Whom Am I to Fear?

“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭1:1-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/pro.1.1-7.niv

In my studies this morning I went to over to "Blue Letter Bible" for the interlinear Hebrew words and definitions in these verses and I spent some time on verse 7.

Fear- 

  1. fear, terror, fearing
    1. fear, terror
    2. awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)
    3. fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety
    4. revered

The last 2 aspects of the definition of the Hebrew word translated to "fear" are the ones we want to consider in this particular verse.

"The fear of The Lord is expressed in the reverential submission to His will - the characteristic of true worship." (From the NET notes on Proverbs 1:7 in YouVersion)

Beginning- 

  1. first, beginning, best, chief
    1. beginning
    2. first
    3. chief
    4. choice part

I love the last aspect of the definition of the Hebrew word translated "beginning" in this verse. The first. The choice part. The best part. The desired part. The best way to do something.

So if we are looking for an explanation of the last verse above, I believe we could say that Solomon is trying to say that "These Proverbs will help you with the ways to walk the straight and narrow, and they will help you discern the ways of The Lord, BUT first and foremost, reverence of The Lord is the best way to gain knowledge".

Here are some more notes from Proverbs 1:7 in the NET version in YouVersion:

"The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom:  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” ‭Proverbs‬ ‭9:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/pro.9.10.niv

And the discipline leading to wisdom: “He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.” Proverbs‬ ‭15:32-33‬ ‭NASB‬‬

http://bible.com/100/pro.15.32-33.nasb

It is expressed in the hatred of evil: “"The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.” Proverbs‬ ‭8:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

http://bible.com/100/pro.8.13.nasb

And avoidance of sin:  “By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

http://bible.com/100/pro.16.6.nasb

And so results in prolonged life: “The fear of the LORD prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.” ‭Proverbs‬ ‭10:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬

http://bible.com/100/pro.10.27.nasb

and: “The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” ‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:23‬ ‭NASB‬‬

http://bible.com/100/pro.19.23.nasb "

I don't know about you, but I could definitely use some more "fear of The Lord" in my life. Especially if it leads to better sleep. So in my prayers today, I challenge you to be more reverent (feeling and showing deep respect) towards The Lord in your prayers, in your conversations with others and in all of your comings and goings. Be intentional in your praisesALWAYS giving all the Glory to the only one deserving of it, our Father in Heaven, the only True God. In His precious Son Jesus' Mighty Name, Amen & Amen.

Jesus' Squad

When we think of the "disciples" some of us think of the "12", Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot.  But in Luke 6:12-16, Jesus refers to the "12" as Apostles. 

In Luke 6 we are told that Jesus picked His 12 Apostles from a group of disciples.  So what's the difference between a disciple and an Apostle?  The definition of a disciple is a learner, a pupil.  Jesus had and still has a MULTITUDE of disciples.  But an Apostle usually refers to someone who is sent for a specific purpose.  Its literal meaning in the Greek language is "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders".  So the 12 Apostles were disciples, but not all of Jesus disciples were apostles.  Make sense?  The Apostles were chosen to be in Jesus' inner circle, so to speak.

Luke 6:12 tells us that before Jesus called His many disciples to announce who made the final cut as an Apostle, He PRAYED ALL NIGHT LONG.  Jesus didn't willy-nilly choose the ones who would be closest to Him by a game of eeny meeny miny mo, He didn't roll the lot and cross His fingers that the dice landed where He wanted them. (Even though that was an acceptable way to make decisions in those days, YIKES!)   He spent all night set apart in prayer.  Jesus knew the best way to make an important, life altering decision was to connect to His Father.  Earlier this week I wrote about a sermon I heard long ago that changed the way I made decisions, if you haven't checked that out, here the link to it : https://www.aragingriver.org/blog/2017/1/15/the-god-grid .

Ok now, back to Jesus' version of "The Apprentice".  Who would He trust with the most important job of all of the jobs?  Who would He let into in His inner circle?  Who would He choose to spread The Good News to all the ends of the Earth after He returned to His Father in Heaven?   You can be certain Jesus didn't make those decisions alone.  He asked His Father for guidance.  Jesus always trusted His Father to make the most important decisions He would have to make while He was here on earth.

