Word of the Day

Characteristic Wisdom

James 3: 17          (CJB)

But the wisdom from above is, first of all, pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Today’s verse is taken from the Complete Jewish Bible. This is another translation you may want to look at from time to time. I like what it reveals to us about our heavenly Father in this verse.

Of course the wisdom which comes from above is coming from Yahweh. The verse goes on to list the characteristics of this wisdom which comes down from above. It takes no great intellectual leap to understand that the traits listed here are the traits of the Father. I want you to see that the Father is first of all pure, then peaceful, kind, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and not hypocritical. Each of those traits is a meditation unto itself and we could end the Word of the Day right here with you meditating on those traits one by one.

There is one other thing that motivated the use of this verse though. I wish for you to see how the whole Bible fits together. You have seen other verses which reveal God’s character traits. You have even seen other verses about His wisdom. Now you see them coming together and that is what I love about the Word. It continues to reveal the Father but in connected ways. His wisdom reflects His character. That will help you when you pray for wisdom. If the answer you receive does not reflect the character of the Father, then it is not from Him. The same is true of advice. If it is not peaceable, impartial, etc. it is not from God.

These verses come together to paint a picture of God and they show you how He moves in the world. Throughout the Bible you will see His kindness revealed in everything He does. By piecing all these verses together we are gaining a better picture of who God is. He freely gives His wisdom to us and it is always from a place of love.

New You

Ephesians 4: 22 – 24

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I was reminded of this verse today and heard a new liberty in it. This is instruction to cast off our former ways and begin living in our new life created to be like God, bought with the blood of Jesus. I heard some new things today though.

First, I am created to be like God and you are too. This is for the here and now. Is that mind expanding? That is what it means to put on the new man. You and I can walk in this earth like God, as did Jesus. That is the model for your life on earth. This is exactly why God sent us the Holy Spirit, so that we can walk in God-like righteousness and holiness. This isn’t the holier than thou mantra either because there is no arrogance in Christ. We can be others centered and still emotionally and mentally whole. We can walk without blemish when we don his robes. This tends to stretch your brain just a little, at least.

The second thing I got out of today’s reminder is that we are empowered, we have the ability and God given grace, to leave a bunch of junk behind us. I usually think of this verse only in terms of shucking the old me behaviorally, but there is much more opportunity embedded in this verse. We are given the right and ability to bury the sins of our past but also of others. We can leave behind, put off from us, the injuries of the past. Old hurts, bad memories can, and should, be the things of the past. We get to put on a new us each day. Isn’t that good news? This is an ongoing dynamic. You don’t just cast off the old self once. No, you get to bury yesterday’s mess. Today’s mistakes, errors, and sins are tomorrow’s graves. Give it all to God and let Him file it on Pluto for you. Maybe there, we will find it more difficult to dig it up and examine it again.

We are not people who should be looking behind us, but rather new creatures formed in the likeness of God Himself, who look forward, even beyond the horizon. I like the end of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie when Jack Sparrow says, “Bring me that horizon.” That is us, leaning forward, looking for the next opportunity, growing and stretching to our new horizon and then beyond.

Put on your new self, casting away the former one who was laden with too much junk and bad behaviors. Put on your new you who has been transformed by the renewal of your mind in the grace of our Lord.

Friend or Enemy

James 4: 4              NIV

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

On a recent trip out of town I visited a YMCA in that city. Of course, many of you know the YMCA is a Christian organization. This particular Y says of its mission: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” A noble mission statement, you would agree. You know, as well, that I am a fan of the YMCA organization and its mission. Ivey Ministries, in fact, has donated to the Y and I have personally too. It is a great organization which is helping many people.

Even the Y, though, is vulnerable to the wiles of the world. Each of us is susceptible to becoming so friendly with the world that we become enemies of God. On this day I rode a bicycle spin class. The instructor gave each song title as it began to play. Imagine my surprise when she announced the song playing as, “Summer of the Occult.” Really? I said, “What?” So, she repeated it. Yep, that’s what she said alright. I just knew I misheard her. After class I approached her and mentioned that, in my humble opinion, songs of the occult are not appropriate for a Christian organization. She immediately looked threatened and began walking away but answered me saying, “Well, it’s just music.” Of course, that is not a sufficient answer. That is called friendship with the enemy which puts us at enmity with God, or hostile to God.

