a relationship with Jesus, the person begins to understand that we are already living in one or the other. The step beyond this life is nothing but a continuation of our everyday life. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this kind of salvation?!

Abba, it is Your desire that all people come to You. You offer so much to us that it’s impossible to grasp it all: the forgiveness of sin, the presence of Jesus, the fellowship with the Spirit, Your guidance through this world, the promise of eternal life with You…and these just scratch the surface! May you continue to lead us into all truth, Lord. We will be diligent searchers for Your truth. Amen.

Proverbs 4 11-4-21

To think of the cross as strictly for those who believe the message is two-dimensional. Let’s take a 3-D look at it.

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you [on Jesus]. 26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet [and mind] and be steadfast in all your ways.

I love figures of speech. They can draw a mental image for people that cannot be summoned by narrative. One such figure of speech that Jesus used was the seed that was planted:

23 Jesus answered them, “The hour has now come for the Son of Man to receive great glory. 24 I am telling you the truth: a grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. If it does die, then it produces many grains. John 12:24-25

Pictures of speech were never meant to be literal. That’s their point. They are metaphors, graphic descriptions, illustrations; it’s how they work. The idea of a seed dying in the ground is pretty specific when we think of the cross. Jesus died and was laid in a tomb. Through His death, sin was finished. Let’s look at a three pictures of speech using seeds that give us a 3-D picture:

  1. Jesus was the True Seed of the Gospel (the good news that He was forgiving our sin debt). He died and came to life, thus bringing life to all because of His representation (just like Adam).
  2. We, too, must die and be buried in order to be reborn and walk in newness of life with Christ.
  3. When Jesus died on the cross, we all died with Him. His soul, His Spirit, is buried in each of us. He awaits awakening when we come and say, “Jesus, reveal Yourself to me; Spirit, speak to me.” At that moment, we are reborn and we spend the rest of our lives being transformed from the image of men into the image of God (becoming just like Jesus).

There are some Scriptures that will help us grasp the meaning behind these pictures of speech:

16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish [In John the word ἀπόλλυμι (apollumi) can mean either (1) to be lost (2) to perish or be destroyed, depending on the context] but have eternal life.17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. John 3:16-17

16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die [be destroyed–sin destroys] but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior. John 3:16-17 Good News Bible

I listed these verses from two different translations so that we can get a better idea of the scope of the cross. It is through God’s love that Jesus suffered on the cross (Titus 3:4-7). There is no condemnation in the cross, only love.

14 For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Since Christ is our Representative (just like Adam), we all died with Him. He is waiting for us to “wake up!” When we do, we will be in relationship with Him, and His Spirit will lead us into the righteous way (Titus 3:4-7 again).

25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:25-27

The “seed” of Christ is in all people. The potential for its “growth” is in everyone. Sin is now dead, its power over us broken–the very reason that, had Satan and the rulers of this age known what Christ was up to, “they would never have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was referring to the forgiveness of sin, the erasure of any debt owed, for all humanity. All because of God’s Great LOVE. Now, when I sing songs about the blood and being reborn, I attribute them to Christ’s finished work on the cross.

I am not taking away from the “salvation experience;” each of us must “wake up” to Christ’s presence in our lives. Refusing to do so is, in a sense, a kind of hell. He is “a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) and to be at odds with Him would be torment–but that fire is an unquenchable love. Love is who God is. Let’s tell people about that great love so that they may awaken to Him, like we did.

Abba, Your love is so great that we can never find the end of it. “From everlasting to everlasting is Your love” (Psalm 103:17). That’s a pretty LONG time! Thank You for loving me. I want to share Your love with others. May You awaken in them Your presence; burst forth in their lives, Lord Jesus! May revival, renewal and restoration come to our souls and to our land. Amen.

Proverbs 3 11-3-21

Many people think getting saved is to keep them from going to hell. Hell is living without Jesus. That life brings its own torment.

11 My child, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, 12 because the LORD disciplines those He loves, as a Father the child He delights in [like we talked about yesterday, when we wander away, He comes and gets us].

We are called to “trust in the LORD with all our hearts and to lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways we are to acknowledge (submit to) Him, and He will make our paths straight as He directs us” (Proverbs 3:5-6). This is how we live for Christ. In fact, He died for everyone so that we would “no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who died for us and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

How do we live for Him? Actually, we can’t; not without Him. We live for Christ by living with Christ. It’s a partnership, a friendship, a mentorship, and a marriage all wrapped up in a relationship with Him. Jesus doesn’t need us to do anything for Him; He wants to include us in what He is doing. What is He doing? Loving people where they are and taking them further into His love.

In the words of Linda Free (I love her last name), “We just gotta love’em where they’re at, not where we want’em to be.” Jesus loves us where we are, but He loves us too much to leave us where we are. The whole idea is to grow up in love, living in His love, sharing His love, and even demonstrating His love–the sacrificial kind.

I know it’s short today, but living for Christ with Christ is the bottom line for Christians. It’s how we are known both by the Father and by the world. In Jesus’ own words,

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. 
As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,

if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Lord, if we could just stop focusing on salvation and get to the fellowship, I think people would find that being Yours is a lot of fun and incredibly satisfying. You are not an ogre, nor are You an angry God. Your disciple, John, whom You love dearly, said that You are Love incarnate. If we want to know what You are like, Abba, we are to look at Jesus. Jesus was–and is–gentle and humble in heart; in Him we can find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30). May we rest in Your loving arms, Abba. Jesus, show us the way; Spirit, fill us and enable us to walk with Jesus all the way. Amen.

Proverbs 2 11-2-21

We talk a lot about salvation, but what God really wants is a relationship with us. Are we willing to join Him?

5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD [Old Testament way of looking at God; today, we trust Him] and find the knowledge of God [Old Testament way of thinking about God; today, we know Him personally].

Jesus came to reveal God the Father to us. Jesus told stories that show us the true nature of God the Father. One of those stories is about the lost sheep.

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds itAnd when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:3-7

The relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd is a true picture of the love the heavenly Father has for His children–all of them. He loves the 99 sheep and He loves the sheep that wandered off. He searched until He found it. The sheep represents us lost because of sin. The Shepherd is Jesus. He rejoiced over the sheep that He found and He carried it home, and then threw a party!

What does this story tell us about the relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd?

  1. The Shepherd cares for the sheep.
  2. We don’t know how the sheep got lost; was it eating and simply wandered off? Was it being sneaky and slipped away? Was it being rebellious and ran away? Was it lured away by tasty flowers, or something blowing in the wind? We can assume that the sheep was thankful that the Shepherd found it. Sheep are defenseless. The best they can do is run, and that not very well.
  3. The sheep had a connection with the Shepherd. We have a connection with Him, too.

Our connection is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ comes to live in us. In other words, He never leaves us! Salvation comes down to this: We either have the Spirit or we don’t. One way to tell is to look at our desires. We all have base desires–our natural desires of food and drink, love and companionship, etc. Many times, our desires tempt us to go overboard in certain areas and even to warp those desires. Satan has a heyday with us in these areas.

