Proverbs 20 3-20-21

Caesarea Philippi was considered the birthplace of the world and the entrance to hell. Jesus took His disciples there!

12 Ears that hear and eyes that see–the LORD has made them both.

For Jesus to go to Caesarea Philippi was no big deal because He is Creator of everything (Hebrews 1:2). He knew the legends and He knew the Truth. He wanted to make a point to His disciples: By taking them there, He was saying that He was beginning something new.

So far, Jesus had only eluded to being the Messiah. Today, we read His declaration.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will [already] be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will [already] be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Mathew 16:13-20

There are several things to point out about this passage.

  1. In Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18, Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Matthew used the term, “Son of Man.” Why? Because of his Jewish audience. They would have immediately picked up on the Daniel 7:13-14 Messianic reference.
  2. Jesus makes a declaration that Simon is a “rock” and on that rock He will build His church, against which the gates of Hell cannot overcome it.
    1. Simon Peter was to be the lead Apostle once Jesus left. It was a passing of the baton, the mantle.
    2. The “rock” was the confession of Peter, not Peter himself. The confession was that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus Himself is that Rock. He was in Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13, and He is today.
    3. The word for “church” is “ekklesia,” which means “gathering” or “assembly.” This word is used for the sons of Jacob in Genesis 49:2, for the leaders of Israel in Exodus 3:16, and for the congregation of Israel in Numbers 8:9, 10:3, Deuteronomy 4:10, 31:12, and other places. The day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit entered the disciples and 3000 people got saved is what we call the birth of the church when in reality it is the expansion of the church. Those 3000 people were Jewish–100% of them! Not all Jews in the Old Testament times were true Jews in that they kept the Law with all their hearts, souls, minds and with all their strength, and neither are all Jews since Christ true Jews in that they believe that Jesus is the Messiah and have been circumcised of heart. In fact, in both groups, true Jews are the exception and not the rule. The apostle Paul states in Romans 2:29 that “a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”

Jesus was making it very clear that the Old Covenant Law was done and that He was establishing a New Covenant. Later on, He based His New Covenant on love, His love for us and our love for each other, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” John 13:34-35.

Let’s ask Christ to teach us to love one another so that this world can see Jesus in us. They need hope; they need peace; they need His love reaching out through us. We can “loose” the kingdom of heaven on those around us if we learn it well enough on the inside to show it on the outside. It’s already been loosed in heaven, so what are we waiting for?!

Abba, may You teach us Your love so that we can love those around us. Help us to realize that those who don’t know You–and don’t know you very well–are going to think differently than us. They are controlled by fear and worldly desires. But, when we are obedient and show Your love to them, Your Holy Spirit convicts them and gloriously saves those who will come to You in repentance and obedience, pledging their heart and life to You, dear Jesus, just as we did. We look for those to whom You are speaking and working in their lives. Help us to see with Your eyes, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 19 3-19-21

Why take things as face value? “Study to show yourself approved…” You may have learned false information.

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

Our love for the Lord must be more than a feeling; it must grow legs and walk! At the same time, many people run ahead of the Lord because they think that they can guess what He’s up to. WRONG! We are not designed to do anything FOR God, but WITH God. He made us interactive on purpose, and that purpose is to be interactive with Him.

Today, we look at two passages that have been misused for centuries. One is clear if we do the math and the other is clear if we dig a little deeper than the English language. Here’s the first one:

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
Matthew 12:38-42

The Pharisees were asking for the sign of Moses, which was manna from heaven. We learn this bit of information from John 6:30-31. Jesus told them the only sign they were going to get from Him aside from His healings: He would spend three days and three nights in the belly of the earth just as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. There are two things that are taken for granted; One is that we can get three days and three nights from Friday to Sunday. The other is that Jesus died in 33 A.D. According to the astronomical charts, both are wrong.

  1. The Jewish day began at dusk. Counting backward from Sunday, we get Saturday night–which was really Sunday morning, Saturday, Friday night–which was really Saturday morning, Friday, Thursday night–which was really Friday morning, Wednesday night–which was really Thursday morning, and then Wednesday. Since Wednesday actually began on Tuesday at dusk, the Passover meal was Tuesday evening; Jesus was arrested that night, crucified at 9am, died at 3pm, and buried in Joseph’s tomb before dusk of Preparation day (Wednesday) to get ready for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a High Sabbath that began on Thursday that year–which was really Wednesday night. Confusing, right?
  2. Astronomical computer programs can tell us the year that the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Thursday (Wednesday night). It was 30 A.D. This date correlates with other astronomical data (including rulers and moons) placing Christ’s birth at 3 B.C.
  3. The Feast of First Fruits is always on the first day of the week during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus arose sometime after dusk on Saturday as the First fruits of the resurrected. He, indeed, was in the grave three days and three nights.

One more thing about this passage is Jesus’ reprimand of the Pharisees. Nineveh praised Jonah, and the Queen of the South (Ethiopia- see 1 Kings 10:1-13) praised Solomon, but Jesus told them that He was greater than Jonah and Solomon. He was setting them up, but they didn’t realize it.

The second misinterpretation happens in Matthew 16:13-20. We will wait until tomorrow to discuss that one. Today, let us focus on the fact that regardless of bad translations, misguided theologians (from as far back as the 6th century), and well-meaning but proof-texting pastors, the Word of God stands pure, holy, and true. Sometimes, we just have to dig for that truth.

Abba, thank You for all the wonderful tools we have at our disposal today. What theologians throughout the centuries wouldn’t give for that astronomical computer program or the internet! My Bible program that gives me access to many translations and Hebrew/Greek dictionaries is amazing. I even have it on my phone at my convenience all the time! May I not take for granted Your Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth. Reading Your Word is the most important thing we do besides carrying on a conversation with You all the time. Help us to hunger and thirst after righteousness, Lord. Amen.

For more information about “Easter” and its origin, see “Why Easter? Why NOT Passover?”

Proverbs 18 3-18-21

Whether judged in this world or the next, our judgement is based upon our own decisions. The standard is Jesus.

20 From the fruit of his mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of his lips he is satisfied.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit [whether good or bad].

Yesterday, we watched Jesus patiently explain the error in the Pharisees’ thinking. Today, we see Jesus explain the danger in their way of thinking.

31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:31-32

If you’ve ever heard of the Unpardonable Sin, this is it. Refusing the Holy Spirit when He comes to a person asking entrance into his heart and life is unforgivable because He is the One who saves us. He is our seal of salvation, our guarantee, the Agent of Transformation, the power of the Resurrection–He is Jesus! The Pharisees were speaking against Jesus as a man and they were unaware–or refused to accept–the Holy Spirit’s role concerning Jesus. Here was their warning.

33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. Matthew 12:33

Our actions always reveal our motives. Jesus was pointing out that righteous deeds follow a righteous heart. Again, it was a warning to the Pharisees that their deeds revealed their heart.

Next is a scathing condemnation of their current deeds. What we must realize is that Jesus was calling their actions to their attention so that they might repent. There was no judgement here concerning punishment; He was simply calling it like He saw it. Here we go:

34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word [concerning what they say about the Lord Jesus-see verse 32] they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:34-37

Can you see what Jesus is doing? He is trying to make them aware that they need a heart change. The sad part is that they weren’t having it. People are stubborn, especially if they are enjoying the fruit of their sin. They wielded their power like a sword over the people and they didn’t want to give it up. We are the same way, though. It isn’t until we see our sin as sin that we are willing to change, and that revelation comes from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s put ourselves before the Holy Spirit today and ask Him to reveal anything that is keeping us from hearing Him, seeing Him, and loving Him.

Abba, thank You for the Gift of Your Holy Spirit. His presence and participation in our lives gives us peace, protection, and power to live righteously. He even gives us the want-to to want to! May we learn to give ourselves to His guidance and direction daily–constantly. Amen.

Proverbs 17 3-17-21

Jesus demonstrates His unlimited patience with us as we discover who He is. Learning to trust Him is key to transformation.

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

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows that they are desperately wicked in that our hearts are all about doing what WE want rather than what anyone else wants, even God. But, Jesus is in the business of transforming hearts into hearts that love Him. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone [dead] and give you a heart of flesh [living]” Ezekiel 36:26. That’s good news! There is even better news: “And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” Ezekiel 36:27. That last part may not sound like good news, but as we study Jesus’ life and ministry, we find that He redefines what those decrees and laws are for us. More on that later. Right now, we are watching Jesus reveal Himself as Lord of the Sabbath–and therefore, God.

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”
11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Matthew 12:9-14

Jesus just redefined the Sabbath rules for everyone. The Pharisees didn’t like it, so they showed their true colors and plotted to kill Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus withdrew from that place, but drew a crowd. Evidently, the Pharisees followed, because when a demon-possessed man was brought to Him…well, read the account yourself:

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23 All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul [Satan], the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 “Or again, 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.

The people saw Jesus’ healing, which was the work of the Father (John 10:38), and began to ask The Question, “Could Jesus be who He claimed to be: the Messiah?” The Pharisees, though, resorted to slander. Jesus, in His infinite patience, explained the error in their thinking. But then, He cut their feet out from under them, 30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Jesus was drawing the proverbial line in the sand. Who would stand with Him? Who would scatter? The answer to this question separates households still today. Jesus warned us:

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— 36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household [Micah 7:6].’” Matthew 10:34-36

We’ll pick it up tomorrow with verse 31. Good stuff! As we are about to see, Jesus really was in charge! He didn’t mince words with those who didn’t take Him seriously and those who set themselves against Him.

