understanding

Chosen by God's Kindness

Photo credit: lightstock.com So I ask, “Has God rejected his people Israel?” That’s unthinkable! Consider this. I’m an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham from the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he knew long ago.

Don’t you know what Elijah says in the Scripture passage when he complains to God about Israel? He says,

“Lord, they’ve killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to take my life.” But what was God’s reply? God said, “I’ve kept 7,000 people for myself who have not knelt to worship Baal.”

So, as there were then, there are now a few left that God has chosen by his kindness. If they were chosen by God’s kindness, they weren’t chosen because of anything they did. Otherwise, God’s kindness wouldn’t be kindness.

So what does all this mean? It means that Israel has never achieved what it has been striving for. However, those whom God has chosen have achieved it. The minds of the rest of Israel were closed, as Scripture says,

“To this day God has given them a spirit of deep sleep. Their eyes don’t see, and their ears don’t hear!” And David says, “Let the table set for them become a trap and a net, a snare and a punishment for them. Let their vision become clouded so that they cannot see. Let them carry back-breaking burdens forever.”

So I ask, “Has Israel stumbled so badly that it can’t get up again?” That’s unthinkable! By Israel’s failure, salvation has come to people who are not Jewish to make the Jewish people jealous.

The fall of the Jewish people made the world spiritually rich. Their failure made people who are not Jewish spiritually rich. So the inclusion of Jewish people will make the world even richer. (‭Romans‬ ‭11:‭1-12‬ (GW)


The concept of being chosen is often misunderstood, mostly because of our human, earthbound worldview. This is understandable in America, since we fixate on beauty and performance, as with celebrities, pop-stars, athletes, and politicians.

But those who are chosen by God's kindness—His grace—are only special because He's chosen them, not anything else. This choosing is for His purposes and according to His timing, which is true for a nation or a person.

But we don't see the whole picture. We don't see things from God's point of view. We see that Elijah was chosen by God, but he was not the only one. God had 7,000 other people reserved for His purposes.

Israel was chosen by God for His purposes, but they did not remain faithful to Him. His plan for redeeming humanity included other peoples (nations), not just the Jews. So, Israel was set aside for a purpose, so that others could be included in God's kingdom.

Be careful of seeing God's choosing as anything else than His kindness shown for His purposes. ©Word-Strong_2016

Life Reflections

IMG_0819 What significance do life events have? Are they just random, or is there a distinct meaning and purpose for every life event that takes place?

These types of questions keep philosophers and theologians in business, so to speak. All people tend to wonder about such things.

I'm sure some events and situations have a purpose in our lives that have significance to us, but I admit, many life events can seem pretty random or insignificant.

Planned events and purposes

This past month, my wife and I spent time with our youngest daughter, husband, and now, two daughters. Our purpose in spending a month with them had two primary goals—being present for the arrival of our fifth grandchild and be of some help to our daughter and son-in-law.

We enjoyed our time immensely and fulfilled those two primary goals. But other life events took place while we were there.

I won't enumerate them all, but I want to note a few of them, then consider whether they are random, planned, or if their timing matters.

Random or planned?

Two births

The week we arrived, our granddaughter did not. If fact, it was the beginning of week three when she arrived.

The week we arrived, the pastor where my daughter fellowships announced his wife was pregnant. He shared with the church on the next Sunday about their miscarriage. It was a bittersweet morning, but the pastor handled it well.

But still, we awaited the arrival of our granddaughter, our daughter was overdue by a week or so. We were waiting with expectant joy and the pastor and his wife were grieving.

A death and a birth

Soon after our arrival in Germany, I heard of the passing of a dear friend in the US. I had been praying for her for several years, now I would pray for comfort for her husband and their three grown children.

They were a significant family in the life of the church we planted in the late 70's. They are good friends of ours and were some of our supporters while we were missionaries in the Philippines.

Over a week later, we welcomed little Brielle into the world and into our family. One person leaves this life, while another comes into it.

Timing

It's not so much the events, but the timing of these things. Is there significance to this timing, or is it just random?

Just before we left Germany to return to the US, I heard about a long time friend receiving a devastating diagnosis, and another friend passed away.

It's normal, maybe typical, for us to wonder about the timing of certain life events. But do we need to know or understand everything? Do we need to have a definitive answer and insight into it all?

Faith, randomness, and destiny

Some people see everything in life as random. I'm pretty sure that most believers in God, regardless of religion or theology, don't hold that opinion.

Still others see every event in life as part of a grand plan, even destiny. I suppose this can include people who are into conspiracy theories (I'm not one of those people, btw). The idea here is that every single thing is preordained (predestined) and has a meaning.

I don't doubt that life events have significance, but I've stopped trying to figure out how it all fits together, or whether certain events even do.

