Monthly Archives: March 2015

Learning the Wisdom of God

“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 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 stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path.” (Proverbs 2:1-9, ESV)

Many people claim to want the wisdom of God. They claim to desire the direction and understanding of the Lord for their lives. So many times, though, when that wisdom is bestowed it is ignored or refused because it is not the answer that was desired.

When it comes to receiving the wisdom of God, Solomon says there is one key term: “if.” Three times in this text a phrase begins with this key word. “If you receive my words;” “if you call out for insight;” “if you seek it like silver.” Each of these is an aspect of what we must have to receive the wisdom of God. While the wisdom itself is free, its ability to have an impact in our lives has a price. We must be willing to receive it, to listen to what God has to say. We must be willing to ask for it, to make known what it is we are trying to understand. Further, we must be willing to seek it out for ourselves, not wait for someone to bring it to us.

If we truly want it, seek it, and ask for it, we will receive it. We will understand the righteousness, judgment, equity, and paths of God. Then it is up to us to put them into practice. If we do not listen or seek it out, we will miss or ignore what is directly in front of us. Are we truly desiring God’s wisdom, or simply looking for someone to tell us what we want to hear?

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Setting the Heart to Know God’s Word

“And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:8-10, ESV)

On many occasions people have said that they wish they knew the Bible like the preacher or Bible class teacher did. They state that they wish they could understand or talk to others about the various aspects of the Scriptures like someone else. The truth is, you can! The only thing that stands between you and being able to accomplish that task is having the heart of Ezra.

Verse 10 says that Ezra “set his heart.” The word “set” comes from the Hebrew word “kun” and it means, “to establish, to make firm.” Ezra established in his heart that he was going to study the law, do it, and be able to teach others about it. He did not come ready-packed with that knowledge out of the womb, he worked diligently to learn God’s Word so that he could teach it to others.

Most people that say they wish they knew the Bible better only mean it as a fanciful thought. Those that truly desire to learn will put their hearts into it and will accomplish the task. On one occasion, a woman met a well-known preacher at the door and told him, “I wish I knew the Bible like you, but it would take me half my life.” He responded, “I know, that is how long it has taken me.”

We should have that desire to know and understand God’s Word, like newborn babies have the desire for mama’s milk (1 Peter 2:2). But do we have the will of heart to follow through?

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Responding to Criticism of our Christianity

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:11-16, ESV)

In writing to Christians, Peter admonishes them to make sure their conduct is becoming of a servant of Christ. There is a lot said today about Biblical Christianity. It is called hate speech, unloving, narrow-minded, and many other uncomplimentary things. How do we respond? Do we become angry, considering how we can even the score? Do we become ashamed, running into the privacy of home to hide? Do we lash out with frustration, or feel like we need to change our views to fit what the world wants instead of God?

Peter says that this is how we should respond: do good. Keep your conduct honorable. Show that there is no hate or desire for deceit within you, only the desire to obey God and keep his commandments. Do not threaten violence or rebellion, uphold the law in your life. Live as a people who are free through Christ to do what is right, good, and loving; not as a people who feel they are free to do whatever they want.

This world is not home. We prepare through our lives for an eternal place of residence. While here we will face many people who do not like what we believe and what God’s Word proclaims. Let us never respond with hatred or malice, but with love and concern for the souls of men let us be light to the world of the love of Christ and the truth of the Gospel.

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Is Pleasure the Purpose of Life?

“So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11, ESV)

The Book of Ecclesiastes is about the wise preacher and king Solomon seeking the true value and purpose of life. In chapter 2, he is testing whether the value of life is found in pleasure. In the verses prior to our quote he discusses all kinds of things he did seeking a fulfilled life by pleasure – from gardening, to money, to music, to sex and everything in between.

The verses in our quote are his conclusions. Seeking to find the purpose of life in pleasure is empty and fruitless. There are many in our world that believe the goal of life is to do whatever makes you happy – that the ultimate sense of success is to live life doing what gives you the greatest pleasure.

The problem is that pleasure itself never leads to fulfillment, only to a greater sense of need. If the only thing one is seeking to attain in life is a fulfilling pleasure, it will become more and more difficult to attain as time goes by – like striving after wind.

There are things in this life that bring happiness and joy and pleasure, and it is certain that having these things is by no means wrong if they are attained in the proper way. But pleasure is not the purpose of life. Solomon shows the true purpose of a fulfilled life is to: “Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Only then is there fulfillment in this life and in eternity.

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Equality in the Church

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29, KJV)

As Paul writes to the churches in Galatia they are greatly struggling with the concept of equality in the church. Their issues are specifically between Jews and Gentiles. Some have been teaching that the Gentile has to become a Jew in order to be what God wants. Paul is in the process of showing that is not the case.

In the statement he makes in these verses he puts forth one main argument: the individual who has been baptized into Christ has put on Christ. No more, no less. There are no sub-headings to Christianity. Men are not better than women, the Jew is not better than the Gentile, every baptized believer is equally covered by the blood of Christ.

Sometimes we can get just as caught up in giving sub-headings to members of the body of Christ today. However, the same principles apply in our day as they did in the first century, so take a moment and make some applications. There are no black congregations and white congregations, only congregations of God’s people. Rich Christians are not better than poor Christians, they equally serve the master (consider back to the statement concerning bond or free). Disabled Christians are not less important to Christ or the church than those who are not disabled, in fact some of the hardest workers in many congregations are those who have some form of disability. The list could continue but you get the point.

God loves and wants to save each individual (2 Peter 3:9). When we come to him in obedience we do not become sub-divided under headings of worthiness or usefulness. We become blood-bought servants of the most high God and heirs of the promises made to them. Let us never lessen or demean that blessing or those who receive it.

