Friday, May 31, 2013

June 1, 2013

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

If you want to know the Lord you must fear Him. The first thing your need to know about the Lord is that He should be feared.

The word used for "fear" can mean anything from shear terror to a reverential respect for Who He is and what He can do. In fact, fear is evidence that you really do know His holiness and power.

Sheer terror is the result of knowing you will have to face Him at the Judgment without being prepared. That is a good reason to fear! You don't want to fall into the hands of an angry God.

Fearing God in this way should drive you to humbly confess your sin and repent of them. That leads to a reverential fear of God, like a Father rather than an Angry Judge.

Those who fear God keep His commandments:

"Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" Deuteronomy 5:29

Those who fear God serve Him:

"Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name." Deuteronomy 10:20

"But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." I Samuel 12:24

"Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling." Psalm 2:11

Those who fear God are blessed:

"Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!"  Psalm 128:1

"Praise the LORD. Blessed are those who fear the LORD, who find great delight in his commands." Psalm 122:1

"The fear of the LORD [tendeth] to life: and [he that hath it] shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil." Proverbs 19:23

Those who fear God hate sin:

"The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."  Proverbs 8:13

"Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil." Proverbs 3:7

As evidenced in these verses the fear of God primarily in two ways, the fear of how God can hurt you or the fear that you will hurt God. How do you fear God?

There are a lot of things to know! We live in a world that is in perpetual information overload. Knowledge is a good thing! It has been said that "Knowledge is power". But our text makes it clear the first and best thing to know is the fear of God!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 31, 2013

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
Doesn't it seem like our culture tends to over value knowledge and under value wisdom? In fact, I think we often equate knowledge with intelligence as though just learning something makes you wiser.
Solomon wrote in the Proverbs that knowledge begins with knowing God and wisdom results in knowing how to apply the knowledge to daily living. Applying your knowledge of God in daily spiritual discipline is the essence of faith.
The first thing wisdom knows is that God is the Creator of the universe. We saw from Hebrews 11:1-3 that Creation and God as Creator is knowledge that led the Patriarchs to faith. It should inspire faith within you! The appropriate response to the knowledge of God as Creation should be hoping in Him!
But not only must you fear Him as the Creator but know that He is also the Controller of everything as well!
Again, we turn to Hebrews 11 to make the case!
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." Hebrews 11:6-7
Noah is honored for his faith because he agreed to do something that had never been done before. Never had it rained before and he likely wasn't sure what rain was but God told him so he believed without seeing! That is faith, isn't it?! And who knows if he had seen a boat before since he was a farmer who lived inland. Since he probably hadn't seen one he most likely hadn't built one. He agreed to do it because of his knowledge that God is sovereignly in control of His universe! His fear of God was stronger than his fear of the unknown.
Noah's knowledge of God plus his obedience to God's sovereign plan turned his knowledge into wisdom! It turned his fear into faith!
Is there an area of disobedience in your life? If so, it is evidence that you don't have a proper fear of God. Either you fear man more than you fear God or you don't have faith that God is truly in control of the unknown.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 30, 2013

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7
The two aspects of fearing God can simply be expressed as the fear of how God can hurt me and the fear of how I can hurt God. You know that fear is a strong motivator for either the better or the worse.
The word used for "fear" in the original text would support that. It runs the gamut from being terrified by God's power to being respectful of it depending on its context. But it implies a clear understanding of  Who God is and the desire  to please Him or at least to avoid displeasing Him.
Because wisdom is intently practical I will avoid the temptation to dive into the depths of a very interesting word study and summarize it's truth in this statement "Wisdom is knowing what to fear and how that fear should be expressed in your life."
To state it even more concisely - FEAR UNDER DISCIPLINE = FAITH. So, faith is the proper expression of godly fear.
Implied in the  Hebrew words and the construction of the sentence are three ways to discipline your fear so that it is channeled into faith. I want to illustrate those by making the connection between these first seven verses of Proverbs 1 and Hebrews 11.
Fear Him As Creator
Fear Him As Controller
Fear His Character
In one of the best definitions of faith in Hebrews 1, there is a clear link between faith and creation.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."  Hebrews 11:1-3
In describing the faith foundations for great men and women mentioned in this Hall of Faith, creation is mentioned as the bedrock of faith. If faith is "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen", then you have have to believe in a God Who is able to create something out of nothing. And, in fact, that is precisely what they believed. They believed it because they had all the visual evidence of creation. A God Who could do that is a God you can put your hope in.
Here is how it works. Two people look up into a beautiful starlit night further illuminated by a radiant full moon. One person thinks, "Wow, whoever made all of this has to be very powerful and intelligent! I had better get to know whoever it is who did this!" The other person reasons, "If there is a supreme being who created this, he would be very powerful and I would have to be accountable to him. But I don't want to be accountable and I don't want to deal with consequences of my actions, so I choose to believe in a random beginning to the universe."
While both of these observers have a fear of such a powerful creative being, they each arrive at opposite conclusions. What is the difference?
The difference is that one disciplined his fear into humility while the other refused to be humble. Humility is a sign of wisdom because it obviously knows Who to fear!
Wisdom begins with a reverent fear of God for His Creative power and humbly disciplining that fear into faith.
That's what it means to "wise up".
Do you need to wise up?


