August 2022

Stupid The Word Stupid Scrabble Tiles

Are You Stupid?

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1

The New Living Translation states this verse as: “To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” Proverbs 12:1

Imagine if you never learned from the corrections your parents and teachers tried to teach you when you were in K–12 schools. You would be of little value to yourself or society. As my dad would threaten me when I was obstinate, “You’ll grow up to be a ditch digger!” [Ditch digging is now a profitable profession, but back then, it was the bottom rung of work.]

This same truth needs to be embraced by every Christian. Besides local church congregations, there are just many Christians in leadership positions who have rejected discipline. As a result, their understanding of Christianity is like Swiss cheese; it’s full of holes.

Consider these statements from Proverbs, chapter twelve:

12 … but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13 … but the righteous escapes from trouble.
15 … but a wise man listens to advice.
16 …but the prudent ignores an insult.
18 … but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
20 …but those who plan peace have joy.
22… but those who act faithfully are his [God’s] delight.

God has given us marvelous promises, but they all depend on His conditions. We must be righteous. We must be wise. We must be sensible. We must act faithfully. We must have the foresight to make plans that we accomplish. All of these promises are predicated (dependent) on a history of faithful service to God from the person.

It amazes me how many Christians don’t know their own local church’s statements of faith. Or they don’t know that Christianity grew from a handful of believers in Jerusalem to millions of Christian believers when, for the first 1,500 years of the Church’s history, the average Christian didn’t have a Bible and may never have owned even a single copy of one of Apostle Paul’s letters. And they don’t know that there were times when the Protestants and Anabaptists killed people for their Christian beliefs, just as the Catholic inquisitions did. There is so much we, as Christians, need to learn!

For us to learn and grow, God’s conditions require us to receive correction from Christ and His leaders He has placed in His Church – pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, and others that God has anointed to mentor His children. If we try to go it alone, if we try to be our own council, if we reject the people that God puts in our lives to correct us and disciple us through sermons, teaching, and cleaning toilets, then we are stupid.

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epoxy glue

The Epoxy Glue of Salvation

Have you ever thought of your faith as a rugged trapper living in Alaska? There is a fascinating footnote in the 1599 Geneva Study Bible (yes, there was a study Bible back then). The footnote is about John 5:24. Here’s the footnote:

The Father is not worshipped except by his Son’s word apprehended by faith, which is the only way that leads to eternal life.

1599 Geneva Study Bible

Just a trapper captures his food, so we capture (apprehend) Christ’s Gospel. A better example might be epoxy glue.

Bonding ourselves to God’s eternal life requires two parts. It requires the grace revealed in Christ’s message and our faith in God’s promise of salvation. Anyone can hear the words of Jesus without receiving eternal life. And anyone can say they have faith in God but if that person has no works to verify that faith, then they remain lost. Only when our faith seizes Christ’s words do we acquire eternal life. It’s like epoxy glue; it requires two parts.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”

John 5:24

Here we read about the two parts. Salvation only comes by listening and believing. We listen to know Jesus’ promise of salvation and we believe (placing our faith in God) do we pass from a condemned person waiting for their eternal incarceration to a person that has passed from death to eternal life in Christ Jesus.

By Taktoa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, accessed on July 7, 2022

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Saying ‘No’ to Jesus

You may be familiar with Luke’s account in the book of Acts when Jesus (i.e., the Lord) showed the apostle Peter a vision of a sheet filled with every kind of animal, and the Lord told Peter to kill and eat them. Peter’s response was immediate:

“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”

Acts 10:14

Peter’s response was based on Jewish law. My response would have been from being grossed out. That’s one of the thousand reasons why Peter is an apostle, and I’m just an old Gentile.

Still, notice that Peter thought he was taking the moral high ground when he told the Lord “no.” Let that sink in. Have you ever thought you were taking the moral high ground when God wanted to lead you into something you called “unclean?”

I can think of many things that my preconceptions would call unclean. Christian hip-hop music – yes, it’s real, and it ministers to a large number of young people. Charismatic churches. I wouldn’t be living for Jesus had it not been for a “full gospel” church. Missionaries to foreign countries. It is shameful how American churches have failed to fund missionaries who labor in humanity’s most impoverished, godless pockets.

