Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hear Humbly, Gain Wisdom

 Proverbs 12:15
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

James 3:17
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Proverbs 15:22
 Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed. 

Proverbs 13:10
By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.

Proverbs 11:14
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.

Proverbs 19:20-21
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 27:6
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 15:31-33

He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. 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. - 

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Have you ever wondered why God hardened Pharaoh's heart?  I've grappled with that more than a few times.  It seems so contrary to what most people consider to be "loving".  I mean, after all, If God was a "loving God" wouldn't He want someone's heart to soften and believe?  

2 Thessalonians 2:10 tells us that those who are perishing are doing so because "they refuse to love the truth and so be saved".   Pharaoh's heart was not a heart that loved the truth.  He may have become convinced and fearful of the truth after God send plague after plague, but in no way did he love the truth.  He refused to love the truth, inspite of the fact that it testifies completely to The One True God who is sovereign over all.  So when he seemed ready to concede, it's no wonder why God would harden his heart.   You see, Pharaoh not only worshipped many many gods, he also thought he was a god.  To the rest of the Egyptian and Hebrew world looking on, it probably just seemed like a simple ordinary match between dualing gods.  I can almost hear it now, "Ding! round two!"  But there is nothing ordinary about what happened between God and Pharaoh and his gods.  There is nothing ordinary about God at all.  

When God hardened Pharaoh's heart I believe He did so for the purpose of making it clear that the God of the Hebrews is the One and Only God worthy of worship.  He can not be expected to receive the same lame praise and adoration that the masses would give a demonically empowered god.  No.  God has always been distinguished.  Pharaoh was merely a testy little defiant cockerel who dared to challenge God by shaking his fist in His face and puffing out his chest, calling upon his magicians as if they could contend with God's power.  Their tricks, though empowered by demons were only good for wowing the masses.  But God, in harding Pharaoh's heart, laid low every Egyptian and Hebrew soul that had breath in the land.  And every single one of them saw God for the distinguished Sovereign that He is.  

God is still distinguished.  And He still demands that those who represent Him be distinguished.  There shouldn't ever be a "Christian" who easily blends in with the wicked.  Like the Hebrews, God desires that you be free.  Nothing should have mastery over you.  And when you allow yourself to become compromised with sin, when you allow your life to take on the appearance of someone who does not have a distinguished all powerful sovereign God, you make God out to look puny, like any other deity  who is so unimpressive that he's easily ignored.   God is not your God if you live such a life.  But God is a God who will distinguish Himself, even if you refuse to acknowledge His Glory.  

Dare you be like Pharaoh?  Will you shake your fist at God and refuse to love the truth?  Or will you be like the chosen, who humble themselves under God, obeying His rules and commands?  He will be distinguished. The question is, are you?  Do you obviously belong to God, or do you spend your life blending in being indistinguishable?  God has never been interested in being compromised in such a way.   

Colossians 1:22     
"He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him"


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Git Ur Eyes Off Me!

Made you look!  Ok ok, no more dramatic plays to suck you into my thought life.  From now on I'll stay on topic.

Have you ever been told by your parents, "It's impolite to stare"?  I would guess that every single one of us were taught this as children.  Yet, it's really sometimes hard not to glance twice at someone who's maybe lost a limb or been scarred by fire.  It's just natural for our eyes to to notice things and even for our eyes to maybe do a double take when we see something that gets our minds working and wondering.  I'm guessing it's just curiosity.  But maybe it could be fear too.  I don't know about you, but when I see someone who's got scars I find myself praying for those I love and myself that God would spare us such a painful ordeal that would leave any of us horribly scarred.  I also pray for the person who's plight caught my attention.  

You know, the same thing happens to us when we notice someone who is spiritually compromised in an obvious way.  Just as it's a discipline to not stare at someone with a physical deformity, so it is a spiritual discipline not to fixate upon someone who is in an obvious state of spiritual compromise.  I mean, it's really hard not to notice the unwed woman with the baby bump.  And it's hard not to notice the blood shot eyes of an alcoholic, or the fact that your friend or family member now has another new last name because they have divorced their husband or wife and got remarried.  These things are just right in front of us, and they are obvious testimonies to the moral failure on the part of the one who's caught our eye.  Yet, still, it's impolite to stare.  

It's so easy to say that we are all sinners.  And I know I've talked about this before, but the simple truth is, not everyone is a sinner like some are sinners.  Some of us have managed to steer clear of obvious sin.  One could really congratulate himself for the way he manages to stay away from the door of the adulteress if he wanted to.  And to a point, his self praise would be valid.  But at the same time, if we could look into that man's heart, we just might find something shameful that he's managed to nurse in it's quiet chambers.  This obviously is impossible for any of us to do.  But with God, it is not only possible, it most certainly happens moment by moment.

