I Wish I Would Have Listened!

How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. ~ Proverbs 5:12-13

Oh, how many of us thought we had all the answers when we were young! Inexperienced children who thought we had life figured out. We had our passions, feelings, and quest for pleasures—we were ready to conquer the world. Parents, family, friends, and teachers tried to instruct us and warn us. Oh, how the nagging and lecturing of wretched fools annoyed us. We were the captains of our ships who knew nothing about boats, let alone how to maneuver through the treacherous waters of life!

For many of us, life happens and consequences come. We realize we were the wretched fools all along. “I wish I would have listened,” we say with regret. Perhaps you can relate, as you read this with a sigh. If so, there’s good news: It is here you can begin the journey of becoming wise, despite your past, learning the benefit of the fear of the Lord. Turn to the Lord for forgiveness and restoration. Sadly, many choose to remain in their foolishness. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pro. 1:7).

If you’ve refused to listen, why not start doing so, now?

Are you shackled by regrets? Do you believe Christ can forgive and restore you? Have you ever read Proverbs to learn what the fear of the Lord is, and why it is a good thing?

Decisions and Consequences 

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. ~ Proverbs 14:12

Making decisions is a part of life. We must make them every day. Some are rather insignificant, perhaps even inconsequential. For example, whether you have cereal for breakfast or oatmeal. Others have lifelong significance, like the decision to marry someone. Still, some decisions can be life altering. For example, giving in to peer pressure to have sex or experience drugs, or to trust a stranger or a liar. 

Life is like a dangerous labyrinth where making a wrong turn can be detrimental. The ideologies and beliefs we hold are no less serious. Each of us try to make good decisions, but sometimes we can put too much trust in our rationality and feelings. The Bible warns there are ways that can seem right to a person, but they might very well lead to death.

God’s Word, the Bible, is meant to serve as a map and compass to guide us along the right path which leads to life. Are you letting the Word of God direct you or are you trusting in your own intelligence? Be sure of this, your decisions have consequences. Is the path you’re traveling leading you to life?

Why does the Bible warn us of ways seeming right to persons which actually lead to death? If you are skeptical of the Bible, how come? How has trusting in yourself gotten you into trouble?

Weeds of the Heart

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. ~ Matthew 13:22

Anyone who tends a garden or does any kind of yard care knows one doesn’t need to plant weeds. One also knows he has to be proactive in eliminating weeds to keep them from spreading. If left unattended they will eventually ruin a garden or yard.

The same is true for weeds of the heart. One does not need to work for seeds to be planted. The “winds” of each day carry seeds of pride, gossip, envy, lust, anger, bitterness, jealousy, deceit, covetousness, etc. No one has to labor for these to be planted or take root. But diligence is required to prevent them from doing so. 

What are we to do to combat weeds  of the heart? First, be aware of any sprouting. That is, take note when you find the slightest twitch of such things going on within you; whenever you find yourself beginning to lust, covet, becoming angry, and so forth. Second, do not entertain these or bid them welcome. Entertaining thoughts will eventually lead to actions. Nursing anger and grudges will allow roots to grow deeply. And third, confess these to the Lord. Try to confess at the onset so they do not grow roots. If they grow roots, confess to the Lord and ask Him to uproot them.

Weeds of the heart are not innocent, but will seek to choke the Word from one’s heart and cause his life to become unfruitful.

Are there certain weeds your heart is prone to? What active steps do you take to keep them from taking root? What damaging effects have you seen when you have not been diligent in eliminating them?

Encountering God

[God] said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” ~ Exodus 3:5-6

Why do you go to church? Do you go to see friends or perhaps it has a good program for your children? Do you go because the preacher gives inspirational messages? Or does your motive go far deeper than these reasons? That is, do you go to encounter God—to hear a word from Him? All other reasons should pale in significance.

Although God pursued Moses, when He got his attention He told him to take off his sandals. Why? Because Moses was standing on “holy ground.” God was calling out to a mere mortal, but Moses was approaching the very God of the universe.

When you go to church, do you realize you are standing on holy ground? Encountering God is not about having a mystical experience, but hearing Him speak and getting a glimpse of His glory. He is magnified while we are minimized—and we are not left unchanged when God is truly encountered.

What is the difference between hearing a sermon and hearing from God? Why are mere feelings and emotions not to be trusted? Why did God allow Moses to encounter Him?

Perfectly Loved

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ~ Hebrews 10:14

Perhaps one of the truths many of God’s people struggle with believing is that they are truly and deeply loved by God. For they are quite aware of their failures and inconsistencies. They know who and what they once were, and the wounds they have inflicted on others. They are haunted by the vices and depravity of their own hearts. Yet, these dear ones who have lifted their eyes to Christ in saving faith are so loved by God.

While a mystery to us, we are told that, because of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself, God’s people are(present tense) perfected forever, even though they are in the process of being sanctified. If you are in Christ, you are perfected already in Him, even while God is pruning, purging, purifying, refining, and sharpening you. And despite your past and who you once were, you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) who, in Christ, is perfectly forgiven and loved.

