Renew Your Mind…

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sometimes we just need a good “word” from God to address what we are experiencing in the moment.  Often we rely on our own thoughts or patterns of thought to guide our decisions and choices without even considering whether our paradigms are aligned with the purposes God has for our lives. Perhaps, we allow the narrative of the day or the wisdom of this world to shape or influence our thoughts more than we realize. Or maybe we are so filled with spiritual pride that we fail to consider the veil it casts over our minds to see ourselves or our kingdom roles with proper perspective.  Whatever the case, Paul affords us some great advice to get back on track: Reject the patterns of this world; reset your mindset with the Word of God; and then align with the Will of God….

So I want us to look at some other practical advice given to address the need to correct our thinking from time to time. And while the whole counsel of the Word of God should be accessed, I think there is some particularly useful meditations and instructions found in Proverbs 19, so I have reprinted it here and emphasized several of them here for our consideration:

Proverbs 19 (NIV)

1 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

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

A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.

The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish.

10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

11 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.

13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

15 Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.

16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.

18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.

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

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

22 What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.

23 The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!

25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

26 Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace.

27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

28 A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.

29 Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.

When you survey these observations of human behaviors, you realize there is light and truth in the conclusions reached.  And one of the verses I find most useful is Verse 20: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  Yes, the counsel we can receive from godly men and women can be invaluable; and yet,  I am reminded about listening to those around us with diligence and discernment. Consider the implications of this verse:

Acts 17:11 (NIV)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

The point here is that even the preaching and teaching of the Apostle Paul was “fact-checked” as we would call it in our modern culture. They wanted to know if the teachings and instructions of Paul aligned with Holy Scripture. And I think we need to apply the same principle as the Berean Jews. Not every theological position or doctrine purported to be “Christian” being taught or shared impart correct advice or wisdom when examined against the whole counsel of the Scriptures. So as we listen to advice and accept spiritual disciple … let us be wise to examine the Scriptures as well … to see if what has been communicated is indeed a good “word”.

So I encourage you today to simply let the Word of God presented here this morning to speak to you directly.  I think some of the ones I highlighted for us will resonate with us more than others, but the point is that God indeed speaks to us individually through His Word … providing what we need individually to be transformed in order to renew our minds. Even now, I am reminded what the Apostle John has affirmed for us:

1 John 2:18-27 (NIV)

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what He promised us—eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it (His anointing) has taught you, remain in Him.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Living In Uncertainty…

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Our verse today speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference.  But as we have observed over the past few months, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds.  This proverb admonishes us not be too arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring.

The Apostle James, perhaps, had this verse in mind when he wrote: 

James 4:13-16 (NIV)

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

I do not believe this passage is denouncing the purposes of “planning” for the future; rather, James is focused on an arrogant attitude and not being mindful of God in those processes.  It is the boastful, prideful attitude of an invincible spirit that James calls into question.  “Your life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  We need to keep perspective … a view of life that is dependent upon the grace of God working in us and through us.  Indeed, our “plans” should be aligned with God … with His Will and His Word as we attend to the purposes for which He created us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) This should be the basis of our planning – completing the good works which God created us in Christ Jesus to do. As King Solomon observed: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

Luke 14:25-33 (NIV) – Planning for the Cost of Discipleship

25 Now great crowds accompanied Jesus, and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

I think a key principle to planning for the future is to begin with the cost of discipleship. If we overlook what it will take to pursue a life solely focused on pleasing our God and Creator; we are probably hindered with excessive pride or arrogance. And the Apostle John addresses how to hone our focus: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17) So, yes, we need to be careful not to be deceived by the world and its desires.  We need the wisdom and discernment that comes from the Word of God to ultimately understand how to do HIS will in our lives.

So I believe, the application for us is to see the necessity of prayer and intimate time with God as we evaluate our hopes and plans for the future.  As the Prophet Isaiah advised:  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) As King David reflected when he was in the wilderness of Judah: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) Indeed, it is a critical time to seek the face of God as never before … as we see the times and tribulation the world has entered. And not only should we seek and plan our lives in accordance with His purposes, but we need to trust Him with our whole heart. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock Eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4) For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Light Has Come…

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 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.