The Spirit in us will acknowledge the desires and then overlay His desires. I call it our higher desire; Robin calls it the want-to to want to. We either have this higher desire of the Spirit or we don’t. Obedience to the Spirit is essential–not for relationship, but for fellowship with our heavenly Father. Here is the promise we have from Him:

21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

Another way to tell is the certainty of His presence. When we are in tune with Him, His love, joy and peace flow through us. Sounds like the Force, doesn’t it? Interestingly, George Lucas took aspects from several religions and mashed them into what he called the Force on Star Wars. The part he took from Christianity is the way the Spirit flows through us. We are at peace when we are resting in the Father via the Spirit. We “do not live our lives in the ways of the flesh [guided by worldliness and our sinful nature], but [we live our lives] in the ways of the Spirit [guided by His power]For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]” (Romans 4-5).

Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1-2, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” We are to  fix our thoughts on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1); another way of saying it is, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).

People who enter into a relationship with Jesus are, indeed, born again as the Spirit comes into their lives and takes up residence. We should be able to tell pretty easily because of the ongoing conversation that He has with us every day. But, if there is a question, consider 2 Corinthians 13:5,

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?

Salvation without a relationship with Christ is not true salvation. A person misses out on the whole purpose of salvation! His Spirit is our salvation; He brings salvation to us as He comes to live in our heart and life. May we nurture that relationship–even when we venture away from Him. Know this: He WILL search for you until He finds you. Then, He will carry you home rejoicing and throw a party!

Abba, thank You for coming after me. I got lost for a while when I was young, but You kept after me. I am so glad! You have nurtured me all these years. I can’t imagine life without You–I’m sure glad I won’t ever have to find out! Ke-e-e-ep me close to You, Lord Jesus. I am Your sheep and You are my Shepherd. Amen.

Proverbs 1 11-1-21

Stories help us picture abstract truths. I pray this story will do that for you.

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square;[wisdom is personified in order to grasp the meaning of the text].

The following story is allegorical. It is designed to put into tangible form abstract concepts. It is NOT literal, and can be altered at any point if new revelation arises.

I had a dream…
I was walking along and came upon a prison. As I got closer, I noticed that the doors were wide open. “Strange,” I thought. So, I ventured into the open doors.
No one was in sight, so I walked past the guard station. What I found was that all of the doors were open! I began to look for anyone. The further I went into the prison, the stranger things seemed. It looked like it was still in use, except that no one was there–no guards, no prisoners…no one.
I came to some stairs and, since lights were on, I went down them. I went down several floors until I noticed that the floor had changed, along with the lighting. I realized that this hallway was really a tunnel of sorts, made partially of earth. There were cells on each side, and I heard crying. I looked in a cell and saw a man in chains. His clothes were filthy and his wrists and ankles were bloody from the manacles. It’s what I expected to see in a prison, but what I didn’t expect to see was the cell door open. In fact, all of the cell doors were open!
I went into the man’s cell and said, “Why are you crying?” He looked up in surprise and fear and said, “My chains won’t stay on. If the guards catch me without my chains, there will be hell to pay!”
I told him that there was no one in the prison, but he wouldn’t believe me. I left him wailing about how much trouble he would be in when the guard came back. I had walked past several cells when I noticed a young girl who wasn’t crying. I stopped and asked her, “Are you not afraid of the guards?” She replied, “Yes, but I have heard rumors about a man who is coming to save us.”
“Really? How will he accomplish this feat?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I am hoping that he will come and take us away from here.”
I looked at her manacles and they were not locked. I said, “Why not take the manacles off of your wrists and ankles and come with me?”
Tentatively, she reached out and touched a manacle on her wrist. It released and fell off. She took the other one off and looked at me with astonishment. She quickly removed the ones on her ankles and stood up. We moved up the hallway to the stairs and took them as quickly and quietly as we could. We found that there was no reason to sneak around, for there were still no guards. As we walked past the guard station and looked out at the front gates, we saw a man standing there motioning us to join Him.
When we passed through the gates and walked up to Him, He said to her, “My daughter, you are free. There is no record of your past crimes.”
The girl fell at His feet and thanked Him. He knelt down and asked her, “Would you like to come with me? I have new clothes and a new life awaiting you.”
Overjoyed, the girl exclaimed, “Yes! Yes!” and threw her arms around Him. He then turned to me and said, “You are my ambassador. Go back into the prison and bring out more prisoners. Tell them that all debts are paid and all records wiped clean. Bring as many as will come. I will meet you here.”
Overwhelmed by the love in His eyes, I gladly went back into the prison to lead out more prisoners…

Things to know about this story:

  1. I, too, was one of those prisoners at one time. The story could have been written with Jesus escorting me out of the prison and then asking me to go back and lead other prisoners out.
  2. Christ is with us–actually, in us–as we go out to lead prisoners out of their cells.

May the Lord Jesus use this story to help you understand what a great salvation we have in Him. It is a story of HOPE.

Abba, thank You for setting me free from my prison. It was a joyous day when I realized that You had already set me free (Romans 3:23-24) and that all I had to do was trust You to lead me out. In a way, You are still leading me out of that prison. I look forward to the Day when we reach the gates and I receive new clothes and new life with You in Your kingdom. For now, may I be Your ambassador to my fellow prisoners who have not heard the Good News: We shall know the Truth (Jesus) and the Truth sets us free! All praise be you You, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 31 10-31-21

We each have our own perspective. Christ sees all and knows all. He shares His perspective with us via the Spirit.

30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman [or man] who fears [Old Testament thinking–New Testament thinking is “loves”] the Lord is to be praised.

To give us an idea of what I mean by perspective, I want to share with you a view with which I was brought up–and then found out about another perspective–and then another! Here are three word pictures of DEATH.

  1. The first picture is our salvation death. We are buried with Christ through baptism into death and raised to walk with Him in new life (Romans 6:4). It is God who has raised us up with Christ (Colossians 2:12) and has seated us with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). This picture is our positional death.
  2. The second picture concerns our relationship with Christ. Each day, He calls us to die to ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Luke 9:23). In fact, we have been crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). We are instructed to put off the old self and put on the new self, which is created in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24). This picture is a relational or daily death.
  3. The last picture is actually the first, but it is the latest one I learned. It is our foundational death. When Christ died on the cross, He died for all mankind, and we all died with Him. He did this so that those who so choose will not live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). God justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5) so that they will trust in Him. When they (we) do, their (our) faith is credited to them (us) as righteousness.

See how a metaphor (word picture) can have several different meanings? It’s like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she stepped out of the house (black and white) and into Oz (color). Jesus Christ has so much to show us, but we must allow Him to interpret the Scriptures for us as we read and discuss. If we are in tune with Him, He will not let us get too far off-base.

Tomorrow, I will tell an allegory (a large metaphor) about salvation.

Abba, bless us as we meet to praise You, to talk about Your Word, and to care for each other. It’s important to You, so it is important to us. Amen.

Proverbs 30 10-30-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 29 10-29-21

Opening the Bible and poring over its meanings is great fun–when the Holy Spirit is doing the leading. Jesus is our Interpreter.

18 Where there is no revelation [discipline of study and enlightenment by the Spirit], people cast off restraint [quit holding to the godly wisdom they have]; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

The kingdom of God is available to us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. The question is, what did He do? Here are some options:

  1. A debt cancelled, as in forgiven (Colossians 1:13)
  2. Consequences erased (done away with) 1 Corinthians 15:56-57
  3. A wound or cancer healed –
    1. physically, by promising us another body, an exchange of a corrupt body for an incorruptible one (1 Corinthians 15:53-54)
    2. emotionally, set free from the law of sin and the fear of death (Romans 8:1-2)
    3. spiritually, we were dead, as in having no life of the Spirit in us (Ephesians 2:4-5)
  4. Redeemed (more on this in the next #4)

All of them are correct, but incomplete. We need all of these illustrations to even begin to understand what Christ did on the cross in order for us to be restored concerning our relationship with the Father and to be partakers in His kingdom.