You know, for the first time in my life I had a very clear picture of what it must have been like in the story of the Gadarene demoniacs from Matthew 8. Verse 29 reads, “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” That woman could not get away from me fast enough. The spirit behind that song selection could sense the Spirit in me and it wanted no part of Jesus’ Spirit.

We need to exercise caution in our lives because that easily could have been you or me. For all I know, that instructor may love Jesus intensely. This is not a criticism of her or the YMCA but if this is happening in a declared Christian organization, don’t you think it can happen other places too? Our homes and our churches are not even immune.

The problem is that we fall in love with the things of the world, such as the world’s music. We may say to ourselves, like the instructor said to me, “It’s only music.” Well, first of all, few things have the power to move our spirits more than music which is exactly why this is problematic. As it is, we use worldly music at the Y for our classes but occult music goes too far. It makes me wonder, though, if we have tolerated or befriended too much of the world’s music.

For some of us it isn’t music but rather television shows and movies. Their very themes fly in the face of holiness and godliness, but we enjoy them. So, bit by bit we sequester our Christianity to give lee way to the things of the world. We court the world and its many enticements, but the price is very high. Look at today’s verse from the Passion translation, “You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!”

This is a big problem which, I think, needs attention brought to it. Our Christianity is often more worldly than holy. Just a little of this or a bit of that and the next thing you know, we are more heathen than Christian. It is a challenge. We live in this world but we are not to be a part of it. We are supposed to be sanctified, which means set apart. We shouldn’t look like, sound like or sing like the world.

I do not want you to react in fear over this, however. This is a call to faith, prayer, and devotion. It is a caution too. We should pay attention to ourselves, our churches and our church programs, especially youth programs. Most of us want to be cool but at what price? I hear pastors saying things that make my skin crawl. It is not that they are bad people. They have just been enticed by the world. Guard yourself. Guard your family and home and guard your church and all its programs. Pray for your workplace and your workout place. Pray for the stores you frequent and every place you go. All these places need the presence of God in them.

The enemy is on the move and we are fools if we don’t understand that. He is infiltrating our Christian sanctuaries. We must awaken and get our heads out of the sand. We have floated around too long in the comfort of worldly pleasures. Now we are about to pay the price and a very high price at that if we don’t awaken and become the vigilant force we were always meant to be. The time for fat, cultural Christianity is at end. Take up your sword, which is the Word of God, and stand for your God. And by all means, push back. Don’t just tolerate this heathen infiltration of your life and organizations. Pray but also do not be afraid to speak up. Even if you are the only person willing to stand, stand just the same. Write to me and I will support you. You are not alone.

Friends of the world are enemies of God. We are forced to choose. Don’t tell me your choice. Show me!

Celebrating Independence

 

What does Independence Day mean to you?  We honor our currently serving service people as well as all veterans.  We have cookouts and fireworks.  For many of us it is about food and family.  Let us not forget, however, that this holiday is a celebration of our liberation from Colonial Great Britain and while Great Britain is a great friend of ours, we should recall that the nation many of us call home exists because people had a vision from God of what their lives and this land could be.  As we recall the price generations of people have paid for our liberty, let us not forget the original struggle for independence that is at the heart of this celebration.  Take it into your heart.  Think about the early framers and the men and women who made perilous journey’s to their “promised land” and gave us all the chance to live in a free country.  This is a great privilege and not one to be taken lightly.

Today we celebrate our independence.  We fought for our independence from Great Britain so that we would be answerable to only one authority, our God.  He is our king.  He is the original framer of this country.  Give Him worship for all He has done!

Kingdom Fruit

Matthew 21: 43

Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

This discussion on bearing fruit is an important one. It is quite easy for us to slide into complacency as regarding our faith. With the weight and urgency of so many things pressing upon us, focusing on our spiritual growth may not always get the attention it requires. From there it is an easy slip into carnality. I think so often, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” It is so easy to slip just a bit, and then more and we have all experienced it. The next thing you know, the fruit on your tree is beginning to wither. People see it on us. You can tell just being around me if I am having enough time with my Father or not. It just shows.

This lack of production of good fruit is a problem for Jesus, well, not so much for him as for us because he has already revealed how the problem is handled from his end. He will give the Kingdom of God to those who are producing the fruit of it. Does his statement cause a little trepidation in your heart? It does mine. So, what is the test? Do you remember from last week? The best test I know for checking our fruit is to ask how we are treating people around us.

