Is Your Heavenly Father Like Your Earthly Father?

Is Your Heavenly Father Like Your Earthly Father?

In my devotional time today in Proverbs 5, I discovered some words of wisdom I would like to share with you:

Proverbs 5:1-2 – My son, pay attention (listen carefully, give heed, obey) to my (not the world’s) wisdom; lend (extend, stretch out) your ear to my (not the world’s) understanding, (why) that you may preserve (watch, keep, guard) discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.

The Proverbs are all about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.  And the key to living in these blessings is to forsake the wisdom of this world, which is moronic (mōría) at best, and embrace the wisdom that only comes from God (1 Cor. 3:19).  It’s a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice, we can make.

So how ’bout it?  Are you up for the challenge?

And one more:

Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways (path, journey of one’s life) of man (each man, you and me) are before the eyes of the LORD, and He (the Lord) ponders (to make level, to weigh, to guard or watch carefully) all his (each man, you and me) paths (goings, the circle of a camp).

Did you catch the meaning of this proverb?  Our life’s journey, our life’s choices are laid out before the Lord.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  He sees all.  Everything.  Good and bad.

Is that a good thing that nothing is hidden from God?  Or not such a good thing?  That depends on your view of God as your Father.


What is Your Heavenly Father Like?

There are two ways to look at this proverb.  And they are basically determined by our perception of what God the Father is like and how we choose to interpret the word, ponder (pālas).  One way is to focus on the part of the definition that means “to make level, to weigh.”  The image would be of a large legal scale, with our actions on one side and God’s righteousness on the other.  We would then see God as a great Judge with a mighty hammer waiting for us to cross the line, to do something disappointing to Him, something embarrassing to His character.  And once the scale becomes unbalanced towards our sin and not His righteousness, WHAM! – down comes the hammer.  In essence, “All our lives are before the Lord and He is waiting, just biding His time, until we mess up.  And when we do, geez, out comes His iron fist.”

This is a picture of an abusive father who is head over a dysfunctional family.  This is not what our God is like.

The other way to view this proverb is to focus on the other meaning of the word, ponder.  That would be to “guard or watch carefully.”  Now we see the Father as a caring, careful Parent who wants to make sure His beloved children are safe, protected, and not somewhere where they could get hurt.  He’s waiting everyday at the bus stop for them to arrive home.  He’s sitting in the stands watching every soccer game they play to make sure they don’t get hurt.  He’s hands on, proactive, and always involved.  And our blessing comes from knowing our lives are always “before the eyes of the Lord.”

This is a picture of a good father who lovingly leads a wonderful family.  And this, my friend, is what our God is like.

Rejoice today that your life is hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3) and the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matt. 10:30), and not simply counted.  And know how much your loving Father can’t keep His eyes off you— His beloved child.

Rest in that today.

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The Focus of Our Faith

The Focus of Our Faith

The context of Psalm 3 deals with David’s great betrayal at the hands of his own son, Absalom, whom he dearly loved (2 Sam. 18:33).  Absalom had driven his father from the holy city, Jerusalem, and was seeking to usurp his kingdom and take his life.  David’s guilt as a failed father towards his rebellious son must have been unbearable.  Adding to that the guilt of his own sin with Bathsheba and the murder of his close friend, and her husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:15), may have caused David to feel Absalom’s actions were justified, a fitting penalty for the sins of David’s past.

The future looked bleak.  There was division within his own family.  To regain his kingdom he would have to wage war against his own son, forcing him to repay evil for evil to the one he loved.  God was grieved and David was unsure as to what to do.


Our Focus

There is much for us to learn about God and our own problems in this psalm.  Note, for example, what happens when we, like David, focus on our problems and what others say about our situation:

Psalm 3:1-2 – LORD, how they have increased who trouble me!  Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.”

But now, the focus has shifted from what is before us to our God and all He has promised.  You can almost feel David’s faith begin to grow:

Psalm 3:3-4 – But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.

As Corrie ten Boom once said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”

David realizes God has not abandoned him.  He has cried out to his Lord, our Lord, and his voice had been heard.  God was still on His throne and He still loved his son, David, no matter how desperate the circumstances.  The same truth applies to each of us when we get our focus off our problems— the immediate, the overwhelming, and focus instead on what lasts— the Eternal, the Lord, the Sovereign One.

And the result of that change in focus?  No more fear.  Rest and peace in the face of turmoil.  Confidence in Him and Him alone.  “God’s got this. I’ve nothing to fear.”