Abba, as I read and learn about Jesus, I see more and more that He really is You in the flesh! Thankfully, Your Spirit lives in me and I have Your peace living in my heart and I don’t have to be afraid. Thank You for exchanging my old, dead heart for a new and living one, one that desires to follow You and keep Your commands. Your yoke truly is easy and Your burden light (Matthew 11:28-30). Amen.

Proverbs 16 3-16-21

Understanding the God-hood of Jesus is vital. Otherwise, we can take or leave His direction according to our own desires.

1 To man belong the plans of the [untrustworthy] heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue.

Jesus is more than just a “big brother.” He is God in the flesh; it’s what the word, “Immanuel,” means (Isaiah 7:14). Jesus could change the rules because they were His rules, but He didn’t. Jesus kept the Law of Moses very strictly. There were times that He ignored the rules of the Pharisees because the Pharisees had either misinterpreted or over-interpreted the original law. Here is a for-instance:

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”
He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1-8

You may be saying, “I have heard Jesus quote that verse recently.” You would be correct! It was when we were studying Matthew 9:9-13 at the calling of Matthew that Jesus first quoted that verse to the religious leaders. The law to which they were referring was their own set of laws that were established by them to “help the people keep from sinning.” Actually, it was more about control than anything. Jesus stripped away their interpretation back to its original intent, which was the benefit of man and the worship of the Father.

Jesus gave two examples out of the Scriptures. One is 1 Samuel 21:1-6 when David ate the consecrated bread. This passage wasn’t about the Sabbath, but about how everything that was sacred was for the benefit of mankind rather than the other way around. The pagans kept their “gods” happy with offerings of all kinds. God has everything work for the benefit of mankind because we are His creation, and in Christ, we are His children. The second example was directly related to the temple priests who worked on the Sabbath by offering sacrifices to God. In their work–according to the Pharisees–they desecrated the Sabbath. Their jobs were ordained by God Himself and therefore did NOT desecrate the Sabbath.

Jesus then referred them to Hosea 6:6 and actually chastised them for not knowing its intent. They condemned the innocent disciples for picking heads of grain on the Sabbath by placing their law ahead of the obedient lifestyle of the disciples. Jesus was basically saying, “Do as they (the disciples) do and not as you (Pharisees) say.” Then, He dropped a bombshell on their parade: “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Son of Man– A reference to Daniel 7:13-14, which was a Messianic passage, thus identifying Jesus as Messiah.

Lord– Kurios, Supreme Master, God.

Sabbath– Jesus was creator of the Sabbath (see Genesis 2:2-3 , Exodus 20:8-11, and Proverbs 8:30-31).

All in all, Jesus rocked their world by claiming to be the Creator of the Sabbath. He pretty much identified Himself as Messiah. They certainly would have taken it that way. It’s the main reason they wanted to kill Him:

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:16-18

Lest we start making excuses for the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, Jesus gave them the same opportunity to believe in Him as He did everyone else:

37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” John 10:37-38

Alas, instead, they tried once again to seize Him (fail). Let’s not miss the opportunity to believe Jesus. Look what He has done for us on the cross! Let’s place our faith and trust in Him and call on Him to guide us every day, in every way.

Abba, understanding who Jesus is frees us from having to defend Him to others and from having to justify every single thing He tells us to do. Jesus, Your direction in our lives is vital for us to have and for us to obey. May we settle once and for all in our hearts that You are King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.

Proverbs 15 3-15-21

Learning how to listen is imperative to hearing correctly. Studying our bibles is how we learn to listen.

14 The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Folly is continuing to eat “junk food” instead of that which is good for you–even worse, eating poison! The teachers of the law taught each other and therefore fed each other lies. Jesus came to bring true knowledge; they missed Him, but the disciples of John the Baptist did not, who came seeking answers. Jesus spoke plainly and clearly to them.

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:14-17

In order to understand what Jesus meant by Bridegroom, we must first understand the Jewish perspective of God’s relationship with His people.For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth” Isaiah 54:5. They saw God as their Husband and themselves as His bride. When Jesus said that He was the bridegroom, He was representing God. Every Jew would know this phraseology. He answered them with logic from their own lives: Fasting doesn’t happen at a wedding feast. Once the bridegroom and bride leave, then people can fast, which was part of their weekly worship regime.

Jesus then gives another illustration about patches. This one is pretty straightforward. A patch of unshrunk cloth will tear the old garment the first time the garment is washed with the new patch on it. To do so would make the tear or hole worse than before it was patched. Along with this illustration are the wineskins. To put new wine in an old (unstretchable) wineskin would burst the skin and waste the wine. The inference here is that the old wineskin (the covenant of Moses) was not flexible enough nor big enough to hold the new wine (the kingdom of heaven that Jesus was bringing). Jesus was creating a new wineskin (fertile hearts) for the new wine (the Holy Spirit). The old sacrificial system would be obsolete when Jesus died on the cross.

At one point, when John was in prison (his ministry being complete), Jesus once again addressed his disciples:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Matthew 11:2-6

Jesus knew that passages from Isaiah were the best answers to give John:

say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.

Isaiah 35:4-6

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3

John evidently believed Jesus because when he was beheaded, “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus” Matthew 14:12. I am presuming that they stayed with Him from then on. Let’s not forget that Andrew and John were both disciples of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42) and probably knew most of them. Also, they would take John’s word about the testimony of Jesus.

In order to think Jewishly, we need to know the Old Testament Scriptures. We also need to learn about Jewish customs, rituals, and feasts. Our pastor has a Jewish friend who is a follower of Jesus. They will be talking about Passover and other feasts these next two Wednesdays at 10:30 at Wednesday Morning Blessings. Look for Brookwood, OKC on YouTube (best) or for Brookwood Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, on Facebook.

Abba, what a grand time to learn about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as they come up in a couple of weeks. May You open our minds to the meanings behind the events, especially concerning Your fulfillment of them. May we have spiritual eyes and ears, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 14 3-14-21

Believing Jesus is important. If we believe what He says, then we will do what He says.

6 The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning [those who are looking].
35 A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful [disobedient] servant arouses his fury.

As we continue viewing Matthew’s account of Christ’s ministry, we read in chapter 9 about two events which include the teachers of the law being both mockers and shameful servants.

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it [but not the leaders], they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. Matthew 9:1-8

There are several things to note concerning this passage:

  1. Jesus was in His home town of Nazareth. He more than likely knew all the players.
  2. We know from Mark 2:4 that they cut a hole in the roof and let the man down in front of Jesus.
  3. Jesus knew the thoughts of the teachers of the law. He knows all our thoughts!
  4. Which IS easier? Are they not both impossible for man? “But with God, all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.
  5. The man was obedient. Wouldn’t you be?
  6. All the glory went to God (v. 8).

I’m sure that it would seem that Jesus was blaspheming, but the proof that He is Messiah was proven by His healing the man. Only God can do such things. How did they respond? Eventually, they would conspire to kill Him.

Jesus went on to Capernaum and called Matthew to follow Him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice [Hosea 6:6].’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

  1. Jesus was comfortable with those whom the religious leaders considered “sinners.”
  2. Jesus broke a lot of the pharisaical rules, not to mention the societal ones.
  3. The religious leaders did not consider themselves sinners, nor sick and in need of spiritual health.
  4. Hosea 6 is an indictment of the religious leaders and their poor leadership. Surely they picked up on it.
  5. Jesus was not there to call mockers, but those who realize they need a Savior–THE Savior.

As we go to church this morning either in person or online, let us consider: Do we need a Savior? Were we sinful enough for Christ to have to die for us? If we believe we do and that we are, then we will get much out of church today. We will go with grateful hearts and dry sponges ready to slurp up spiritual truths. We will sing praises to our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and we will give our lives–once again– to Him with humble hearts.

Abba, I surely do! I praise You for loving me and doing what it took to reinstate me as Your child. Thank You for wanting me; Your presence in my life and your interaction with me makes life worth living. The fellowship we share means more than I can express. I bless You and praise You today, Lord Jesus. May my life honor You. Amen.

Proverbs 13 3-13-21

Are our lives sending the right message? Do our lives lift high the name of Jesus? Know Him; serve Him; show Him.

5 The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a trustworthy envoy brings healing.

As we continue on our study on the Jewishness of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns His listeners to be careful to whom they listen. The religious leaders would have them follow the Law of Moses, particularly the way that they spin it. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and to usher in a New Covenant.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

The real question is, “Is a person’s life growing in godliness and righteousness?” Another way to say it is, “Am I becoming more like Jesus and expressing His values, His love, and His grace?” It’s a good question to ask ourselves every morning!

Jesus then hit the teachers of the Law between the eyes:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus linked the Law back to a relationship with the Father through Him. See it? “I never knew you.” At another time, Jesus tells them what the Father’s will is for mankind, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent” John 6:29. If the religious leaders didn’t follow Jesus, then they were wolves in sheep’s clothing, bad fruit, and a bad tree (we’ll discuss the bad tree later this month). Jesus Himself linked loving Him with obedience, “If you love Me, keep my commands” John 14:15. He was about to give them explicit commands to follow that changed them and changed the world:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides [lives, camps out] in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:9-11

I included verse 11 because I want us to be reminded of the telltale sign of a growing Christian: Joy. When we abide in Christ daily, His joy washes over us. Even in difficult circumstances, we can rest in His love and feel His joy. His peace reigns in our hearts because of the promise of eternal connection with Him and eternal life in Him.

Let’s not be like the religious leaders who decided for themselves how they would serve, but ask Christ how we may best serve Him.

