A Father Rejoices

Proverbs 23:24

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in Him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

I love the truth of this verse and it resonates so deeply.  Indeed, the father of a righteous child has great joy! Indeed, a man who fathers a wise son (or daughter) rejoices in him (or her)!  Righteous. Wise. Faithful. These are the qualities I believe every father desires to instill in his children. What could possibly matter more to a man than to see his children living in the light of the Truth? This verse reminds me of another favorite. Written by the Apostle John: “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling me how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (Cf. 3 John 3-4)

When I contemplate my own life, and the legacy I hope to leave my children, I pray the most important “take away” they will receive from me will be a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ.  I have found that nothing else truly matters in this life except our fellowship with God and our love for Him … and accordingly … our sincere love for one another.  Leading our children to faith in Jesus Christ and discipling them in the faith is the greatest demonstration of real love that I could ever imagine to impart.  Why?  Because I know they will not have or experience abundant life or fulfilling love apart from Him.  If we love and cherish children as God ordained for men to do, then it follows that we must bestow upon them the best gift possible … the love of God through His Son … the only hope of eternal life!

I am sure that most of us have failed to be consistent in our own journeys of faith at times over the years … and our examples have not always been the best in difficult situations or personal challenges.  But in whatever way we have fallen short of being God’s best for the building of our children’s faith, know it is never too late to redeem the time or to express a sincere desire to continue the walk together going forward.  And so, do not hesitate to humble yourself and ask your children to look beyond the sins … the missteps and mistakes made along the way … and assure them that you have endeavored and will always strive to love each of them as you have been loved by God through His Son.  Yes, remind them that God is their true Father … and that His love is perfect, full of grace, and abides forever.

Well, I apologize if I sound too emotional this morning. It is hard for me not to feel emotional on Father’s Day because the love and joy I feel from having children and grandchildren in my life is overwhelming! The delight of fatherhood has been a precious and treasured gift from God; and I want to savor this occasion with thanksgiving for the honor and privilege of being an earthly father.  This morning, I told my children how extremely proud I am of each of them … their awesome accomplishments … and the incredible impact each of them already have had upon this world.  Likewise, each one of your children and grandchildren will make this world a far better place and bless others with their unique gifts, talents, and expressions of love.  So I pray this morning that every father will be grateful for the blessings of their children; and I pray our Heavenly Father will fill each of you with His unending grace and His unfailing love!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Nowhere to Hide….

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

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

Our verse today continues to point us toward the pursuit of holiness in our lives; however, in full context we find a focus on the glory and power of God.  I often go to this Psalm to remind myself that God is ever presence … no matter where I go … no matter what I am doing or saying.  He is there observing … listening … knowing the thoughts of my heart.  As David asserts, we cannot hide from God … there is nowhere to run from His presence … because He fills all things and knows all things.  We deceive ourselves if we think or entertain otherwise….

I have reprinted the entire Psalm here for your reference so that you can consider the context of the prayerful petition David presents:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
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.

Besides the introspection we find here, I feel that David conveys a calm, “surrendered” tone in his discourse.  He seems to find delight in the fact that God knows him … and knows him intimately.  David does not seem fearful of this knowledge because in Verses 23-24 we see David inviting God to search him and test him. Why?  Because David desired to correct anything displeasing to God.  David sought accountability from God … and knew God would tell him the truth in love.  He sees the rebellion in the hearts of others and despises it.  He sees their evil intent and knows it offends God.  David wants no part of their iniquities and asks God to cleanse his own heart.  All of this meditation is within the context of God’s omniscience and omnipresence.

So what are the implications for us and our walk with God?  Very much the same….  If we know that God sees all (and He does), how should that affect our conduct, our conversation, our confession, and our commitment?  Should we not be more self-aware of God and His presence?  Should we not fear (have great reverence) for the Creator who formed us and gave us the breath of life?  We are living beings and God delighted to create us and have fellowship with us.  Why do we run or try to hide from His presence?  It is futile … and David makes the case here right.