Psalm 3:5-6 – I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.

After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).  Great question.  Answer, no one.  Not even Absalom.

This thought brings great courage to David.  God is not finished with him yet.  Today and tomorrow are just setbacks.  But God’s plan endures to all generations.

Finally, that confidence is expressed in action.  David, and each of us, find our prayers going from “Help me, please, for I am dying” to “Arise, O Lord” and do what You promised to do for your children.

Psalm 3:7-8 – Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God!  For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.  Salvation belongs to the LORD.  Your blessing is upon Your people

Did you get that? “Your (God) blessing is upon Your (God) people.”


The End from the Beginning

One final thought, did you notice all of God’s actions are recorded in the past tense (have struck, have broken)?  That’s right.  For the child of God, we can rest in faith knowing what God has promised to do has already been done in the eyes of the Lord.  His Word never changes.  If God promises to do something for us, in faith, it’s already done.  It’s finished, established, completed, done.  Time is a construct of man, not of God.  He sees everything, past, present and future, in real time.  Scripture calls that seeing “the end from the beginning” (Isa, 46:10).  We simply have to rest, by faith, in the completed work of the Lord even though our eyes may see, for a time, something quite different.

David saw Absalom’s rebellion and his kingdom, the one promised to David by the Lord, ripped from his hands.  But not God.  None of that surprised Him.  God knew how all of that was going to turn out and His knowledge of the future was not based on changing circumstances, but on what He had promised David in the past.  What was currently happening, in God’s eyes, were merely details.

So we should also live our lives with the same focus on Him, with eyes of faith, seeing the truth of what God sees and not what our circumstances cause us to fear.  The promises our faithful God has made to each of us are true, and will come to pass, regardless of how dark and bleak our circumstances may seem today.  And living in the reality of this faith, to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7), will give us the peace and assurance in Him that will help us know our Lord sustains us and gives us the confidence to proclaim, even in the midst of the battle, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Ps. 3:6).

Psalm 3:8 – Salvation belongs to the Lord, Your blessing is upon Your people.

The “Your people” also include you and me, those chosen in Him “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).  And His blessing is upon His people.  Take a moment, stop fretting, and rest in that.

Pray for the Lord to open your eyes today to see the wonder of His grace and sovereignty in all things (Ps. 115:3) and to teach you how to live like children of the Most High God (Rom. 8:17).  Which, as incredible as it sounds, you are.

Praise be His Name!

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336:  Tough Words to Fathers and Children

336: Tough Words to Fathers and Children

In Colossians 3 the Lord confronts us with a checklist that deals with the proper attitudes we are to have in our most cherished relationships: wife to husband and husband to wife, children to parents and fathers to children, and employers to employees and employees to their employers.

In this lesson we’re going to look at some of the tough words the Lord has to say to both fathers and their children about their relationship both to Him and to each other.

Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. – Col. 3:20-21

To find out more, just keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 3:20-21.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Wisdom is a Choice, So Choose Wisely

Wisdom is a Choice, So Choose Wisely

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.
Proverbs 1:2-3

The question often asked is how Solomon received the wisdom of God?  How did all that come about?  What was the experience like?  What was the process?

From the account in 1 Kings we find little to shed light on the specific details of that momentous event.  What we do see is Solomon overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the kingdom he inherited from his father David and recognizing he is but “a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7).  Then, in a marvelous way, God grants his request and gives him, not only a “wise and understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:12), but also throws in what Solomon didn’t ask for, “both riches and honor” (1 Kings 3:13) simply because He wanted to.

And from then on we see Solomon acting, sometimes, in the wisdom God gave him and, at other times, living like a rich, spoiled brat making “dumb as a brick” decisions for himself, his family, and the nation God trusted him to lead.

But how is that possible?  How can a man given the very wisdom of God make dumb, lousy, selfish decisions?  Didn’t God make Solomon a wise man when He gave him His wisdom?  Didn’t God just zap him, like He did Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, and turn him into something he wasn’t before?  Or maybe God simply enhanced the wisdom Solomon already possessed?  Maybe Solomon was already a wise man and God just gave him the 2.0 update?  Plus, when God gives you or me His wisdom, does that mean everything we do or say is wise and from God?  And if not, why?  How can we, like Solomon, be given the wisdom of God and then go around making lame, stupid decisions?  How is that even possible?