Jesus was so well connected to God, that He didn't let others influence His life in a negative way, but we tend to soak in the behaviors of those close to us.  So I ask you : Who are you surrounded by?  Who do you trust with your story?  Are you strategizing with your Father in Heaven, through The Holy Spirits guidance, when choosing your "inner circle"?  Or are you casting lots and surrounding yourself with those who gamble on life with poor decisions and even poorer behaviors?  Spend today in Prayer.  Ask God to prune away the negative influences in your life.  Pray for discernment to differentiate between the good and the not so good and for the strength to walk away from destructive relationships.  It won't be easy, but it will be sooooo worth it.

The God Grid

As I was reading in Luke 4 I was reminded of a sermon I heard a long time ago, by Pastor Stovall Weems of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, that radically changed how I made decisions.  Today I want to share what I learned from that teaching with you.  Pastor Stovall used Luke 4:1-13 as an biblical guideline to this particular teaching.

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ ” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ ” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.   Luke‬ ‭4:1-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

To be sure that a choice we are about to make is going to take us on the route that God would want us to travel, we must ask ourselves 3 questions when facing a decision or making a choice.

1. Does it line up with scripture?

In verses 3-4 Jesus' first response to the enemy, tempting Him to make a poor choice, was a direct scripture quote from Deuteronomy.

First and foremost we must filter our decisions through God's infallible Word.  We must shine The Light on our options so any darkness that may be lurking in certain choices can be exposed.  BUT, as we see later in verses 10-11, Satan knows scripture as well and being the father of lies, is exceptionally crafty at twisting God's Word to trick us into thinking we are doing Gods work, when we are really furthering satans agenda.

So that is why we must also follow up with these two additional questions.

2. Does it serve my purpose?

In verses 5-8 satan attempts to derail Jesus' purpose by offering Him rule over the natural world.  Thanks be to God that Jesus knew His TRUE purpose, which was to save mankind through a horrible death and beautiful resurrection and sit as King over spiritual Israel and beyond.  If Jesus was just listening to to what others THOUGHT His purpose was, to become King and ruler over the natural Israel, He might have really been swayed by this smoke and mirrors tactic that the enemy uses often.

We must know what our purpose is in each area of our lives. Here are some examples from 3 areas of life.

Family:  We should want our families to know that they come first in our lives.  Our decisions should reinforce, with out a shred of doubt, that they are safe in our company and that we will always do our best to love them like Jesus does, without judgment.  We should pray that they feel the love of Jesus flowing through us.

Work:  While we might not always love what we do for a living, we can put on love everyday before we enter our work spaces. God has us where we are for a reason.  We must press in to The Holy Spirits guidance and live out our callings no matter where we are, even we would rather be somewhere else.

Church:  The Church's main purpose is to ALWAYS spread the Good News of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, but your local church serves many other needs as well.  When we are committed to our local church body we receive an extended family that we must treat as our own flesh and blood.  When we sow seeds of love, encouragement, financial help, discipleship, joy and peace into our local church body we will reap the same.

I strongly encourage you to create a mission statement for each area of life.  You might have additional purposes and specific missions God has spoken over your life.  Write them down and put them where you can see them every day.  Some of us tend to have poor spiritual memories and need reminding of God's promises every now and again and again and again....

Even if we determine that our decision is Biblically sound and that it serves our purpose, we still must run our choices though this final filter as well because what WE want, might not be beneficial for everyone our choice affects.

3. Does it fulfill the Law of Love?

In verses 9-12 satan tempts Jesus to test God by twisting scripture as an attempt to trick Jesus.  But Jesus knew scripture so well that He knew we should not test God.  Jesus also knew that performing this act of wonder would not benefit anyone but Himself. 

To determine if decisions are fulfilling the Law of Love please ask yourself these questions:

Is this choice self fulfilling or God glorifying?

Does this decision help others?  Or just myself?

Will God be glorified with the result of this choice?

How will others be affected by my decision?  Loved ones, strangers?

We might not realize it, but EVERY SINGLE DECISION we make effects not only us but others as well.  We must carefully weigh the possible ways that our choices can effect everyone around us.  While some choices do not hold as much weight as others, they all cause ripples in others lives.  Let's make our choices create title waves of hope and joy, not tsunamis of destruction.