Those are just three examples of the “sheet” that our Lord has let down for us to see. He has called these clean, but we somehow believe that our preconception is a higher moral ground than what Christ has plainly shown us. I pray that we will be like Peter and obedient to where He calls us. It would be a sad thing to come before Jesus and say, “But I thought my decision was more holy than what you told me.”

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But God

I heard a preacher once say, “The word ‘but’ changes time and circumstance.” I’ve found this to be a trustworthy statement.

The Time of the Jews

There was a point in time when God brought Jacob, the one that held the birthright of Abraham, and his family to Egypt. God used Joseph to set the stage for the time of the Jews.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:20

The Time of the Gentiles

When we read about Peter and Cornelius and the birth of the dispensation of the Gentiles (everyone that isn’t born a Jew), we see in the book of Acts God is changing time and circumstance.

“Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean.”

Acts 10:28

That “but” from God has changed the lives of over two billion Gentile Christians! If we go all the way back to when Joseph confronted the brothers that betrayed him, we find a profound “but.”

The Time of Salvation

As for Jesus, our Savior, we have perhaps the most important “but” in all of God’s Word. Satan thought he’d beaten God, but God raised Jesus from the dead! God changed the times and circumstances and defeated the enemy in the process.

And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead,

Acts 13:29-30

The Change of Circumstances

God’s sovereignty over time and circumstances is something we can rest in. I’m reminded of what Mordecai told Queen Esther.

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14

Good News

Has God changed times and circumstances in your life for such a time as this? When you think back, have there been moments when your life changed from a “but God?” I rejoice in the “but God” times in my life. I know there were several times when I should have died, but God wasn’t ready for me to leave this world.

I hope you take a moment and thank Him for the “but God” times in your life.

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We May Fall

A few of you may know that I have a medical condition. One of the symptoms is that I fall a lot. Yes, I have a motorized chair, but for me personally, I want to fight as long as I can against living in that chair. I am determined to use my leg muscles as long as God provides strength in them.

During the handful of years that the chair and I have battled each other, I’ve fallen on concrete, hardwood floors, ice, and frozen ground. Each time it hurt. But after each fall, I did a quick self-check, and when I found nothing was broken, I got up. I may have gotten up just to spite my powerchair, but the point is that I got up. In my mind, I would say, “See! My time for walking isn’t over.”

If We’re Human, We Fall

Falling is part of being human. As toddlers, we fall a lot. If we fall and haven’t hurt ourselves, we just get up and continue to see how many pots and pans we can pull out before we stand on our mothers’ last nerves. When we enter school, we take P.E. classes that often result in falling, perhaps to avoid a wild pitch or from snagging our feet while jumping hurdles during track meets. Every physical sport I can think of has at least the potential for us to fall. Of course, we fall in love, fall for a practical joke, and, for many of us, our favorite season is fall.

We Rarely Fall While Gripping Something Solid

It’s a rarity for a person to physically fall hard while gripping something substantial. We take our most brutal falls when we have nothing close by to grab hold of. Take it from an expert; we fall when we aren’t holding on. Our walk with Jesus has us walking through a world filled with slippery slopes, quicksand, muck, and mire. We may briefly slip while walking in this world, but we will fall if we stop holding on to Jesus.

When a Christian falls, he or she has had a lifetime of experience that should have taught him or her to get up. So, as Christians, why is it that if we fall, our reaction is just to stay put? “Well, I fell, so I’m no good to Jesus,” an embarrassed Christain says. And why do many Christians look at the Christian that fell and judge them harshly? Haven’t we learned from a lifetime of falling that it’s not the fall that defeats us; it’s the not getting up?

Slow is Good

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Psalm 86:15.

The word “slow” tells us that God is the God of another chance. We don’t become angry the first time a child makes a mistake or even the tenth time. But there is a point when a parent has had enough—God’s like that. He expects us to learn and grow.

Good News

If we fall and get up but refuse to cling to Jesus, our next fall will be much worse. But if we desire to change, the Holy Spirit will show us, Jesus will call us, and the Father will accept us, when we seek forgiveness with a contrite heart. But we will face a severe lesson if we try to find out how far away from Jesus we can get and still not fall.

