Proverbs 27 10-27-22

People who speak the name of Jesus with no reference to the Person simply don’t know Who they are talking about!

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
–Jesus, Revelation 1:8

From the past several days:
When Peter made his great statement in Acts 4:12, he gave us a unique definition of salvation from God’s perspective,

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

There are several questions that arise from this verse.

  1. Must a person be saved?
  2. From what is he lost?
  3. Is he not capable of saving himself?
  4. Why Jesus’ name?
  5. What makes His name special?
  6. Everyone?
  7. What is required?
  8. What shall we gain/avoid?

Today, we look at question #5, “What makes His (Jesus’) name special. Let’s look at the name, Jesus:

From ONE FOR ISRAEL,

The name “Jesus” comes from the Greek way of expressing his name: Ἰησοῦς, which is pronounced “Yay-soos”. While we have an English version of the Hebrew name for Gabriel, we seem to have ended up with an English version of the Greek version of the Hebrew name for our Messiah, that doesn’t even sound close anymore. It makes him all the less recognizable to his Jewish brethren. Jesus just sounds so… gentile! But when Jewish people hear his name in Hebrew, quite often the lights go on. Ah! Yeshua! The name Yeshua was known and used in Jewish history – you can find men called Yeshua in the roll calls of teams serving in the temple (1 Chronicles 24:11, 2 Chronicles 31:15, Ezra 2:2,6,36). It’s a version of Joshua, and it means “salvation”. This makes much more sense to Jewish ears.

Yeshua means, “Anointed One.” The Anointed One is the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the whole world. Here’s what Daniel wrote about the Anointed One,

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. Daniel 9:25-26

To explain a little bit, the “sevens” are prophet-speak for years. 69 “weeks,” or, “sevens,” is basically 483 years from the beginning of the rebuilding of the second temple in 457 B.C. to 27 A.D. when Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit, which came down in the form of a dove. Let’s read that passage:

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

When we say the name, “Jesus,” we are calling on God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. Our Jewish brethren call Him, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One). What was Jesus anointed to do? Let’s look:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18

27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour28 Father, glorify your name!”
Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”
 John 12:27

31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:31-32

When we call on the name of Jesus, all of this rich history and the enormity of His sacrifice come with it. We remember that He is seated at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:19-21), yet He bids us to come to Him for mercy and grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Let us praise Him for who He is!

Abba, may we stand in awe of You, and Your Son, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, our Lord and Savior. Please continue to transform us into the image of Your Son. We would be honored. Amen.

Proverbs 26 10-26-22

Speaking the name of Jesus takes us straight to the throne. May we be careful how we use it!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christthrough whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

From the past three days:
When Peter made his great statement in Acts 4:12, he gave us a unique definition of salvation from God’s perspective,

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

There are several questions that arise from this verse.

  1. Must a person be saved?
  2. From what is he lost?
  3. Is he not capable of saving himself?
  4. Why Jesus’ name?
  5. What makes His name special?
  6. Everyone?
  7. What is required?
  8. What shall we gain/avoid?

Jesus is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name, “Yeshua,” which is also known as, “Joshua,” which means “the LORD saves,” or “Savior.” And you wondered why the angel told Joseph to name Him that! “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

We also know that because of Jesus’ obedience, “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

The Bible has descriptive names for Jesus–135 to be exact! You can read them at onfireforgod with their references. The song, “Isn’t the Name,” has as its refrain these words,

There is Freedom in the Name
Healing in the Name
There is Power in the Name
Salvation in the Name
There is Life in the Name
There is no other Name
Like Jesus, Jesus

We also like to sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name.” Speaking the name of Jesus takes us straight to the throne:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Let’s speak the name of Jesus often during our day and fellowship with the Father through Him.

Abba, You are great. Your Son is great. We speak the name of Jesus–not as an incantation, but as a confession: You are God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, three-in-one. May You be praised! Amen.

Proverbs 25 10-25-22

Everyone needs saving. Many just don’t know it.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

From the past two days:
When Peter made his great statement in Acts 4:12, he gave us a unique definition of salvation from God’s perspective,

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

There are several questions that arise from this verse.

  1. Must a person be saved?
  2. From what is he lost?
  3. Is he not capable of saving himself?
  4. Why Jesus’ name?
  5. What makes His name special?
  6. Everyone?
  7. What is required?
  8. What shall we gain/avoid?

Today, we look at why mankind is not capable of saving himself. Remember that in order to be saved, the person needing saving must rely upon someone else to save him. In order for it to be true salvation, the person needing saving must not be able to save himself. He must need a savior. Let’s look at mankind according to what God’s Word says.

There are three metaphors that are used to describe mankind’s plight:

  1. We are dead.
  2. We are lost.
  3. We are sick.

We are dead-
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” Ephesians 2:1 
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, Colossians 2:13

We are lost-
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior” Colossians 1:21
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Luke 15:4
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? Luke 15:8
32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” Luke 15:32

We are sick-
31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Luke 5:31
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

These metaphors are accurate, but Matthew tells us our true predicament in Matthew 4:16,

16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” [Isaiah 9:2]

We were living in spiritual darkness. We needed the light of Jesus. Remember the tongues of fire that settled on the believers in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4)? The light of the fire is in each of us because of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. When we turn from our darkness and follow Jesus, we turn to His light. We are reborn; we are found; we are healed. Jesus said,

I AM the Way;
I AM the Truth;
I AM the Life;
No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:6

Tomorrow: Why in Jesus’ name?

Abba, we were dead relationally, cut off from You and in the enemy’s camp. We were lost and couldn’t find our way home. We were sick and couldn’t see straight, nor think straight. We were deceived, misled, trapped, ensnared, and addicted. Thank You for rescuing us. You are our Savior! Amen.

Proverbs 24 10-24-22

Salvation; who needs it. Come to find out, we ALL do!

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 4:7

From yesterday:

When Peter made his great statement in Acts 4:12, he gave us a unique definition of salvation from God’s perspective,

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

There are several questions that arise from this verse.

  1. Must a person be saved?
  2. From what is he lost?
  3. Is he not capable of saving himself?
  4. Why Jesus’ name?
  5. What makes His name special?
  6. Everyone?
  7. What is required?
  8. What shall we gain/avoid?

We found that the answer to question #1 is, Yes, we all need to be saved–but, from what or whom? That is the question we will answer today.

The “what” is pretty simple. The answer is “sin.” What is sin? It is disobedience. Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden by disobeying God’s command to not eat of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Have you ever wondered why God would make such a command? To test them? I don’t think so. I believe that the tree was meant for later. They were still very young spiritually when they sinned, and then sin became a drug, which led to addiction for us all. Let’s read about it:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved [addicted] by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3

We must admit that we are ruled by our passions. How we feel dictates what we say and do, and even think! Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Jesus picks up where we got off-track in the Garden. He gives us the desire and the power to do His will, which is to allow the Spirit to guide us rather than being guided by how we feel. I call it “the higher desire.” Robin calls it, “the want-to to want to.”