Christianity is interactive;
we were never designed to do things FOR Him, but WITH Him.

Abba, may we “get it” today. Serving You is not doing things for you, but with You. It’s always been about the relationship. May we not grieve You today by ignoring Your Spirit within us. Teach us to listen closely; You are forever speaking to us. Unplug our ears, LORD. We want to hear Your sweet voice! Amen.

Proverbs 12 3-12-21

Not wanting to change is what got the religious leaders in so much trouble. We can be the same way.

1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

As we continue to look at Jesus’ correction of the teaching of the day, we begin to see why the religious leaders hated Him so. He upset their applecart. Not only that, He called into question their motives behind their rules. Take oaths, for instance:

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn [Numbers 30:2].’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5:33-37

The passage in Numbers was a clarification that a person should keep his word. Jesus interpreted oath-taking as unnecessary for a person to keep his word. Jesus was taking away the teaching of the religious leaders by specifically listing the things by which NOT to swear: heaven, earth, or Jerusalem. But, it was worse than that. Matthew records Jesus’ scathing rebuke of the teachers of the law in 23:16-22,

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

Jesus summed up the practice of oath-taking with this warning, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Did the religious leaders stop taking oaths? Not at all. They would rather kill Jesus than do as He said.

Next on the list was the binding of an old law and the loosing of a new one. It includes a rebuke of the religious leaders’ passive resistance against Rome. Jesus had something to say about that, too.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth [Exodus 21:23-25].’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Without actually saying it, Jesus was telling them to love one another as He loved them, a command that He gave His disciples His last night with them ([John 13:34-35]. The closest He got to telling the people this command is in 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” As for the one-mile rule, by Roman law a person was duty-bound to carry a soldier’s pack one mile. I have heard it said that the cities had markers at every mile so that they would know when they had carried the pack exactly one mile. Jesus wanted them to change their attitude toward their adversaries. He was trying to get them to show God’s love instead of national pride. Sounds like a good lesson for today, doesn’t it?

Verses 43-48 are a continuation of this theme. If a person would discipline himself with this knowledge, he would not have to be corrected (see the Proverbs verse for today). Also, he would “be perfect even as his heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Abba, may You make us just like Jesus, who was just like You. We want to be perfect: whole, complete, mature, lacking no good thing in us. Like I said, we want to be just like Jesus! We don’t want to be stupid, Lord. Help us to listen, trust and obey. Amen.

Proverbs 11 3-11-21

Why is sexual sin so pervasive? Because it is at the base of our self-control, which is the hardest fruit to grow.

22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.

Today we look at adultery and divorce from the Jewish leaders’ perspective. Jesus raised the bar impossibly high for guys concerning adultery. Let’s look at it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:27-30

The first part of this passage everyone gets. Jesus moved our responsibility from the physical to the mental. It’s the next part that we have to work through. He is basically saying that whatever you look at that causes you to commit adultery is something that needs to exit our lives. The same goes for what we do, as well. Our guardrails need to be such that we don’t get close to the temptation if we have anything to do with it. Personal responsibility is a thing. It’s part of having free will. If we were to have free will, then God had to give us total free will. He is still in charge of the basics in our lives, but any choice we have is, indeed, our choice. The passive judgement that God passed on mankind is to allow us to suffer the consequences of our sin–unless we cry out to Him for help. He is ready and willing to save us whenever we call.

Now, we look at divorce:

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[a]32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Matthew 5:31-32

Jesus elaborates in Matthew 19:1-12 concerning marriage, sex, and abstention from sex. In that passage, He says, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” The partnership of marriage is a picture of our relationship with God. God does not give up on us, therefore, we are not to give up on each other.

The religious leaders then try to throw Him a curveball by asking about Moses’ certificate of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Jesus set the record straight that it was because of their hard hearts that this concession was given. “But it was not this way from the beginning.” Jesus wanted them to know the whole truth about marriage and God’s design.

In verse 9, there is an exception. If the woman (speaking to men) is unfaithful, then he is free to divorce her. Men who want a divorce are usually the ones who have been or are wanting to be unfaithful. Jesus said no. When the disciples claimed that it would be better not to marry, Jesus set a bar that is impossible to meet without the Holy Spirit:

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

Jesus said by using the word, “eunuch,” that unless we are married, then we are to be chaste unto the Lord. In other words, “No Sex Outside of Marriage.” They were not free to do as they wanted. God has rules for marriage that are designed to protect both the man and the woman as well as the picture marriage shows to the world. The question is, are we willing to give up our desires to do what is best for our Lord? It all comes back to self-control and being under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion: Jesus reinstated God’s original plan for marriage
that the religious leaders had corrupted. [mic drop]

Abba, may I learn more and more about Your original intent concerning marriage and self-control. I know that if we get our bodies under control, then most of our fight with the “natural man” goes away. When the fight goes away, our overall peace level goes way up! “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth (Psalm 86:11).” Amen.

Proverbs 3-10-21

A Ready Guide to Worship

11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence [it’s a heart issue].

Worship is different than praise and thanksgiving. We praise the Lord and give thanks to His holy name. Worship is a response to His Spirit speaking to us. It requires “listening ears” that we can only get when our hearts are tuned to Him. I love the first verse of Come Thou Fount, which reads, “Come, thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.” Somewhere in a service, we need to move from talking about God to talking TO Him. When we acknowledge Him, His Spirit speaks to us in the music, the prayers, the sermon, and the invitation. It’s important for us to move from praise to worship.

Here are some guidelines for encouraging worship:

  1. Tune your heart to sing His praise. Singing our faith and our intention helps us focus on Him. I know somewhere down the line, men have gotten the idea that it’s okay for them not to sing–wrong! Tell that to King David, or Jesus. They both sang. Men, we need to model true praise and worship by singing to the Lord. Perfection is not necessary; just a willing heart.
  2. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” List in your mind everything that comes to mind for which you are thankful. Be sure to include His attributes and His love, His greatness and His goodness. Allow yourself to be carried along by the music and the flow of the service.
  3. Keep something handy on which to take notes during the sermon. The Lord highlights things for us; when He does, make a note. Expect God to speak to you through your pastor–whether in agreement or in rebuttal. Try to see from his perspective, which includes age, temperament, history, and education.
  4. Keep comments to others, whether by mouth or phone, to a minimum and make sure to not say anything negative about what is being said. If you have a question or disagreement, jot it down for another time. Pray about it; study on it; discuss the topic, but not the disagreement. It’s important to not defame anyone. Stay away from disparaging* and caustic** remarks. Instead, PRAY.
  5. Don’t “check out” during the invitation i.e. packing up your things getting ready to go, checking your phone for messages, etc. Instead, pray for God to move in hearts–especially yours! Now is a great time to hear from Him as we lay our hearts and lives before Him in an attitude of humility.

God is speaking to His Church. What is He saying? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to His church” Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22.

“Speak, LORD, Your servant is listening.” These words were spoken by Samuel the first time he heard Your voice. I am sure that he spoke them many times in his life. How can I be so sure? Because I speak them often, as well. May I never impose my will over Yours. Twice lately, I have misheard You and have been corrected and then mildly rebuked. No worries; I consider them as training. I now know better how to hear Your voice. I have learned that when there is a question, don’t go any further until I am sure of Your answer even if I miss an opportunity to do or say something. “When in doubt, don’t.” I’m learning, Lord. I’m only 60. When I’m 80, maybe You’ll call me like You did Moses. If You do, then I am sure You will equip me with everything I need to do Your will. In the meantime, keep training me, Lord. Amen.

*disparaging-tending to belittle or bring reproach upon.
**caustic-capable of burning, corroding, or destroying living tissue; severely critical or sarcastic.

Proverbs 9 3-9-21

Thinking that we can live our lives our way and then make things right with God near the end is inviting disaster.

12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

We continue looking at the book of Matthew from a Jewish perspective. Jesus was dealing with unforgiveness and breach of fellowship among the family; He then turned the conversation from horizontal to vertical.

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:25-26

The statement assumes the guilt of the person with the adversary. Jesus is referring to Himself as the adversary and the Jewish people, particularly the Jewish leaders, as the guilty person. There will come a time when it will be too late to repent. We know that the time to which He is referring is the destruction of Jerusalem (and much of Israel) in 70 A.D.

Let’s talk about judgement. First of all, we will see it spelled two ways, “Judgment” and “Judgement.” There is no difference in meaning, so we won’t worry about it. Secondly, we tend to think of a judge or a ruler who decides to pass judgement upon people, many times randomly or capriciously. This is not the case with the heavenly Father. “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar” Romans 3:4. God always judges rightly. But there is more to it than just passing reasonable judgement. Thirdly, God’s judgement is both passive and active. It is passive in that He decided (passed judgement) in Genesis 2:17 that He would let mankind suffer the consequences of their own sin based upon their own decisions.

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

It is not God’s nature to mete out wrath. He is a good and gracious God. His desire is that all mankind come to repentance and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:9). Even so, there is an active side to His judgement. He uses natural occurrences and people to carry out judgement. He used the Assyrians and the Babylonians as His tools to judge Israel. From a human aspect, if God had not told us that He was doing it, we would have assumed that everything occurred naturally. Concerning Israel and the Assyrians, Israel called upon the Assyrians to help them in a battle. The Assyrians got a taste for the good things in Israel and soon came to invade Israel and take all the plunder. Israel did not repent, and the Assyrians came back and carried everyone off as slaves. Likewise, Hezekiah, king of Judah, showed the Babylonian emissaries his treasuries; eventually, they came and took everything he had shown them (it took several generations, but it happened just as Isaiah said it would in 2 Kings 20:15-18). I believe much of Revelation is like this natural judgement.