Something else I need to point out is WHEN satan approached Jesus with temptation.

The enemy attempted to take Jesus down after 40 days of: no food, no proper place to sleep and no interaction with family or friends.  In other words, satan thought that Jesus would be easier to sway when He was hungry, tired and isolated.  But satan forgot that fasting was not the only thing that Jesus was doing in the wilderness for 40 days.  Jesus was also PRAYING.

He was being filled with God's Grace, which is always enough.

He was being refreshed with God presence which always invigorating.

And He was in communion with God, so He was never alone.

So while I don't recommend 40 days without food, proper sleep or fellowship, because most of us are, unfortunately, not as skilled at connecting with God as Jesus was, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE if we stay in constant connection with our Father.

I pray that this teaching will be as life changing for you as it was for me well over a decade ago.  I am sure Pastor Stovall delivered a much more impressive sermon, but all I remember from his teaching are the 3 questions and how I applied them to my life. I pray you can hear The Spirit speaking to you through these words and that you can use this guidance to develop your own strategy for defending yourself from the enemies schemes. 

Wicked, Sinful Scoffers.

I don't know about you but I am always intrigued by the words authors choose to use in their writings.  Some like to use big, impressive words that, if I I am being honest, make me feel dumb.  One of my moms pet peeves is when someone uses the word "utilized" when the word "used" would have done the job just fine.  (And she is one of the smartest people I know)

But I know that the words used by the authors God chose to pen His Word, are always significant and inspired by God Himself and sometimes there is a whole lot of meaning jam packed into a single word.

Today I want to dissect these 6 words from Psalm 1:1:

Walk. Wicked. Stand. Sinners. Sit. Scoffers

walker.PNG

When we walk with the wicked I believe we are FULLY AWARE that we are actively participating in debauchery.  I don't care who you are, EVERYONE knows that stealing is wrong, it's just that some people don't care who gets hurt by their behavior.  They only care about what they want, and they will do anything to get.

When we stand with a sinner I see it as witnessing to the behavior of the sinner, (in other words, their sin) as being right.  When we "stand with someone" we are on their side. We are defending their behavior.  We are supporting their stance by standing with them.  Think of the song "Stand by me". What is the author asking of their friend?  They are asking for them to support them. 

When we sit with a scoffer I imagine that we are conversing in a way that is gossip.  We are tearing down rather than building up.  I remember a message from one of our pastors that demonstrated that all of our words did one of two things: build up or tear down.  Our words are either advancing the Kingdom of God or they are furthering the schemes of satan.

My prayer for all of us is that we can start to recognize when we are walking with the wicked, standing with sinners and sitting with scoffers.  I pray that we choose instead to mediate on God's Word for strength, guidance, maturity, refeshing and perseverance.  So we can be productive and prosperous. In Jesus Name, Amen & Amen.

 

The Clean and The Unclean

Something that really stood out to me in today's reading of Genesis 7 was that God asked Noah to make room on the boat for the clean and the unclean animals that God was leading to come to the ark to be saved from annihilation.  The clean AND the unclean.  And Noah didn't bat an eye.  He didn't argue with God.  He didn't say "But God those animals are unclean!  You can't possibly expect me to live on this boat with such unclean creatures!"

The God of all of the living is asking the same of us.  To help lead His creation to His salvation. How do we respond when God brings someone that isn't as shiny and sparkling as us across our path?  What about that co-worker that is a professing atheist (Like REALLY professing)?  And how about that young girl, you know, the one that wears a tad too much makeup and not quite enough clothes?  Do we welcome them onto our boat with open arms?  Or do we run to pull up the ramp so they can't enter our little worlds? 

He called us too.  The Unclean.  He welcomed us into His "boat".  No matter how dirty we were, He beckoned us to step onto the ark of salvation.  Don't you think they deserve the free gift of God's Grace that was given to us?  Of course they do.