Do you struggle with believing God loves you? If so, are you trusting in your feelings or God’s promises? How does God actively perfect His people?

Honing the Skill of Contentment 

For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. ~ Philippians 4:11-12

Proverbs tells us that our eyes are like the grave—they are never satisfied (see Pro. 27:20). Is this not true? More is never enough. We often want for the sake of wanting. Yet, no matter how much we get and have, we are not satisfied. 

The apostle Paul acknowledged contentment is something he had to learn. Through various experiences of having abundance and being destitute, he gradually learned to be content, to be grateful in all circumstances, and realize he had everything in which he truly needed in Christ.

More stuff and more money do not satisfy because they cannot satisfy. Mind you, having possessions and money are not wrong, but if God were to strip these from us, how many of us would still find satisfaction in knowing that we belong to Him? 

How does your desire for things compare with your desire for Christ? How did Paul learn to be content? Where is true satisfaction to be found, and are you experiencing this?

What Are You Doing This Sunday?

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

As the weekend draws near, I hope you are preparing your heart and mind to attend church. Some will say, “Churches are filled with nothing but hypocrites!” While this might contain an element of truth, the statement is not an absolute. If one expects a church to be perfect, he is expecting too much. For this is like expecting a hospital to be filled with healthy people; after all, it has doctors, nurses, and medicines. One does not go to a hospital because he’s healthy but because he is sick. The same is true why persons attend church. It is not because we have it all together but because we are sinful and flawed—in need of God’s grace.

“Well,” someone will say, “I can worship God at the lake.” But what does God desire? Does He not desire the corporate worship of His people? If anyone knows the shortcomings of people, it is God! Yet, church is His idea. There are at least three important reasons for attending a church: 1) To worship God corporately; 2) to be encouraged in your walk with Christ.; and 3) to be involved in ministering to, and investing in the lives of, others. Contrary to the misconception of some, faith is not a “private matter.”

Yes, churches are made up of imperfect, sometimes even hypocritical, people. But these are not to have our attention. God is. And understand, even if you or I were to find the perfect church, it would become imperfect as soon as we became a part of it. What a wonderful place to experience grace than in the midst of a people in a need of grace!

What is your perception of church? Does the New Testament portray perfect churches? How do the apostles address problems of churches in their letters?

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Let Us Give Thanks

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It is common for persons to wonder what God’s will is for them. Should they become this, should they do that, what direction should they go? For the follower of Jesus Christ, God’s will is for him to be continually grateful. To be thankful does not require an education or ordination. Being thankful does not depend on any special skills or talents. Gratitude simply requires a choice from an appreciative heart yielded unto a faithful Creator.

Life is both difficult and painful, but each of us experience blessings we can give thanks for. Many can give thanks for tangible things like food, housing, vehicles, and clothing. Many can give thanks for physiological things such as good health and the abilities to walk, see, hear, and reason. Some, indeed, walk some very difficult paths, but they have faith, hope, friends, and mercies. And for those are Christ’s, we have new life, forgiveness, every spiritual blessing, the Holy Spirit within, and God’s guidance and presence.

One of the supreme marks of a Christian is simple gratitude, even when life is not going the way one would necessarily like. This week, try to count your many blessings. As the old hymn notes, you will be surprised by all the Lord has done and given!

Are you a complainer? If so, is your life really as bad as you make it sound? Do you regularly give God thanks for what you have? There might be things you desire to have, but are you genuinely grateful for what you do have?

The God Who is Love

    Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

    Although God is holy and dreadful, He is also very benevolent and kind. He is gracious, understanding, and compassionate. It is because of His love He looks upon us with compassion; provided the Savior to pay the debt of our sins; and pities us when we falter and fail. God delights in mercy and reconciliation. When you approach God, put off all hypocrisy and excuses. When you do, know that you come before the one who loves you more deeply than you can even begin to comprehend.

How do your prayers reflect the love of God? Do you believe God genuinely desires to hear from you or do you think He has more pressing concerns? Why does this matter?

~ from Our Father in Heaven: Christian Reflections on Prayer, Geno Pyse

More Than a Servant

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ…. Our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 1, 4

Some translations use the English word servant in the opening of Jude’s brief epistle, but this is a poor translation of the Greek word, doulos, which means “slave.” One definition for doulos is “one who is in permanent relation of servitude to another, his will altogether consumed in the will of the other.” Jude was all in when it came to his devotion, loyalty, and service to his Master and King, Jesus. If you profess the name of Christ, are you all in or is your profession mere lip service? Do you recognize His authority or do live as though you can select which commands you’ll obey or dismiss? Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings (Rev. 17:14), and His reign is founded upon righteousness. Is He your King? Is your will consumed in His holy will? Are you a doulos or a mere professor who denies Him in practice (see Titus 1:16; Jude 4)?