The religious rulers of Jesus’ day did not receive His warning and admonition. Instead, the conspired to kill Him. Even after His resurrection, they refused to believe, and persecuted the Church. Their subsequent rebellion against Rome cost them their temple, city, and homeland. Temple sacrifice was eliminated. Why? Because the final Sacrifice had been made when the Lamb of God was slain on the cross. From then on, all true Jews call on the name of Jesus for salvation. Paul said it best:

29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Romans 2:29

14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Galatians 6:14-15

Abba, I, too, want to boast in nothing except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the world be crucified to me, and I to the world, daily. Make me new every day, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 8 3-8-21

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” Hebrews 13:8. He has always wanted us back.

27 When he [the Father] prepared the heavens, I [Jesus Christ] was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
28 When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: 29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: 30 Then I [Jesus Christ]
was the craftsman by his side day after day, and I [Jesus Christ] was filled with delight, rejoicing always before him; 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Proverbs 8:27-31 (compiled from several versions)

So, when Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago…” we know that He was the One who said it. He knew what He meant; He needed no one to interpret for Him. Jesus came to explain the Law and then fulfill it. Read on!

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ [an Aramaic term of contempt] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ [an even worse term of contempt] will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus was, of course, talking about the Israelites at Mount Sinai when the 10 Commandments were given. I think He phrased it that way so that the people were forced to remember what they knew about the event. It brought from the subconscious to the conscious more than what would have been thought of if He had simply said, “When God gave the 10 Commandments, He said…” Jesus immediately set the record straight that it was not just about the actual act of murder, but also about the thoughts and intents of the heart. If we want to be like God, then we must think like Him. Since only the Spirit knows the mind of the Lord (1 Cor. 2:11), then we need the Spirit with us and in us. Hence, the cross, resurrection, and Pentecost.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Jesus then gives an example of a good time to forgive: Before coming before the Father with an offering. He was still talking to Jews who bought sacrifices to the temple in Jerusalem. What Jesus was asking was BIG. Consider that you are from Nazareth and are in Jerusalem about to offer your annual sheep at the temple and the Lord brings to mind a fellow Jew who thinks you cheated him. Jesus is saying that you should leave your sheep with someone in Jerusalem and make the trek back home (70 miles), reconcile to that person, and then return and give your offering. Jesus was saying that reconciliation was a more proper sacrifice to God than the sheep. He would know.

Verses 25 and 26 we will save for tomorrow. Good stuff there.

Abba, may we take our offering as seriously as Jesus wants us to take it. May we not only forgive those who do us wrong, but be reconciled with them (if they are willing); the first is a heart issue while the second is a fellowship issue. Thank You, Jesus, for setting the record straight. We want to be like You because that makes us like our heavenly Father. Give us more, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 7 3-7-21

Chapter 7 is about who I call the Mistress. If we are not careful, we all may have one. Do you?

15 I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!

Each week as we prepare to go to church, we get the chance to ask ourselves this question: Is there anything that I have put in front of the Lord in my life? If so, then we have a mistress. We don’t choose her; she looks for us–a better term may be “hunt.” Satan and his demons seek those who have weak spots in their hedge of protection, chinks in their spiritual armor. It’s the main reason God has us set aside one day a week to be all about Him. The sabbath was the time in Israel’s week when they stopped all activities and focused on the LORD. Nowadays, we don’t celebrate quite the same way, but we do have a day in our week that we interrupt our schedules to spend time together in celebration and praise of Him, prayer, learning, and fellowship. It’s called, “Church.”

So, let me ask again: What in your life comes before the Lord? Your job? Your medicine (liquid, recreational, or whatever)? Your fun? Your will? Your desires? Your kids’ success? Jesus describes anything that comes between Him and us as masters.

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [that which satisfies, specifically wealth]. Matthew 6:24

Those who refuse to look because they know that they have a mistress have lost their fear of God. If they were to look closely, they would find that God wants us to fear Him so that He can lead us in a way that we are not destroyed by sin. To think that we are on the same level with God usually winds up with us deciding that our way is better than God’s way. What we forget is that He has a complete view of everything and a pure heart that wants only our good. If we could get past our feelings, we would be able to see clearly that His way is always best for us. Sadly, Psalm 36:2 describes a lot of people, even Christians, “In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin.”

May we not be like that! Let’s open our eyes and look at ourselves with a discerning heart. Let’s ask the Spirit to shine His light on any area that is not surrendered to Him. Let’s make our sabbath be what it was originally intended to be: A day of introspection and celebration with God the Father, through the Jesus the Son, with the help of the Holy Spirit as we recognize His sovereign place in the world and in our lives. Let’s make today all about Him.

Abba, as I look at my life, I pray that You will open my eyes to anything that I am keeping to myself and not letting You have. I know that everything I surrender to You becomes sanctified and is used to make me more like You–even sin! I praise You that You have changed my relationship with sin so that it no longer separates me from You–I still have to deal with the consequences, but not being in Your presence is not one of them–but now has become a tool in Your hand as You shape me into Christ’s image. Thank You that in Christ I am still being “fearfully and wonderfully made” as I am transformed into His image. Keep it up, Abba. I want to be just like You! Amen.

Proverbs 6 3-6-21

Truth always has its day, but woe to the one who strove to deceive. He is his own undoing.

18:17 In a a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

If they weren’t sure that Jesus was proclaiming to be Messiah, the next passage cleared it up for them.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-20

The accusation of abolishment was something that rabbis did among each other. When one of them made a statement that went outside the bounds of what was considered lawful, the other rabbis would accuse him of abolishing the law. He was striking it down and setting up a new law. It was a very serious charge. Evidently, Jesus was being accused of abolishing the Law. When He said that He had come to fulfill them, He was talking about the sacrificial system. He was to become the Sacrificial Lamb. As John put it, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29.

It’s interesting to think that Jesus was Jewish and kept all the Law. But, seeing that He wrote the Law and could have changed it if He wanted, He didn’t change it at all; He finished it by fulfilling the demands of the sacrifice. What were those demands? The deaths of all who have sinned. Jesus took the consequences of our sin upon Himself and killed them with His own death. Here’s what happened next:

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference [between Jew and Gentile; see verse 9], 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:21-25

Jesus offers grace to both Jew and Gentile alike. It was His plan all along as we read about last week in Deuteronomy 4:5-8. Both groups are equally lost and are both equally saved by God’s grace. Jesus also said that not one word, letter or even dot of an “i” would disappear until He had made it to the cross. Jesus was the Keeper of the Covenant.

When Jesus talked about a person who sets aside one of the least of the commands and teaches others to do the same, He was especially talking to the religious leaders. He was referring to their extra laws and the way their laws changed the complexion of the ones given by God to Moses. How do I know this? Because of His statement in verse 20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law…” They were in the habit of chaining the people with their manmade traditions. The one that Jesus had the most trouble with was the keeping of the Sabbath. The religious leaders had written so many rules about what a person could and couldn’t do that it became more about the rules than about acknowledging the LORD. Jesus deliberately healed on the Sabbath seven times: Three times in Mark (Mark 1:21-28, 1:29-31, 3:1-6), two times in Luke (Luke 13:10-17, 14:1-6), and two times according to John (see John 5:1-18, 9:1-14). I find it interesting that Matthew didn’t record any of these healings. Would it have offended his Jewish readers? It certainly did the religious leaders! It was their main reason for wanting to kill Him.

There’s a lesson here for us: If Jesus was not afraid of the religious leaders nor the Roman government because He had a mission to complete and He was counting on God to get Him to the cross, we can have that same assurance that when we are following God’s will for our lives (on a daily and even continuous basis) we need not fear anything or anyone. Our lives are in His hands and we will die when He is satisfied that our mission is complete. We are invincible until He says otherwise. Therefore, in both our lives and in our deaths may He be honored and glorified.

Abba, You have called us to Your mission and included us in that mission. May we be obedient servants and glory in our part of Your Story. Indeed, may our lives and our deaths bring much glory and honor to You, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 5 3-5-21

Salt and Light: Personal or national? Both?
Warning: Don’t read God’s Word unless you intend to obey what He tells you in it.

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

Yesterday, we looked at the Beattitudes from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. “We find [the Beattitudes] an abstract of Jesus’ history-altering intention for establishing the kingdom of heaven as well as a clue to Matthew’s organization of his Gospel.” This quote is from a website that gives insight into the “blessings” of Jesus: The Beattitudes. Today, we continue in chapter 5 with Jesus’ illustration concerning salt and light.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
NASB

Jesus was Jewish. He followed the Law to its fullest extent–at least, in its original intent. We must remember that it was Jesus who gave the Law to Moses; He knew its intent. He perfectly fulfilled the Law because He WAS the Law. Matthew, too, was Jewish and wrote to a Jewish audience. We must interpret everything Matthew wrote from a Jewish perspective.

Salt was used in 30 A.D. for several purposes. It was a flavoring, a preservative, and a healing agent. When salt had too many other ingredients in it, it was considered impure and was relegated to being spread on roads to keep grass and weeds from growing. I believe that Jesus was referring to the nation of Israel. Their “job” was to spread the knowledge of the LORD God (Adonai) to the nations (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Instead, Israel was proud, exclusive, and unapproachable, even hostile. Jesus was reminding them of their original purpose. There is one more implication to the phrase, “thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.” In 70 A.D. the Israelites were “thrown out” of Jerusalem and “trampled underfoot” by the Roman soldiers. A portend?