My favorite passage (today) is Colossians 1:13-14,

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son [the Son He loves]14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  1. He has rescued us- it sounds like a stronger man (Christ) entered the strong man’s (Satan’s) house, bound him, and took his plunder (us). Behold!* Matthew 12:29 says just that, “how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house. Hebrews 2:14-15 says something very similar.
  2. The dominion of darkness- We are talking spiritual darkness. It is because we have no light inside us (Matthew 6:22-23). Jesus is the Light of the World (John 8:12). We need Him (His Spirit) to enlighten us.
  3. Transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Jesus)– He takes us home!
  4. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins- Redemption can mean to buy back, but its original meaning was, “to recover.” If you go to the link, note that the idea of buying back is a relatively new one (14th century). Going back further reveals that it expresses the idea of starting over, as from an illness or injury. I like that!

We owe Jesus our lives, both physically and spiritually! Sin was destroying us and we couldn’t escape it. Jesus came to rescue us and to heal us. It was a RESCUE OPERATION!!! We are, indeed, forever grateful.

Abba, thank You for rescuing us and taking us home to be with You. I know that our glorification has not been fully realized, but we live by faith that when we die, we go to be with You (2 Corinthians 5:6-9). Being a subject of Your kingdom–a prince in Your royal house–is beyond imagining! I look forward to the Day that I step into eternity and into Your presence. Amen.

*Behold- “Look! Open your spiritual eyes and heart to what I am showing you.” Angels say it a lot.

Proverbs 28 10-28-21

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

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

The verse mentioned above is Matthew 6:33,

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more thing about the kingdom…tomorrow!

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

Proverbs 27 10-27-21

Jesus is our Great Redeemer, our Representative, the Second Adam, and the bringer of the Great Reset.

20 Death and Destruction (Abaddon-hell) are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes [as long as the Old Covenant lasted; Christ made this verse obsolete by beating death, robbing hell, and redeeming mankind].

Putting the consequences of spiritual death off until it could be dealt with on the cross is what I call the Great Reset. Let’s look at some Scriptures that explain this event:

25 God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given through faith in Christ’s blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past. Romans 3:25

This verse shows us several things that were going on spiritually:

  1. “Atonement” is used in other versions for throne of mercy. The root word refers to the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant. Atonement actually means “At-one-ment” or “reconciliation.”
  2. The only way for us to be reconciled to God was for Him to forgive us. There is no amount of punishment that we can endure to make up for the consequences of sin. So, in mercy, God wipes the debt clean with the blood of Jesus.
  3. Although physical consequences were in effect, the spiritual consequence of eternal separation was put off until Jesus reversed the effects of sin on the cross. As through Adam sin came into the world, sin was remediated through the second Adam, Jesus Christ. Both were representatives of mankind. “Had the spiritual and earthly powers of the day known this fact, they never would have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).

38 Peter [said] to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. Acts 2:38

There is an interesting footnote concerning the term, “repent,” in the New American Bible,

Repent and be baptized: repentance is a positive concept, a change of mind and heart toward God reflected in the actual goodness of one’s life. It is in accord with the apostolic teaching derived from Jesus (Acts 2:42) and ultimately recorded in the four gospels. Luke presents baptism in Acts as the expected response to the apostolic preaching about Jesus and associates it with the conferring of the Spirit (Acts 1:510:44–4811:16).”

We tend to think of repentance as begging forgiveness when it really means, “All of you must turn to God and change the way you think and act” (from the Names of God Bible). Consider when Jesus met Peter on the shore; did He require Peter’s apology? No. Instead, He said, “Peter, do you love Me? Feed my lambs” (John 21:15-17). Peter showed his repentance (his change of mind and heart) through his obedience.

For us, the moment we turn our intentions to obedience, the Holy Spirit empowers us. We become filled with the Spirit for the first time. Is it a resurrection? You Bet! We are born again. We begin to follow Jesus, and things are never the same. WE are never the same. Jesus pressed the Grand Reset on our lives. NO MORE CONSEQUENCES (Romans 8:1-2 notice the italics)! Jesus bore them on the cross.

24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

If sin is a disease, then Jesus is the Great Physician. He took our disease upon Himself, died, and took it to the grave so that mankind would no longer have to live with such a disease. It was… The Great Reset.

Abba, thank You for dying so that I would not have to spiritually. Being reunited with the Father through You is beyond words. Thank You for living in me via Your Spirit. May I show my undying gratitude through my obedience to You. Amen.

Proverbs 26 10-26-21

Submit, Resist, Draw Near, Wash, Purify, Grieve, Mourn and Wail, Change, Humble Yourselves. That’s a TALL order…

28 A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. We must be honest with ourselves.

We have discussed before James 4:7, which says,

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

What we haven’t discussed are the next three verses,

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.

James invites us to encounter God as we may never have before: Seeing ourselves in truth. Notice that I didn’t say, “As God sees us.” Yes, He sees us in truth, but He chooses to see us as His little children (Matthew 18:12-14; “little ones” is a term of endearment, as in “you of little faith”, which actually means, “my little faithless ones”; the same goes for Mark 9:42). We tend to be strong-willed, independent, entitled, and proud. James says, “Look in the mirror! Compare yourselves to Christ and change” (James 1:23-25). Let’s break down the passage:

  1. Come or draw near- the word picture suggests that we have wandered away from His side. It’s bigger than that; He is facing us, but we won’t respond to His love. As with salvation, we must relent to His love and respond by submitting to that love. All of this action happens in our minds.
  2. Wash your hands- let go of what we are doing that keeps us from turning and drawing near to God.
  3. Purify your hearts- quit entertaining other gods in our hearts. We are to be one-God people. To think that we can love and serve God adequately while also serving ourselves is double-minded. We’ve seen that word before in 1:8, where James tells us that we must ask with the intention of using the wisdom given us; to ask with no intention of using that wisdom, or waiting to hear it before making our decision (playing god), is being double-minded.
  4. Grieve, mourn and wail- this is what little children do when they are separated from their parents. It is what we should do when we realize that we are separated–not by His choice–from the Father in fellowship.
  5. Laughter to mourning, joy to gloom- When we realize that we are out of fellowship with the Father, we lose our joy, which causes us to lose our laughter, which causes us to mourn.
  6. Humble yourselves- realize that we are little children spiritually (we never get out of the nursery). By remembering who is God and who is not (us), we are finally in a position to move to the Father’s side again.
  7. He will lift you up- our PROMISE! Abba will pick us up and hold us close. Fellowship is restored! Everything reverses: gloom is gone and joy is back; we get our laughter back! I think we laugh with the Father as He rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17).

A friend of mine told me that when walking in the dark, stay close to the person carrying the lantern. Jesus is our Light. Let’s draw near and stay close to Him.

Abba, I am not offended by the term, “dear little children.” In fact, I take great solace in it! The fact that I am Your child is enough to send me into orbit. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You for redeeming me. You ransomed* me from the pit and brought me into a wide, stable place: by Your side. May I stay there–and with Your assistance, I will. Amen.

