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Power, Love and Self Discipline

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

“As he went out of court to be taken to prison, Bunyan said that he went “with God’s comfort in my poor soul.” When the magistrate warned Bunyan that if he ever got out of prison and preached in that realm again, he would hang for it, Bunyan replied, “If I were out of prison today, I would preach the gospel again tomorrow by the help of God.” Memoir of John Bunyan

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Neither Death Nor Life…

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

“Niagara stopped once! Owing to an ice dam thrown across the river the waters failed, the rainbow melted, the vast music was hushed. But there has been no moment in which the love of God has failed toward the rational universe, when its eternal music has been broken, or the rainbow has ceased to span the throne. There never will be such a moment. The crystal tide flows richly, and flows forever.” W. L. Watkinson

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Love Is…

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

1 Corinthians 13:4

Now Paul says, “Love suffers long . . . and is not [easily] provoked.” So what becomes of this whole side of us that suffers short — has a short fuse — and that is easily provoked and easily complains and easily grumbles and easily gets angry and easily criticizes? The answer is: it must die. To love like this is to die. If I am to be like this, something in me must die. My strong craving for a trouble-free life must die. My need for an uninterrupted schedule must die. My demand that frustrations and interference get out of my way must die. We simply cannot love the way Paul describes until we die.” A Call to Love and to Death, John Piper

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For God So…

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

John 3:16

“God loved because He would love. When we enquire why the Lord loved this man or that, we have to come back to our Savior’s answer to the question, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.” God has such love in His Nature that He must let it flow forth to a world perishing by its own willful sin! And when it flowed forth, it was so deep, so wide, so strong that even Inspiration could not compute its measure and, therefore, the Holy Spirit gave us that great little word, SO–and left us to attempt the measurement, according as we perceive more and more of Divine love.”  Immeasurable Love, Charles Spurgeon

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Speak For Those Who Can’t

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.  Proverbs 31:8

It’s interesting that in the three major monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) equality between rich and poor is a major theme.  Not only are the wealthy on equal footing with the needy in God’s eyes but those who “have” are admonished to help those who “have not.”  And although God doesn’t challenge believers to eliminate poverty, He does challenge us to ease the suffering of those experiencing it.  Jesus, Himself, reminds us there will always be the poor.  He also gives us the great command to love one another as He loves us.  We are, ourselves, living in the full poverty of sin. Yet He loves us immensely.

This last proverb we are looking at in this series, 31 Days of God’s Wisdom, isn’t just about helping and loving those who are destitute.  It pushes us to speak up for those who cannot.  A person need not be poor in the traditional sense to require a champion.  A group of people who come to mind, especially these days, are children. They own nothing.  They have no power.  They have no influence.  

Prior to Jesus’ days many children were seen as property or even slaves.  They were used as pagan sacrifices and for sexually immoral acts.  They were traded and used like cattle.  When Jesus came He told those who would listen to be more like children.  To be innocent and curious.  He allowed the children to come forward and listen to His words.  He asked us to have a child-like faith.  These people who had nothing to their name, He wanted us to emulate.

God’s world, if you haven’t already discovered, always seems to be an upside down version of the world of the flesh.  He requires us to love the unlovable.  To be humble when challenged.  To speak up in the face of adversity for those who cannot.  To take courage in the unseen, not the seen.  

If there’s ever a time to heed God’s words it is now.  When I read and write about how children were treated in years gone by, I have to ask myself, “Are we really any better now?”  Are we protecting our helpless children from sexual immorality?  Are we providing for all of their basic needs when so many have been abandoned?  Are we protecting them from death starting even in the womb and then in the streets?

Friends, as we arrive at the end of the Book of Proverbs, we see chapter 31 in two parts.  The first tells us to stand up for those who have no voice.  The second, more famous part, describes the Proverbs 31 woman.  But Proverbs 31:10-31 could be about a man or a woman.  A person who takes the responsibilities of life laid out throughout proverbs seriously.  Who places protecting family front and center.  A person who works hard to keep from being on the poverty rolls.  A man or woman who respects their bodies and their relationships.  If we were to take on at least half the roles outlined in these last verses I’m sure we would have the beginning part covered.  Let’s look in the mirror today and ask the person looking back at us if we are doing our part to be upright enough to stand for those who cannot.

Gracious Lord, you remind me over and over that I live among equals.  Equally loved by you but not equally treated by this world of the flesh.  Help me to stand among those today who speak up for your children and others in need.  Amen

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God’s Flawless Words

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”  Proverbs 30:5

In January 2020 I embarked on a faith journey of which I am still on today and will be for the rest of my life.  It was a simple journey, for which I only needed one book and the desire to converse with God.  I added a few new friends and a few old timers who understood God a lot better than me.  And so began my study of the infallible Word of God, the Bible.  I appreciate the way one of the “old timers” I’ve had with me describes this amazing book.