“You are the light of the world” is another reference to Israel’s original purpose. Jerusalem is located on the side of Mount Zion (formerly known as Mount Moriah, the same mountain on which Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac in Genesis 22, and on which David bought the threshing floor from Araunah [2 Samuel 24:15-25]; ultimately, the temple was built there [ 2 Chronicles 3:1]). Everyone went “up” to Jerusalem. Again, it was a reminder that Jerusalem was placed on a hill (the side of the mountain) in order to be a light to the nations.

In this passage, Jesus is directing the people back to the nation’s original purpose, which was to be a light to the Gentiles. Where have we heard that phrase before? Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 60:3; John 8:12; Acts 13:47; Acts 26:23; also, Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:32. Jesus is that Light. He even called Himself the light of the world in John 8:12. Jesus was always about reaching the Gentiles and He wanted to use Israel to do it. Did He accomplish His goal? Indeed! The Coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2) and the sending of Saul/Paul to the Gentiles in Acts 9:15 are evidence of His success. We are part of that plan, as well. Paul said, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky [universe-to the world] 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life” Philippians 2:14-16. In fact, the quote that Paul makes in that verse is from the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, specifically verse 5, and redirects it to encompass Christ’s goal of reaching this “warped and crooked generation.” Wow!

Tomorrow, we will finally get to The Fulfillment of the Law.

Abba, You are amazing! And Your Word is amazing! You truly have given us everything we need for a godly life (2 Peter 1:3). May we continue to study and ponder, discuss and share the truths You show us. Amen.

Proverbs 4 3-4-21

Matthew was a Jew. Through what lens did he view Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? I’ll bet it’s different than our view!

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

A devout Jew kept several things in mind. One was that he was part of God’s chosen people and was called to be separate from the nations. He could expect other nations, especially the ruling nations, to despise him and treat him with contempt. Another was that the temple was the center of worship. Everything revolved around the temple. Still another was the Law. Being a devout Jew required living by the Law, even the extra laws that the Jewish leaders imposed on the people.

Jesus came to fix a broken system. The Law itself wasn’t broken; it was designed to show us our sin (Romans 3:20). It was the system that was superimposed by the leadership that was broken. In fact, He came to fulfill the Law so that we could move beyond laws to love (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus explained the Law according to how God intended it to be. Let’s look at Matthew, chapter five:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

This sermon came early in His ministry. He already had disciples and He taught them, but everyone was welcome to listen.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The word for “poor” means “beggar.” Any self-respecting Jew would be offended by this statement. Those who saw with spiritual eyes would see that there is no way for the blood of bulls and rams to wash away sin. The Jews needed Messiah!

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

The nation of Israel was a vassal state to Rome. They longed for their freedom and independence. Jesus’ promise gave them hope, but not the kind that He intended.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

They knew that they were promised that Messiah would redeem the land that was taken from them. Jesus promised much more! The meek part would have been confusing to them. They wanted to fight!

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Generally speaking, every Jew hungered for the Law and the righteousness that came from following it. The problem was that no one could keep the Law perfectly and they were therefore condemned by it. How could they hunger and thirst for a righteousness that could not be attained? Yet, Jesus promised that those who did would be satisfied as in filled to the full. He said that He had come to give life in abundance, or, to the full. Their interest was piqued!

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

This one I’ll bet would have grated on them. They had not been shown mercy, so why should they show mercy?

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Here, again, is another impossibility. Yet, Christ promises that they will see God if they are pure in heart. The Law could not achieve a pure heart; how was He going to accomplish this task? Was He speaking for God?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Again, Jesus calls them to seek peace rather than war. Many would be for peace, but many would be for war.

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

The Jews were familiar with persecution because of their religious beliefs. The difference comes in His definition of righteousness: HE is righteousness. HE offers them the kingdom of heaven. He IS the kingdom!

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here, Jesus gets specific and points all persecution His way. People would assume by His statement that those who oppose Him would persecute Him and his followers. Jesus promises great reward in heaven. In order to fulfill this promise, He had to be Messiah! Many put their faith and trust in Him. Why? Because He called them. He called us, too. Jesus referred to the prophets who were persecuted. He even made a sarcastic remark about no prophet being allowed to die outside of Jerusalem (Luke 13:33). Most Jews knew about the prophets, so they would certainly get the reference. Understanding it was another matter.

As we can see, the Jews had a frame of reference for every statement that Jesus made. Tomorrow, we will delve into the passages on salt and light, and the fulfillment of the Law. “I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Abba, as we study the Scriptures, may You open our minds to what Christ was talking about to His fellow Israelites. Knowing the context helps us to interpret their meaning for our day and our circumstances. Grow us, Lord. We hunger and thirst after righteousness, Your righteousness. Make us pure in heart, O God. Amen.

Proverbs 3 3-3-21

When praying for yourself and others, there are things for which to ask and things from which to stay away. What are they?

13 Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she [wisdom] is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.

Don’t ask for money. Money never solved anyone’s problems. If they were insecure before, then they will be insecure rich; if they were arrogant before, then they will be intolerable wealthy. If they were lonely before, then they will fall for all the wrong types of relationships. Fame, prestige, and popularity are the same way. Instead, a person who is wise and gains understanding will find that richness, wealth, security and personal well-being are in the eyes of the beholder: A loving spouse, children and grandchildren/nieces and nephews, integrity, a good work ethic, satisfaction in a day’s work, a calm home life (unless you have crazy cats–or dogs), to name a few. The person who finds wisdom from the Lord, His understanding, and knowledge about Him and how the world works is the person who is truly happy, blessed, and full of joy.

So, what do we pray when we pray for others? If they are believers, then we pray pretty much the same thing we pray for ourselves, which we’ll get to in a minute. If they do not know the Lord, then I recommend this (from my brainstorm page):

  1. Ask for opportunities to be a witness to them, both silent and vocal.
  2. Ask for them to have an awareness of spiritual things.
  3. Ask for them to have a curiosity and willingness to talk about the Lord.
  4. Ask for these things:
    1. a drought to come upon them: money, friends, transportation, housing, something!
    2. a hedge of separation from those who encourage wayward living.
    3. a crisis of belief where they actually consider that there may be something to what you’ve been saying.
    4. a godly person or persons to come alongside them to encourage them on their journey.
    5. for God to do whatever it takes to draw them to His side!
  5. Be available for a salvation conversation and discipleship.

As for yourself and other believers, pray for these things:

  1. Seek wisdom from God in His Word. Listen to His Spirit as He speaks to you through what you read.
  2. Seek transparency with Him. He already knows; the only person you are fooling is yourself. He wants you to succeed. Trust Him.
  3. Seek knowledge, instruction, insight and understanding; seek prudence and discretion.
  4. Seek God’s will for your life for today, even right now. He sees the whole path and knows the best way.

Here are some miscellaneous things for which to pray that are from Robin’s brainstorm page:

  1. Make us useful for Your kingdom.
  2. When traveling, may we/they enjoy Your presence and protection.
  3. Teach us how to “remain in You.”
  4. Take our lists, our desires, and change them to Your will and desires.
  5. Please orchestrate the details of this day and may we respond to You and not react or resist as Your will unfolds.
  6. “May our children see Your glory at work and please make our efforts successful (Psalm 90:16-17). Pray other Scriptures as prayers!
  7. Please give me the sense to obey. (Psalm 119:73)
  8. Guard my thoughts, words, and deeds so they will honor Your name.
  9. Please prepare hearts to receive Your answers.

I’m sure there will be more, but that’s all we have on our brainstorm pages so far. With God, we can get as specific as we like. Since He already knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8), we can rest assured that He will give us what we need, and that He enjoys us asking. We must remember that He is God, therefore He gets to choose the answers and the timing. We are His little children (emphasis on “little”). Remember, it’s all about the relationship. Start talking; He’s listening!

Abba, thank You that You hear our prayers–that You even care to listen! We are Your children and You’re crazy about us, just like we are about our kids. May we take advantage of our position as siblings of Jesus and co-heirs with Him. Wow! I can hardly wait to see what all You have planned for us. Amen.

Proverbs 2 3-2-21

Want to be protected? Seen as one of God’s faithful ones? For knowledge to be pleasant to your soul? Keep reading!

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

God wants to have a conversation with us. He wants for us to talk to Him and for us to listen to Him. It’s all He’s ever wanted from the day He created Adam and Eve, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” and a conversation ensued–albeit, not a very pleasant one. The point is that the LORD God came to talk with Adam and Eve. the whole point of the cross was for us to be reunited with Him again for fellowship. Wherever we got the idea that God barely tolerates us was NOT in Scripture. On the contrary! He loves us so much that He came to set us free from the consequences of our sin so that we can have Him live with us, IN us. So, how seriously are we taking our relationship with Him?

In John 17:19, Jesus said, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” Sanctified means, “to make holy.” What that means to us is that we are made to be like Jesus. In fact, He sanctified Himself (only God can do that); it was His full intention to be set apart to die for us so that we could be truly sanctified by having the Holy Spirit come and take up residence in us. It is He who cleans us up, dresses us in a white robe, gives us the ring of sonship and the sandals of sonship, and He signs–and seals–our adoption papers. He is the reason that we are part of God’s family! He is God and He lives in us! One of my favorite verses is Colossians 1:27, the part that says, “Christ in us, the hope of glory.”

Are we really interested in Him guiding our lives? If so, then we will talk to Him, we will listen to Him, and we will heed what He says. As the old hymns says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Tomorrow, we will finish our study on prayer. We will look at how to pray for ourselves and for others.