There is also someone to whom we are enslaved. That would be Satan,

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedientAll of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh [feelings] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3

Jesus came to break the hold that Satan had on us, which is death and the fear of it,

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery [addiction] by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15

One of my favorite passages is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. It motivates me to live for Christ,

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

Jesus conquered death for us and freed us from the fear of it. He comes to live in us and gives us the desire and the power to follow Him and His leadership in our lives. Why wouldn’t we “no longer live for ourselves” and live for Him?

Abba, I am SOOOOOO grateful You rescued me! Thank You for dying for me and then rising from the dead so that I do not have to fear death anymore. You are AWESOME. Amen.

Proverbs 23 10-23-22

Ever wondered why evangelists say that people must be saved? Why? From what? Good questions! Let’s look at them.

11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior [salvation]. Isaiah 43:11

Salvation is an interesting concept. It involves more than one person because, by definition, a person cannot save himself (it’s not called salvation at that point). Another person is required to intervene for the sake of someone else.

When Peter made his great statement in Acts 4:12, he gave us a unique definition of salvation from God’s perspective,

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

There are several questions that arise from this verse.

  1. Must a person be saved?
  2. From what is he lost?
  3. Is he not capable of saving himself?
  4. Why Jesus’ name?
  5. What makes His name special?
  6. Everyone?
  7. What is required?
  8. What shall we gain/avoid?

Let’s look at the first one. The verse states that all men (a figure of speech for all mankind) must be saved. Why? For the answer to this question, we go to Genesis 3 and Romans 5,

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate itThen the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
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 they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.

Many people consider this passage as a literary story and not historical. I do not, because:

  • The style of writing is narrative, not poetic,
  • Jesus refers to Adam and Eve as real people (Mark 10:6),
  • and Paul refers to Adam in a very specific way in Romans 5,

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people

Adam was mankind’s representative. His action affected every person on the planet. Why would God set things up like that? Because He KNEW that we would fail, so He designed it so that Jesus could be our Second Representative. 1 Corinthians 15:21 says,

21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Aslan referred to this representation as “the deeper magic from before the dawn of time”*. So, the answer to the question, “Must a person be saved?” is yes. By someone else: Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we will look at the next question, “From what is he lost?”

Abba, thank You for setting things up so that You could save us from our sin, from ourselves, from the enemy, especially death. There has never been a “Plan B;” it’s always been “Plan A.” We are forever grateful! Amen.

*”The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” from The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

Proverbs 22 10-22-22

Faith, hope and love. Out of the three, which one do you think best reflects the culture of God?

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

As we have seen over the last few days, 1 Corinthians 13 has a lot to say about the culture of God. Today, we put the final icing on the cake by revealing the secret to knowing that culture.

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

All of us are spiritual children to God (I like to say that we never get out of the nursery). The entire process of sanctification (growing to be like Christ) is one of maturing spiritually. Spiritual maturity will pervade every area of our lives, so if we get that right, our entire lives look like Jesus. The secret in the sauce is in putting the ways of childhood behind us. We have identified many of these childish ways, which boil down to self-centeredness. If we can ever get our heads up, we will be able to see as God sees. We will see ourselves as the crowning achievement to His creation; we will see our neighbors as we see ourselves–as the crowning achievements to His creation! If we can see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, then we may begin to treat each other as fellow siblings in Christ. Likewise, if we view all people as prospective brothers and sisters in Christ, then we may begin to treat them in such a way as to win them over.

Let’s finish the chapter:

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

  • Faith is believing everything Jesus has told us and trusting Him in all things.
  • Hope is believing and trusting in the promise that He has given us for meeting our needs right now and for the future (beyond death).
  • Love is seeing people as Jesus sees them and acting like Jesus toward them.

Why is love greater than the other two? Because it represents the very character of God.

God Is Love.
1 John 4:16

Abba, the culture You desire of us is very simple. All we have to do is be just like Jesus in how we interact with You and with each other. Please mature us to the point that we can actually see people as You see them. May we see ourselves as You see us: Loved and worth fighting for! Thank You, Jesus, for fighting for us. We love You. Amen.

Proverbs 21 10-21-22

We have no business trying to be good without listening to the Spirit of Christ and doing what He says.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25

Yesterday, we ended with, “If we love as God loves, we would never…” To finish this statement, we need to look at Exodus 20,

And God spoke all these words:
(verses 2-11 omitted)
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The first four commandments are about our relationship to God; the last six commandments are about our relationship with each other, and it is these we are discussing today. If we love as God loves, we would never…

  • Dishonor our parents, for they are responsible for us until we are old enough to engage God personally. Having healthy boundaries is a discussion for another time.
  • Murder. By definition, murder is done with intent, either with malice of forethought or done on the spur of the moment. We are to do neither.
  • Commit adultery. This one seems obvious, but it can have many connotations. True, we must not have sex outside of marriage; we must also watch what we think, as well. Consider what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He made it a sin of the mind. We must learn to control our minds even as we control our bodies.
  • Steal. There are two things wrong with stealing. The first thing is that we assume that we are more important than the person from whom we are stealing. We dishonor him. The second thing is that we do not trust God to meet our needs, so we take matters into our own hands to satisfy our lusts. There is simply not any way to justify stealing.
  • Bear false witness against our neighbor. This means lying. Again, we dishonor him. We tell the truth because Jesus is truth, and is the only way to the Father (John 14:6).
  • Covet…anything that belongs to your neighbor. Wanting what our neighbor has instead of him having it is coveting. It leads to stealing, which dishonors our neighbor. If our neighbor resists, we might kill him, which is murder. We may lie about what happened, and thus bear false witness against our neighbor.

Can you see how breaking one command leads to breaking another, and another, and another? We are now headed in a direction–away from God! What is the cure? Repentance: To stop, turn around and think differently than before. In order for us to do this, we need help. We need the Holy Spirit. He will heal our eyes and minds and help us to think as God thinks. We have this promise, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Abba, we need Your mind. Please teach us to access the mind of Christ within us by way of the Holy Spirit. It’s the only way that we are going to beat our old nature. Help us to put off the old self and to “put on the new self, created to be like You in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Amen.

Proverbs 20 10-20-22

The ironic thing about AGAPE love is that the more you love yourself, the greater your capacity to love others greatly.

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 [known as the Golden Rule]

The culture of God is explained in 1 Corinthians 13, but not like we think. It is presented in how we love. Why? Because God is love (1 John 4:8). Let’s continue with verse 7-10,

It [AGAPE love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 

AGAPE love: Selfless, sacrificial, unearned, and gracious godly love.