It's not because I don't care or don't think about all of this. I do. But I accept that some things are just beyond my capacity to figure out, and I've realized I don't need to know everything about all life events—mine, yours, or anyone else's.

Faith and reflection

An inherent quality of faith is trust. Not theological belief, but an implicit trust in God (Hebrews 11:6).

In 1997, a tragic fire took the lives of five children under our care, and nearly took the life of our youngest daughter. Everything we had in the orphanage building was reduced to rubble and ashes.

Remarkably, God sustained us in the aftermath. That's a long story all its own, but not for now. So many things didn't make sense, and yet it all made sense somehow.

Indeed, our family was in shock for quite a while, something like PTSD. All I know is this. God sustained us in ways we can't explain, through many people and a series of events that's followed that tragedy.

Why do we need to know?

People reached out to us, prayed for us, and cared for us. We, along with many, had the usual questions summed up in, "Why God?"

We don't have a clear answer to it all, but we clearly saw the hand of God upon us and the ministry for years afterwards.

I needed to come to a place of trust more than understanding. I accepted that I didn't need to know why.

It was a lesson in faith, in trust. Either God is God, or He's not. I believe God is sovereign and living and personal. I also believe in free will. I choose to exercise my free will to trust in the Lord without having to figure everything out.

That's faith. It's what Abraham was recognized for that brought him friendship with God (James 2:23). The Bible is full of similar people of faith, and I choose to be among them.

How about you?

Have you learned to trust God this way, or do you think you need to understand it all? 

(Please feel free to comment!)

Got Theology?

Photo credit: unsplash.com_ABurden Theology, gotta have it! Even atheists and agnostics have a form of theology—one doesn't believe God exists and the other is unsure or indifferent. It's still a belief about God.

Many different types of theology exist. Some theology is complex, it requires a PhD to know authoritatively. But most people have a much simpler theology based on their personal experience with spiritual truth.

We all believe something about God, no matter how we define or describe it. 

A (very) basic understanding

Christian theology is categorized in various ways. The most common one is systematic theology. It's a system of beliefs, but often with an embedded view-point.

Systematic theology sets out to be objective, but the starting point can be subjective based on certain beliefs, such as—Evangelical, Reformed, Pentecostal, or Roman Catholic perspectives.

Another major area of Christian theology is Biblical theology. It's based on what is revealed from the written Scriptures, and is, I believe, more likely to bear the original intent of the Holy Spirit's inspiration (2 Tim 3:16).

Of course, Biblical theology can be both objective or subjective depending on how it's approached. If an objective approach to exegesis is applied, even an inductive study, the theology gained should be more objective, systematic and trustworthy.

[bctt tweet=" It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others" username="tkbeyond"]

A cultural theology is also common for many believers. This tends to be highly subjective and personal. In other words, it's distinctively un-objective. One example of an American version of this became known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Gaining a good theology

Unless you're a seminary grad or highly motivated Bible student, most Christians believe what they're told or taught by influential leaders in their lives. These would include pastors, evangelists, and popular speakers and authors.

It's easy to be swayed by the opinions and biases of others, unless you develop an objective and systematic approach for studying the Bible.

Paul the apostle's exhortation to the young leader Timothy reflects this—

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

This is the value of an approach like Inductive Bible Study, or IBS. A very basic description of how it's done is expressed in the three primary steps to the IBS approach—observation, interpretation, and application.

Perhaps in the next week or so, I'll talk about this in more detail. If that sounds interesting, let me know!

Belief-based or relationship-based theology

One question I think we all need to answer is this—How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology? A follow-up question is—How have we developed our personal theology?

We've all developed our own theology, whether we're aware of it or not. It develops over time as we learn and internalize truth as we understand it. That's the key thing. How do we understand it?

[bctt tweet="How does our theology define us, or do we define our theology?" username="tkbeyond"]

It comes down to whether we have a belief-based or relationship-based theology. What's the difference? One is grounded in certain beliefs, but often leads to dogmatism. The other is grounded in relationship, but based on the truth revealed by God's Spirit (see John 14:26 and 2 Tim 3:16-17).

When dogmatism becomes the basis of a person's spiritual assurance, a person's faith can be shattered if something undermines their belief. When our theology is relationship-based, it grows out of an abiding, continuing relationship with Jesus and His word abiding in us (John 15:5, 7-8).

A few more thoughts and a caveat

Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment (1 Cor 2:10-14). I know this from experience. As mentioned in my book, I read the Bible every day for about two years before I began to understand it.

My openness to God was the key, not the time I spent reading. When I opened my heart to the Lord, He opened my eyes to understand the truth in His word (the Bible).