*Old French/English-it does mean to buy back, but it also means “to take back.” Its origins are “to undo, to redeem, to restore.” We find this picture in the Scriptures when God took back the people of Israel from Pharaoh, the strong man binding the owner of the house in Matthew 12:29, and Jesus on the cross.

Proverbs 24 10-24-21

To really know something, we need to study it. Plumbing the depths of our salvation blows my mind!

3 By wisdom a house is built [foundation], and through understanding it is established [framework], 4 through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures [study and experience].

I begin with Psalms 139:23-24 and 73:23-26, and then I move to verses on mastering the mind and the body. This next passage helps me to focus on the future; I hold loosely to the things of this world and tightly to the promises we have:

For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment. Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord— for we live by faith, not by sight. Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:4-8

When studying a new passage, it is wise to look at any footnotes that appear in whatever version we are using. This particular version, the New English Translation, includes several Greek definitions for us:

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:4 sn See the note in 5:1 on the phrase the tent we live in: The expression the tent we live in refers to “our earthly house, our body.” Paul uses the metaphor of the physical body as a house or tent, the residence of the immaterial part of a person.
  2. 2 Corinthians 5:4 tn Or “we are burdened.”
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:5 tn Grk “for this very thing.”
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:5 tn Or “first installment,” “pledge,” “deposit” (see the note on the phrase “down payment” in 1:22).
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:6 tn Grk “we know that being at home in the body”; an idiom for being alive (L&N 23.91).
  6. 2 Corinthians 5:7 tn Grk “we walk.”
  7. 2 Corinthians 5:8 tn Or “be absent.”
  8. 2 Corinthians 5:9 tn Grk “whether we are at home” [in the body]; an idiom for being alive (L&N 23.91).
  9. 2 Corinthians 5:9 tn Grk “to be pleasing to him.”

So, to read it again with these definitions included would be:

For we groan while we are in this tent since we [our earthly house] are weighed down [burdened] because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose [this very thing] is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment [pledge, deposit, down payment].Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth [at home in the body] we are absent from the Lord— for we live [walk] by faith, not by sight. Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away [absent] from the body and at home with the Lord. So then whether we are alive [at home] or away, we make it our ambition to please him [be pleasing to him; I read it as us knowing what right living is pleasing to him and living that way, for He is always pleased with us and rejoices over us with singing!].

It sounds like the Amplified Version. Well, that’s really what it is! I looked up the AMP and this is how it phrased it:

For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened [often weighed down, oppressed], not that we want to be unclothed [separated by death from the body], but to be clothed, so that what is mortal [the body] will be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection]. Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise]. So then, being always filled with good courage and confident hope, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight [living our lives in a manner consistent with our confident belief in God’s promises]— we are [as I was saying] of good courage and confident hope, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore, whether we are at home [on earth] or away from home [and with Him], it is our [constant] ambition to be pleasing to Him. Anything in italics has been added so that the English language makes sense, but we must remember that they are not part of the original text and have been “tainted,” so to speak, by human interpretation. The previous sentence is a prime example of just such.

Here’s the point of the passage concerning my Time with the Lord. I hold lightly to the things of his world and tightly to His promises. I gain strength and courage (it was mentioned twice) from passages like this one for times of trial and testing (in circumstances, not from the Lord). I use them when practicing patient endurance by focusing on what is to come. I remember that I am part of a great cloud of witnesses that have already gone on before me. In these things I have hope. The better I know these passages, the greater (clearer, stronger) my hope is.

This morning, as you prepare for church, may you focus on the Lord and what He has for us today (mercy and grace) and on what He has for us in the future (being with Him in glory).

Abba, thank You for all You have provided for us in written form. But, I don’t want to just know about You; I want to know YOU. Please reveal Yourself to me in whatever fashion You choose, whether it’s the Bible, music, Bryan my pastor, a friend–even an enemy! I know when I hear Your voice, so I will be listening for You. “Speak to my heart, Lord Jesus, speak that my soul may hear.” Amen.

Proverbs 23 10-23-21

In our devotions, we all find what works for us. We just need to make sure that it works for Him.

4 …do not trust your own cleverness. 12 Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.
15 My child, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad indeed;

Yesterday, we began with Psalm 139:23-24 and Psalm 73:23-26, which are long-time memory verses. I read them each morning to work through the process of getting my mind and heart ready to hear the Spirit. It’s time to move on to the meaty part:

Mastering the Mind

These verses help me focus on allowing my soul, my mind, and my desires to be molded and shaped by the Spirit. We want the same thing: For me to be like Jesus and fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

Mastering the Body

  • I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to [taught] others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:27
  • Submit to the Lord and resist (James 4:7) the lust of the eyes (we want what we see), lust of the flesh (we want what we feel), and the pride of life (we deserve whatever we want) – (1 John 2:16)
  • “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD.” Zechariah 4:6. He is our Cornerstone on which we build our foundation. This is bigger than we think. Anything man has touched is tainted. Without even realizing it, we infuse our culture, our upbringing, our opinions, and our desires into whatever we are handling. We must base our worldview, our view of today, and our view of ourselves on what the Spirit is saying to us today, right now. Regardless of what translation we are reading right now, the Spirit wants to shape our minds with truth. Trust Him.
  • I don’t live according to the flesh (my way), but by the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
  • I am crucified with Christ and Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

There is one more passage concerning mastering the mind, but I will deal with it tomorrow. It’s a passage that bears explaining. It’s new to me, too, and I am also in the process of memorizing it.

Finishing (life) well is a big deal to me. I pray it is a big deal to you, as well. May we work to survive, maintain, and grow in our times with the LORD.

Abba, I know it seems like a lot, but really it’s just allowing these verses to wash over me and work through me like yeast in dough. I don’t stop to ponder unless You highlight something along the way. May You increase my ability to focus and concentrate, to perceive and understand what You are saying to me, to my church, and to the Body at large. Amen.

Proverbs 22 10-22-21

Sitting in with me sitting in with the Father…

9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

I love the Word of God. I use the Bible as my means of “transport” (if you will) to His presence. I use this metaphoric phrase to convey the concept of turning my attention to the Father. I am really in His presence all the time, even at His throne in the kingdom of God, but I am also here on earth in a physical body. The kingdom is in my heart while also in another realm, one that is beyond this three-dimensional time and space. The Bible helps me understand this realm and gives me handles on how to access it.

The Holy Spirit is my Guide in this life who leads me as I walk in two realms. Each morning, I begin my day with prayer and study. I now invite you to come along with me on a typical morning.

I begin with Psalm 139:23-24,

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

In this passage, I turn to the Father in my mind and open myself up to Him. Jesus’ love pours over me and the Spirit makes His presence known to me.

I then move to Psalm 73:23-24,

23 Yet I am always with you; 
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, 

and afterward you will take me into glory.

These four things set my frame of mind for the day. They give me my comfort, my encouragement, and my goal.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

These two verses are my praise! Once again, I am reminded of Who is with me and where we are going.

The next passage sets my attitude for the day,

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6

  1. “Outsiders” are those who do not know Christ personally and are not part of His Body, the Church.
  2. I am to look for ways to be kind and generous to them. I may even get to say an encouraging word. Who knows, I may even get to talk to them about the Lord!
  3. In any event, whether the lost or the saved, I am to treat everyone with the kindness and gentleness of Christ. The grace that has been extended to me is meant to share.
  4. I love the “seasoned with salt.” I take it two ways: one is to speak knowledge into peoples’ lives, and the other is using humor. It endears and it sticks. They’ll remember better, even if it’s just the general feeling of the conversation.