  • Selfless love always protects. A person who protects, cares; likewise, a person who cares, protects. Placing the other person first is natural for a person who cares. It’s the God-thing to do.
  • Sacrificial love always trusts. We take people at their word and trust them to keep their word. In doing so, we encourage them to do the right thing. When they don’t, we may suffer, but we trust in the Lord to take care of us and to give them another chance.
  • Unearned love always hopes. As in trusting, we hope that others will heed the Spirit’s voice and obey His commands. We know that eventually, love wins (in our lives and hopefully in theirs), so we just keep loving. Our hope is in Him.
  • Gracious love always perseveres. We know people will fail because we are one of those people and we fail. So, we persevere when they do, pray for them, and help them to see the error of their ways. We point them to Christ; He takes it from there.
  • God’s love never fails. When we love His way, we never fail to be like Him; He never fails to reveal Himself through us; they never fail to see Him for who He is: Love.
  • Prophecies will ultimately be fulfilled. Tongues (languages) will ultimately disappear as we learn to hear with spiritual ears. (Partial) knowledge will ultimately disappear as we see Jesus face to face and know Him fully. We will be complete in Christ.

The culture of God is treating others as we ourselves want to be treated (Matthew 7:12), it means to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Both verses end with them fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:40 says, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands” (the first one was to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”). If we love as God loves, we would never–I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s tomorrow’s lesson.

Abba, help us to see with spiritual eyes and hear with spiritual ears. May we eat the bread of service and drink the wine of sacrifice. In doing so, we give up our lives to You in order to receive life from Your Son. Teach us to love as You do, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 19 10-19-22

If we want to be like God, then we need God in order to do it. His Spirit stands at the ready to help us.

13 I can do all this through him [the Spirit of Christ] who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

As we continue looking at the culture of God, we are defining the characteristics of what it is to be godly–to be like God. We continue in 1 Corinthians 13,

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Here is where the character of God begins to really shine.

  • Love does not dishonor others– AGAPE love, that self-less, others-centered love, never dishonors others, whether in words, tone, or look. This characteristic takes immense self-discipline, which is why most of us fail miserably in this area.
  • Love is not self-seeking– The heart of the problem with humans is the problem of our hearts: We are selfish and self-centered. Our thoughts are turned inward because we do not begin our lives with the Holy Spirit as the Center of our lives. We learn to not be self-seeking as we mature in Christ. It is a worthy goal, but hard-won.
  • Love is not easily angered– James said it best, “My brothers and sisters, take note of this: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not bring about the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Want to be like God? Then control your anger (Exodus 34:6-7).
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs– Here is the real kicker. God doesn’t, so we shouldn’t either. To forgive and forget means that we render the memory powerless over us. It doesn’t mean that we not have boundaries, but that we cancel the debt of the other person toward us. We strike the record and begin clean. Easy to say; hard to do. But, it’s who God is!
  • Nothing evil comes from God. Ever. Even judgment is based upon our own choices.
  • But rejoices with the truth– Jesus came in grace and truth (John 1:17). When we profess truth, grace is given to us.

Tomorrow, we will look at the crowning characteristics of God in verses 7-9. Then, we will begin to put together the culture of God.

Abba, You have set a high bar for us, one that we can never attain in our own power. But, I think that’s the point. We need You, and our realization of that is very much like You showing Adam what he was missing in the Garden: Eve! The quicker we realize our need of You, the more abundantly You work in our lives. We were not designed to live alone; the God-sized hole in our hearts bears that out. May You fill us with Your Spirit as we acknowledge how much we need You everyday, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 18 10-18-22

Being like Jesus is simple. All we have to do is walk in step with the Spirit. Notice I didn’t say, “easy…”

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16

Yesterday, we began a quest to discover the culture of God. By studying 1 Corinthians 13, we first found that God is AGAPE love. What does AGAPE look like? Let’s look at the next verse:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 

This selfless, sacrificial love of God has several descriptive elements:

  • Love is patient- patience means, “to bear.” In soldier’s terms, it means “to be the last man standing,” or “to outlast your opponent.” In Christian terms, it means to take all that our opponent/enemy has to offer and keep loving. It’s the only way to win some people to Christ. If anything, it will be used as a testament against them at judgment. We pray the first option.
  • Love is kind- this kindness is that which seeks the good of all, sees the good in all, and treats everyone and everything with the respect they deserve as creations of the Father. It’s an attitude that reflects the character of God. Kindness rules out rudeness, arrogance, and impatience, among other contemptuous attitudes.
  • Love does not envy- To look at what others have and want it means that we have taken our eyes off of our Savior. We have turned away from our light and we no longer reflect that light to the people around us. We praise God for the blessings that come upon others and trust God for what we need.
  • Love does not boast- Boasting comes when we take credit for that which we have not done. If all good things comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17), then we receive from Him all that we have, so it is not ours about which to boast. Anything bad that comes to us is either from the enemy or from our own poor choices.
  • Love is not proud- We are talking excessive pride here. It’s one thing to take pride in our work, but excessive pride is when we begin to think that we are entitled. This entitlement gives us the “right” to look down on others. What most don’t realize is that it also creates fear, fear of losing face, fear of being embarrassed, and fear of being found out that we are not what we seem.

The only way to be patient, kind, not envious, boastful or proud is to learn to walk in the Spirit. We walk in the Spirit by being constantly aware of His presence and participation in our lives and to ask Him constantly what is the next right thing to do. We pay attention when He draws our attention to something or someone; we listen much more than we speak, and speak only encouraging words, words that lift up and meet needs (Ephesians 4:29). Keeping in step with Him is our daily goal:

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

Abba, as we walk through this passage, may we put on Your character as we would put on armor. May we clothe ourselves in Your righteousness (to meld two verses together: Romans 13:14 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). Being like You is the entire goal of our lives (1 John 3:2). Help us to see Christ clearly, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 17 10-17-22

Learning to love outside of oneself is the crowning achievement of mankind–but, it takes God to do it!

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

As I was pondering how Christians are to be different than the world, I realized that Christianity has a culture of its own, the culture of God. I began to consider what the culture of God might be. The first passage that came to mind was the Love Chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. In this chapter are the attributes of God which are to be the attributes of His followers, Christians. Let’s look.

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

What do these verses tell us about God? God considers love for others above all else:

  • Above smooth speech, the ability to sway people, and even leadership;
  • Above knowledge, prophecy, and the ability to discern and discover all mysteries, be they spiritual, physical, medical, biological, astrological, or sociological;
  • Above sacrifice, even to the point of death.

What kind of love? For the answer to this question, we must consider what Jesus thought to be the greatest commandment(s),

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31

The interesting thing is that the teacher of the law gave the best and most succinct commentary on Jesus’ answer than anyone,

32 “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

This kind of love is the self-giving kind, the kind that Jesus demonstrated on the cross for us. The Greek term is AGAPE, which translates,

  • Pure, willful, sacrificial love that intentionally desires another’s highest good–Christianity.com
  • Goodwill, benevolence and willful delight in the object of love–gotquestions.org
  • Selfless, giving, non-emotional [not motivated by emotion] love–logos.com

It is AGAPE love that we are to learn to have, to incorporate, and to foster in others. What does AGAPE love look like? We will discuss that tomorrow.