Solomon Was Not a Wise Man

Let’s nip this one in the bud right out of the gate.  Solomon was not an inherently wise man.  He was not one whose very nature oozed wisdom.  How could he be?  The decisions and choices he made as a father, husband and king are anything but wise and they reflect his true nature.  When Solomon relied on the wisdom of God, he made incredibly wise decisions— some of which we still marvel at today.  But when left to himself Solomon, like you and me, made decisions and choices according to his own nature, according to what he was made of on the inside.  And for Solomon, his nature was anything but wise.

Just think, how wise was it as a husband to have 300 wives and 700 concubines?  How wise was that?  Think of the infighting within his own family.  Think of how used and rejected his wives felt, not to mention the concubines.  And this selfish, unwise decision to marry so many women wasn’t a momentary lapse of reason for Solomon.  It wasn’t something he did and regretted later, vowing to never make the same mistake again.  This pattern of thinking was habitual, ingrained, and occurred over a 1,000 times.

Then you have the children.  Hatred, jealousy, bigotry, and bitterness was the rule of the day, so much so that the kingdom was irreparably torn in two after Solomon’s death by two of his own children.  What does this show us about Solomon’s nature and core values regarding his responsibilities of being a father?  Where’s the wisdom in any of this?

Finally, how did Solomon the spiritual leader do?  Horrible.  He allowed his many wives to desecrate the sanctity of his own home, the holiness of the Temple of God and the very nation by building altars to their foreign gods and bringing idolatry into the land.  How could Solomon allow this to take place under his watch?  How can one man be so wise and yet fail so miserably?  Solomon’s true nature reveals the carnality, apathy, and weakness of Solomon the man, and not the inherent wisdom often attributed to him.


Wisdom is a Choice

The wisdom Solomon received from the Lord is the same thing you and I receive in Christ.  Solomon received wisdom but you and I receive Christ into our lives, “who became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  And then, once we’ve received Christ, it’s up to us to live and “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  Like with Solomon, it becomes a choice.  A simple, but difficult choice.

When we choose to live according to the new nature within us, according to the wisdom given to us by Christ and administered by the Holy Spirit, we will naturally make wise decisions.  Why?  Because we are “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  But when we choose to go our own way, to call the shots as we see fit, or to live according to the flesh, we can expect our end to be the same as Solomon’s.  Remember, it’s a choice, the exercise of our free will: to choose either the blessings of a life of submission to Christ or the heartache of a life brought on by the rebellion of our flesh.

It’s a choice— your choice.  So choose wisely.

And once you’ve chosen wisely, your job’s not done.  You still have to act on that choice.  Look at the transition about wisdom in Proverbs 1:2-3.

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.

First we are “to know” wisdom in Proverbs 1:2 and then “to receive the instruction of wisdom” in the next verse.  We go from knowing to receiving in the space of 20 words.  One is an understanding of something and the other is a choice, literally an action based on that choice— the receiving of something found only in Him.  We can “know” wisdom, or Christ, truth, right from wrong, good and evil, up from down, and all sorts of wonderful things, and yet still choose to live contrary to what we “know” and suffer, like Solomon, the horrific consequences of that choice.  Or, we can know the truth and choose the truth and be set free by the truth (John 8:32).  It’s really that simple.

Easy?  No.  Simple?  Absolutely.


Wisdom is a Gift

In other words, the wisdom Solomon received from the Lord is the same wisdom available to each of us today by the residing presence of the Holy Spirit.  And we already have in us, available to us, the same wisdom of God given to Solomon.  How?  By virtue of being “in Christ” who “became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  The key to living in the gift of wisdom already given us boils down to what we do with that gift?  Do we “receive (or choose to receive) the instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastisement) of wisdom” (Prov. 1:3) or do we hide it away and let it die from inactivity and lack of use?  Jesus said we are the “light of the world” and He commands us to place that light, our lives, including His wisdom and redeeming power and grace in us, like a lamp on the table for the whole world to see (Matt. 5:14-16).

Remember, it’s more than just “knowing”— it’s “receiving” and having the discipline (instruction) to obey what we’ve received.


It Comes in One Package

Plus, it all comes in one package.  Consider, for example, the passage in Galatians where it says the “works (plural) of the flesh are evident” (Gal. 5:19-21) and then goes on to list them, one by one: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, and the like.  But these “works” or “deeds” of the flesh are freestanding, independent, and are not part of a combined package.  You can have one or more of these but not necessarily all.  You can commit, for example, adultery but not murder.  Have hatred and selfish ambition, but not idolatry or sorcery.  Why?  Because the word “works” or “deeds” is plural, meaning many— that’s many individual works and not one work made up of many individual parts.  Do you see the difference?