But God has shown it to us through his Spirit... Some people don't have the Holy Spirit. They don't accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. Things like that are foolish to them. They can't understand them. In fact, such things can't be understood without the Spirit's help. 1 Cor 2:10, 14 (NIVR)

[bctt tweet="Understanding spiritual truth requires spiritual discernment" username="tkbeyond"]

So, how can we develop a sound theology and a true understanding of God? A rule of thumb that's helped me is found in John's gospel where Jesus rebukes some Jewish religious leaders—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus. If we only gain more biblical knowledge, then we become more like the Pharisees than Jesus' disciples.

[bctt tweet="Studying the Bible ought to deepen our relationship with Jesus" username="tkbeyond"]

Finally, everyone needs to be careful about how they interpret the Bible. It isn't just how it suits one person or another, nor how it should be understood from a certain religious viewpoint.

It needs to be consistent and congruent with what the author of the Scriptures intended. The author is God via the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter reminds us—

No prophecy in Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy ever originated from humans. Instead, it was given by the Holy Spirit as humans spoke under God’s direction. 2 Peter 1:20-21 (GW)

A personal challenge

Here are 3 things I want to challenge you to do—

  1. Review your own life as a believer in Jesus—What stands out as most important and why?
  2. Who is the most influential spiritual leader in your life, so far? Why?
  3. What's been most helpful to you in your pursuit to know God?

You can respond to this post directly or on the social media where you see this post.

Would you like to know my answers to these questions? Then, let me know!


BTW, the photo for this post was downloaded from unsplash.com and the photographer is Aaron Burden, check out his photos... he's a fellow believer!

Destiny or Direction?

Photo credit: lightstock.com We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan.

This is true because he already knew his people and had already appointed them to have the same form as the image of his Son. Therefore, his Son is the firstborn among many children.

He also called those whom he had already appointed. He approved of those whom he had called, and he gave glory to those whom he had approved of. (‭Romans‬ ‭8:‭28-30‬ GW)


Certain Scriptures are quoted often because they resonate with people in a special way. They are cherished, significant, considered as favorites, even called life verses. But when any Bible verse is personalized, it tends to lose its original meaning.

The verses above could be taken as if all that happens in life is destined to happen. Many religions in the world see life as a set of destinies. This leads to a loss of free will and individual responsibility. The Christian faith is distinctly different.

Godly direction and destiny are two very different things. Paul gave these verses as encouragement for believers who faced various trials and testings of their faith. He reminded them, and us, that God has a divine plan and we fit into it. But it is not set in cement.

God allows trials and tests in a believer's life for a purpose. They are neither random, nor fixed. They shape a person's purpose in life, God's purpose, yet without restricting our free will and personal responsibility.

He doesn't force us into a certain predetermined destiny, but provides direction for us to become whom He created us to be. ©Word-Strong_2016

More Than Promises

Photo credit: unsplash_SWijers Commitment. Is it a forgotten value? Many express commitments, but how many follow through? Companies, politicians, the media, people making New Year's resolutions, all talk commitment, but are they only empty promises?

Promises, promises. Talk is cheap. Words are many, actions are few. However you express it, rhetoric and rants fill the air, but not resolve.

Resolve is the root word for resolution, "I resolve to...." Resolve, resolution, commitment, whichever term is used, is a promise requiring action. But what's the basis for making such promises? This is important.

The "C" word

The "C" word, that's what I called it. At the beginning of each new year, I'd craft a message on commitment. Each message was framed within the current need of the church in view.

Throughout most of the 80's, I challenged those I pastored towards some commitment. It became something we joked about, "oh no, the 'C' word again!"

It was joked about, but understood. Each of us in the church, including me, knew we needed to be challenged, reminded of our commitment to follow Jesus.

When I moved overseas, my challenge was directed towards pastors and leaders to study, preach, and teach the truth of God's Word. Later, I challenged my staff and students in the Bible college. I also challenged myself.

Over the years, many of these messages and challenges focused on the importance of God's Word, the Bible.

[bctt tweet="Resolutions are promises that require a commitment to action"]

A spiritual famine

When I returned from the mission field in 2005, I saw a great need in the church. I didn't have the same opportunities to address this need, as I had while pastoring and as a missionary. So I addressed it within a much smaller circle of influence.

Still, the need grew. It continues to grow. We are moving ever closer to what the prophet Amos spoke hundreds of years ago—

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.
They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12)

How would this be possible with so many biblical resources available today? We (Americans) are awash in study Bibles, devotionals, study guides, conferences and workshops, small groups, and mega and home churches.

[bctt tweet="We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment"]

We are rich in resources and Bible knowledge, but poor in commitment. We lack commitment to walk in the truth of God's Word. Let's face it, we're more talk than follow through.

Take responsibility

We don't need to be more articulate and erudite in Bible knowledge. We need to live the truth of the Scriptures out in daily life.

  • Live out the truth whether people notice it or not.
  • Live it out so it transforms our life from the inside out.
  • Live it out even when it doesn't meet the expectations of others.
  • Live it out even when it costs us something to do so.