Abba, Your love for us is all about us, but the best for us. If I were to want that for You, I would want all of Your creation to love you back. It would be the absolute best for everyone. So, that is the desire of my heart, O Lord. May You grant it in Your time (Ephesians 1:9-10). Amen.

Proverbs 16 10-16-22

Like a good breakfast, starting the day off right spiritually requires some time spent in His Word.

103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
    sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 119:103

The mastering of my mind and body is a daily struggle. I know I need help, so I begin with verses that tell me from Whom my help comes and how I am to master them.

Here is part of my daily prayers:

O Lord, I pray that Christ be formed in me (Galatians 4:19), that I be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18), and that I be made new in the attitude of my mind (Ephesians 4:22-24).

I want to be made holy, cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26) and saved by the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6) as I wait for the blessed hope, being purified into one of Your very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14).

I know that outwardly, I am wasting away, but inwardly, I am being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16), transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2).

I groan to be clothed in my heavenly dwelling where death is swallowed up by life; I was fashioned for this reason and given the Holy Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. While I am away from the You, Lord, and present in this body, I live by faith and not by sight; I long to be away from this body and present with You, Abba, but either way, I live to please You (2 Corinthians 5:4-7).

In the meantime, I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:27). I know that it is “not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6).” I live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Romans 8:4) because I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. This life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

It’s a good start each day. It reminds me of the prayer by the elderly saint who prayed, “Lord, so far today I haven’t lied, stolen, cheated, cussed, or done anything to dishonor Your name…but I’m about to get out of bed now, and I’m gonna need Your help! Amen.”

We would do well to do the same.

Abba, You know my heart–which isn’t pretty, but my desire is to be like You. Please give me the desires of my heart as I delight myself in You each day (Psalm 37:4). Amen.

Proverbs 15 10-15-22

Getting outside of our routine requires intention. Let’s be intentional about being light to the world around each of us.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

A high school friend posted this picture on Facebook the other day,

COVID did a number on us inviting people over. Most folks are still not over their hesitation of meeting for close fellowship. It’s definitely something over which to pray. The idea is to be proactive in looking for opportunities, asking the Lord, and then stepping out on faith.

One of the things that I have learned is that God doesn’t need me to say the right thing. All I need to do is let my light shine. He’ll do the convicting and eye-opening. Sure, I try to say good things, but knowing that He is in charge relieves the pressure.

Here’s a good passage to remember:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

When working with people, this process may not happen the first time. So, when the door doesn’t open, ask, seek and knock again. Lots of times God doesn’t tell us where to go; He leads us as we go. In many cases, He wants us to let our light shine right where we are: at home, at work, at ball games, at church, at school events, the grocery store, wherever! Just remember: We don’t do things for Him, but with Him. We walk according to the Spirit, with the Spirit.

Abba, urge me to look more diligently as I go about my day. May I be brave in speaking out a kind word, doing a kind deed, and letting my light shine. I will look for opportunities to put in a good word, too, but I’m really counting on You to do the convicting and eye-opening. I want everyone to know You, Jesus. You’re the best! Amen.

Proverbs 14 10-14-22

Knowledge by itself doesn’t save us. We need the Person of Jesus Christ in our lives.

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word [personal contact] and believes him who sent me [trusting God] has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life [by the receiving of His Spirit into our hearts]. John 5:24

Knowing the Jesus is God in the flesh and that the Holy Spirit is Jesus in the Spirit, we can trust the Holy Spirit to speak to us because we are hearing the heart and intent of first, the Father, and then the Son, who are in complete agreement. Sound complicated? Not to them. It’s our limited minds that have trouble grasping the concept of the Trinity. We either think of them as one God or three distinct gods. But, from the very beginning, we have the concept of a Triune God. In the first verse of the Bible, we are told, “In the beginning, God [Elohim-plural] created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). We must understand that Jesus was not created when He was born, but has always been with the Father. He left His throne to come to earth,

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:4-6

There are several things to learn from this passage:

  1. There was an appointed time, one that fit all the requirements of His coming:
    • Israel was a nation and positioned in just the right geographical position,
    • Rome had built roads in order for the Gospel to be spread,
    • The Romans had perfected the execution form of the cross,
    • The stars were in the right place in the heavens,
    • All the people were in place and the stage was set.
  2. God sent His Son. God didn’t create Him; God didn’t assume a mortal body or appear as a human. Christ was born of water and of blood (1 John 5:6-8). Jesus was fully human and fully divine. He is King and God at the same time. He fulfilled both roles of priest and king.
  3. Jesus met the requirements of the law so that He could fulfill the law. When He died, He took the penalty of breaking the law with Him into the grave for us. Then, He rose from the grave so that we could “die to that penalty” and live through Him. He has given us the privilege of being adopted as children of God! Jesus is our Brother (Romans 8:16-17)!
  4. God has sent His Spirit into our hearts. What a concept! He can now cry out like Jesus, “Abba!” which means, “Daddy!”

This Triune God, the Trinity, invites us into their fellowship. Once we accept God’s offer and the Spirit comes to reside in us, we die to ourselves and live a new life in Christ. We are transformed and we are never the same! Speaking for myself, I’m glad!

Abba, thank You for coming to live in me. Your Presence is all the encouragement and confidence I need to know that I am Yours. May I continue to learn to act like a child of the King, King Jesus! Amen.

Proverbs 13 10-13-22

Some people don’t believe that the Bible is God’s revealed word to mankind. I know by experience that it is!

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

When Paul was writing the letter to the Colossians (sometime between AD 61-63), the Gospel of Mark was probably the only Gospel written. When Paul talked about receiving Christ, being rooted and built up in Him, he was talking about the Person of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures validate and confirm what we know to be true in our hearts. Paul states in Colossians 2:6-7,

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

Another point of interest is that Paul didn’t tell them to live FOR Christ, but to live IN Christ. Yet, Christ is in us, so which is it? Well, it’s both. The partnership we began with the Father through the Son by way of the Holy Spirit is just that, a partnership. We do things WITH Christ as He guides us, counsels us, and encourages us to keep walking in step with Him, and to keep fighting the good fight of faith. How do we fight? By taking every thought captive to Christ,

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

That verse comes from yet another one of Paul’s letters, as does walking in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

I read the Bible to learn, but I also read it to hear. I trust the Bible because I trust its writers. They knew Jesus Christ personally. I also trust the Holy Spirit who speaks to me through the Scriptures. That in itself is enough to convince me. The rest of my faith comes through experience. The truths that Paul taught in his letters bear fruit in my life. I am more like Jesus because I practice Paul’s truths, as well as Matthew’s, Mark’s, Luke’s, John’s, Peter’s, and the writer of Hebrews’ truths.

I trust the Old Testament because I have no reason to doubt it. Jesus trusted it as well as Paul, and they knew it inside and out. If it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for me.