I asked that question, but the answer is obvious.  Did not the first human beings flee from the presence of God in the Garden of Eden?  Adam and Eve were disobedient and knew it … and “hid themselves” because of their guilt and shame. (Cf. Genesis 3:10)  It happens to us all.  Each of us has separated ourselves from God because of our sin.  So we need both His forgiveness and reconciliation.  And God in His great love, compassion, and mercy, provided us with His forgiveness and reconciliation.  It is found in the life of His Son, Jesus.  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12)

As I ponder this Psalm, I thought about what the Apostle John wrote along these lines.  Why do people run from God instead of to Him?  I love how John frames this concern within the context of God’s tremendous love us:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.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. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

In his Psalm, David sought the light of God for his heart and for his life.  He wanted to know the truth and follow the ancient way (Cf. Jeremiah 6:16)  David had figured out that God, being who God is, already knows everything about us anyway.  He already knows the truth because He formed us.  We are not going to hide anywhere from the presence of God. It is impossible.  So we might as well submit to Him … be cleansed by Him … be redeemed and reborn through His Son as God made provision.  Yes, we need to join David and ask God to search our hearts … to test and refine us … to remove any offensive attribute or character flaw … and to lead us in the way, the truth, and the life. Otherwise, like the world, we will show that we love darkness more than light.  Like the world, we will deceive ourselves into thinking God does not hear our words or observe our deeds.  Like the world, we will become indifferent to the presence of God and His love – indifferent to the cross and the atoning blood of His Son shed upon it.

So, let this be our prayer … each of us.  Let us pray like David: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

Verse of the Day – 02/23/19

Proverbs 14:22

Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

Perhaps this is a timely passage for me to consider in light of the previous commentary (Verse of the Day – 02/20/19) that I sent out regarding the principles of forgiveness.  In response, a friend wrote me and questioned my thoughts about “righteous anger” stating, “It was not wrong or sinful for me to be angry or upset about what had occurred.”  She further added, “Anger is not a “sinful” emotion; we just need to consider how to express it in a righteous way.” 

Well, the response and this Verse of the Day captured my attention. So I began to search what the Word of God shares with us regarding the emotion of anger and its sinful effects if allowed to be harbored within our hearts.  There were a couple of passages that immediately came to mind so let’s start there:

Ephesians 4:25-27 (ESV)

26 Be angry and do not sin (Cf. Psalm 4:4); do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Psalm 4:4 (ESV)

Be angry, (the connotation here is to tremble or be agitated) and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. 

So the implication here is that anger is a natural, raw human emotion we experience. And although we can feel anger regardless of its provocation, we are admonished to not allow anger to cause us to sin.  We are called to “think it through” in our own hearts and be silent.  Rash words spoken in anger can kindle a fire. (Cf. Psalm 39:3; James 3:5-6) Anger can easily lead to an opportunity for the devil to deceive us; accuse us; diminish our relationship with God; or worse – drive us to sin against the anyone who provoked the anger within us.  I think about the story of Cain and Abel where God confronted Cain about his anger.  Interesting that Cain was initially upset with God … provoked or agitated because God did not accept his grain offering.  But Cain allowed his unrestrained anger to drive him to murder his brother, Abel.

Genesis 4:3-8 (NIV)

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

There are numerous lessons we could dive into here, but the most obvious is that the emotion of anger was fueled by jealousy … and jealousy led to hatred … and hatred led to murder.  My point was and continues to be that anger is dangerous … even so-called “righteous” anger.  Feelings of righteous anger have caused some so-called Christian Activists to bomb abortion clinics; gay clubs; etc. in the pretense of “moral duty”.  So plotting revenge … plotting evil in response to feelings of anger or any other emotions it might evoke can lead to all sorts of sinful conduct … and in these types of situations … dishonor and bring reproach to the name of Christ Jesus.

Revenge is not an acceptable strategy or response when we feel harmed by the actions of others and become angry.  There are several Scriptures that address the imprudence of seeking revenge.  Here are two that come to mind:

Leviticus 19:18

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Romans 12:18-20

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Cf.  Proverbs 25:21-22)

The believe the Apostle James afforded us some wisdom for us on this topic. While we are prone to anger for whatever reason and to whatever degree, James asserts that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Our mouths will too easily ensnare us.  Our relationships are too at risk from the effect of anger expressed in its various forms from words to weapons. 