We have a more sure word of testimony, a rock of truth upon which we rest, for our infallible standard lies in, “It is written.” The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is our religion.”  

Charles Spurgeon

What I found, having researched the Bible’s origins and its mind-boggling consistency in truths over thousands of years and multiple writers, is that God is never wrong.  He’s never been mistaken.  He has never told a lie or broke a promise.  Most “confusion” over His Word is typically because we humans can’t understand a being that loves us so much that He hates sin.  Other issues with His Word abound because we don’t take the time to place the stories in context of the times or within their original language.

More importantly what I have found is comfort, peace, joy and hope.  Comfort that He never leaves us and is always teaching, guiding, encouraging, forgiving.  Peace in that He wants a relationship with us free from strife and He shows us how to live in this world knowing of the beautiful eternity to come.  The joy He brings is through His love of this place we call earth.  His creation is so gloriously beautiful and intricately woven together.  And of course, the hope that Jesus gave through the forgiveness of our sins.  Knowing that when the day of judgment comes, He will welcome us into the New Eden with open arms.  Hope that sees no pain or suffering.  No sadness or despair.

My friends, don’t let the unbelieving world define God’s Word for you.  Read it for yourself.  Study it with all your heart, mind and soul.  There is nothing else that will bring you such comfort and hope.  There is no other book that will tell you as much about the world, its people and its creator as the Holy Bible.

Thank you, Lord God for your infallible Word.  Speak to me in my confusion, my pain, my sadness, my joy and my hope through the pages of your book.  Amen

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Final Justice

 
Many seek an audience with a ruler,
    but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.  Proverbs 29:26

I am an avid reader. In fact, by the time you read this post I will have probably finished about six books this year.  Since I was a child, I devoured mystery and spy novels.  My flashlight and I were well acquainted with Nancy Drew’s escapades!  But I suffer from one big issue when reading mysteries.  When the champion of the story finds him or herself accused of the murder or some other terrible crime, I frequently jump to the last few pages of the book just to make sure all ends well for the hero.

I’m not sure where my deep sense of “justice” evolved.  I struggle watching movies where the good guy is shamed and blamed for something they didn’t do (although now with Netflix I can also zip to the end!).  This justice-driven thinking spills over into my relationships as well.  I stand up for friends and family who feel uncomfortable or unwilling to defend themselves.  On the negative, I also will argue my side of the story ad nauseum, seeking justice for myself.  

Here’s the problem with always seeking justice, not only for myself but for others: sometimes true justice just isn’t possible.  The person from whom you seek justice may not have the ability, emotionally, mentally or physically, to repair what you feel needs doing to receive forgiveness.  The situation may even be grander, say an injustice by a corporation or government has occurred.  Although money may salve some wounds, true justice from such behemoths is unlikely. 

Friend, we can wish, hope, prod, complain, sue, fight all we want to try and get justice for ourselves or those we care about.  In the end, we must seek a satisfactory result that we know to be imperfect, and then forgive.  We can forgive because we have been forgiven yet still slap God in the face every day with our sinful behavior.  We can forgive because we know true justice is waiting on the other side.  We should forgive because “those people” won’t be the only ones being judged.  God wants us to stand up and for those who can’t.  He wants us to defend the innocent.  But we cannot give up our peace and joy when the results aren’t everything we hope for in this world.  An account is being written in the heavens.  And courts will be in session with the Lord comes again.

Holy God, help me to understand when to seek justice in this world and when to just step back and forgive.  I thank you Lord for the mercy you have already shown me with my transgressions.  When you come again, I know you will judge the living and the dead and I thank you for this promised justice.  Amen.

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Your Sin Is Known

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
    but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Not too long ago I heard a pastor give this advice when praying, “Ask God to reveal your sins that may be hidden from you.”  Our sense of righteousness and pride can sometimes cloud over sins that only the Spirit can bring to full, bright light.  But then there are those other sins.  Those sins that we know we indulge.  We think we are keeping them secret.  The unforgiveness, or even hatred, we hold in our heart (because they deserve it!).  The hoarding of our treasures (because I need it!).  The partaking of bad behaviors (because I deserve it!).  