May 29, 2013

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight;  for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young —let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:1-7
Solomon's name meant "peaceful" and it certainly denoted his life and his reign. He is quite a contrast from his father, David, the great Warrior King who led a troubled life and knew very little peace.
Could his successful and serene reign be attributed to his embrace of wisdom? I would think so!
Do you recognize the value of wisdom? In case you don't Solomon lists some for you. See how many of these might help you "Wise Up"?
1) "the wise use of instruction"
2) "for understanding words of insight"
3) "for receiving instruction in prudent behavior - doing right, just and fair"
4) "for giving prudence to the simple"
5) "for giving knowledge and discretion to the young"
6) "to add to learning"
7) "to get guidance"
8) "to understand the wisdom of the wise"
Wow! Good stuff!
Each one would be a great addition to your life. All of them are available with wisdom!

There are 31 Proverbs or one for every day of the month. A proverb a day could keep foolishness away!
Foolishness is your natural state.and wisdom begins the moment become aware of it and concerned about it!

Are you ready to "Wise Up"?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013

"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple,knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. " Proverbs 1:1-7

As we launch into a Summer-long study of the Proverbs the essential question would be, "What are "proverbs?"
Did  you realize the book of Proverbs are just part of the Bible’s wisdom literature? There are actually three books in the Bible that belong to the category of wisdom literature. One of those books, of course, is Proverbs, our study the next few months. The other two books are Job and Ecclesiastes, which look at the darker, more cynical side of wisdom.
Let me give you a definition of proverbs. Proverbs are short, memorable sayings whose meanings are relevant to many different situations.They are "truth taglines", easy to remember and directly applicable to life situations.

Every society has its own set of proverbs that represent the collective wisdom of that society. Let me give you some other examples that come from our culture.

"Look before you leap."

"Easy come, easy go."

"A penny saved is a penny earned."

"Live one day at a time."

The Bible’s book of Proverbs represents the collective wisdom of ancient Israel. And because as Christians we believe the whole Bible is inspired by God, the collective wisdom of Proverbs represents God’s angle on wisdom. Most of the proverbs comes from king Solomon, the guy who was the king of Israel during her golden reign. But Proverbs also has wise sayings from other people as well.

It’s likely that the book of Proverbs started as a book to help parents instruct their kids in life skills. In fact, the first nine chapters of Proverbs are a father instructing his son in how to live wisely in the world. So Proverbs was originally a parenting strategy as moms and dads tried to equip their children to live God centered, successful lives according to the grain of God’s creation.

But it’s also likely that Proverbs later became a textbook in ancient Israel to prepare people to serve as leaders. In this sense, it was a textbook for equipping emerging leaders who could serve as advisors in government posts. By the time of King Solomon, there were several counselors or sages who were known for their common sense and wisdom.

Now it’s important to understand how to apply the wise sayings from Proverbs to our lives. The sayings we find in the book of Proverbs are generalizations about what’s true most of the time. They’re guidelines for wise living, but we should resist turn them into rigid, absolute promises. These sayings tell us what usually works in most circumstances. But the proverbs don’t work in every, single circumstance. In fact books of Job and Ecclesiastes in the Bible both deal with those situations when these wise sayings don’t seem to work.

So we shouldn’t read Proverbs as if these wise sayings are absolute promises or laws. For example, one proverb tells us, "A gentle answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). That’s true most times, but it’s a generalization. It’s not always true, but all things being equal, it’s true in more circumstances than it’s not true. So it makes sense to give a gentle answer when someone’s really mad, but this proverb is not a guarantee that a gentle answer will always defuse anger.

Let me give you another example: One of the proverbs tells us, "The years of the wicked will be short" (Proverbs 10:27). That’s true more often than not, but it’s not true in every single case. In most cases, a lifestyle of wickedness cuts a person’s lifespan short. But, as Ecclesiastes observes, this isn’t true in every single case.

So these are generalizations, observations about how life works in most cases. This is very important to understand, especially when it comes to verses about parenting and marriage.

The Proverbs are wise sayings that are relevant to many different situations.

Today we begin our study of the Proverbs and I issue the challenge, "Wise up!"