The next part of my regimen has to do with “keeping the main thing the main thing.” We’ll look at that tomorrow.

The purpose of this morning’s post is to give you ideas on how to begin your morning. You may use these Scriptures, or you may certainly use your own. These are just the ones that I am currently using (they change as I change). May we remember that the Bible is our tool for learning about and obeying the Word of God, Jesus Christ. Whatever version you have and whatever tools you use to know Him, He will use them in your life to reveal Himself to you. He is the Treasure in the field, the Pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44-46).

Abba, I pray for my readers today that they would sit down with You and get to know You. The Bible is the best place to start–may we remember that You are beyond words on a page; they can never articulate to us who You really are. We learn who You are by conversing with You. Our obedience flows from our trust in You, which is built on our relationship with You. Lord Jesus, may I follow You ever more closely every day. Mr. H (not to be irreverent, but that’s how I think of the Holy Spirit), lead the way. Amen.

Proverbs 21 10-21-21

Giving up the rights to control our lives is tough, but worth it. Jesus opens the way to an ongoing relationship with the Father.

30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD [why do we try?].

Meeting Jesus is special and different for everyone. I don’t think it’s what we say as much as the intent of our hearts that matters. Jesus just wants to be in us and with us. At the same time, I think that we would do well to consider who He is and what it means to have Jesus Christ in our lives. A great place to start is with Colossians 2:6-7,

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, 
continue to live your lives in him, 
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, 
and overflowing with thankfulness.

The phrase, “ask Jesus into our hearts,” is a bit incomplete. Paul, in this verse, gives us a more apt phrase, “receive Christ Jesus as Lord.” We receive Christ (Savior) Jesus (Yeshua) into our lives as Lord (God of the universe and King of our lives). This phrase leaves no wiggle room for having Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. It’s not just a matter of “getting Jesus.” It’s a matter of Lordship.

It can be argued that one can get salvation without lordship, but one cannot have lordship without getting salvation. In my person opinion, salvation without lordship is a misnomer. Salvation IS lordship. When Jesus comes into our lives, He is Lord. It’s who He is. Get ready for a make-over deluxe!

If we are not interested in Him transforming our lives into His image, then we’d better do some serious soul-searching. Is He Lord? Is He present at all? I don’t preach apostasy (being able to become “unsaved”); I lean toward hypocrisy:

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

What does it take to be a Christian? The anointing of the Holy Spirit,

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

The truth is that we know intuitively through the Spirit what is right. Whether we do it or not depends upon our willingness to trust Him. If there is no desire to do things His way, then I would suspect that there is no Spirit present. The fight inside is PROOF that His Spirit resides in us.

If we look at the end of Colossians 2:7, we find these words, “overflowing with thankfulness.” Those who have Christ Jesus as their Lord are overflowing with thankfulness. I know I am!

Abba, I am thankful for Your Plan to save me and to make it so I could be adopted into Your family. Having Jesus as Lord of my life is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am SO grateful for the anointing of the Spirit. I’ll never get over being grateful! Amen.

Proverbs 20 10-20-21

What is the Lord’s Modus Operandi? It’s not difficult; He tells us plainly. Keep reading…

22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!” Wait for the LORD, and he will avenge you.

Did you know that Paul quoted this very verse in Romans 12:19? Yet, he then turns around and has us do the very thing that Jesus said to do in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:44-45. Here are the two passages :

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45

What was Paul doing? He was invoking the Lord’s M.O., His “modus operandi,” which is His mode of operation. He quotes the Lord, who gave it to him in 2 Corinthians 12:9, but here’s the surrounding passage:

…because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Let’s unpack these verses.

  1. Paul walked with Jesus in heaven (the third heaven, where Jesus lives; the first heaven is the sky and the second heaven is space).
  2. To keep him humble, the Lord did not remove a problem Paul was having. What that problem was, no one knows.
  3. Jesus gave us His M.O. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
    1. The Lord’s grace is whatever Paul needed at any given time: strength, courage, patience, endurance, and most of all, compassion.
    2. Christ’s power was and is designed to save His lost children, and power is made perfect (mature, whole, complete) in Paul’s weakness.
    3. Paul’s weakness was his inability to control his surroundings. By trusting Christ in all circumstances and just doing what He felt led to do by the Holy Spirit, Paul was given His grace and power. In those two things, Christ accomplished much for the kingdom of God through Paul.
    4. Paul goes on to say that he would gladly be weak so that Christ would be strong in and through him.
    5. It’s a ratio thing: the weaker he was, the stronger Christ was in him.

Jesus’ M.O. is the same for us today. We must learn to trust Him in all circumstances to give us wisdom and discernment, because most times, things are not what they seem. They are usually much more complicated than they look on the surface. By realizing and admitting our inability to know the whole truth, we look to Christ for wisdom, guidance, and whatever else is needed for that circumstance.

Returning to Romans 12:19, Paul goes on to say,

20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals [of conviction] on his head.”
(Proverbs 25:21-22)

And the clincher:

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Living for Jesus is certainly not easy; aren’t you glad we don’t have to do it without Him? He is with us all the way.

Abba, I don’t need to know Paul’s “thorn in his flesh” to be able to identify with him in this matter. May I learn to trust you faster and more completely as time–and opportunity–goes by. We are most like Jesus when we love; may LOVE be our theme each day. Thank You for loving me! Amen.

Proverbs 19 10-19-21

It all seems to come back to us needing/having the mind of Christ. Godly wisdom is seeing from His point of view.

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

Axiom: No one should seek his/her own good,
but the good of others.
1 Corinthians 10:24

Put another way, each of us should seek others’ good over our own. It’s not a matter of neglecting ourselves, but of making sure that our good does not overrun someone else’s. It’s putting others first.

Jesus put it this way, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” Matthew 7:12. When we put others before ourselves and think about their good rather than our own, we come close to thinking like Jesus. He left heaven for us. Why? Because we needed Him. Still do. More than ever.

In Jesus’ last instructions to His disciples before He went to the cross, He gave this charge:

34 I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

When we put others first, we are showing the love of Jesus. It’s His signature move, so to speak. When we do, people will know that we belong to Christ, for they see Him in us. The greater the contrast, the greater the display of love. We need to be ready to display His love in extravagant ways–but, this will mean higher stakes. It may even mean that we face dire circumstances. Are we willing to show His love in the face of grave danger? We will be if we know that love intimately, up-close and personal. Daily. Hourly. Continuously. It’s what He’s always wanted! Can you imagine the God of the universe wanting a close and intimate relationship with you? It’s true! Getting us back was always the plan.

He wants to help us with every decision. His view is much bigger than ours and He can see what’s coming. It fulfills two objectives:

  1. Keeping us safe from the evil one, and
  2. Spending quality time with us. It’s a good thing that He lives in us!

Today, let’s be like Jesus and put others ahead of ourselves. Ask Him what to do; He knows just the right way to do it.

Abba, I want to be just like You. By being like Jesus, I can! May I continue to learn how to put others before myself. I’m going to need the mind of Christ to do it–thank YOU that I have it through the Spirit! Amen.