I trust the leaders of the church in AD 325 at the Counsel of Nicaea who canonized the Scriptures. Although the Orthodox and Catholic churches have a few other books that they consider to be canon-worthy, we all at least have the same 66 books in our Bibles. It’s not that the counsel decided which books to put in the Bible; they took the ones that Christians had been reading for years and were universally accepted as Scripture. We’ve had no real reason to doubt their decision. We may not understand all that is in the Bible, but that’s to be expected with our limited point of view:

  • Our lives are less than 100 years long, so we didn’t live back when they were written;
  • We live in a different culture,
  • speak a different language,
  • and live in a different country.

As Colossians 2:6-7 says, the key to following Jesus is living a life of thankfulness. Our relationship with Him is worth anything and everything. Let us strive to learn more, grow more, and converse more with Jesus.

Abba, I am thankful. The more I know of You, Your plan, and how much You love me, my thankfulness overflows. Please ground me in the truth of Your Word. I know that I will be strengthened in the faith. Teach me, O Lord, I pray. Amen.

Proverbs 12 10-12-22

There is a HUGE difference between knowing about Christ and actually knowing Him. I pray you know Him personally.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 4:13

In the letter to the Colossians, Paul was combatting the Gnostics, who said that Jesus is not enough, that there is a deeper mystery, a deeper magic, so to speak. Paul put that whole idea to bed,

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Notice the use of the words, “full,” “complete,” and “all.” These words indicate that there is nothing else than what Paul is naming. He has already revealed to us the mystery, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). He’s already told us that it’s the Spirit who gives all wisdom and understanding (1:9). Yet, he puts them all into one sentence here in 2:2-3.

  1. His goal: Encouragement and unity. He tells us in Philippians, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2).
  2. Full riches of complete understanding-Does anyone really have complete understanding? Evidently, Paul did, and was able to share that knowledge and understanding with his churches. To know the Law as he did, to speak with Jesus on numerous occasions, to walk the streets of heaven and see many things of which he cannot speak…yes, I believe he did know.
  3. The Mystery: Christ. Want the deeper knowledge? the deeper magic? Delve into the Person of Christ. Study Him. “Find out what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10). There is no need to go looking for an even deeper magic. There is none. It is Christ alone. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him. To know all of Christ will take an eternity–I’m glad we have it!

Let’s spend our days growing in Christ. We study His word, we listen for His voice, and we obey His commands. His load is not burdensome, but easy and light compared to the Law. We praise God that we are not judged by our works, but by the mercy and grace of Christ!

Abba, sometimes I want You to speak plainly to me, but then I realize what kind of circumstances and responsibility goes with You speaking plainly to people. So, I will be content with sensing Your nudges, listening for Your whisper, and hearing You speak to my heart. I want to be like You, Jesus. That doesn’t so much take knowledge as it takes obedience. It is as I work with the Spirit that the Spirit transforms me into Your image. I love it! Please, please, please continue! Amen.

Proverbs 11 10-11-22

Life’s hard; we need a Guide. Enter: the Holy Spirit. He is our Counselor, Guide, Friend and Advocate.

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

When I was traveling with my musical group called “Matthew,” I would occasionally be asked to sign an autograph (woohoo!). After butchering my name (I’m left-handed), I would put the Scripture reference, Colossians 1:28-29, which says,

28 We proclaim Him, teaching and admonishing everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

This passage seemed like a good “ministry” verse–little did I know that it would become the basis for my ministry!

  1. We proclaim Jesus: His eternal existence, His incarnation, His life and ministry, His death and resurrection, and His ascension and imminent return.
  2. Teaching and admonishing (leading in worship) are the main ingredients in my ministry.
  3. All wisdom? I consider that phrase to mean that I have the Word of God in my hands, in my head, and in my heart.
  4. “Fully mature in Christ” is what happens when we allow the Spirit to lead us in our daily walk. It takes time, and we will not ever be perfect this side of heaven, but even the term, “perfect,” means, “complete, well-rounded, mature.” It can even mean, “without fault or blemish,” which falls right in with Ephesians 5:27 and Jude 24, when He presents us to His Father.

Verse 29 describes the best way to serve the Lord. It’s not in our power, but in the Lord’s power. If we look back at verse 11, we find, “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might…” Learning how to lean on His strength rather than our own usually comes through difficult circumstances and hard times. Paul describes the process aptly in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What Paul doesn’t tell us is how difficult it is to not act out of anger, to keep the filters on our thoughts and our mouths, and to not quit even when we feel lousy physically and about ourselves. Actually, those are the times when we need to lean on Him the most.

I’m still learning this lesson.

Abba, I hate having to apologize, yet, that “weakness” is when You are strong in my life. May I learn the lesson of John the Baptizer, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). Amen.

Proverbs 10 10-10-22

The apostle Paul has been considered the 12th apostle by the church for 2000 years. Why?

An apostle was literally, a “called out” one by Christ Himself. In the passage below, we read of Paul/Saul’s calling,

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:5-6

This meeting was one of many times that Paul (formerly Saul) met with Jesus. We have this word from Christ Himself to Ananias, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:16). This suffering is evident in Paul’s life wherever he went. Here was his perspective, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). God did not shield Paul from the persecutions he faced in nearly every town he entered. Yet, the Gospel was shared and a church planted in every place. The Holy Spirit was moving!

In 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, Paul tells of a time when he was caught up into heaven,

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this manwas caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

He learned many things that he could not tell–but also things that he COULD tell,

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

What is the mystery that Paul was given to share? Christ in us, the hope of glory! God the Son lives in us through God the Holy Spirit, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This Advocate is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ and of God, “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:3-4).

This is the good news of the Gospel: Christ wants to be in us to give us the hope of glory with Him. This hope is steadfast and sure, and will be realized on the day when we go be with Him. In the meantime, we walk in step with the Spirit as we become like Him in character. We are children of the King! May we never forget it.

Abba, we have so much to learn about being like You. You promise us that we are blameless, pure, without fault or blemish–I just can’t see it. But, I receive it in faith that YOU see it. Make me like You, Jesus. That’s all I ask. Amen.

Proverbs 9 10-9-22

We are either moving toward God with Jesus, or away from God without Jesus. Which is it for you?

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:17-18

The battle for our minds has been going on since the Garden of Eden. Getting us to doubt God and His commands and promises is something at which Satan is extremely good. Even with the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit, we still struggle with our thoughts. But, here is His promise:

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.  Colossians 1:21-23

  1. We were alienated from God by our evil behavior, but it wasn’t our behavior that alienated us. It was what we thought that alienated us. In order to do evil, we must turn away from God, but He has always loved us. In fact, He loved us enough to come to earth in human form–Jesus–and die for us.
  2. Death is the consequence of sin. Jesus took that consequence to the grave and left it there, coming out on the other side and offering us that same experience through Him!
  3. Because we have “died” in Christ, sin no longer has a hold on us. From now on, we are training to be children of the King. In Christ, we know that He will present us holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. His blood has washed us white as snow! We are not covered–we are clean!
  4. The “if” here calls attention to the fact that our choices matter. Yes, He will present us without fault and with great joy to the Father (Jude 24), but our choices now matter to our lives and our testimony to others. We are light-bearers; let’s live our lives accordingly.
  5. Established and firm, immovable in our faith. How do we get there? By immersing ourselves in all things godly and by abstaining from all things worldly. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Even so, it is our goal, our aim, and our highest purpose. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can strive to move “higher up and further in.”