Does the checkout clerk at the grocery store feel the negative emanations coming off of you? Or, conversely, do you try to cover it up with platitudes and she senses how fake and superficial you are? I know I have been guilty on both accounts. Or do you see folks with Jesus bumper stickers on their cars cutting off other people in traffic? Don’t you sometimes wish they would remove the stickers? What message is conveyed about our faith when our actions are self-oriented and inconsiderate?

And here is the big test. If you could be completely honest with yourself, what do you honestly think your family members would say about the things you do and the way you speak to them? Do your words edify or demean them? How are people going to believe in our Christianity if we do not bear good fruit?

Jesus said the Kingdom of God has been reserved for those who will produce its fruit. Actually, what he said is worse than that because he said he would take the Kingdom away from us and give it to those who will produce the fruit of the Kingdom. I think we should ask ourselves, and our Lord, what the fruit of his kingdom is. Secondly, we need to learn to walk by the Spirit daily so that he can lead us in the way.

Let’s take this fruit inspection seriously. If we evaluate our own fruit, of course with the Lord’s help, then we will not be disappointed. He will lead us in the path that will bless us and others.

Milk or Meat?

Hebrews 5: 12

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

It is so easy to end up right here, still requiring the milk of the Word instead of the meat. In fact, sometimes it is comfortable. It is a place of little responsibility. Someone else has the responsibility of feeding us. Our job is to listen. We want people to sit under teaching ministries and absorb all they can. However, there comes a time when each of us must arise and put all of it into use. We must pursue maturity even as we continue to absorb the teachings of those who have gone before us.

Eventually, too, we should graduate to meat from milk. Why are our teachers still having to teach kindergarten? The writer of Hebrews says by this time we ought to be teaching and yet we are still suckling. It’s time to step up and grow up.

No one wants a 40 year old baby, not even our teachers. Of course, in the body of Christ there is no age specific parameter. Rather, we all begin knowing very little and grow in our knowledge and wisdom. After a while, though, we ought to be able to stand on our feet and walk. We no longer need someone to hold our hands every step of the way. We always have our elders for those issues which are outside our experience or knowledge but we ought to come to a place where we can handle the milk of the Word with grace.

This is not a call to arrogance or independence. It is encouragement to grow to the full maturity of the Word in Jesus, our Christ. It is time for some of us to stand up and use what we have been given. I believe in soaking in the Word and in teaching but I also believe in doing what we know to do without being coached day in and day out. As long as we stay babies, we have an excuse but God is calling us into maturity, where “I didn’t know,” will no longer suffice. Grow into your full stature while remaining humble and subject to instruction for it is not maturity if you cannot still receive instruction. That is called arrogance and it is dangerous. Rise up and be who you are destined to be. Quit playing at being a Christian and instead put on the full mantle of God in Christ Jesus.

Fruit Check

2 Samuel 10: 2 – 3

But when David’s servants came to the land of the Ammonites, the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think that David is honoring your father because he has sent consolers to you? Has David not sent his servants to you in order to search the city, to spy it out and overthrow it?”

So, we were talking about fruit yesterday. This is an interesting example from the Bible and certainly a circumstance that everyone has encountered. We’ll see how to evaluate it and how to deal with it.
Let’s begin with some background. The king of the Ammonites died and his son, Hanun, took his place. David sent his condolences to the son, “Then David said, ‘I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, just as his father showed kindness to me.’ So David sent some of his servants to console him concerning his father,” (v. 2). Now look back at today’s verse. Some of the king’s entourage cast a negative pall over David’s act of kindness.

Have you ever noticed there always seems to be someone like this in the group? They turn everything into a negative, always have the negative spin. This, my beloved friends, is not the fruit of the Spirit. You can spot, immediately, that these people are not speaking from the Spirit of God. Whatsmore, their advice, almost always, leads to a bad result. In this case, it led to a war with the most powerful army and warrior in the region. They badly mistreated David’s envoys, so David sent his army. Hey, if you don’t like the messenger who brings the glad tidings, perhaps you will like those who carry the sword better.

People who always bring out the negative, are not speaking from a heart of love. We have to be wise, we need to use the discernment from the Holy Spirit, but we need not speak from fear or suspicion. Just confront the issues and deal with them openly and honestly. God cannot get a blessing to a person who sees negativity in everything. In this case they didn’t receive David so they were never going to benefit from his blessing either. Sometimes God is trying to get a blessing to us, but we act suspicious and turn it away. You can have faith and wisdom. We are meant to. If you have concerns, take them to your Father and let Him speak to the situation. It is a much better course of action.

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