Abba, it’s kind of scary to think about talking to You. You are King of the Universe, yet You live in our hearts. Turning to You in our minds brings us face-to-face with You! May we get comfortable with talking to You about anything and everything. Help us to obey quickly when we catch ourselves thinking about things that we shouldn’t be thinking about, because You are the one who brought it to our attention. Even this morning, I found another verse verifying the fact that You know me inside and out, Psalm 33:15, “He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” The more we acknowledge You, the more we will notice how much You are a part of our lives already! Make us even more aware, Abba. Make us like Jesus. Amen.

Proverbs 1 3-1-21

The fear of the Lord is a good thing–when we understand what we are fearing!

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

When a student enters the dojo (school) of a fourth-degree blackbelt Karate expert, there is a certain amount of fear of what that teacher COULD do to him, but there is much more awe than outright fear of getting beaten beyond recognition. The teacher wants the student to learn his ways and to be with him for a long while. Beating up his students would never enter his mind! Consider this passage:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11

Our Father in heaven has good gifts to give us. Even as we fear Him as King of the Universe, we are in awe of Him as our heavenly Father! He loves us and we love Him. When it comes to judgment, we receive discipline, but not punishment. Christ has already taken all the consequences of our sin upon Himself. Note these words from Jesus Himself:

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

Did you catch that? The Father Himself loves us! WOW! Now, when we ask for something, we can ask in Jesus’ name. What does that mean? It means that we ask for the same things for which Jesus asked. We’ll break that down another time. Suffice it to say that we can trust the Father to do what is right for everyone involved when we ask Him. It’s not that He won’t unless we ask, but it’s because we ask that He now has “permission” to get involved. Consider what Jesus told Peter:

“and I will give to thee the keys of the reign of the heavens, and whatever thou mayest bind upon the earth shall be having been bound in the heavens, and whatever thou mayest loose upon the earth shall be having been loosed in the heavens.” Youngs Literal Translation

A short time after this conversation, Peter loosed salvation in Christ with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon his Jewish brethren in Acts 2. Soon after that, he loosed salvation upon Cornelius and all Gentiles in Acts 10. Peter bound the Gospel from the religious leaders with his statement, “we must obey God rather than men” Acts 5:29. As we can see, God was working through Peter in each of these situations as he loosed and bound what God wanted Him to loose and bind.

He wants to do the same thing with us! In our situations, we have the freedom and responsibility to loose and bind according to God’s will. For instance, when praying for our leaders and government officials:

  • We seek revival to sweep through their offices and meetings;
  • We seek perseverance in the face of bad decisions, ridicule, ostracism, and persecution;
  • We seek God’s glory to be attained according to the rise and fall of nations;
  • We bind satanic forces and pray that those who follow them will devour each other;
  • We loose the Holy Spirit in their lives and circumstances;
  • We bind all under-the-table meetings, pay-offs, and deals that they betray each other;
  • We loose those leaders that stand for what is right and just;
  • We bind immoral laws and decisions;
  • We loose liberty for captives and good news to the poor.

We could go on, which is the point. Let’s pray for our country and its leaders, but let’s pray with intention and education in that we have sought God’s will and are praying God’s will. We have a responsibility to pray. It also gives us something to talk about with our heavenly Father. Be sure to listen to His response.

Abba, You have given us the awesome task of being advocates for potential brothers and sisters. As we come to You in prayer for them, please teach us to pray for them according to Your will: “You love them so much; whosoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life (John 3:16);” “You are patient with them, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9),” for starters. Give us clean hands and pure hearts (Psalm 24:4) so that we can stand in the gap for our leaders (Ezekiel 22:30), O Lord. Teach us how and lead us to do it! Amen.

Proverbs 28 2-28-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we are so arrogant that we can spurn God, just know that we are headed for either destruction or discipline. How can we be so “bold” with God? Do we not realize how much He loves us? Do we not know that sin destroys us? Let us do as Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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

There are two warnings in this verse:

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 27 2-27-21

Whether in blood or in Christ, family is important. Our greatest joys come from our closest relationships.

11 Be wise, my child, and bring joy to my heart; then [you and] I can answer anyone who treats [you or] me with contempt.

The method of prayer we use is not nearly as important as the connection we make with the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is through Christ that we connect with Christians all over the world beginning with those whom we know personally. From Robin’s brainstorm page:

Why do we pray? (continued)

  • To connect with others in the body of Christ (all over the world) through the Spirit as we seek to align with and reveal God’s authority, power, and His perfect will.
  • To receive assurance of God’s unfailing love and mercy and His faithfulness to “complete the good work He began in you” (Philippians 1:6).
  • For us to understand and proclaim that God is good no matter His answer (Yes, No, Wait).

God does not play favorites with His children, but has a special and perfect plan for us in His will. It may not be as specific as we might think. If His will is to create new thoughts, new glory, new acts of praise, and a new person, then there are variables involved in His will. Does He know how everything will turn out? Sure. He’s Omniscient. But, He’s also Omni-present, which means that He is always NOW. His name is I Am. He lives in this moment with us! His question to us is, “Will you trust Me?”

Isaiah knew what it meant to have a personal, ongoing relationship with the LORD. In His book, we find this exhortation,

Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-19

With God, it’s all about the relationship. This letter was written down 600+ years before Christ came. It’s always been about the relationship. What did it take to be in a relationship with God?

Wash and make yourselves clean [in the blood of Christ]. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Isaiah 1:16-17

As we can see, to be in right relationship with Christ was the same for them as it is for us. We wash in the blood of Jesus; we stop doing evil (selfish, self-centered) deeds and learn to do righteous acts (according to the Spirit’s leading). The LORD even gave some examples. Notice that all three examples have to do with protection. The responsibility we have for God’s children is much greater than our own lives. Again, it’s all about relationship with the Lord and with our fellow brothers and sisters AND potential brothers and sisters.

As we pray today, let’s lift up those around us to the Father and seek ways to minister to them. It’s important to Him, therefore, it needs to be important to us.

Abba, I pray for the Peppers and thank You for their hospitality these past two days. May You bless them in their walk with You. Bless them in their relationships with their family and with whom they come in contact. May You spread the aroma of Christ through them. May Your protection be on Cody as he serves You in Washington, and on Erin and Joe, Rylee and Kinlee as they grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Thank You, Lord, for extended family. Amen.

Proverbs 26 2-26-21

Just know the truth doesn’t help unless we act on the truth. Our deeds must match our beliefs. Is Christ your Lord? Do what He says!

8 Like the useless legs of one who is lame is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.

Knowing that we are saved, washed in the blood of Jesus, and have been made members of the family of God, we are free to be good without having to worry about getting it wrong and losing our position in Christ. That position is permanent! We are free to set some things aside that we know are hurting us so that we can focus on the areas that He has highlighted. Here’s how it works:

Do not merely listen to [and read] the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25

We listen to and read the word of God with the intent of doing what it says. To listen with no intention of doing what it says is to deceive ourselves into believing that we have truly given our whole lives to Christ. The word of God is a mirror that God holds up to us and points His holy light on a particular area. We notice the area and see what needs to be done. To not do what we see is sin. James says in 4:17, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Whether it’s to do for someone else or for ourselves, we know by the Spirit what we ought to do. So then, let’s do it!

Now, as we read His Word, whether it’s what Jesus said and did and taught or whether it’s from one of the letters, or whether it’s from the Old Testament on morals, we have an obligation to our Savior to be obedient to what we read. This obedience is based upon our intimate and ongoing relationship and fellowship with the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. Without this connection, we cannot bring glory to the Father. Without doing what He says, we cannot bring glory to the Son. Without obedience, we quench the Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 tells us not to do that, “And do not quench the Holy Spirit of God, through whom you are sealed for the day of redemption.”

From this point forward, let’s read in order to know so that the Spirit can instruct us in holy living. He knows what we need to do and change first, second, third, and so on. He wants to do it with us, creating a new person that is a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10 NLV). For instance:

When praying for someone’s health,

  • Seek immediate, supernatural healing.
  • Seek natural healing with full recovery.
  • Seek ultimate healing in heaven.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to have free reign in this person’s life.
  • Seek spiritual growth during their illness and/or convalescence.
  • Seek God’s glory to be displayed in any and all scenarios.
  • Accept God’s decision in the matter.

The neat thing is that we have full confidence in this person’s healing–we just don’t know which type of healing God will choose. He knows what is best for that person in body, soul and spirit. We must trust Him. It’s part of our growth in our Christlikeness.

We will continue delving into the method of prayer tomorrow.

Abba, there’s a lot of material here. I pray for my readers that they will seek Your face even as they read this post. May they hear and heed even as I have learned to do. Let’s create something new together, Lord. You lead. Amen.

Proverbs 25 2-25-21

Jesus taught us how to pray. Why? Because without His help, we don’t know how. In fact, without His Spirit, we can’t!

19 Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble.