Proverbs 18 10-18-21

“God of Grace and God of Glory” — we need both! How do they work?

10 The name [His character] of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it [anytime] and are safe.

Axiom: God gives us grace when we give in to sin.

Axiom: God receives glory when we resist temptation in submission to Him.

Let’s backtrack a bit. We know that Christ died for our sins so that they cannot be held against us anymore. That’s what the cross was all about: Dismissing our sins. So, He offers us grace when we sin so that it no longer breaks our relationship with Him. It DOES hinder our fellowship, but not the relationship.

Paul says, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase [in our lives]? By no means!” The whole idea of having Christ in us is to live like Him, which is us being godly. Jesus glorified God when He went to the cross (John 12:27-28 tells us that). We, too, glorify God when we are obedient. When temptation rears its ugly head, we are to “submit ourselves to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God receives glory when we submit to Him in obedience. It is then that we have His power available to us via the Holy Spirit to resist the devil.

For most of us, we usually fight a feeling. We have a desire for something we are not supposed to have or do. The temptation is to give in to our feelings and desires. What we NEED to do is turn to the Father and say, “Abba, I direct my attention to You. Fill me with a sense of Your presence.” I practice this “discipline” routinely, and I promise it works! He fills us with a sense of His presence, from which flow love, joy, peace, hope, thanksgiving, and life. We, then, no longer have the desire to please ourselves, but to please Him. I’m not gonna say it’s easy to resist the devil, but it’s no longer an intense struggle when I practice this discipline.

The glory that God receives is not something that we can produce on demand. It comes as a by-product of our obedience. We can say, “I give God the glory,” but it’s really our obedience and our attitude, even our intention, that produces glory for Him. The same goes for the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit we grow is deeper than our conscious minds can fathom. When we are patient, it is our desire to be patient that bears fruit. In fact, it is our desire to be like Christ that bears much fruit. The same goes for gentleness, forgiveness (faithfulness), kindness, goodness, and self-control. Christ uses this fruit to be appetizing to lost folks. It’s not a lure, but a prize. They really can have that same fruit in their lives if they will give their lives to Jesus and obey Him.

So, we get grace when we give in to sin, but we produce glory for God when we submit to God and are obedient. Sounds pretty straight-forward, doesn’t it?

Abba, I want to be like You. I strive to be obedient to Your Spirit. May You impress upon me first Your love, then Your will. Inspired and empowered by Your love, I will do Your will. May You receive all the glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-21

Jesus is greater than everyone and everything. I know it’s obvious, but it’s worth saying. Did you know…

24 A discerning person keeps wisdom [Jesus] in view…

For Christians, Jesus is our Beginning and our End–and everything in the middle! He is our sole Authority on who God is, namely because He Is God. When we want to know something about God, all we have to do is look at Jesus.

With that said, there are a few times in the Gospels when Jesus corrects what was written down in the Old Testament. One of those times was concerning the Sabbath. The Pharisees were questioning Jesus why the disciples were picking heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath. Jesus used it as a teaching moment:

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions— how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath, and yet are innocent? But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means: ‘I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:3-8

We actually get two quotes here:

  1. Jesus is greater than the temple. WHAT? That was HUGE! No one but God is greater than the temple, which is the whole point. Jesus even tore it down and rebuilt it (spiritually) in three days (John 2:19-22).
  2. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. This was another BIG one. Jesus was saying that He is over Scripture and has the right to interpret it. In this case, He was saying that the law concerning the Sabbath was never intended to be used as a hammer, but as a guide to rest, celebration, and communion with the Father.

Later in that chapter, Jesus also includes Jonah (and, therefore, prophecy) and Solomon (and, therefore, all the kings of Israel):

41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

In Matthew 17, we have the account of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus as He is glorified. Peter would have them all on the same level of importance, but a white cloud (the Holy Spirit) covered the mountain top and God said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” When they looked only Jesus was standing there. The implication is that Jesus is above the Law, as represented by Moses, and the prophets (as represented by Elijah).

In Peter’s second sermon, he says that God has glorified Jesus and identified Him as the Prophet that Moses said would come and bless everyone (Acts 3:11-26). In Acts 7, Stephen identified Jesus as the Righteous One (Messiah) and saw Him standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:52-56).

John the Baptizer had this to say about Jesus:

31 “He who comes from above is above all; the one who is only from the earth is of the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of this He testifies; and no one accepts His testimony. 33 The one who has accepted His testimony has certified that God is true. 34 For He whom God sent speaks the words of God; for He does not give the Spirit sparingly. 35 The Father loves the Son and has entrusted all things to His hand. John 3:31-35

  1. Jesus came from above and is above all;
  2. Jesus testifies what He has seen and heard from the Father;
  3. Jesus speaks the words of God and has the Spirit in plenty (NIV says God gives [Him] the Spirit without limit);
  4. The Father loves the Son and has entrusted all things to His hand.

We can trust Jesus. He is our Authority on everything. Let’s praise Him this morning for loving us!

Abba, I praise You for Your unending love. Thank You for sharing the Father with us. Thank You for providing a way for us to know the Father intimately and for all time. We lift up Your name today. Praise You, Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 16 10-16-21

In case you ever questioned whether Jesus is God, here’s what the first-century Christians thought:

20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.

As I was reading in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul began to talk about food sacrificed to idols. Let’s look at 4-6,

Therefore, concerning the eating of food sacrificed to idols, we know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods [idols] and many lords, yet for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Paul was dipping back into Jewish Scripture with his two statements:

  1. “an idol is nothing at all in the world” comes from Psalm 135:15-18, 15 The idols of the nations are nothing but silver and gold, The work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; 17 They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. 18 Those who make them will become like them, Yes, everyone who trusts in them.
  2. “There is not God but one” comes from Isaiah 44:6, “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

He then follows a logical thought process concerning what he knew about Jesus Christ. As he does so, he gives us a foundational precept on the Person of Jesus Christ in verse 6. There are other passages, so I will list them here together (you might like to highlight and string them together in your Bible–it’s called, “stringing pearls”):

yet for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. 1 Corinthians 8:6

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: 16 for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17

2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, to the extent that He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:2-4

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3

10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him. John 1:10

13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Revelation 22:13 (see Revelation 1:8 for the tie-in concerning Jesus’ deity)

Want to know who you are serving? He’s the King of the Universe! He is Lord, our Lord. We serve Him. Why? Because He loves us, He’s forgiven us, and He wants to spend time with us–in fact, He wants to spend eternity with us!!! WOW! What a mighty God we serve!

Abba, I praise You and exalt Your name! You Are GOD! Thank You for being my Savior and my Lord. It boggles my mind to think that You would want to be with me. May I bask in Your Presence even as You participate in my life. “I worship You, Almighty God! There is none like You!!!” Amen.

Proverbs 15 10-15-21

We must choose our words wisely because life is a journey along which we learn new things. Our views change as we go.

5 A fool spurns a parent’s [teacher’s, mentor’s] discipline [wisdom, guidance, knowledge], but whoever heeds correction [new truth, expanded wisdom] shows prudence.

I am currently reading through 1 Corinthians (you’ve probably noticed). Yesterday, I read 8:2-3, which says,

Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.

Verse 2 reminds me that I don’t know everything, and I won’t know everything in this lifetime (probably not in heaven, either). The all-knowing God that lives in our hearts wants to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), so as we walk with Him, we must remember that others are on a journey with Him, too, and that we all are in different places in that walk. Some of what we have been taught must be passed down to the next generation; some of what we have been taught needs to be discarded and replaced with new truth that the Spirit gives. How do we know the difference?