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The Christian’s Battle Commands

“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14, NKJV)

As Paul closes this letter to the Corinthians he gives them a series of final thoughts. The words found in these two verses are as deep as they are powerful. If we are to follow through to the end in our Christianity we must keep these two verses in our heart.

The first verse is a series of battle commands. The types of commands that have been offered by commanders on the field for centuries. Consider them for a moment:
“Watch” – Be watchful, for the enemy may present himself at any time.
“Stand fast” – Do not run or hide. Hold the line in the time of battle when the enemy comes at you.
“Be brave” – Literally “Show yourself to be a man.” Do not falter in the field. See the fight through to the end.
“Be strong” – In the sense that it is used here it means: give it everything you’ve got. Leave nothing in reserve.
If we are to fulfill our duties as Christians we must be watchful, stand firm in the faith of God’s Word, be brave without wavering from truth, and use everything we have in the service of God.

However, there is one other thing Paul says to these Corinthians: “Let all that you do be done with love.” We can stand for truth, fight the enemy, and win the battle – but lose the war if we do not have love in our hearts for the souls of others. Love must be a part of our stance for truth, and it must be seen in all that we say and do. Love does not require us to compromise, nor does it insist upon weakness. In fact, true love requires truth, honesty, integrity, and strength.

Let us always be mindful of Paul’s commands as we seek to live our lives as Christians. Let us never waver in standing for truth, but let us also never leave any doubt of our love for others and our desire to save souls.

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Having Ruth’s Devotion

“Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.” (Ruth 1:14-18, ESV)

While this passage is often used at weddings because of the level of devotion it shows, it should be remembered that this was said from a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law. The level of love and devotion seen here can be found in far more places than just a marriage relationship. In fact, it should be found in our spiritual relationship with God as well.

It should always be our desire to be where God is and where God wants us to be. We should live our lives to this same standard before God, saying: where you want me to go, I’ll go. Where you want me to stay, I’ll stay. Your people are my people. You are my God unto death.

As much as that level of devotion should be present in our marriages, it is even more important that it be present in our relationship with God. How devoted are you to your Creator?

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Seeing the Blessings of the Beattitudes

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12, KJV)

The opening words of Jesus’ sermon on the mount are among the most famous of the entire speech. The beattitudes, as they are commonly called, touch on a wide range of attitudes and emotions that are necessary as we go through life. Within these words there are many things that can and should be explored, but consider for a moment one area that touches each category Jesus discussed.

He begins each statement with the term “blessed,” then follows it with a present tense statement (“are _______”). But with every statement except two (the first and last), the blessings are discussed in the future tense (“for they shall _______”). The only two that are present tense at both ends are the references to the poor in spirit (Vs. 3) and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Vs. 10). In each instance, he states that the kingdom of Heaven is intended for them. It is their blessing, their reward.

Yet, with every other statement, the blessings described are in the future. In a world that demands immediate satisfaction it is hard to understand a person being blessed in a time of hardship when the fullness of the blessing has not yet occurred. This is part of the depth and beauty of what Jesus said. All of the effects of what Jesus said will happen may not be seen in this life, but it does not mean they will not become reality.

Further, the understanding that the fullness of the blessing is still to come, and that it will be there, is a blessing in and of itself. The knowledge for the mourner that there will be a time when the mourning ceases; for the one who is pure in heart, that they will see God; and so on – allows them to continue on their journey with strength and confidence, blessed by the promise of the Lord.

I know today’s post has been more lengthy than usual, for that I apologize. But seeing the beauty and depth of the words of Jesus in these “beattitudes” will help us to be able to implement them in our lives, loving and yearning for the fullness of their blessings. May God bless you as you serve Him.

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God, Give me More

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:1-3, ESV)

One of the greatest pitfalls mankind faces is the desire for physical possessions and the willingness to compare one’s value to another. People often look at one another, see what the other has that they don’t and then feel inadequate, unsuccessful, envious, or jealous. They decide that they need more possessions, that they are not adequately blessed, or that they deserve more from their job.

How many times have we heard people complain about not having enough money, yet the extra money they receive is then spent on luxuries, entertainment, and personal greed? How many times do people ask God to bless them with more only to desire to squander it on their own indulgences?

James tries to explain to the people of his day that asking God for more just because one does not have what someone else does is wrong. Seeking God’s help to fulfill personal greed and lusts is petty and worldly. He states that sometimes we do not get what we desire from God because we have asked for something we fully intend to waste on our own selfish desires.

We need to take time to think about the things we ask of God. Am I asking for this because this is something I truly need to sustain life (food, shelter, clothing)? Am I desiring something because I want to use it to God’s glory? Or am I simply asking for things to help satisfy my own selfishness and deepen my own feelings of self-worth? God blesses each of us greatly, but let us never demean his blessings by asking him to fulfill our own personal greed.

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Whom should I Help?

“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” (Luke 10:30-35, KJV)

We are all familiar with the parable of the good Samaritan. Generally, when we consider the parable it is done from the perspective of the ones who did/or did not help the man in trouble. However, for just a moment, think about the man who was robbed.

People are often very good at ascribing blame and dissecting cause as a means of determining whether or not to help others. If one were analyzing the man in Jesus’ story he could easily be torn down. He could be reprimanded because he traveled a dangerous road alone. He could be looked upon as weak because he “allowed” himself to be overtaken by thieves. He could be considered by some to be unreliable because he lost everything he was carrying of value.

Nevertheless, in Jesus’ account none of those things matter. What matters is that the man needs help. The reasons why, or decisions leading up to that need are not what is important. The importance is seen in how others responded when that need was manifested.

It is easy for us to begin to analyze people when they are in need to try to find out who is to blame for such happening. In truth, it doesn’t really matter. When there is a need and we are able to help, what should we do? Jesus answered that question with this phrase: “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

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