We have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s rejoice today in Him:

57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, immovable, always excelling in 

the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:58

Abba, I don’t know why, but You love us and have already promised us that when we get to where You are, we will be righteous, blameless, pure and holy. Bless You! Praise You! Until then, we will strive to live with You and for You. May You receive all the glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 8 10-8-22

The Good News of Jesus Christ is about Him making peace with us. He wants our relationship with Him restored!

Therefore, since we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). Romans 5:1

As we discussed yesterday, Isaiah prophesied about the stubbornness of the Israelite people to hear, but not understand. Jesus quoted the same verse, but then told His disciples (after He rose from the dead) to reveal what had been hidden. What is it that was revealed in Jesus? Let’s look:

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:18-20

  1. Christ considers every follower to be part of His body. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we ceremonially take His body into our own, thus symbolizing us in Him. We are the church; we are His Bride.
  2. In Christ we all died; now, in Christ, we all live. When we are baptized, we ceremonially die with Him and are raised with Him to walk in a new life, one that is found in Him and led by Him.
  3. All the fullness of God dwells in Him. I use present tense because Jesus is alive and is seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19, Acts 2:32-33, Romans 8:34, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 12:2). When we look at Jesus, we are seeing the Father (John 14:9).
  4. Verse 20 could be interpreted that eventually, all things will willingly come into the fellowship of God. The same could be said for Ephesians 1:10. What we must consider is:
    • The central idea of the NT is that mankind has a choice to receive Jesus as Lord or face judgment.
    • This concept goes beyond our purview. We must remember Isaiah 55:8-9 that God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond our own.
    • Even so, those who reject Christ will stand before Him condemned (John 3:18, John 5:24-30).

So, what is the Good News that we are to reveal to the world? The Good News is that Jesus has made peace with all through His shed blood on the cross! All is forgiven! We can all come home–if we so choose. But, we cannot walk the way of the world and go the way of heaven; they are in two different directions. More than that, the way of heaven is like 12 o’clock on a clock; any other time is not 12 o’clock and is the way of the world. Only Jesus can show us the “straight and narrow path” (Matthew 7:13-14).

As we share the Good News, let us pray that the Spirit prompts people’s hearts to accept and receive Jesus as Lord.

Abba, I want everyone to know the peace I have in You, the joy I share in You, and the love I feel in You. Why would anyone trade away such a valuable and precious gift from You? Show them the Truth, Lord. I offer my life to You; may my life and my faithfulness (brought about by Your Spirit) bring glory to Your kingdom. Amen.

Proverbs 7 10-7-22

Having a goal for our lives is important. Christ has given us His goal; are we interested?

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”John 6:68

I found a new passage that works very much like the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, which says,

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The passage of which I am speaking is personal. Jesus spoke it directly to Paul (Saul at the time), but we can assume that its message was given to the disciples earlier. It ties together the Old and New Testaments in a very specific way.

Here is the passage:

16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:16-18

Jesus had appeared to Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus. This commission sounds very much like the Great Commission, but with more information. Jesus is tying together Isaiah 6:9-10, Mark 4:21-22, and then the Acts 26 passage. Here are the first two:

He said, “Go and tell this people:
“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Isaiah 6:9-10
[Although it sounds like God is hardening their hearts, He is simply giving them over to what they have already done in their hearts. See Romans 1:24-26]

21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. Mark 4:21-22

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, it wasn’t time for full disclosure. He had yet to rise from the dead. THEN, it would be time to tell everyone! What was it that they were to share with everyone?

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1:18-20

We will delve the depths of this passage tomorrow. For today, let’s rejoice in the great calling of Christ on our lives that we get to participate with Him in reconciling the world to Him by sharing the Good News of what Jesus has done or us and what He will do for them.

Abba, thank You for such good news to share with others. Helping people align themselves with Christ is pure joy for me, whether it’s unto salvation by the calling of the Holy Spirit, or to an even deeper walk with Christ for long-time followers. Thank You for including me in Your Plan. Amen.

Proverbs 6 10-6-22

Living for Christ is not something we can do on our own. We need His Spirit in us every step of the way.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

Romans 6 is a chapter that deals with our daily lives. Paul is talking to believers who have made the commitment to follow Christ. This commitment is different than the one that many people have prayed that says, “Forgive me of my sins and come into my heart so that I can go to heaven.” Can a person be saved saying a prayer like this? Absolutely–as long as lordship is the motive of the prayer. But, the motive seems to be more about missing hell and gaining heaven than about a personal, one-on-one relationship with Jesus. How can we have His Spirit in us and live our lives as if He isn’t?

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Romans 6:1-4

This baptism is something that the Spirit does to/for us. As we are raised from the dead spiritually, the Spirit of Christ makes us new in Him. We sense His presence; we feel the tension when we are at odds with Him, and we know His pleasure when we are in step with Him. This new life we are living can be and should be completely different from the one we were living, if anything, in the way we love others by considering them first in all things. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we let them have their way; their way may not be good for them–or us. It means that we consider their needs before our own preferences.

As we continue to look at this chapter, we will discover that beyond our baptism, dying to ourselves daily is necessary.

Abba, may we take seriously our “baptism” into You. Being buried with Christ and then raised with Christ marks a new life for us. But, we cannot do it alone. We need You to lead us. The Spirit of Christ in us is our hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Take us higher up and further in, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 5 10-5-22

Becoming like Jesus is harder than it looks. We have our sin nature to overcome. Thankfully, we have the Spirit in us!

19 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 own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Yesterday, we looked at the different soils in which the seed of the Word of God is planted in our lives. Today, we will look at what happens daily in Christians’ lives.

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Daily, we make the choice to be clean vessels for His use or to stay dirty vessels that He still uses, but not for what we would like.