As I think about the divisions and struggles in various areas around our nation, I sense a common theme permeating those situations and circumstances; and I believe our verse today identifies the root of the evil we continue to witness: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” I think this resistance to the light of the Gospel and the plan of salvation offered by God to His created beings (humans) stems from a lack of wisdom and discernment.  As Paul elaborated: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) We think of light or enlightenment as the “wisdom” that comes from God. And as we have learned:

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  (Proverbs 9:10)


The fear (reverence) of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear (reverence) of the Lord evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6)

These are just a handful of verses that speak to the “requirement” of a close relationship with God in order to have access to HIS knowledge and wisdom for life … because He is the Father of creation. All LIFE exists through Him, in Him, and for Him. And His BEING is manifested to the world through His Son – Christ Jesus!  The Apostle John eloquently articulates this truth:

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Apostle Paul tells us: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) And so, this is the problem that we see in our world … the lack of discernment and acceptance of the things that come from the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is what prompted Paul to write that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) So it seems to me the solution for the lack of discernment … the battle against deception … is to receive the light that comes from the Spirit of God.  And to receive God’s wisdom and knowledge, we must receive His Spirit.

John 3:3-8 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … (born from above).” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You (everyone) must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

So now, let’s look at our Verse of the Day in the surrounding context, and I believe we will find the real solution to the roots of evil upending communities within our nation and around the world:

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 evil20 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.

Well, the solution to the discord, hatred, and division between people is the love of God … a love so deep and profound … and it can only be understood and received through Jesus Christ.  Whoever believes in Jesus for salvation will be changed by His light and live according to the truth He has revealed.  Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When people encounter Jesus, they will find peace and unity through His love and grace. And I believe is why the Church has been commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) And Paul has given us who believe instruction in this regard … even to the relationships that should exist among believers.

Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Quoting Psalm 69:9) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Why is this important?  Well, if believers cannot even get along with each other … if there is no peace or unity among ourselves … what kind of message are we sending to unbelievers for whom Christ also died? How can we bring praise to God if we bite and devour each other? (Cf.  Galatians 5:15) If we cannot have the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, we will be ineffective ambassadors in my estimation. People watch what you do more than hearing what you say. Jesus gave us this commandment: Love each other as I have loved you. (Cf. John 15:12) So, we need to humble ourselves and our personal attitudes. Since Christ accepted us, He will accept those who come to Him even as we did … sinners saved by grace through faith. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) The key here is encouraging and building up the faith of others! Indeed, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith! (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) “Consequently, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

It is my hope we will see how this all fits together….  If we want to change things in our communities, we need to begin with change in our own hearts so that our lives are transformed and empowered … so that our local church is united and brings praise to God … so that our character and message is credible to an unbeliever. This is what love can do! If we want to emulate the mindset of Jesus, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow Him. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Then our light will shine like a city on a hill. It cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) Maybe the light we manifest in the world will have the impact needed to change minds, thoughts, and hearts of unbelievers. For when we come to a knowledge of the truth, we will begin to walk in it … live by it … and be conformed to the image of Christ.  That is the desire of God for each one of us.  As Jesus affirmed, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Your Righteous Laws…

Psalm 119:7 (NIV)

I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the book; and it extols the virtue and veracity of the Word of God.  From its lengthy discourse, we are afforded insight into the power of Scripture to accomplish wisdom, righteousness, and obedience in our lives.  Our verse today indicates that our praise and worship of God matures as we learn His commandments and judgments.  I really love The Living Bible (TLB) translation of this verse which renders it: “After you have corrected me, I will thank you by living as I should!” The New Living Translation (NLT) phrases it: “As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should.”  The point here is that the Word of God impacts how we should think … how we should conduct ourselves … and how we should intimately relate to God and worship Him.  We can look at just the first few verses of this Psalm to get a glimpse of its overall teaching:

Psalm 119:1-16 (NIV) 

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,   who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep His statutes   and seek Him with all their heart— they do no wrong,  but follow His ways. You have laid down precepts   that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Further on, we will read about our response to the Word of God.  When we exercise our “free will” and ability to choose (a willful decision), the question is what will you and I choose when confronted with the Word of God.  The inspiration and deliberation within this Psalm should lead us to this same decision:

Psalm 119:30-37 (NIV)

30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. 31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame. 32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding. 33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it for its reward. 34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Paul shared similar exhortation regarding the Word of God with Timothy when he wrote: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:15) And, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction (training and discipline) in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17) The inspired writer of Hebrews makes this point as well: “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12)

So there is a continued message for us: “Stay rooted and firmly planted in the Word of God!” For the Word of God is the power of God in your life and mine.  This cannot be under estimated or over stressed.  The struggle for the human will to choose righteousness and obedience is fought on the battlefield of our minds … where our thoughts are formed; and we attach words to those thoughts in order to define them.  What we say and do is the outcome of our thought life.  So remember that the Word of God reveals the mind of God … thoughts that reflect His heart and are expressed through words to us by His Spirit:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV)

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (Cf. Isaiah 64:414 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

As we have studied, Jesus said: “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it will be done for you.” (Cf. John 15:7) And framed in a similar construct, the Apostle John affirms: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (Cf. 1 John 5:14) When we have the mind of Christ … understanding His thoughts through His words as communicated by the Holy Spirit, we will engage in prayer that will be heard and conduct that will be rewarded.  This is why we need to spend time in study and mediation of the Scriptures, and Psalm 119 provides a great outline of how the Word of God sustains every aspect of our lives. Jesus Himself affirmed, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:3) And Psalm 119 amplifies this truth….

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

God is the “Why”

Romans 11:13 (NIV)

How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!

When we looked at Psalm 103 last week, we talked about the mysteries of God … what we can know of God … and what remains unknown.  Here Paul emphasizes the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!  Yes, there is a vast wealth of knowledge that we as humans … as created beings … will not ever be able to attain. Yet, that point should not be a hindrance to faith.  To me, it is the unknowable things we are able to observe and experience as living beings that draw us to our Creator.  It is our ability to comprehend that God knows infinitely more that makes us unique … that drives our quest as human beings to pursue knowledge and understanding of created things … that draws our attention to Him.  Indeed, it is the unknowable that builds the foundation of faith.  Here are some additional Scriptures for us to consider:

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Romans 8:24 (NIV)

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NIV)

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”– the things God has prepared for those who love Him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So what is important to know? I would like to encourage all of us to seek wisdom and knowledge as King Solomon did.  These are the things God desires us to know:

Proverbs 2:1-8 (NIV)

1My son (or daughter), if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

You see, if we really want to know more … if we truly desire wisdom and knowledge … we should focus ourselves on the fear of the Lord!  The fear of the Lord is deep reverence for Him.  And that deep reverence issues from knowing that God is the Creator of all things.  Despite all the advances of astrophysics and quantum theory and the like; the expanse of the universe and all the formations and motions and phenomenon are still a mystery as to origin and perpetuation.  Despite all the advances of medical science, our own formation into being inside the womb is still essentially unknowable. Oh we might know HOW the processes sequence to form a human being, but we do not know WHY those processes work. I submit that God the Father … the Creator … is the WHY! The WHY of the I AM Designer is hidden from us.  It is our knowledge of the HOW that intrigues us to search deeper for the WHY!  I hope that I am articulating this in a comprehensible manner….

What I believe is that God is more concerned with human knowledge of Him and a desire to have an intimate relationship with Him than whether we understand the how all “being” came into existence.  We will never know the answer to that question … because we are not God.  We are created.  Created for His pleasure.  Created to have relationship with Him … with one another … and yes … with creation itself.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Perhaps, this is why the Prophet Isaiah admonished: “Seek the Lord while He may be found;   call on Him while He is near.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:6) And as Paul preached to the Athenians:

Acts 17:22-28 (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’”

Again, I think that what Moses wrote is sufficient for us to apply: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” What God HAS revealed is sufficient for us to know Him … His nature … His character … His will … and to enable us to follow His law. (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) As Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) Indeed, there is enough knowledge to know that God exists and that He loves us! And we can trust that knowledge when we believe in Jesus … the One He sent … the exact representation of His being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) Maybe this will afford new meaning and insight to a final thought I had: “ Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Forever … You Are God

Psalm 90:2,4

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

I want to continue our theme on the sovereignty of God.  Before the mountains were ever formed, before the foundations of the earth were ever laid, God existed.  Perhaps, a better way to correctly phrase it: God exists!  God IS.  He revealed Himself (His Name) to Moses: God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14) So, from everlasting to everlasting, He IS God!  Time is nothing to God.  There is no time with Him as we know and understand it as created beings. God is eternal, and that establishes His power, majesty, glory, authority, and sovereignty over all His creation.  He is Creator and we are created…. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) If you have an opportunity, I encourage you to read Isaiah 40 for a meditation on God and His attributes….