Jesus called His disciples to follow Him and learn His ways. He was all about imparting to them His mission. He wants to impart that mission to us, too. He had it recorded in the Gospels and expounded upon by Luke, Paul, Peter and John. When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” He was talking about making disciples like He made disciples. He called them to accept His teaching, His way of living, His way of loving, and His way of dying. Are we ready?
Jesus had a method to His praying. Let’s look at it:
[5] “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. [6] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. [7] And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. [8] Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
[9] “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
[10] your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
[11] Give us today our daily bread.
[12] Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
[13] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
[14] For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

  1. Prayers for prayer’s sake is not really prayer if we define prayer as a conversation and not just “talking to God.” If God is not part of that conversation, then it’s not prayer by this definition. Hence, those praying for the accolades received all the reward they were going to get.
  2. When we consider the fact that God knows everything about us, we may ask, “Why ask at all?” God’s M.O. is to reveal a need to His children and invite them to join Him in meeting those needs. A good example is Adam in Genesis 2:18-22.
  3. His instruction:
    1. Whether in private or in a group, we address God as our Father.
    2. Jesus specified that God the Father was in heaven. Why? Because God the Son was standing in front of them!
    3. Hallowed = Holy. He is high and lifted up!
    4. Jesus has us pray for God’s kingdom to come to this earth–which it had in Jesus. We who have Jesus have the kingdom of heaven in us.
    5. In heaven, God’s will is done immediately and fully. We pray that His children here on earth would do the same.
    6. “Daily bread” is a reference to manna in the wilderness. It met all of their dietary needs. It’s a picture of the promise that God will meet all our needs of food, clothing, and shelter. It may not be what we consider adequate, but we will survive. Note that only our needs are promised to be met. Our comforts are like batteries in many toys: They’re not included.
    7. Jesus explains forgiving people in verses 14-15. Our forgiveness is contingent upon accepting Jesus’ way of forgiving us. If we don’t forgive others, then we are forfeiting His forgiveness for ourselves. It all goes back to His mission of reaching people for the kingdom.
    8. We don’t have to worry about Him leading us into temptation; I believe this statement was there for contrast. His entire mission was to deliver us from the evil one! Not only that, He prayed that we would not be taken from this world, but that the Father would protect us from the evil one (see John 17:15).

To summarize the prayer, we are to pray in this manner:

  1. Acknowledge God and His majesty, His place, and His position;
  2. Pray for people everywhere to accept His will for their lives;
  3. Ask Him to meet our daily needs;
  4. Don’t let unforgiveness take root in our lives; instead, forgive and be forgiven;
  5. Pray against the things that tempt us and pray for deliverance from them.
  6. Finish with praise and thanksgiving.

As we pray for ourselves, we also pray these things for others. We will be looking further into our method of praying soon. Stay tuned.

Abba, You are wonderful. You meet all our needs and protect us from the evil one. We ask that Your kingdom would come so that Your will would be done by everyone on earth just as it is in heaven. May we adopt Your mission and start by forgiving others. We release them from any debt that we perceive they owe us. Thank You for releasing me from my debt of sin. Yours in the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 24 2-24-21

The only way for a church body to have unity is for all to have the mind of Christ. His Spirit links us together.

3 By[God’s] wisdom [His] house [Church] is built, and through [His] understanding it is established; through [His] knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

Unity does not mean uniformity. Oneness does not mean sameness. We collectively look beyond individual wants, needs, perspectives, knowledge and experiences to Christ’s will for His Church. Coming to that realization takes a lot of prayer and fasting–the kind of fasting where we fast from demanding our own way, from indulging ourselves in our own opinion, from seeking our will over the will of the group; that kind of fasting. Let’s look at some more from Robin’s and my Brainstorm pages:

Kelly– The purpose of prayer is unity of the mind.

  • We seek the same goal, which is Christ’s will in each matter.
  • We give preference to each other as we seek Christ’s will.
  • We lift each other up to the Lord for wisdom, discernment and understanding of His will.

Robin– Why do we pray? (continued from Monday)

  • To confess and repent of what is keeping us from being fully committed to Him (see yesterday’s post). If we don’t know what, or how, then pray, “reveal any offensive way in me and lead me in Your Way everlasting” (Psalm 139:24).
  • To express gratitude for the endless list of blessings He gives us daily! The most important ones are that we belong to Him and that He is with us 24/7!
  • To lift up others:
    • for a specific need;
    • to be used to bring glory to God;
    • that they be able to discern God’s hand;
    • to see evidences of His Spirit among them;
    • to be used to draw their loved ones and care givers into a (deeper) relationship with God;
    • to experience and tell others about God’s power, participation, provision, presence and peace in their lives;
    • for needs to be revealed so that the body of Christ can minister specifically;
    • for strongholds to be revealed, recognized and demolished;
    • for deceptions to be revealed and replaced with truth so people may be set free;
    • to pray all these things over “lost people” including the “do whatever it takes to draw them close to Your side” prayer.

What becomes obvious is that praying for health is okay, but it’s at the surface of a deep pool. There is SO MUCH MORE for which to pray than simple health. Consider this: If God chooses to use a person—with the person’s willingness—to be put in a specific place with specific resources and with a specific message for one specific person and/or event, then we can trust that He will keep the person in exactly the health he needs in order to be in that place and have those resources in order to deliver that message to that one person and/or event. This scenario includes mission fields, work places, and even hospitals–plus a whole lot more.

May we seek to be where He wants us, when He wants us there, and in the frame of mind to do His will while we are there.

Abba, we are Your extensions. May we be Your hands and feet, Your voice and Your ears to a lost and hurting world. We are Your ambassadors, so call the world to Yourself through us. We are Your humble servants. Amen.

Proverbs 23 2-23-21

It’s more than a frame of mind; it’s a framework of the heart. Our hearts must be right with Him for prayer to “work.”

9 Do not speak to fools, for they will scorn the wisdom of your words. If the Lord were to take His own advice, then He would not talk to us when we are being foolish. Give thanks that He does!

The problem is in listening. In order for us to hear Him correctly, we must be listening on the right frequency, so to speak. Our hearts must be tuned in. For that to happen, we must be ready to obey whatever He commands–immediately. My girls learned early that “delayed obedience is disobedience.”

In the book, “How to Pray,” by Ronnie Floyd, he talks about the unrepentant heart:

  1. It keeps on sinning. An unrepentant person won’t do what it takes to change. He denies his sinful behavior, even justifying it.
  2. It ignores God’s convicting Spirit pertaining to sin. The unrepentant person takes his life into his own hands. He won’t wait for God to direct him.
  3. It hardens over time. An unrepentant person’s personality, countenance, behavior–everything about him changes, and I don’t mean for the better! Each time he says “no” to the Spirit makes it easier to say “no” the next time.
  4. It manages sin rather than overcoming sin. The unrepentant person is not interested in giving up his sin. The problem is, “everything in moderation” doesn’t work here. Sin destroys us. God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. If we are truly His, then He will discipline us in due time.

If we cherish sin, we cannot pray effectively. In fact, we inhibit God’s transformation of our lives into Christ’s image. Consider these verses and how they may reveal sin in our lives:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 Do we see how the world indulges and retract ourselves from such behavior or do we take part in them?

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:3 Do we consider others ahead of ourselves or do we think down on others, even judging them and their actions?

In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, Ephesians 4:26 Do we dismiss a brother’s offense or do we hold a grudge?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 Do we keep a close guard on our tongues and attitudes or do we “let loose the dogs of war?”

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things. Philippians 4:8 Do we intentionally fill our minds with things that are God-honoring or do we allow the world to fill us with trash?

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do we honor the Lord with our bodies and keep our minds clean from dishonoring other people’s bodies or do we indulge in overt and secret sexual sin?

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, Ephesians 3:20 Do we allow the Lord to work in our lives or do we shut Him out with unrepentant hearts?

Obviously, we didn’t get to Robin’s and my Brainstorm pages. I thought it prudent for us to discuss that which hinders our prayers first. I pray that you will take inventory With Him and allow Him to clear out anything that gets in the way of your prayers.

Abba, I pray that in my life You will reveal any sinful areas. Deal with them, Lord. I want to be a clean vessel for You. I want my life to bring You glory and honor. May I always stay ‘fessed up and prayed up concerning sin. Amen.

Proverbs 22 2-22-21

If prayer is our connection to God, then we should place great emphasis on it. We learn His will for our lives by asking.

11 One who loves [has]a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king [the Heavenly Father] for a friend.

This week, we will be looking at prayer, what it means, and how to use it. Robin and I made brainstorm pages concerning prayer and what we have learned through our years of study and experience. Let’s begin with a few encouraging Scriptures:

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8

They (the fellowship of believers) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42

When they heard this [Peter and John’s report], they [the other apostles and disciples] raised their voices together in prayer to God…31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:24, 31

The Purpose of Prayer

Kelly: There is a unity of spirit when we come together in Jesus’ name.

  • We seek His face;
  • We conform to His ideal (commands);
  • We reconcile (peace between brothers and sisters);
  • We sense a oneness in Christ that can only be experienced by Christians who are unified in spirit and praying in the Spirit.

Robin: Why do we pray?

  • To connect with and align our “will” with God’s perfect will;
  • To ask for wisdom, discernment, knowledge, guidance, motivation, strength…to be equipped for whatever God has for us;
  • To ask on behalf of others for them to connect with and align their “wills” with God’s perfect will;
  • To recognize and submit to God’s sovereign authority and confess our trust in Him with words of praise and thanksgiving!

We read God’s Word to hear Him speak; we pray to God in response to His initiation of a relationship with us. Many times while we are praying, we get a nudge or an urge to do something. Rather than dismiss it or be afraid of it, step out in faith and see if the “door” remains open as you labor to be obedient. If the door closes, simply consider it a closed door and thank God for speaking to you. If the door remains open and you step through it, be ready for an adventure with the Spirit! Small acts of obedience will lead to great acts of faith and kingdom work. Are you wondering where I got such a crazy idea? Here it is:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:2-3 Thus began the first Missionary Journey of Paul.

Tomorrow, we will look at “believing,” and more from Robin’s and my Brainstorm Pages.