Jesus described salvation as a turning away from sin and turning to the light (John 3:20-21). John further described our daily lives as walking in the light (1 John 1:8). Sanctification is a fancy word for becoming like Jesus. There is a purification process that needs to happen to us. King David compared it to purifying silver and gold (Psalm 12:6). Another way of saying it is that we present ourselves to God,

“But in the same way we gave ourselves as slaves to anything of this world, we must constantly, repeatedly give ourselves to God and righteousness. It is not a once-and-for-all decision; it is a daily one. An hourly one, even. You have to present yourself constantly to God, for your sanctification is a lifelong process.”*

This process of sanctification is one that the Holy Spirit takes great joy in walking us through. To us, it is hard, painful, and altogether unpleasant, but to Him, it is majesty and beauty being created–or, rather, revealed in us. We are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Concerning being clean vessels versus dirty ones, the idea is to stay clean. Since we know that sin destroys everything it touches, we want to wash ourselves in the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26) and to present ourselves to our Lord ready-to-use, so to speak. Our goal, as we walk with Jesus, is to look just like Him. He tells us to “be perfect even as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).” How do we do that? Through the process of sanctification, which the Spirit is already doing in our lives right now! All we need to do is walk in step with the Spirit,

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

Abba, help us to walk in step with You. The process of sanctification is long, and drawn-out (it takes our entire lives). We look forward to the day we get to step into Your presence whole, complete, blameless and perfected. Until then, we are trusting You for every step. Keep us focused on You, Lord. Amen.

*”Bearing Fruit” page 58

Proverbs 4 10-4-22

We may have a standing invitation to come to Christ, but the Spirit must open our eyes to our need for Him.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. John 6:44

The objection could be raised that if we need the Spirit to reveal our need, then there is no free will. Not so! Once the Spirit reveals our need, there’s our choice. The question really is, “Does the Spirit reveal to everyone his need?” To answer this question, we must go to the Parable of the Sower found in Mark 4:1-20. It’s also in Matthew 13:1-15 and Luke 8:4-15. We will look at Jesus’ first sentence in His explanation of the parable, 14 The farmer sows the word.

What?! Is that it? Pretty much. If Jesus is the word (John 1:1-3), the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18), and the word is sown in people’s hearts, then the Spirit IS revealing to people their need of Jesus. Jesus said, “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them‘” (Luke 16:29). Then, He said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Paul said, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).

The first three seeds fell on different soils. The soils represent the hearts of people. The seed is the same–there’s nothing wrong with it. The problem is that the soils are not ready to receive the seed. It’s a wonder that anyone is ever saved! It’s actually by God’s grace that the Spirit reveals our need to us. Let’s praise the Lord for His bountiful gift of grace!

Abba, thank You for revealing to me my need of You. I would like for everyone to be in a place to recognize Your voice and allow You to reveal their need of You to them. Please give me opportunities to work the soil of hearts so that Your word can be planted in good soil. May the harvest be to Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 3 10-3-22

Invitations, everyone likes to get them. But what do we do with Christ’s invitation to follow Him?

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

Invitations are fun to get. I like invitations because I have a choice of whether to go or not. Salvation is an invitation because Jesus asks us to join Him in a relationship with Him and we have the choice to accept or decline. Jesus gave a great illustration in the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:16-24,
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

I like the fact that everything is ready. All a person has to do is come. When Christ died, He died once for all (Hebrews 7:27). His mercy now extends to everyone (Romans 11:32). But, it still comes down to a choice, “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What is the invitation? To walk with Jesus,

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Mark 10:20-22

We don’t know if the rich young ruler ever came to Jesus, but we know that the invitation was always there for him. We have the decision every day to follow Jesus. What makes it easier for us is that we have the Spirit in us to give us both the desire and the power to follow Him (Philippians 2:13).

Want a quick test to see where you are spiritually? Ask yourself this question:

How badly do I want to follow Jesus and become just like Him?

He’s calling us. Can you hear Him?

18 Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. Isaiah 1:18

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17

Abba, You are constantly talking to us in our spirits. You are continuously asking us to join You and to walk with You. May we take You up on it every time we recognize Your voice and understand the invitation. Make it plain, O Lord–I know You will! Amen.

Proverbs 2 10-2-22

Memorizing Scripture is not hard. All a person has to do is read it everyday. Saying it helps; applying it definitely helps!

Your Word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against You [God]. Psalm 119:11

One of my memory passages is Colossians 1:9b-14,

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

  • A daily prayer- I pray this prayer for my family, my co-workers, my friends, and even for those who don’t know the Lord Jesus yet.
  • …that the Spirit gives- the words are simply words; it is the Spirit who speaks to us in the words, The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I [Jesus] have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life (John 6:63).
  • …live a life worthy of Him- “Worthy” means, “fitting,” “appropriate.” Our lives are to fit the pattern and character of Christ.
  • …live a life pleasing to Him- “pleasing” also means, “delighting.” Jesus takes great delight in working daily with us to make us more like Him.
  • Bearing fruit in every good work- If we are Spirit-led, then our actions will bear spiritual fruit. Most of the time, we don’t know what that fruit is, but we have faith that it benefits us and the people around us. If anything, it helps us become more like Jesus.
  • Growing in the knowledge of Him- Lest we get cocky, we all are growing in our walk and in looking like Jesus. We never know when God will turn that diamond to show us a new facet of His love and grace. Many times, we learn something new about ourselves.
  • Being strengthened with all power- In the larger picture of God’s Plan, we cannot fail. We must remember that.
  • …giving joyful thanks to the Father- All the time!
  • …who has qualified us- How does the Father qualify us? He has adopted us into His family!
  • …the kingdom of light- “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b).

13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The kingdom of light is the kingdom of the Son. Notice that it is past-tense. Jesus brought the kingdom with Him when He came to earth. Those who have the Son have His life and are members of His kingdom NOW. What is our promise?

…[We wish] to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 5:4-5

Death has been defeated and we no longer fear it because we know that when we walk the vale (of death) with Jesus, He will escort us into the full disclosure of His kingdom. Death is, indeed, swallowed up by life. NOW we know why we give joyful thanks to the Father!

Abba, this passage is rich with promise, Your promise. Thank You for the presence of Your Spirit because He is the One guaranteeing what is to come. May we worship You in Spirit and in joyful truth today, Abba. Amen.

Proverbs 1 10-1-22

When I read John 3:16, I ask God, “Do you really love me?” He answers, “Yes! More than you can imagine!”

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

I’m a pretty simple guy. If something looks right, feels right, and is vetted, then I’m good with it and will adjust to whatever it is rather than trying to manipulate it into something that fits what I want. Take, for instance, Genesis 1-11. These chapters tell us where we came from and the early years of our ancestry. When I say “vetted,” I’m talking about being able to back up what is being offered. Let’s look at some facts:

  • The text is written in Hebrew and is in narrative form, not poetic form, so it’s not metaphoric in nature, but literal truth.
  • To believe that God CAN create the heavens and the earth, I must believe that He can do it in an instant; six days is nothing to a God that big.
  • More and more, science is finding out:
    • That time works differently in space, so we cannot use star light as a chronometer for how old the universe is (when away from gravitational influence, time speeds up considerably).
    • Most astronomers do not believe in the Big Bang theory anymore because of its inherent problems that cannot be reconciled. In fact, many concede in a Master Design, although they will not admit to a Master Designer (weird, huh?).
    • Mount St. Helens pretty much proved that the Grand Canyon could be created in days (one about a 50th of the size was created in hours in Washington).
    • The moon’s surface and the floor of the ocean do not have NEARLY enough dust/residue on them to be more than a few thousand years old.
    • All thirteen of the earth’s major rivers, where they empty into their respective bays or oceans, have only enough sediment to account for about 4,000 years.
  • Jesus proved the historicity of Adam and Eve:
    • He mentions them in Matthew 19:4, “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’”
    • In order for Jesus to be our representative and take upon Himself the penalty of sin, which is death, Adam had to be our first representative–and a real person–concerning sin, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—” Romans 5:12. “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” Romans 5:15. “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” Romans 5:17.
    • The Coming of Messiah was foretold in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent, i.e. Satan] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

There is much more evidence, but I think I’ve made my point. There’s quite a bit of the OT that I don’t understand, but I do know that if I need to understand, the Spirit will enlighten me.