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Between My Ears

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.

Philippians 1:21 (New Living Translation)

God’s Word never changes, but each translation, from the original Hebrew and Greek, gives us some new insights. I don’t mean that my go-to Bible is full of errors. What I mean is that God’s Word is alive. We can read the same verse ten times, and ten times we will learn a little more. Modern translations help us glean even more from the Scriptures.

When I read today’s “Verse of the Day” on, I had one of those “oh” moments. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what the Apostle Paul had written – “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” But reading the phrase, “dying is even better,” drove home Paul’s statement. And that the value of reading the same verses in several translations. In reference to this verse, I’ve often said that Jesus will judge us on is what we did with the time He gave us and not how long we managed to live.

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Luggage Travel Sunlight Vacations Summer Stickers

Don’t Go Back

During my career, I was at the genesis of the explosion of software development. There were fifty jobs for every experienced developer. As a Christian, this became a stumbling block for me. Was the job offer from God, or was it worldly wisdom?

We Can’t Find Our Future by Looking Back

I can’t recall how many times I prayed fervently for God’s will and wisdom in making life-changing decisions. Some jobs would double my salary, but was it God’s time to leave? Several times I made wrong decisions. But, for the most part, God protected me and guided me through His wisdom.

On the second day of one of my jobs, I sat in my car at noon and prayed that God would release me and let me return to my old job. Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wanted to go back? It’s like buyer’s remorse. I have a feeling that many, but not most, people have felt that deep desire to return back to sometime.

Going Back Won’t Move Us Forward

In today’s text, we see that the Israelites wanted to return to their merciless taskmasters in Egypt instead of going to where God called them. God judged them for their lack of faith.

But our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt.

Acts 7:39

Faith Moves Us Forward

It takes faith to go forward instead of backward; honest, active faith. Even if we went back, it wouldn’t be like it was. The euphemism, “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t know,” is a homemade scripture. It’s not in the Bible, but it’s something many of us may have felt.

The Apostle Paul addressed this trait of human nature in Phillipians 3:13-14.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

Good News

Notice in this passage of Scripture the word “upward.” This is how God calls us; upward is closer to God. He calls us to higher places, spiritually. There is no promise of worldly comfort or a new house, but how spectacular it is to be known by God and chosen to be closer to Him!

As King David wrote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

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The Gate for Pondering

26 Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.

Proverbs 4:26–27

An Old Word

The word “ponder” seems to have gone out of style. Can you remember the last time you saw that word in a news article? I find its disuse sad. And I find the lack of pondering terrifying! The word ponder means “to weigh in the mind; to view with deliberation; to examine carefully; to consider attentively.” I suppose its very definition explains why “ponder” is a rarely used word. Still, I am constrained by logic from believing that the act of pondering a decision has gone to the wayside along with desktop computers, CB radios, and slinkies.

The Gate

Let’s consider today’s verse. God’s Word tells us, at least in the English Standard Version, to ponder the path of our feet. When I read this verse, it immediately caused me to think about the gate for pondering. How big or small must something be for us to ponder it, to roll it around in our heads and hearts, to seek its moral value?

Indeed, a marriage proposal is surely big enough for our brains to open our synaptic pathways to pondering. The same is true for purchasing cars or houses or financial investments. These are obviously big enough to open the gate. But is bigness the only thing that decides if the gate for pondering should be opened?

Morally Apparent

Today’s verse tells us to ponder where we are going morally. Verse twenty-seven states, “turn your foot away from evil.” Sometimes, the morality of a decision is not immediately apparent.

Is keeping the extra change you get from a cash purchase morally right? Maybe we should ponder this before the situation occurs.

To make this personal, what will you do if your employer tells you to do something that may be illegal but is shady, like buying a tool online knowing that your boss will send it back after you get that one bolt loosened? Maybe you should ponder this before the scenario happens.

Ponder Everything

The fundamental problem we all face is that we’re so busy that we don’t have the “luxury” of time, of stopping and thinking and rolling a thought around in our brains. Well, I have Good News, but it is probably not what you think.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2 Emphasis added

It’s not enough to think about a decision, we must test the possibilities and select the one that is the will of God. We are to test everything we do, every decision we make, and every word we speak. Our Father is pleased when we ponder to search out His will, to plan and be prepared to represent Christ in everything we do.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s still some life remaining in that word ponder. I hope it makes a comeback soon.

