422:  Christ + One = Enough

422: Christ + One = Enough

When we look at the turmoil in the world and the lukewarmness of the church, sometimes it feels natural to get depressed and throw up our hands and see the problem as too big and the solution as too small.  We long for others to step up and stand in the gap against the rising tide of sin in our land.  And we’ll gladly support those that do.  But they seem so few and the enemy seems so many.

What are we to do?


One Man is All God Needs

But there are some encouraging words for us in the Proverbs.  Consider the following:

Proverbs 28:2 – Because of the transgression (rebellion) of a land, (result) many are its princes (ruler, official, chieftain); But (what) by (through) a man (one, singular, individual) of understanding (biyn – to discern, to pay careful attention to, to consider diligently) and knowledge (yāḏa) right will be prolonged.

Did you catch that?  It only takes one man, one single man of understanding and knowledge for God to prolonger what is right in a land.  Just one man.  That’s why the Lord continually addresses the remnant in His letters to the church at Thyatira and Sardis.

Revelation 2:24 – “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira (the remnant), as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden.”

Revelation 3:4 – “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments (the remnant); and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”

Do you want to be part of the remnant?  Do you want to be the man, the single man the Lord can use to change the face of our culture?  Do you want to know Him more than you do today?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on the Lord’s letter to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:18-29.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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418:  What Happens When Our Prayers Go Unanswered

418: What Happens When Our Prayers Go Unanswered

Some of the hardest questions in the Christian life have to do with God not answering our prayers— no matter how much we pray or how much faith we can collectively muster.  Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?  Why didn’t God do what I prayed He would do?  Why doesn’t God love me?  Because if He did, He would not have let happen what happened?  Where was God during my time of deepest need?  I prayed to God for ________ and it did not happen.

Which inevitably leads us to ask this:  Why God?  Is the problem with me?  Am I not doing enough to get my prayers answered?  Or is the problem with You?  Are You showing favorites and am I on the bottom of Your list?  What’s the problem?  Help me understand this, God, because this is hurtful and doesn’t make any sense.


You’re Right, It Doesn’t Make Much Sense

And the reason for that is our reliance on Cliff Note theology.  We grab a few Scriptures, usually out of context, and hold on to them like a life preserver vainly trying to get them to say something they don’t.  Consider these:

1 John 5:14-15 – Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Did you notice something?  The key, according to this verse, is praying “according to His will.”  When that happens, badda bing, badda boom, prayers get answered.  But when we ask for something not according to the will of God, all bets are off.  The answer will be, “Not today, not ever.”

Matthew 18:19 – “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”

First, this statement by our Lord has nothing to do with prayer, but with dealing with a sinning believer.  And even if it did give us a prescription for prayer, can two people agree for world peace and the end of all wars, and it be a guarantee from the Lord?  I think not.  Why?  Because God has already revealed to us that in the future we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6).  God has already spoken prophetic truth to us and won’t violate His Word because of our prayers.

Do you want to know the reason God often doesn’t answer our prayers?  Because the reason will change the way you look at God and prayer from this point forward.  If you want to know more, then keep listening.

The following is a study on prayer.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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The Promises from Proverbs Four, Part One

The Promises from Proverbs Four, Part One

In Proverbs 4 the Lord reveals to us some promises that come with wisdom.  They are simple, direct, pointed promises, and each has a condition that must be met.  Fulfill the condition, receive the promise.  Refuse the condition, and you walk away empty handed and promise free.  It’s that simple.

The Proverb begins with the father once again giving sage advice to his young children. Watch how this unfolds.

Proverbs 4:1-2 – Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; (why) for I give you good doctrine: (therefore) do not forsake my law.

The father then reminds his children about his own upbringing and the words his father told him that he is now passing on to his own children.  He says:

Proverbs 4:3-5 – When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me:  “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.  Get wisdom!  Get understanding!  Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.”


Get Wisdom!  Get Understanding!

The point the father is trying to impress on his beloved children is the importance of getting wisdom and understanding.  In fact, you can almost feel the urgency in the father’s words: “Get wisdom!  Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:5)  Later, he adds, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.  And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).

Wisdom (ḥoḵmāh) is defined as “skill, experience and shrewdness; with the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom being to properly fear and reverence God.”1  Understanding (biynāh) means “comprehension and discernment, which is accompanied by righteous actions and it carries a strong moral and religious connotation.”2  So when the father says “in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), he is imploring his children to add righteous actions to their reverence and fear of God.  It’s not a theological point to be debated.  It’s not a mere mental exercise.  It’s living in real time a life that corresponds to a reverence of God.  Like Jesus later said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Great question.  How would you answer Him?