How fortunate we, who have "kept our way pure", are to be able to skate through this life with our sin neatly hidden away from appraising eyes.  "Phew!"  Right?  What a glass house that is!  On one hand we are commendable.  Yet I hope we all know that in reality there is NO ONE who is righteous.  So I guess we can all wipe our smug little smiles off our faces and fall to our knees in repentance just like those who bear the obvious shame of their sin.  

When I think of this subject, I can't help but think of Psalm 119.  The perfect prayer.  It is filled with confession and repentant pleas for mercy.  All of them made by the man said to be "a man after God's own heart".  I wonder if I'm a woman after God's own heart?  I do.  I wish I could say that I am.  Because I'd like to be.  Like the psalmist, I'd love for my eyes to be kept from worthless things.  And I'd love for God to teach me, and give me understanding.  I'd love for Him to love me with His everlasting love and find no fault within me.  But there is fault in me.  It's just as blazingly obvious to God as the baby bump on the unwed woman is obvious to me.   

In Psalm 19 the psalmist asks the question, "Who can discern his errors?"  Sometimes our sin is so sneaky within us that we don't even get it that it's sin. But following that question the psalmist says, 

"Declare me innocent from hidden faults.  Keep back your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!  Then I shall be blameless and innocent of great transgression."   Psalm 19:12-14

There is one advantage that the one caught in sin has over the one who's sin is secret and undiscovered by others.  Those who's sin has been exposed are directly confronted with it and their need of forgiveness.  The rest of us, who's sin is secret and less obvious are dependent upon God to search and destroy our hidden faults.  I'm so thankful that He's willing to do this.  I'm so thankful that He didn't just leave me thinking that because I don't have an obvious scar from my sin that I'm ok.   Because I'm seriously not ok.  My heart is sick with the evil He shows me.  And I never knew I was capable of such things as He's shown me.  But to see what the psalmist prayed and to pray them myself, I know that like him, and anyone else who repents, God will have mercy on me too.  Though I do not deserve it any more than anyone else.  

It may be impolite to stare.  And it may be a discipline to turn your eyes away from the obvious moral failures of others.  But the greater discipline is to look inward and do some soul searching with God.  What an endeavor!  And what a relief when He purges your life of the sin that is blazingly obvious to Him.   

Monday, March 9, 2015

No Rival Thrones

Recently my sister showed me this beautiful song;

"To Keep Your Lovely Face"
by Graham Kendrick

To keep Your lovely face
Ever before my eyes
This is my prayer
Make it my strong desire
That in my secret heart
No other love competes
No rival throne survives
And I serve only You

I first heard it last Wednesday and loved it at once. I've been singing it ever since, so much so that as I lay in bed last night I couldn't help hearing it play in my mind. While the melody is beautiful, it's the lyrics that resonate so strongly with me.

I've been told by a few that I'm intense (really what they mean is they think I'm fanatical). If I am, it's because the God I serve is completely amazing! His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. They are so far above my own that when someone tells me such a thing I can't help but laugh a little inside. Here I am, just barely skimming the surface of His greatness with my tiny thoughts and people think I'm intense? These kinds of judgements will never dissuade me from endeavoring to know Him more! The reason? God is so majestic in holiness and wonderful in mercy that I can not help but to dwell upon His greatness! There is NO competing love and no rival throne to compare.

I'd like you to consider something. I'll begin with a short story about a woman I know. She's been married for thirty some years to a man who is less than loving. She's shed many tears for him and because of him, but still she stays faithful to the vows she made on her wedding day. Her commitment is a rare find these days. And I'm sure many will scoff when I say that I applaud her devotion. Most would think her justified in divorcing her husband. She does not "feel loved". There is no passion. Her husband treats her indifferently and he's condemning and rude, dismissive and mocking of her faith. Yep, seems like a just reason to divorce, to most people. Yet she stays and perseveres.

Are you wondering how such a thing can be done? I tell you, it's because she has her eyes fixed on God so much so that no competing love (or in her case desire to be loved) and no rival throne survives in her heart of hearts. Nothing stands to overrule God's commands and nothing usurps His wisdom or will. He is God and He is sufficient for her. Because of this she's able to bear with the failings of her unsaved husband and endure loneliness and heart break even when the rest of the world would condone a divorce.

The secret place of the heart is where all idolatry begins. When a man gets his eyes off the One who is worthy of our complete and total surrender and begins allowing rival thrones and competing loves to survive and thrive, the compromise that follows seems reasonable to him. These rival thrones take various forms, but all of them in the end are nothing but idolatry. God says, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength". But it's so easy to be lead astray in our heart of hearts, to embrace basically anything and everything upon which we set our affections. It's when that happens that our affections overrule what God has said and choosing to be faithful to Him regardless of the circumstances seems fanatical rather than reasonable. But what most don't realize is that it's an oxymoron to say, "No, Lord".