I mentioned John 3:16 and my question at the beginning of this post. There is something else the Spirit does for me when I ask Him if He loves me: He brings to mind other verses where He has told me how much He loves me. Two, in particular come to mind:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

We validate Scriptural truth with Scripture. It sounds like circular reasoning, but it’s not because the Bible as we now have it was written over a period of 1500 years, by 40 authors, in several countries, in three languages, and from people in all walks of life. It must be one cohesive story–and it is!

So, do I believe that God loves me? You bet I do! He told me so, both in His Word and in my heart.

Abba, thank You for loving me! You have made it plain every day of my life, although there was a time when I wasn’t looking for it, and others when I couldn’t see it because I was looking at the wind and the waves. I’ve learned since then to keep my eyes fixed and focused on You, because You are the Author and Perfecter, the Beginner and the Ender, of my faith. Keep talking to me, Lord; I’m listening. Amen.

Proverbs 30 9-30-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 29 9-29-22

Is the path you are on leading you toward Jesus or away from Jesus? Turn to the Shepherd. He’s calling your name!

20 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” –Jesus

I used to say that not all roads lead to God, but to Jesus, who is the door/gate (John 10:7-11). I have since come to the conclusion that most roads on this earth are dead ends or lead to destruction (Proverbs 13:15, Matthew 7:13). The great news is that Jesus will travel any road to reach us, and when He does, He picks us up and carries us home. How do I know? Let’s read it:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7

I’m thinking that the sheep was glad to see the Shepherd, aren’t you? It was far away from the flock and safety, probably lost, maybe even caught in a thicket. The Shepherd was counting the sheep as they went into the pen for the night, so we know that it was late in the day. If it was twilight or even dark, that sheep was most likely terrified. You see, sheep have no natural defenses: no claws, no shell, no scent glands, only the Shepherd.

We are that way in this life. Contrary to popular opinion, we cannot take care of ourselves, especially spiritually. We need the Shepherd just like that lost sheep, and just like the 99 sheep in the pen. Our relationship with the Shepherd (Jesus) determines the kind of life we will have in the next five minutes, days, years, and eventually, in eternity. Let’s quit wandering off (doing things our way) and stay close to the Shepherd, shall we?

Abba, may I stay close to Your side. I do not want to wander off–I don’t even want to stray a little bit! The consequences of my sin (wandering) are too great (they affect others as well as myself), and the breach of fellowship with You is too costly. I don’t want to have to keep learning the same lessons. I not only want to stay close to You, I want to keep in step with You, as well (Galatians 5:25). May it be so, O Lord. Amen.

Proverbs 28 9-28-22

A God-sized hole in our hearts? Sounds dangerous. Come to find out, it is!

11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12

You may have heard of the illustration of the God-sized hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill. It is actually a paraphrase of a quote from a Christian long ago:

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man
which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator,
made known through Jesus Christ.”

–Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662

As we consider our lives, let’s do so from the standpoint of being incomplete. The way I understand things, when Adam and Eve sinned, they broke the fellowship they had with God, which killed them spiritually, in that the place that the Holy Spirit held in their lives was given to another. In doing so, a figurative hole was left in their lives.

When we are born, we are born with the same “hole” in our lives. We try to fill it with all kinds of things, but mostly we fill it with ourselves. It is not until the Holy Spirit shows us that HE is the One who can fill that hole in our relationship with God. That Spirit is the Spirit of Christ,

18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Our awareness of something missing in our lives is the Holy Spirit opening our spiritual eyes to the fact that we are incomplete. We need Jesus. So, every morning when I get up, I have two verses that I use to help me be consciously aware of my need for Him in my life, and I consciously ask Him to take control and fill me:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.
David, Psalm 139:23-24

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Asaph, Psalm 73:23-24

We had a Christmas card one time that had a Christmas tree on the front. The card folded out three or four times showing the tree with fewer and fewer needles until we could see the bare bones of the tree. The caption read something like this:

When all is stripped away
and all the tinsel removed
We see the true meaning of Christmas.

The “bare bones” of the tree was a cross. Each day, may we ask the Lord Jesus to strip away all the “tinsel” from our lives so that we can see what is truly needed: Jesus. He died and rose again so that we could be reunited with Him in fellowship. Our relationship with Christ IS our salvation. HE fills the God shaped vacuum in our hearts and satisfies us as nothing nor anyone else can.

Abba, I cannot live my life successfully without You. In fact, life would be dismal and miserable. You are my life and my joy. I want to finish this life with You. You lead, I will follow. Amen.

Proverbs 27 9-27-22

About questions: When is it okay to ask them? When is it SAFE to ask them?

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

The disciples asked Jesus a question and got an answer similar to the statement above,

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. Acts 1:6-7

After reading the Baptist Faith & Message, I have come to the conclusion that in our Baptist denomination, we all believe the basic tenets of the faith, but there is still room for some difference in opinion. Where those differences occur, Christ would have us strive for unity in the midst of diversity.

Paul said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). He even told us how, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). We each answer to the Holy Spirit. If we are each reading our Bibles and searching the Scriptures daily to learn while trusting the Spirit to lead us as we study, then we can trust that the Spirit is in control of everyone’s information. If what someone else thinks — within the BF&M– doesn’t line up with what we think, we are to humbly seek to see the person’s point of view. If that view can be scripturally validated–even if we disagree–we bear with one another in love. If that view can’t be scripturally validated, then according to the Spirit’s leading, we gently and patiently discuss the matter until a consensus is reached (which can take a while–years, even).

In all things, we seek unity in the body for worship and communion even if we disagree on selected points of Scripture. Paul said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:15-16). What is it that Paul asked them to do?

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-mindedhaving the same love, being one in spirit and of one mindDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

In a word,
UNITY.

Abba, we are family, Your family. We are siblings of Christ and You are our Father. I know that you want unity among Your children. May we take seriously Your prayer in John 17:20-21, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Segregating only makes us look like the world. I pledge to You, Abba, to work toward unity in all groups of which I am a part. Hold me to it! Amen.