3 Babies and a Funeral

I must admit Genesis 4 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. This might seem strange to some but this particular chapter of God's Word houses my son's name. The name Seth actually came to me in a dream while I was pregnant and searching for a name that was different, but not weird. I wanted to name my baby something that wasn't common, but I didn't want him to have to spell it out for everyone that asked.  Actually I had several "stipulations". I didn't want a name that could be shortened. I loved Jonathan, but I wasn't to crazy about Jon. You get the picture. Genesis 4 actually holds two of the names I was considering for my baby. Now I wasn't a Christ follower when I was prebgnant and when I told my mom that I was thinking about the name Cain, she flipped! She put her foot down and said ABSOLUTELY NOT! She not so gently reminded me of the story of Cain and Able and even though I hadn't grown up in church, I had heard the "story" before and conceded to my moms demand. So I was back at square one. Not much later I dreamt of a boy named "Seth". I woke thinking, "I like that". It fit all of my requirements and everybody loved it. So that was that. If I were to have a boy, his name would be Seth. Over the next couple of months I did a little research on the name and found out that Seth was actually Adam and Eve's 3rd son. "Made in the image of Adam". I thought "That's Cool". 

“Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭4:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I tell you this story to prove that EVEN BEFORE I LOVED HIM, HE LOVED ME! I am so glad that I named my son not only one strong biblical name, (you will soon see that Noah and Abraham are descendants of Seth) but his middle name is Caleb who, that because of his faith, was one of only two of the Israelites to leave Egypt and make it to see The Promise Land.

From the beginning of time He knew me. And He directed my steps and thoughts.

(And yes, I am very thankful to my mom for stopping me from naming Seth, Cain.)

Seth and I at Church

Seth and I at Church

REPENTANCE

Repentance.  It seems like such a harsh word.  When it comes to mind I conjure up images of nuns smacking rulers across knuckles.  Or maybe a child crouched over, cowering away from a much larger adult with one hand on their hip and the other shaking a finger at them.  But when the Bible talks about repentance it doesn't paint that picture at all.  If you're saying "Wait, it doesn't?", I am saying, "That's right, it doesn't."  God's Word paints a different picture entirely. 

So to accurately imagine God leading us to repent, let's look at what He says about it.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;”  Acts‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭NASB‬‬  http://bible.com/100/act.3.19.nasb  

God wants us to turn from our destructive behaviors so He can refresh us with His presence.  He knows that when we lay down our burdens, (and we know that anyone who has sinned has caused themselves, and probably others, some burdens, y'all.  Am I right?) that we can walk with a lighter step, free from some of the consequences of sin.  When we are feeling better about ourselves and our behavior we are more likely to engage with Jesus and that gives Him pleasure.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD.  "Therefore, repent and live."” Ezekiel‬ ‭18:32‬ ‭NASB  ‬‬http://bible.com/100/ezk.18.32.nasb  

The more we repent of sin, the better our quality of life will be.  Repentance is totally for our own happiness and for His Glory.  Because as Christ followers, the happier we are, the brighter we shine and the brighter we shine the more attractive we are to this dull and heartbroken world. 

While standing on a corner holding a sign with “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Matthew 3:2 written on it probably won't spark anyone into wanting to engage with us, living a life of positivity and hopefulness can be the fire that attracts someone who is lost and without hope in a cold, dark world.  And when they come to us asking "Why are you so happy and full of life?" That's when we give all the glory right back to Jesus.  That's when we get the opportunity to share what God has done in our lives and just how much He loves us.  That's when we get to share the Good News that the God of all Creation so dearly and tenderly loves them, no matter what they did yesturday. That's when we can show them that God's love doesn't depend on what they are doing today and He will always be there tomorrow to pick you up, dust you off and set you on the path He has laid out for you!

“Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I rebuke and discipline [showing them their faults and instructing them]; so be enthusiastic and repent [change your inner self--your old way of thinking, your sinful behavior--seek God’s will].” REVELATION‬ ‭3:19‬ ‭AMP‬‬  http://bible.com/1588/rev.3.19.amp

So you see, God is not angry or chasing after you with a wooden paddle. He simply waits, waits for us to grow tired of our sin and turn to Him for guidance and instruction on how to drop the chains that are weighing you down and holding you back from your full potential.  So what are you waiting for?  You've got nothing (emptiness, hopelessness, aimlessness...) to lose and absolutely EVERYTHING  (happiness, contentment, wellbeing, confidence, the list goes on and on...) TO GAIN!