James 1:19-21

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Well, we can find the words “anger” and “angry” used in Scripture over 400 times depending on the translation.  As I sampled them, most of uses referenced people in conflict or the “anger” of God.  Of course, we know that ascribing human emotions to God (known as anthropopathism) is really more of a language of accommodation through which an infinite God reveals Himself to finite man. It is used to explain our understanding of God … His nature, character and attributes … in human terms.  Though God does not change with emotions like humans often do, I believe as our Creator He knows the range and depth of emotions that humans feel. And God has allowed inspired writers to pen these “attributes” in emotional, relational terms to express or communicate His “feelings” toward sin … toward His creation … and toward His people in particular.  While this language of accommodation is useful, I believe if we want to observe the “actual” emotions of God we can simply look to Jesus and come to some rational conclusions on what God “is like”.  Jesus did express what we would describe as anger in the Temple court when he drove out the money-changers. (Cf. Matthew 21:12-13) I suppose it would have been viewed as “righteous” or “justifiable” anger, but the more important aspect would have been to reveal the heart of God. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  (Cf. John 14:7-11)

So, I think our best response to anger – whatever its source – is to “plan what is good”.  We need to already have our “response” to anger already in mind … and not be caught off guard.  It is in preparedness we will find love and faithfulness not only for God but for each other.  No doubt, anger is going to be felt within us.  It is our human nature.  But what we do with it next in that moment is the point of this commentary.  I would rather “confess” anger than “express” anger because there is too much risk for Satan to seize our weaknesses and use them against us.  Unrestrained (undisciplined) anger can lead to a multitude of sins.  As God cautioned Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  I pray we will not let anger however we might consider it (healthy, justified, righteous, or otherwise) become an open door to sin.  Remember, Peter urged to be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/06/19

Proverbs 21:21

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

I woke up earlier than usual this morning … prompted to pray for a friend who is undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor.  I ask you all to join me in prayer for his life; his wife and children; and his family; as they surrender and trust in our Lord Jesus for a successful outcome and full healing.  Pray there will be no complications…. Pray there will be no infections…. Pray that all thanks and glory for complete healing is offered to the glory of our God and Savior….  This is how we love another as Christ has loved us – Pray!

Our verse today continues to focus on our conduct … how we interrelate with other people … how we love one another. But here we find another aspect … the benefits we receive for ourselves as we endeavor to demonstrate our love to God through love for others.  Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.  There you go!  When our hearts are turned toward righteousness in our conduct … when we love our neighbor as we would ourselves … there is great reward God has promised those who make it their aim to live with these qualities in heart.

Life:          Jesus said, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Cf. Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24) When you and I pursue righteousness and love, we will lose our lives for the sake of Christ Jesus … only to find true life … eternal life in Him. (Cf. 1 John 5:20)

Prosperity          We need to be careful with our thoughts here.  Prosperity is defined as “a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition.”  This could be, and is often applied to financial success or good fortune; however, the Apostle John afforded us some perspective here when he wrote: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” (2 John 1:2) When you and I pursue righteousness and love in and through our lives, we will find ourselves flourishing and thriving in body and soul….

Honor          The word honor here is used as a noun.  It means to have high respect; great esteem.  So as we pursue righteousness, mercy, and love in our relationships with others, we will find and receive honor.  King Solomon commented on this issue a great deal in his proverbs:

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:33)

By humility and the fear (reverence) of the Lord are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)

A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

I want to look at a few other translations of our verse to see the variation of words used:

He who follows righteousness and mercy finds life, righteousness, and honor. (NKJV)

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor. (ESV)

Whoever tries to live right and be loyal finds life, success, and honor. (NCV)

He who earnestly seeks righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness, and honor. (AMP)

Here is what I believe Jesus wants us to discover in this verse:

John 12:25-26 (NKJV)

25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

Do we want to find life, righteousness, and honor for our lives?  These are gifts that we receive from God when we pursue righteousness, mercy, and love for one another.  These are the benefits we receive when we serve Jesus and follow His command to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Jesus affirms that our responses to Him … our decisions to follow Him … will result in imputed righteousness … will result in eternal life …  and will result in honor that the Father will bestow.  Can you imagine?  God will honor us? The One who created all things will have high respect and great esteem for us? For sinners that He saved through His own mercy and grace? Yes!  If we pursue the fullness of Christ Jesus in our lives through the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit … we will receive His righteousness when we stand before God; we will receive eternal life in Him; and we will receive honor from God the Father.

So Now You Know….  

Have a Blessed Day!