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The Tree That Almost Died

Our yard is a blessing. My wife and I have a yard full of flowers, trees, and things that she says I must not mow over. And in God’s wisdom, He had the builder construct our home, back in the 1950s, so that the backyard faces East; this makes it almost impossible for me to sleep in! I thank God for waking up early for His new mercies each morning.

Well, in our biosphere, we have a medium-sized tree that, for three years, gave us fits. Saplings kept bursting forth all around the tree. By the time I saw them as a problem, they were too big for a weed-whacker. They had to be cut back.

At War with a Tree

By the third year, my wife went to war against this tree. We are not fans of weed killers, but my wife was determined to “fix” the problem. She sprayed a copious amount of weed killer saplings. Confident that the problem was solved, we waited; no saplings; great.

In the spring of year four, our trees began waking up. Buds, new limbs, and green leaves in all of our trees, all that is but that tree. It looked dead. As the weeks went by, we only saw a dead tree. Since it was dead, we were ready to remove it, but it wasn’t dead.

Long after our other trees had reached their glory, our sickly tree began to show some life. One branch had some green on it. I investigated and found a few buds. Slowly, our “dead” tree began to outwardly show the healing that had been taking place over the past year.

Our trees are now at their zenith. Still, our injured tree has not returned to its full glory. One side is slightly dead, but the other has leaves and looks nearly healthy.

Jesus is the Vinedresser

This tree reminded me of a parable Jesus taught about the Vinedresser – a person who prunes, trains, and cultivates vines.

And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’

Luke 13:7-9

Perhaps, your life has been like my poisoned tree. As a Christian, you were healthy. You had a hunger for hearing from God and doing what He laid on your heart to do. But something happened. You were poisoned. Maybe it was from an abusive pastor, maybe by a personal tragedy, maybe you were betrayed by a friend. That poison nearly killed your spirit.

In your damaged condition, you may have said some things and done some things that looked like death; they looked like you’d returned to the world. Friends may have looked on the outside of you and judged you harshly. They didn’t see the healing Jesus was performing on your heart, your mind, your spirit.

As you healed, you may have written Ichabod (used to express regret for departed glory) on your life. You may have thought you’d be sidelined until God called you home.

Jesus Can See Life When None Is Apparent

Even now, you may be disappointed with some people because they haven’t seen the healing taking place in you. They are still looking at what is obvious instead of what God is doing in your life.

Jesus is the Vinedresser; He can recognize life when none is apparent, He can make life where none exists. He sees life in you and your potential to be fruitful. Like my recovering tree, you will recover. You will be glorious again. You are in the hands of the giver of life; Jesus will restore you.

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Walked A Mile With Sorrow

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:2-6

Jesus Experienced Deep Sorrow

We find Jesus, when He was about to be betrayed, telling His disciples, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” (Luke 22:44-45)

Today’s passage in Isaiah is a Messianic passage. It is a prophecy about Jesus. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Surely Jesus has known more sorrow and grief than any son or daughter of Adam, including Job! So, since Jesus felt sorrow, we must expect that we will.

Walked a Mile with Sorrow

The spark that got me thinking about sorrow was a “Jesus Music” song by Barry Mcguire from the 1970s.

Walked a mile with pleasure
She chattered all the way
Left me none the wiser
With all she had to say
Walked a mile with sorrow
Never a word said she
But oh the things I learned from her
When sorrow walked with me

Barry Mcguire – I Walked a Mile Lyric

In the wisdom of God, there is value in sorrow. I don’t know why. However, when I search the Bible, I find verse after verse about sorrow, and some of my most life-changing experiences were wrought in sorrow and grief. It’s in those times when we surrender to God; we become honest with ourselves and Him.

Good News

Here’s the good news. God promises that in the future “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) In this life we will have hardships, sorrows, loss, and grief, but should thank God for these. I think Andraé Crouch nailed it.

I’ve had many tears and sorrows,
I’ve had questions for tomorrow,
there’s been times I didn’t know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.

Through It All by Andraé Crouch

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