Monday, May 27, 2013

May 27, 2013

"Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place." Hebrews 10:17-20
"And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”Hebrews 8:12
“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again." Isaiah 43:25
The first holiday of the Summer season, Memorial Day. Several things will be predictable, most people will overdo it and most will get sunburned.
It is great that we have a holiday set aside to remind us of the cost of our freedom and to remember those who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom. There have been a lot of wars and a lot of deaths. 25,000 in the Revolutionary War, 570,000 in the Civil War, WWI - 117,000, WWII - 408,000, Korea - 53,000 and Vietnam - 58,000. The Gulf Wars are 5,000 and counting.
Saturday night I went to a very moving ceremony at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery where 15,300 soldiers lie buried. It is a solemn place to visit any time of any day, but on Memorial Day moments after sunset with every grave marked by luminaries and a trumpeter playing taps - it was deeply emotional moment. That sight is etched on my memory forever.
You cannot drive past a cemetery this week-end without seeing decorated graves. It is important to remember.
Now that Memorial Day has come, I want to take a moment to comment not on what we should remember, but on something that has been forgotten. Not only do we focus on what has been forgotten but on Who has forgotten. God, Who is the all omniscient and everlasting God has chosen not to remember something - our sins. That is huge!
How can that be? How can God forget?
He has chosen to forget what is forgiven. Our Scriptures remind us that when we receive the forgiveness of sins through His Son Christ, He not only forgives those sins but He forgets about them!
So, during this week-end of remembering honor the memories of those who died for your freedom, also pause to be thankful for something that has been forgotten - your sins!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May 26, 2013

"Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:1-3
I have heard people criticize Nicodemus because he came to Jesus at night. I suppose I could understand that criticism, but let me take Nic's side on this.
I think it is more important that Nic came to Jesus WITH his darkness than the fact he came IN the darkness.
Nic saw something in Jesus that he didn't see in himself or any other religious figure of his day. There was authority in what He said and authenticity in how He lived. What was this light of truth and sincerity shining from this Galilean? He had to find out!
How could you fault Nic for that?
What better Person to go to with his darkness than the One with so much light?
Often I have seen people who choose to let their darkness keep them away from Christ and away from the church thinking they must deal with their darkness and THEN go to God. That is 180 degrees out of phase!
If Nic could have dealt with His darkness on his own, don't you think he would have done so?
Are you struggling with an area of confusion or darkness in your spirit? Then, like Nic, take it to Jesus! Take it in the darkness or take it in broad daylight or anytime in between - just take it to Jesus! Nic did and He left in the light!

May 25, 2013

"Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You  must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?  Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. 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 3:1-16
I hope your Memorial Day week-end is off to a good start! I hope you will take time to honor
some vets and also, thank God for your freedom.
After spending nearly a month dealing with John 3, I will wrap it up with a summary of three great themes that come from this great portion of Scripture.
First is the mission of our Faith.
The mission is to reach those who have not come to know Jesus as their personal Savior.
Jesus demonstrated this throughout His earthly ministry that convincing people to trust Him for their eternal salvation was job one for believers. He did it by preaching and teaching and demonstrations of supernatural power. But mostly, He did it by being authentic, living what He talked about. And He did it by being approachable, showing a manner and demeanor that drew people to Himself. Also, He did it by being available. When Nic wanted to come to Him he knew exactly where to find Him.
Jesus also demanded it with His last words, otherwise known as the Great Commission.
Jesus' mission is the mission for all followers of Christ. You are to be authentic in how you live, approachable in your disposition and available to those who are seeking Jesus.
Have you made His mission your mission?
Second is the method of our Faith.
When Jesus talked to Nic about faith He gave us a pattern for how it should be done.
Jesus got to the point. Without much small talk or idle conversation He simply said, "You must be born again!"
Jesus used questions. Questions engage the listener mentally, emotionally and intellectually. When He wasn't asking questions He was making statements that drew questions.
Jesus kept it simple. He painted a clear word picture of being "born again" and Nic readily identified with it.
And then, Jesus went for the close. Once He explained what Nic needed to do and once Nic understood it, Jesus pressed Nic for a commitment.
What method do you use for sharing the Gospel with seekers?
Third is the message of our Faith.
The message that Nic received from Jesus was threefold:
He no longer had to yearn. He didn't have to settle for mere religion he could have a personal relationship with God through Christ!
He no longer had to earn. Nic was coming from a tradition with 613 rules to be observed by those who wanted to be righteous. What a relief when he learned he only had to trust in Jesus' righteousness rather than his own!
He no longer had to burn. Jesus made it clear that Nic was spiritually dead and must be born again. And He emphasized that Nic was snake-bitten by sin and would die unless he looked to Jesus.
What a great message we Christians have!
You don't have to yearn because Christ can fulfill your every need!
You don't have to earn because Christ can furnish your righteousness!
You don't have to burn because Christ can forgive your sins!
Do you believe the message?
The great mission - evangelism. The great method - example. The great message - accept Christ by faith! Three wonderful truths in one great chapter!