Charles Spurgeon once gave a powerful sermon on the folly of secret sins.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Pretender, thou art fair to look upon; thy conduct outwardly upright, amiable, liberal, generous and Christian; but thou dost indulge in some sin which the eye of man has not yet detected. Perhaps it is private drunkenness. Thou dost revile the drunkard when he staggers through the street; but thou canst thyself indulge in the same habit in private. It may be some other lust or vice; it is not for me just now to mention what it is. But, pretender, we say unto thee, thou art a fool to think of harbouring a secret sin; and thou art a fool for this one reason, that thy sin is not a secret sinit is known, and shall one day be revealed; perhaps very soon. Thy sin is not a secret; the eye of God hath seen it;”

Friend, we fool ourselves if we think God doesn’t know what’s going on in your private life.  He doesn’t take days off or turn His face away even for a minute.  He knows your heart and your mind.  He knows if you’ve truly forgiven that person or not.  He sees what you are doing with your body, always.  He is like an x-ray into your heart.  To truly renounce that sin start with the help of the Spirit to give you strength to turn it over.  He will forgive you each time you struggle to rid yourself of the hold it has over you. 

Merciful God, shine a light on my sinful ways, both ones I know about and the ones that seem hidden from me.  I know you will love me with grace and mercy.  Amen

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The Great Destructive Force

Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
    but who can stand before jealousy?  Proverbs 27:4

When I delved into research about envy vs. jealousy I came across this interesting view from Psychology Today: 

“Although jealousy is a painful emotional experience, evolutionary psychologists regard it not as an emotion to be suppressed but as one to heed—as a signal or a wake-up call that a valued relationship is in danger and that steps need to be taken to regain the affection of a mate or friend. As a result, jealousy is seen as a necessary emotion, because it preserves social bonds and motivates people to engage in behaviors that maintain important relationships.”

Jealousy, unlike envy, is about emotional needs within relationships.  Be it between spouses, children and parents, or even between co-workers and a boss.  “My mother loves my sister more than me.”  “My wife pays too much attention to our neighbor.”  “He’s always playing up to the boss for compliments.”  These are all situations where a person is seeking to fulfill emotional needs through the wrong outlet.  When we feel jealousy arise in our hearts it should be a warning to evaluate where our prideful hearts are seeking to fulfill all its needs.


In the books of Mark and Luke a scene unfolds wherein the disciples argue amongst themselves who is the greatest of them.  They all want to be seen as the “top dog” alongside Jesus.  Who does Jesus love more?  Who does He rely on the most?  All signs of a strain of jealousy woven among them.  And true to Jesus’ ability to cut through the sin of man He reminds them all that they are to be the “least” among men.  To accept His love as little children, with innocence and grace.  James later reminds us of jealousy’s dangerous results: “You desire and do not have so you murder.  You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

Friend, as Samuel Rutherford once wrote, “There is so much in our Lord’s pantry that will satisfy His children, and much wine in His cellar that will quench all their thirst.”  He admonishes us to live on Christ’s love alone.  When we place all our emotional needs in one human relationship we are sure to be disappointed. And disappointment can lead to jealousy.  As Rutherford goes on to say, “Let those who love this present world have it; Christ is the more worthy and noble portion; blessed are those who choose Him.”

Loving Lord, thank you for being a fountain of love that never runs dry.  A place I can return to over and over to refresh me.  Help me to seek your love above all so I can place my earthly relationships in the right place in my heart.  Amen

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Repetitious Folly

As a dog returns to its vomit,
    so fools repeat their folly.  Proverbs 26:11

We’ve all heard the famous quote, “The definition of insanity is making the same mistake over and over and expecting a different result.”  It must have its roots in today’s graphic version of the illogical idea of continuing to beat your head against a wall (or beating a dead horse).  My version of this wisdom was telling my softball players that if you keep practicing something the wrong way, you’ll get really good at doing it the wrong way.

I have to think there’s so many versions of this admonition because we humans struggle with both breaking bad habits and the fear of the unknown.  You’ve probably heard the saying, “It’s better to live with the pain you know than the pain you don’t.”  If, as a Christian, this speaks to you let me put what you are doing into a faith perspective.  You aren’t trusting God to take care of you.  God doesn’t desire for you to live downtrodden and joyless.  It’s why there’s proverbs like this one.  It’s why Jesus came to us.  He came to shake us up from our repeated follies.  It was time to take a different approach to life.

Jesus told us to stop hating our enemies.  Stop being filled with vengeance.  Stop viewing others within a hierarchy.  Stop giving over our bodies and minds to immorality.  Stop hoarding our wealth.  Stop being afraid.  Stop returning to our own vomit.  And start living for His Kingdom.  Start looking towards the New Eden.

My friend, if you feel stuck ask yourself what do you keep doing over and over expecting a different outcome? Turn your issue over to God.  Listen to His answer which will come either through His Holy Word or through the most unexpected way.  And then take new action.  Start a new habit.  One that God will infuse with joy and goodness.  

God, you know my habitual ways.  You have a better plan for me.  I lift up my repeated sins to you.  Please show me a different path and guide me with your Spirit.  Amen