  1. We study the words of Christ and those whom He chose to lead the movement. These people would be, according to 1 Corinthians 15:5-7, Peter, John, James, and Paul. We also trust Jude’s letter (he was Jesus’ half brother and James’ full brother), and Luke’s Gospel because it is based upon the disciples’ (many) testimonies. If you’re wondering about Mark, he was dictating Peter’s memoirs.
  2. We get confirmation from the Spirit in our hearts. We are at peace and we are in a state of humility. Any time we get arrogant about what we know, we are in the flesh. Trust me–it’s easy to do!
  3. We get confirmation from other Christians; many times it is outside of our regular sources.
  4. Time. If what we have learned is true, then it will stand the test of time.
  5. We’ll never know everything. Get used to it.

Verse 3 is a great verse to grasp onto and hold on! It’s the key to our lives in Christ. Isn’t it wonderful?!

There is another translation of these verses (a case in point that we are in process):

Those that think they have knowledge do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves truly knows.

What can we draw from this other translation?

  1. We have incomplete knowledge. We each hold one piece of a BIG puzzle. It fits in with others. It takes all of us.
  2. The key to knowledge is LOVE. To really learn what Christ intended on any given point is to view it from the viewpoint of LOVE.

At this point, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 comes into play,

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

So, as we all process new information from the Spirit, let’s show grace to to each other. It’s important. There are only two points that are fellowship-breakers:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).
  2. Jesus is the Messiah (Acts 9:22). Of course, this one includes His life, death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Our best attitude is that of Paul’s as he finishes his discourse on knowing Jesus, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, and pressing on for the prize awaiting us,

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:15-16

Peace…Peace…Peace…

Abba, You are our Head and we are Your Body. May we always remember that You are the brains and we are Your muscle. May we always take our directions from You, and remain teachable and loveable. Amen.

Proverbs 14 10-14-21

Being Christ to each other is not as difficult as it may seem. He works through us in very practical ways.

21 It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy.

As we continue our study of love, we find that God’s love for us is unfathomable, yet we know Him. He wants us to share His love with others by being like Him. Today, we look at one verse in a list of ways for us to be like God to each other. It is found in Romans 12:9-21; we will be looking at verse 10:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

What does it mean to be devoted to one another? “Devoted” means to be zealous in loyalty and affection. It means that we are all about the other person. Paul was specifically talking to the church in Rome, but we know that to be this way with people who don’t know Christ makes us highly attractive to them, which makes Christ highly attractive to them. The more we practice devotion, the more Christ-like we become.

Honoring one another above ourselves means that we give preference to one another. Preference is when we give a practical advantage to others over ourselves. I look at it as if the other person is a little higher-ranking than myself, therefore I treat that person with the respect I would a VIP. Imagine that: Everyone is a Very Important Person to me! Is not that how God sees us?

Today, let’s rest in the knowledge that God loves us and treats us as VIP’s; then, we are free to treat each other as VIP’s.

Abba, thank You for Your love and for Your attention. Knowing that I am important to You gives me everything I need to treat others as VIP’s, too. Even as I am devoted to You, help me be devoted to others. May I show honor above myself to everyone today. Amen.

Proverbs 13 10-13-21

Abiding in Christ may not be as difficult as it may seem…

1 A wise child heeds his father’s instruction…19 a longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul…25 the righteous eat to their heart’s content…

What we read in the Bible is designed to make us pray–to go to God for clarity. Mere words cannot convey the truths that God wants us to learn and know. His Spirit wants to use what we have read to start a dialogue with us. He will guide us into all truth:

  1. He is our guide, Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel,  and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:23-24
  2. He will guide us, 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. John 16:13
  3. Jesus is the Truth, Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

Otherwise, we become entrenched in our own interpretations, which, if not Spirit-led, leads to pride, arrogance, intolerance, and spiritual abuse.

1 Corinthians 8:1 gives us some clarity into what happens when we read without the Spirit’s guidance:

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

  1. The Example– Eating food sacrificed to idols; Paul understood that this food was fine, considering that the gods don’t really exist, but many were afraid because of their upbringing, and some used it as a manipulation tool.
  2. The Assertion– “We all possess knowledge.” This saying was what some were claiming; they either got their knowledge from their own minds (pride and delusion) or from a spirit (demon worship). Some even claimed to have secret knowledge from God–as if Paul wouldn’t know.
  3. The Truth– Knowledge puffs up while love builds up. This lesson teaches that knowledge without the guidance of the Holy Spirit brings a puffed-up attitude, which is pride. Pride leads to all the things mentioned earlier, including consequences on down the road.

As an example, let’s take John 15:9-12:

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

There are two commands:

  1. Remain in My love;
  2. Love each other as I love you.

There are two results:

  1. Closeness with Christ;
  2. Complete joy!

Folks, I can’t think of anything better, can you?

Abba, as I think about Your love, I relax. You have no expectations of me. You simply enjoy our togetherness. Where we move from here will be the outcome of our being together. Thank You for that. So THIS is what it means to abide in Your love… Amen.

Proverbs 12 10-12-21

Oh, what wondrous things the Father has in store for us–and right now, too!

2 Good [righteous] people obtain favor from the LORD. 28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

One of the greatest descriptions of God’s love for us is given to us by the Apostle John. He was especially qualified because of his close relationship with Jesus. John references himself four times in his Gospel (13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 21:20) as the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was likely the youngest disciple. Here’s what John said,

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3

Let’s break down the passage:

  1. “Great” and “lavished” are two descriptors that give the idea of abundance, even over-the-top. The love God has for us that He pours out on us (Romans 5:5) is great and lavish. And, how is that love displayed? In us being called His children!
  2. What does it take to be a child of God? We must know Him personally. It’s all about the relationship. The world may know about Him, but until they come to know Jesus Christ personally and have Him in their hearts, they will never know Him.
  3. Even though we are children of God, we are not finished products, yet. When Christ appears, meaning His Return, we shall be like Him both in body (1 Corinthians 15:49) and in maturity. The phrase, “see him as he is” means seeing Him as the person He is–and we will be just like Him!
  4. We have already begun the process of becoming like Him. It’s what the Spirit is doing in us (2 Corinthians 3:18). Our goal is to be just like Jesus: Whole, Complete, Secure, Mature, and Holy. Pure.

I cannot stress enough the importance of staying in touch with the Spirit. It needs to be the first thing we do in the morning, all through the day, and the last thing we do as we go to bed. Everything revolves around our relationship with Jesus (the Spirit and Jesus are one, and Jesus and the Father are one).

Our obedience only counts when we do it in partnership with the Spirit.

Let’s stay close to His side today and receive that great love of God as He lavishes it on us!

Abba, I sure want that kind of love. Thank You for the way You bless me. May I never take Your love for granted. May I never keep it, but share it with everyone around me. I love You, too. Amen.

Proverbs 11 10-11-21

The love of God for us is immense. Look at the lengths He went to get us back: Jesus and the cross!

8 The righteous person is rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead [because of their bad choices]. 19 Truly the righteous attain life [in Jesus], but whoever pursues evil finds death [because of their bad choices].