Abba, each time I pray, I must remember that You initiated this conversation. Your Spirit urges me to pray, to open up a dialogue with You. You really are right there in my mind! All I have to do is turn around mentally and there you are! One of my favorite verses is Isaiah, 30:21, “and I will hear a voice behind me [right over my shoulder] saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.'” Lord, may I always hear Your voice and heed Your voice. Amen.

Proverbs 21 2-21-21

Do we really have the right to speak negatively to or about someone? Unless permission is given, the answer is No.

23 Those who guard their mouths and tongues keep themselves from calamity.

People nowadays get pretty caught up in politics and other topics. I’ve read some pretty harsh comments and heard some very negative statements from fellow Christians. I know it’s hard to keep a steady temper when the world seems out of control and things aren’t going like we might have planned. Lest we forget Whose we are and our purpose here on earth, let’s look at a passage that will give us a great example of how we are to treat and respond to those who don’t know Christ.

Paul is in Athens awaiting the arrival of Silas and Timothy, who stayed behind in Berea to further instruct the Jewish believers there. In the meantime, Paul debated in the synagogue and in the marketplace. One of the philosophers invited him to come and speak to the Areopagus, which was a really big deal. It was a meeting place for all the philosophers and the wealthy where they talked about new ideas. They asked Paul to explain his “new god.” Let’s pick it up in Acts 17:22,

Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

There are three things I would like to point out:

  1. Paul explained who His God was. He didn’t start by telling them that they were sinners. He set his foundation on truth.
  2. Although Paul did tell them that they were ignorant for worshiping gold, silver and stone images, he explained why. What he didn’t say was that their gods were fake or evil or capricious or anything. He didn’t address them at all.
  3. Paul got to the heart of the matter by talking about Jesus rising from the dead. Any conversation from that point would be about Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him.

When we are answering someone or making comment about what someone has said, let’s consider these cautions:

  1. Is what I am about to say godly? In other words, am I trying to defend God (He doesn’t need defending)? Am I venting my anger and frustration? Am I considering that the person may or may not know the Lord?
  2. Is what I am about to say good? In other words, are my words vindictive, accusatory or otherwise negative? Am I trying to “put them in their place?”
  3. Is what I am about to say true? In other words, am I presenting Jesus, what He did, and what He commands of those who would follow Him? Might this person want to follow Jesus after talking to me or reading my post?
  4. Is what I am about to say beneficial? In other words, does it need to be said? Will it do any good (is this the right audience)? Will the person want to talk more with me about Jesus? Will it lead to others wanting to know more about Jesus? Does it lift others up?

Paul was pretty specific in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” I’m not saying that we should tiptoe around people who spout off about their sin, but I do think that we need to be Spirit-led in our conversation with them. Proverbs 26 has two verses that seem to contradict each other. I think of them in this light:

4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be just like him. This fool is a mocker and is not interested in hearing someone else’s opinion. He will argue (however illogically), make fun, and even get angry and violent.
5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes. This fool is a simpleton and simply doesn’t know any better. When approached with the truth, he is interested in hearing and learning.

We need to determine which kind of fool a person is before “rushing in where angels fear to trod.” Let’s be discerners of the Spirit about every conversation we have whether in person or online.

Abba, we want to be good ambassadors for You. Help us to be “wise as wolves and as innocent as doves.” You will help us be prudent in what we say as we discern what type of person to whom we are talking. May our audience always see Christ in us and be attracted to Him because of our words and actions. Thank You, Abba, for giving us such a great privilege. Amen.

Proverbs 20 2-20-21

Is being a Christian all about the rules to you? If so, then you have missed the whole point of Jesus’ sacrifice.

7 The [already] righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them.

Behavioral Christianity is not true Christianity. True Christianity begins and continues with a relationship with Jesus Christ. Take, for instance, these “myths:”

  • Running in church dishonors God because it’s God’s house.
  • Wearing a cap or hat in church is disrespectful to God.
  • We are to wear our “Sunday best” to church on Sundays because it honors God.
  • The church is “God’s house.”
  • Eating or drinking in the auditorium dishonors God.

These myths are based upon an Old Testament mindset in which God did actually inhabit the temple. Since Jesus split the veil and sent the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire at Pentecost, we are all now mobile thrones; therefore, wherever we meet is the house of God. Brick and mortar don’t matter anymore.

The same can be said for people. It used to be that a godly person was one who acted godly by following the Jewish law. Since Jesus came, the emphasis changed from outward behavior to inward relationship. Of course, a relationship with Jesus will show up in a person’s actions, but instead of making him a Christian, it proves that he really is one. Why? Because our behavior is due to obedience to the Person of the Holy Spirit who lives in us rather than to an outward person, set of beliefs, customs, or expectations.

As an argument, people have used Matthew 7:21 as proof that works matter concerning our salvation:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven [works].”

What we have to know is what God’s will is, and it is found in John 6:29, “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent [relationship].” Now, look at Matthew 7:22-23:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles [works]?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you [relationship]. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Jesus Himself made it all about the relationship, “I never knew you.” What an indictment! They knew the rules, but never met the Savior, much less walked with Him in fellowship and communion. Yet, that’s what He calls for us to do, and that’s what we get to do every day–if we choose to take Him up on His offer of friendship and Lordship. He really knows the best way to live to avoid the traps of the devil and to live in glorious victory, enjoying His love, joy, peace, hope and grace on a daily basis.

Let’s finish the discourse:

“Therefore everyone who hears [reads] these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Let’s be wise.

Abba, thank You that You have opened my eyes to Your Word and what it means in my life. When I read, I hear Your voice, sense Your peace, and comprehend on some level of spiritual truth. I ask that I would keep going “higher up and further in” concerning Your truth, wisdom, discernment, prudence, knowledge, insight and understanding. Lead on, O King eternal. Amen.

Proverbs 19 2-19-21

Our relationship with Christ means nothing if He is not in charge. Is He not just resident, but President in your life?

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

Listen! Do you hear His voice? What is He saying to you? Are you searching the Scriptures to find out? We find in His Word that He has demonstrated in other people’s lives what He will say, how He will respond, and what He desires. Do you care enough to seek out the answers? We bear out this question every day as He comes to us for fellowship. But, we must be willing to do as He directs; otherwise, we will not hear. We will have turned our attention to the chatter of a multitude of voices around us.

Our decision to seek out the Savior, listening and heeding what He tells us through His Spirit, is like entering the small gate that leads to life. Let’s read it:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

Luke says something similar, but goes further with the teaching:

“Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter [their way] and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:24-30

As we can see, knowing Christ on a personal and ongoing basis is essential for eternal life, which, by the way, begins the moment we receive Him into our hearts and lives. We don’t wait until we die to begin living eternally, for wherever Christ is, there is heaven! If He is in our hearts, then the kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21).

Again, I exhort you: LISTEN! Make time and determine in your hearts to pray to the Father, read His Word, seek His will, listen for the Spirit’s voice, and obey Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You might begin with 2 Peter. Verses 3-11 of chapter one are whoppers! You might continue with Romans 12:9-21, which tell us how to live with our brothers and sisters. Ephesians 4:1-3, 29-32 teach us how to be like Christ in personal holiness. If not with these, start somewhere!

Abba, I pray for my readers that they would catch a vision of what it looks like and feels like to be in communion with You. Allowing You to guide our thoughts and actions is what Christianity is all about. Our relationship with You means nothing if You are not in charge. Be in charge of me, Lord Jesus. I am Your humble servant. Amen.

Proverbs 18 2-18-21

The prevailing peace of God is at the heart of every Christian. From it flows the joy of the Lord. Are we experiencing it?

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

There are lots of good verses on peace. Jesus Himself gave us the best:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Paul explained in Romans 5:1-2 that, “since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Did you notice all those key words? Faith, peace, grace, rejoicing and hope. These attributes are at the heart of being a Christian, and peace is one of them. We have a positional peace in that we are positioned in the family of God. But, there is an experiential peace, a dynamic (transformative) peace, that we lose and gain according to our willingness to respond to the Spirit. In this experiential and dynamic peace lies the attainment of the other attributes.

Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). We receive peace just as we receive His love and His joy. They are gifts and by-products of being one with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, and peace emanate from them and onto us, into us, and through us. They produce a satisfaction like nothing else even while they create a desire to know the Father more deeply. If there is anything mystical about Christianity, here it is: The peace of God that cannot be explained.

Philippians 4:7 is another great verse about peace:

May the calming peace of God that overflows into our lives and transcends all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus–finding our refuge in Him, regarding Him constantly as we walk through our days. (Adapted).

When we have peace, we have peace of mind. Our fears are allayed, and our hearts are at rest. Nothing this world can throw at us can shake us when we are at peace with God and with our fellow man. It allows us to take any abuse, any pain, and even death and turn it into praise. Why? Because we are at complete peace. We trust the LORD. Paul called his trials “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17). He had his eyes on the future and it gave him peace. We, too, have a wonderful future in store for us, so we, too, can allow it to give us peace.

Last is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Are you experiencing the peace that passes all understanding? If not, ask our heavenly Father to make Himself real to you. He will through His Word and through His Spirit. Trust Him. He has everything in control. Know this, though: We will never experience the peace of God until we have surrendered to the will of God. Secret sin–any sin– breaks fellowship with Him. Start there.

Abba, thank You for Your peace. The at-rest peace I feel when I am in communion with You far outweighs anything this world has to offer. Nothing touches it–and to think that it just gets better when I go to be with You! Wow!!! May Your love, joy, peace, hope and grace overflow from You to me so that I may overflow to others. Amen.