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?

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.

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)?

Truth We Can Be Absolutely Certain Of

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ 8:32

There are those who say there are no absolutes, that truth is “relative,” or that the only thing that is certain is uncertain. Such thinking has even crept into many seminaries and churches by individuals claiming to be persons of God. However, such thinking is in direct opposition to what Jesus says. Jesus declares to be the truth (see John 14:6) and that His words are absolutely permanent. Jesus’ words are in direct opposition to the words of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Truth is absolute, it can be known, and it is revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ.

The Deeper Purposes of Grace 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. ~ Titus 2:11-13

There are many who see God’s grace simply in terms of forgiveness; however, the power of His grace goes much deeper than that. God’s grace instructs and transforms. Whereas persons once lived immorally, dishonestly, and godlessly, grace begins to teach persons to think differently (see Rom. 12:1-2). As a result, persons begin living and behaving differently. They begin to live morally and as persons with a growing integrity. If one’s life, thinking, and desires have not genuinely changed, it is doubtful he knows the first thing about God’s amazing grace. Redemption in Christ is far more than just being forgiven, but it is about metamorphosis (transformation).

They Confessed Their Sins

And they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. ~ Matthew 3:6

To confess one’s sins means that sin exists. Furthermore, the word confess does not simply mean to acknowledge but to agree with. That is, when a person confesses their sins to God, they are agreeing with Him the way He sees them. God is a God of order and design. Sin creates confusion, deformity, and pain. We see sin as no big deal, even pleasurable. God sees sin as rebellion and destructive. The mess our world is in is because of sin, and each of us has contributed to it. Are we willing to agree with God as He sees our sins or are we going to turn a blind eye and accuse Him of being archaic and wrong? 

God Is with Us

“They shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~ Matthew 1:23

In troubling times as these, it is important to know if God is with us, because if He is, He will get us safely through whatever we might face. On the flip side, are we with Him and abiding in Him? Foolish is the person who refuses to take available shelter during a storm. Understand, God is with us in the Person of Jesus Christ. He makes Himself available to be a refuge for any and all, but safety is only for those who are willing to take cover in Him. To refuse Him is to refuse His presence and protection. God is with us, but the question is are you with Him?