The First Promise

Then comes the most exciting part of these few verses.  Wisdom is now personified as a woman and each of these promises about wisdom (her) is connected with a condition that must first be met.  There are three do’s and one don’t.  Let’s look at the don’t first.

Proverbs 4:6a – (condition) Do not forsake her (wisdom), and (promise) she will preserve you.

To forsake (ʿāzaḇ) someone is to “leave, neglect, or abandon” them, usually for someone or something else.3  And the idea associated with the word translated preserve (šāmar) means “to keep watch, to guard, to watch over carefully like a mother over her young child.”4

So the first promise from wisdom is that if we do not abandon wisdom or neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word, then wisdom will guard our life and watch carefully over us like a loving mother to her cherished young child.  Wisdom will become our protector, our safety, and our security in troubling times of trials and temptations and persecution.  She will preserve our life during the attacks of the enemy and reveal to us what is true and trustworthy.  And in doing so, we will be strengthened against the schemes of our enemy who speaks to us lies disguised as truth (John 8:44).

Wisdom will also protect us from falling prey to our own ideas about things.  She will help us bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so we won’t confuse our selfish, carnal thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others and vainly think they come from the Lord.  If we hold on to wisdom and do not abandon her to our own self-centered sense of right and wrong, then she will guard us against the temptation of trying to create God in our own image by believing He thinks and feels like we do.

And nothing could be further from the truth.  Why?  Because He doesn’t.  God doesn’t live in our box.

As the Lord says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

I think that should settle it, don’t you?

There are three more promises granted to those who embrace the conditions associated with wisdom.  We’ve only looked at the first one, the don’t.

Tomorrow we’ll continue with the three do’s.

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Endnotes

  1.  Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 337). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  2.  Ibid., 130.
  3.  Ibid., 819.
  4.  Ibid., 1171.

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381: The Year of Sanctification

381: The Year of Sanctification

Many of us make resolutions this time of year.  It just seems natural.  Maybe we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or finish a long neglected project around the house.  But as a Christian, we want to somehow make our resolutions more spiritual.  That also seems natural.  So we often resolve something like this:

“I want to read my Bible more.”
“I want to pray more.”
“I want to share my faith more.”
“I want to love more, forgive more, worship more.”
“I want to live more like a Christian.”
“I want to know more of God and have myself conformed to the image of His Son.”

But the key to discovering the “abundant life” (John 10:10) Jesus spoke about is not in keeping resolutions, no matter how good they may be.  It’s living a life of holiness.  It’s practicing sanctification.  It’s being set apart or consecrated unto God.  After all, we belong to Him.

But sanctification never takes place unless we first understand the way God’s if / then promises work.  The promise comes after the condition.  The then follows the if.  Consider the following:

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

(condition one) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
(condition two) and lean not on your own understanding;
(condition three) in all your ways acknowledge Him,
(promise) and He shall direct your paths.

Want to know more.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Proverbs 3:5-6.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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377:  The Seven Letter Solution

377: The Seven Letter Solution

Often we are confused concerning the gifts of the Spirit, especially the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.  Questions still linger:  Are all the gifts for today?  Or, were some of them only for the time of the apostles?  And, if they are for today, what does the exercise of these gifts look like?  How are they manifested in the church today?

In order to understand the truth behind these questions, we must begin with a simple, seven letter word:  another.  There are two Greek words translated “another” in this passage.  The first is allos, which means “another of the same kind.”  And then there is heteros, which means “another of a different kind.”  Now, look at the passage in question:

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 – For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another (allos) the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another (heteros) faith by the same Spirit, to another (allos) gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another (allos) the working of miracles, to another (allos) prophecy, to another (allos) discerning of spirits, to another (heteros) different kinds of tongues, to another (allos) the interpretation of tongues.

Now we have three groups of gifts each divided by the word heteros – or “another of a different kind.”

Group One

Word of wisdom
Word of Knowledge

Group Two

Faith
Gifts of Healings
Working of Miracles
Prophecy
Discerning of Spirits

Group Three

Different kinds of tongues
Interpretation of tongues

Do you see how logically the Lord has presented this confusing passage about the gifts of the Spirit?  Do you see what He is trying to teach us?  If you want to know more, then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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376:  Stupid is as Stupid Does

376: Stupid is as Stupid Does

When we look at the warnings from the Lord found in the first chapter of Proverbs, we are naturally drawn to the almost prophetic words of Forrest Gump.

“Stupid is as stupid does.”

To put it in the words of Solomon:

“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?” – Proverbs 1:22.

Or, “How long, you simple (foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic) ones, will you love simplicity (what is foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic)?”

Great question.  But what is the object of this question?  What exactly are the stupid ones loving stupidly?  What can we learn about the wisdom of God from what is being said here?  If you want to know more, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Proverbs 1:20-33.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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