As we continue our study on the love of God, let’s look at one of my favorite passages–well, one of them, anyway. It is Galatians 2:20-21,

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

There are several truths to draw from this passage:

  1. Being crucified with Christ is both metaphoric and spiritual. It might be better to understand by saying that we died in Christ as Christ died for us. He is our Representative, our second Adam (Romans 5:15). Because of Jesus, we no longer need to be afraid of death (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
  2. Christ lives in us. We are His temple, mobile temples, at that.
  3. Now that we know Christ, we build our whole lives around Him. The Holy Spirit never sleeps, and we have Him living in us. We are to be honing in on His voice and promptings so that we will be successful when it comes to godly living. His desires are our desires. The faith mentioned is our belief that Jesus holds the best plan for our lives, both here and in eternity.
  4. He loves us! It’s in past tense because it is talking about before the cross. We know He loves us because of what He did for us. God died on the cross through Jesus to show His love for us.
  5. Grace is what we are given in our time of need. Mercy, too, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  6. The Law was designed to show us our need for a Savior. If it could save, then Jesus never needed to come to earth and make a way back to the Father (Romans 3:20).
  7. God the Father gave up His Son for us; the Son gave up His life for us. It was NOT for nothing!

And it’s all because of love! Love died for us so that we could experience God’s love up front and personal. We end today with this verse from Romans 5:5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” With this kind of love in our hearts, let’s share that love to all around us!

Abba, You are wonderful! Thank You for putting not only the feeling of love, but also Your compassion (Agape’ love). May we trust You enough to share that love with those around us. We will leave the conviction of their souls up to You. Amen.

Proverbs 10 10-10-21

We are to be light bearers. The best way for us to do that is to demonstrate God’s love for everyone to everyone.

1 A wise child brings joy to his father…11 the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…

This past week, we did a study of 2 Corinthians 5:11-21. In it, we discovered that Christ’s love compels us to be ministers of reconciliation. In order to fulfill our role, we will be looking at this amazing love that the Father has for us that is displayed in Jesus Christ. We begin, not with John 3:16, but with John 15:9,

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; remain in my love.

We find that the heavenly Father, the King of the universe, loves His Son. We also see that the Son loves us. Does that necessarily mean that the Father loves us as the Son does? No, unless we look back in the evening’s conversation and discover this, “It is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work [loving you]” (14:10). If we read verses 9-11, we find that Jesus was telling Philip and the guys that He and the Father are one,

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak on my own initiative, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves.

Just in case we missed the point, let’s look at John 10:28-30,

28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

When we say, “Jesus,” we are saying, “Father.” To say, “Father,” is to say, “Holy Spirit.” They are three in one. We tend to forget that point, especially concerning the cross–but, we will save that discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that Jesus is the Father extending His love to us. NOW, we can read John 3:16,

16 “For this is how God loved the world: He [loved us so much that He] gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish [be utterly destroyed by the consequences of their actions,] but have eternal life.

Want to know the real mission of Jesus here on earth? It’s in the next verse: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Jesus’ mission was to save the world. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Ever. Not before, not during, and not after. Jesus is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3), and we know that God is love (1 John 4:8).

If we want to know the love of the Father, we need to get to know Jesus. The Scriptures are a great place to start, but He Himself is the best place to learn about His love. Go to Him and ask Him. He will reveal the Father to us. He will give us His love.

Abba, thank You for loving me and for giving me Your love. I feel it in my heart, and I act on it every day. The assurance of Your love gives me the strength to stay on task. May I be a light/love bearer for You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 9 10-9-21

On this day, a certain number of years ago, Robin and I were on our way to the hospital…

9 Instruct a wise person and she will be wiser still; teach a righteous woman and she will add to her learning.

Today is Hillary’s birthday! We are so proud of her.

This week, Robin and I got to attend a Double Honor Minister’s Retreat in Red River, New Mexico. We met with three other couples and the host couple:

  • Two pastors and their wives,
  • a Director of Missions who started out as a music minister, then pastor, then missionary, and now a DOM, and his wife,
  • and the host couple, Andy and Becky Dietz, with whom I was on staff at FBC, Borger, TX, many moons ago.

We had a great time together strengthening each other in the Lord and learning about each other’s ministry, encouraging each other and praying for each other. One of the most fun things we did was talk about our families. Since Andy and Becky knew my girls, it was fun telling them about how they follow the Lord and sing/play with me at church on the Praise Team and in choir. We told them how proud we were of Hillary:

  • Her flute-playing ability and the two orchestras of which she is a part,
  • Her participation in the Singing Churchwomen of Oklahoma,
  • Her position in administration at EPIC schools,
  • The fact that she is nearly done with her doctorate in (some kind of degree concerning) Education,
  • and her two cats, plus one outside cat of which she takes care (she was left by a neighbor who moved).

Andy and Becky rejoiced with us in the girls’ close walk with the Lord. We were reminded of the verse,

Train up a child in the way that she should go, and when she is old she will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

Hillary, you make your mom and dad very proud of you and very humbled at the same time. May God continue to bless you as you seek Him.

Abba, thank You for such wonderful children. Hillary and Hayley have been a great blessing to us–as well as good friends. May You bless both of them, and particularly Hillary today on her birthday. Amen.

Proverbs 8 10-8-21

The message of reconciliation is based upon God’s love for us. He wants us to show the world His love.

35 For those who find me find life and receive favor [blessing, love] from the LORD.

Yesterday, we ended our passage in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, but there is one more thing I would like to share concerning verse 21,

God made him who had no sin [became the Representative of] sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus didn’t have to die; He chose to die. God did not kill Him; the world establishment did (don’t believe me? Read Mark 15:1-15 and especially Acts 2:23). Jesus chose to take our sins to the grave. He showed how much God loved the world (John 3:16) by willingly laying down His life for all of us, even those who killed Him (John 10:17-18, 12:31-32).

When we look at His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, we find that He was asking God for another way (Matthew 26:39, 42), yet, we know that He knew that He had come to earth for the very purpose of showing God’s love to everyone and expressing that love in His sacrifice on the cross,

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” John 12:27-28

That voice was heard by everyone around, but it was misinterpreted by the crowd. Jesus’ next statement clears up the matter,

29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.

What they heard was God confirming His love for His Son, and His participation in the coming events. God the Father was going to receive glory through the Son. How? By Jesus allowing Himself to be killed by the world establishment in order to take on Himself the consequences of sin for all mankind. What God was showing was His love for His Son, and His eternal love for His creation, a love so strong and so deep that He was willing to die for them. A good way to put it is, “Lose my children? Never! I would rather die first.” He even put off the consequences of all sin that happened before the cross so that they could participate in that forgiveness (Romans 3:25).

What does this love mean to us? It means that we can trust God. He will always give “good and perfect gifts from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). It means that the bad things that happen to us are caused by sin in this world and by our own choices. God doesn’t cause those bad things, but He promises to walk with us through them (Hebrews 13:5) and to bring good from them (Romans 8:28). It means that the church and the Gospel are triumphant and will continue to be triumphant until Christ comes to rule His kingdom that is growing within us and in the world.

We are now righteous. Let’s be His ambassadors to this world and increase His kingdom.

Abba, thank You for calling us to be part of Your kingdom. Thank You for growing Your kingdom within us. May we share the good news of reconciliation to those around us, so that they, too, can have You and Your kingdom within them. “May Your kingdom come, may Your will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.” Amen.