“The beginning” only refers to a framework for the knowledge and understanding that God has determined to give or reveal to us.  I think this “beginning” of creation was given as a reference to afford us the concept of time – which is interesting because Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares: “He (God) 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.  But perhaps a more important message to me is this passage: “He (God) has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:9-10) Life as we see it … as we experience it … was in the mind and will of God before we ever came into existence.  And the realities of His true nature and being were “brought to light” through the life and ministry of Jesus….  

Once we ascent to and believe these “beginnings” of revealed truth … we can go on to understand and embrace all of what God has revealed of Himself.  To believe God is to “fear” Him … meaning to show reverence and honor due unto Him.  It means submission to Him and His authority.  It means trusting Him. It means loving Him … because “God is love.” (Cf. 1 John 4:16) It is His kindness that leads us to repentance (Cf. Romans 2:4); and it is His mercy that redeems us from wayward, rebellious hearts that oppose Him. As Paul wrote: “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that He may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11:32) All these things are mysteries to us until we begin to seek greater understanding for ourselves … and that “desire to know” becomes the foundation of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6)

Each of us has a unique “beginning” to our knowledge of God … but it truly forms when we “fear” Him … when we acknowledge Him and reverence Him.   King Solomon wrote about the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom in several of his proverbs.  I will reprint some excerpts here, but I encourage you to read the full chapters when you have an opportunity:

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)

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

Proverbs 4:5-7 (NIV)

Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 9:10-12 (NIV)

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

So where am I going with these thoughts?  I suppose to exhort us to “Get Wisdom!”  It begins with acknowledging Almighty God the Father as sovereign over the universe and everything in it.  It begins with worshiping and subjecting ourselves to Him.  It begins with a proper view of our “position” in the created order of life (i.e. a little lower than the angels). (Cf. Psalm 8:5) It begins with understanding that we are subject to mortal time; but with God, time does not exist.  God has revealed the certainty of the eternity which God set in our hearts when He sent His Son, Jesus, to redeem us and grant us that eternal life….  So, I guess my point is that until we settle these foundational pillars of theology in our hearts, building the rest of the “house of faith” is going to be spiritually slower and arduous.  When we understand who God is, understanding ourselves and His purpose for us begins to take hold. And we can know God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the exact representation of His Being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3)

As you begin your day … I encourage you to seek the wisdom and the knowledge of God or to continue going so.  Everything else in your life really hinges on those two pursuits.  And remember, the fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Wisdom From Heaven

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Wisdom….  We all need it.  We are urged by the Apostle James to ask for it.  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5) But we need to distinguish the wisdom that comes from God … and the wisdom that comes from the world and human intellect.  In seeking the wisdom for living that comes from God, James writes:

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Here we have a challenge … that our very lives should emulate the character of Christ Jesus. And James has some fairly salient points for us to consider.  He starts with the premise that those who are wise and have spiritual understanding demonstrate their “depth of faith” by living a “good life”.  And then he defines a “good life” as “deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom”.  So as to further explain his instruction, James then contrasts the differences between the “earthly” or “carnal” wisdom of the world with the “heavenly” or “spiritual” wisdom that comes from God.  I think it might be useful to breakdown these “distinctions” James brings to our attention:

Wisdom that does NOT come down from heaven is labeled earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. It is manifested in human conduct such as “harboring bitter envy” or “selfish ambition” in your heart.  He goes on to observe that wherever you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  In other words, envy, jealousy, pride, covetousness, idolatry, and greed proceed from a pattern of life that is sensual, brutish, and of this world.  Such behavior is inconsistent with a life rooted in the love of God. By contrast, we see that those who live a “good life” through the wisdom that God gives are:

            Pure                            (i.e. seek holiness and self-control)

            Peace-Loving             (i.e. seek resolution to conflict and reconciliation)

            Considerate               (i.e. seek the good of others above themselves)

            Submissive                 (i.e. not only to God but to each other)

            Full of Mercy             (i.e. readily forgiving)

            Full of Good Fruit    (i.e. acts of service and compassion)

            Impartial                    (i.e. righteous judgement; unbiased)

            Sincere                       (i.e. genuine; unpretentious, faithful)

So we can infer from these “distinctions” in wisdom for living what is best, good, and wholesome in our relationships with others versus what is immoral, destructive, and unrestrained to the extent that physical, emotional, and spiritual harm ensues to another.  Only the wisdom that comes from above equips a person to live the righteous life God intends for each of us to live!  Perhaps that is the very reason God has drawn us to believe in His Son – so that we might be filled with His Spirit … the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Isaiah 11:2).

No doubt, to be filled with the Spirit of God is essential to living a “good life” as James envisions it.  And I can almost hear Paul chime in with his Letter to the Galatians on this matter … parsing out the same contrasts as James:

Galatians 5:13-26 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, have been called to liberty. But do not use your liberty to indulge the flesh (and its nature); rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. Leviticus 19:1815 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (the wisdom that comes from heaven). 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

So my prayer is that we will seek wisdom … ask for wisdom … and apply wisdom to our hearts so that our lives will be good and beneficial to others.  This is HOW we are to love one another as we ourselves have been loved by God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  So I will conclude with an excerpt of the prayer Paul offered up for the believers in Colossae: “I do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Foolish Cross?

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Paul tells us the message of the cross is considered foolishness to those who are perishing.  What is the “message of the cross”?  Why would it be considered foolishness? Well, let’s put this verse in its context and see if that will help us::

1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (NIV)

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

I think Paul is trying to drive home the point that it was incomprehensible to most Jews (and certainly to most non-Jews) that a Messiah … a Warrior King … a Savior and Deliverer sent by God to His people would have been mightier than to have suffered a torturous, humiliating death on a cross.  What kind of Messiah could Jesus have been to have suffered such a fate?  Why would anyone believe in such a weakling? Such thinking is foolishness … beyond irrational.  I think that mindset is what drove Paul (Saul) to persecute the “fanatical” Christians before He encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus.  They were dangerous “lunatics” subverting Judaism and had to be stopped.  But the other aspect that drove the earliest believers to persist in their faith was the resurrection of Jesus.  Had He not been resurrected … this “foolishness” would have long since abated.  Indeed, if Jesus were not resurrected … then our faith would be in vain.  It would be foolish.  But we would still be in our sin as well….  (Cf. 1 Corinthians 15:12-17)

As Paul reasons, God ordained for His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Jesus had to die … to pay the wages of sin on our behalf. Redemption had a cost. There was a price for reconciliation.  While the cross “appeased” the justice requirement of a Holy God, it also demonstrated the incomprehensible love of God for us.  He paid the debt we owed for us!  Thus, in Christ Jesus, we see the wisdom of God because the resurrection demonstrates the power of God.  Those who reject the grace of God as foolishness will perish in their pride and arrogance.  But those who believe in Christ Jesus, the power and wisdom of God, received His gift of grace, salvation, and eternal life.  Again, the Prophet Isaiah comes to mind. The Jews should have known from their own Scriptures that the Messiah would suffer and die for their transgressions.  Their blindness became their foolishness….

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

To the world, the death of Jesus upon a cross is meaningless and foolish. A victorious, warrior King would not have let that happen … certainly not the Son of God.  But the wisdom of God required a demonstration of His wrath against sin and iniquity.  Sin is an affront to His holiness and to those created in His image.  Sin stains.  It mars.  It kills and destroys the souls of man.  And God loves us too much to allow such devastation and destruction to annihilate our souls.  He wrought His own salvation for us through His Son.  Through faith, we just need to trust Him … in His finished work on the cross … and receive His gracious offer of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.  Faith in Christ Jesus is the game changer; and I can assure you He is the power and the wisdom of God.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!