But the “fruit” of the Spirit is just the opposite.  It’s singular, just one fruit, made up of a combination of nine different attributes: love (agape), joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  You get one, you get them all.  They come in a package.  It’s all or nothing.

And this is how we receive wisdom from the Lord.  We receive Jesus, the one fruit, and all the attributes or the fullness of the Godhead that dwell in Him bodily.  And we, being “in Christ” are complete in Him (Col. 2:9-10).

So you and I have the same Spirit, the same wisdom, made available and given to Solomon.  All we have to do is rely on that wisdom, who is the residing presence of the Holy Spirit, for God’s wisdom to manifest itself in us.

Again, it’s just that simple.  Difficult?  Yes.  But simple, nonetheless.


So What Happened to Solomon?

The same things that happened to each of us when we received Christ as Lord and the Holy Spirit came to make us His home, or to abide, in us.  When He came, so did His wisdom.  It’s always there, always available, always ready.  Solomon received what we’ve received, but in part.  He received wisdom.  But we, on the other hand, have received Christ, who became for us “the wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30)— but also so much more.

We just need, maybe even more than Solomon did, to rest in His wisdom and to “walk (think, live, and choose) according to the Spirit, (why) and you shall not fulfill (like Solomon) the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Are you ready?  Then let’s get started living in the inheritance and wisdom God has already provided us as “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

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Getting Serious

1.  Did you ever wonder how Solomon was given the wisdom from God?  And, did you ever want to know how that same wisdom could be given to you?
2.  Did you ever think the wisdom given to Solomon was something only given to special saints and not to ordinary, everyday people like you and me?  And, if so, why did you think that?
3.  How does it make you feel to know, or at least to entertain the thought, that you already possess the wisdom Solomon had by virtue of the Holy Spirit living in you?  In fact, by being “in Christ” you possess much more than Solomon.  How does that make you feel?
4.  Let me ask this again: When was the last time God spoke to you through His Word?  What was that experience like?  How often does it happen?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up at least 25 passages where the term “in Christ” is used.  What do they say about your life right now?  For starters, you can begin with four verses from Romans provided below.

Romans 6:11 – Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are (what) in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 12:5 – So we, being many, are one body (how) in Christ, and individually members of one another.

And how will you let what you’ve learned change your life from this point forward?

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Podcast 305:  How to Love Those Who Hurt Us

Podcast 305: How to Love Those Who Hurt Us

One truth in the Christian life is that we have all been hurt by those we love and by those who we thought loved us.  Whether it’s our spouse, our family, a former close friend, or someone in the church, we’ve all suffered from the words or actions of someone else we trusted. And the scars run deep.

So what do we do? Mostly, we withdraw, vowing to never trust again.  We pull up the drawbridge, turn out the light, and hide alone deep in our room.  Simon and Garfunkel, many years ago, captured this so well in their song, I Am a Rock.

I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty,that none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock, I am an island.

Don’t talk of love, I’ve heard the words before; It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock, I am an island.

But the Christian life is not meant to be lived in bitterness, fear and unforgiveness.  Why?  Because Christ purchased our freedom and freely offers that freedom to us.  It’s ours for the asking.  So what are you waiting for?

To find out how to love those who have hurt you or the ones you love, keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13.

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Podcast 297:  Living in Christian Community

Podcast 297: Living in Christian Community

We have unfortunately let the emerging church people hijack the term community, or fellowship, or koinōnia, and turn it into something orthodox Christianity now rejects.  And that is a shame.  Nevertheless, community is how the Lord intended us to live.  Not convinced?  Then read the first few chapters in the book of Acts.

But a few questions remain.

How can we “esteem others better than ourselves”? (Phil. 2:3).
How can we “love (agape) one another as Christ has loved (agape) us”? (John 13:34).
How can we live in fellowship (koinōnia) together, “bearing each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ?” (Gal. 6:2).
How can we live in Christian community with each other, as a loving family, as part of His body functioning together as one?
Do we even want to live that way?
And, if we do, what would motivate us to love each other more than we love ourselves and to forgive each other— no matter what?
Is that even possible today?

Want to know more? Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Colossians 1:2 and grace and peace.

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