This song is the prayer of a man given over to God. And he's asking God to always let him gaze upon His loveliness so that no other love competes and no rival throne survives but God's alone. This is the premise for all faithfulness in every situation. Many martyrs have withstood much painful torture because of the fact that they are gazing intently upon God's lovely face. His word, His promises, His love, His justice, His holiness, His peace, His wrath and His mercy and grace are all so entirely compelling that when a man comes face to face with Him, it is possible to endure many things simply by keeping your eyes fixed upon Him. What would seem fanatical or intense to the world is a completely reasonable response.

Now this might sound ridiculous to you. You may even be scorning my words at this very moment. But I know that if you knew God as LORD, you'd understand the things of which I speak. And you'd join me in encouraging people like this woman to remain faithful even when they don't get their "happily ever after". And you'd join with me in admiration of the martyrs who refuses to denounce the name of Jesus, because you'd understand that it is His face upon which they've set their eyes. These and so many other hard situations in life are able to be endured because God Himself gives the strength and faith to remain faithful.

You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. He is to be loved even above our own consuming desires. Intense, fanatical, obsessive and surrendered, every man is called to love God above all else. Competing loves and rival thrones are seen for all their inferiority by those who gaze upon His lovely face. The world looks on with non-comprehending eyes, scorning what seems foolish to them, but believers all over the world and all throughout history have willingly surrendered to God's will by keeping first and foremost in their affections His Lordship.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Royal Screw Ups"

1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles are packed with accounts of the kings of Israel and Judah and the events that occurred in their lifetimes.   It's sad to say that there is a longer list of kings who "did not do what what right in the eyes of the Lord" than there is of the kings who "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord".  It's actually fascinating to me to read these accounts and consider the kind depravity of mind these men had to have in order for them to do such horrible things as are written in these books.  If you study them you'll see what I mean.  

Most Christians know and live by the knowledge that every single one of us sins and that there is no one who always does right and never sins.  But I find it strange how by instinct all of humanity tends to qualify sin by degrees of wrongness.  We know from scripture that if even one commandment is broken we are guilty of breaking them all.  But in reality we all know by nature that some things we do are worse than others.  I can't help but believe it's because God Himself qualifies sin, even eluding to greater degrees of judgment for some.  For example:  

-Matthew 11:20-22 
“Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.  'Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you . . . I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.'”
-Luke 12:47-48 
“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
-John 19:11
“Jesus answered [Pilate], 'You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me up to you has the greater sin.' ”
-Hebrews 10:29
“How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

No matter how any of us qualifies our sin the fact remains that we're all guilty, and we all need The Fathers mercy.  It's one thing to say with our lips that we sin.  It's another entirely different thing to believe with our hearts that our sin is unquestionably disgusting to God. The kings of Israel and Judah were like a pendulum of good and evil.  But those who were evil were truly royal screw ups in every sense of the word.  They sinned in ways most of us would never consider sinning.  But did you know that for these men to be saved all it took was a repentant heart that was yielded to God?  Some of you may think you're a royal screw up, and maybe you actually are.  Maybe you've even killed your own children as many of the kings did.  Maybe you've given yourselves over to things you'd never want to admit to, but if you will repent and turn back to God, confessing all that you've done He will accept you in the name of Jesus as readily as He's ever accepted anyone who's sinned and repented.  

If you want to see this for yourself, just read the account of Manasseh in 2 Chronicles 33.  He was a very wicked king (yes, I'm qualifying his sin).  He was VERY evil and he lead the entire nation of Judah into sin with him.  But God brought such devastation upon him that his pride and rebellion were broken so that he sought the Lord and prayed for mercy.  You can do that too, no matter how great your sin.  When God heard Manasseh's prayer and saw how he humbled himself, God was "moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom".  Verse 13 says, "Manasseh knew that the Lord was God".  

It isn't necessary for any of us to be as wicked as Manasseh to understand God's great love for us.  But even if you are a person who has sinned as greatly as he did, God will have mercy if you repent and call upon Him.  God heard Manasseh and forgave him, even restoring him to his throne.  And after Manasseh was restored he purged the land of all the idolatry and wicked things he had set up and he lived a righteous life before God.   If God would save a man like Manasseh, He would save a person like you, if you repent and trust in Him.   We may qualify our sin, and be justified in doing so.  But God's mercy is unquestionably greater than our sin.  And all we need do is turn away from it, call upon Him and know that He is God.  Even after all you've done, your life can be restored to you and you can live a righteous life before God by His grace, even if you feel like the biggest royal screw up.