[bctt tweet="We don't need more articulate and erudite Bible knowledge, but to live it out"]

How? Each believer needs to take personal responsibility for their own life.

Don't blame the church, the culture, pastors, anyone, or anything else. Each of us need to commit to seek the Lord, understanding His Word, and living out our faith each day.

Back to basics

What do you think is needed to make this kind of commitment? What does real commitment need to be based on?

In sports, when a team is making careless mistakes or playing without focus or passion, it's said that the players need to get back to the basics. Practice of simple, but essential fundamentals.

I believe this is true for Christian believers, pastors, leaders, and the church as a whole. But what are our basics? What are the essentials we need to put into practice?

[bctt tweet="What are the essentials Christian believers need to put into practice?"]


Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore some of these essential basics. I gave a hint above for the essential I'll focus on first. But what do you think?

What do you see as essential to live out the Christian faith?

Well Fed

Photo credit: babycentre.co.uk Feeding a baby or toddler can be a challenge. They still need to be fed much of the time, but their self-will is in full-bloom.

They can close their mouth and refuse to eat. They're often distracted by more interesting things. Most young toddlers want to feed themselves, even though they haven't developed the dexterity to do it well.

It can be a challenging and messy process, and it's only the beginning. Children are often finicky and picky eaters, and hormonally challenged teens have odd eating habits.

Pastors and leaders also face challenges in feeding their flock. It can even get messy at times.

Last week, We looked at leading with unselfish love, as we see in Jesus, our Good Shepherd. This week we'll look at the second of the three words related to what I call grassroots leadershipfeed. Again, We'll look at this word as an acrostic—F-E-E-D.

Keeping God's people well-fed

Just opening up the Bible and letting-it-rip (preach) isn't going to keep the people of God well-fed. There's more to it than that.

It's not just about preparation and presentation, although they're important. Certain priorities impact our preparation of any ministry with God's Word and however we present it.

Let's look at four important priorities needed to keep God's people, His sheep, or anyone we lead or disciple, well-fed.

"F" stands for focus

What's the number one priority? Focus. Our focus always needs to be on Jesus in whatever ministry we do, and whatever capacity we lead (as a believer).

How do we do this? First, each leader needs to be focused on Jesus, not the people we lead, nor on any ministry task. He is our Good Shepherd and we are His under-shepherds.

All ministry, even teaching in whatever form, is relational. It always needs to be connected to our relationship with Jesus.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14 NIV)

Our ministry and leadership also need to point to Jesus, in all we do. We are to follow His example, so others will follow our example of following Him.

[bctt tweet="Our ministry and leadership need to point to Jesus in all we do"]

"E" speaks of the need to examine God's Word

If we want to feed people with the truth, we need to understand it. We need to examine it well before we teach, preach, or share it in some other way.

We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is. Would you be surprised if I told you it's Jesus? It is!

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.... (John 5:39 NIV)

Many different methods are used for studying the Scriptures. I've used the inductive study process for the past thirty years. It is a simple, systematic, and self-contained approach to Bible study, which is why it works well in any place in the world, within any culture or language.

Whatever method you use, be diligent in it. Keep examining the Scriptures so that your understanding moves from your mind to your heart. Then it will flow out of you in a natural way in whatever setting or circumstance you share the truth.

[bctt tweet="We need to be clear on what the priority of God's Word is—it's Jesus!"]

"E" also reminds of the need to explain well

Thankfully, I learned early in my call to ministry the value of teaching the truth in a simple way. My general premise is this—if a child can understand and grasp what you teach, then you can teach it to anyone. This is an oversimplification but it's essentially true. If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone.

How can people feed on the truth of God if they don't understand it? This is obvious, but I find many preachers, teachers, bloggers, and others don't always make things simple for the average hearer.

Here are two simple ways to make God's Word hear-able and easy to grasp. First, use stories and parables, but learn to tell them rather than just read them. The second way to make things simple works with stories—put the truth in your own words (IYOW). Telling stories and parables IYOW helps people connect well with the truth.

Sound heretical? Not hardly. Remember, the original version of the Bible was oral, not written. The process of putting things IYOW requires processing the truth. It takes some practice, but it's very doable, and makes the truth more understandable.

[bctt tweet="If you can explain the truth to a child, you can explain it to anyone"]

"D" is for disciple

The Lord Jesus said we are to "make disciples... teaching them...."  (Matt 28:19, 20). This was not a suggestion but a command. It's called the Great Commission.

Discipleship has become more popular over the past several years. Of course, as with other things, several approaches and methods are used, but discipleship isn't just teaching and training.

Discipleship needs to be intentional and relational, a pouring into the life of others what God has poured into you.

Feeding God's people needs to go further than dispensing biblical knowledge. Lecture style teaching may be the most common form of Bible teaching, but it's the least effective. It's unidirectional and can be dull and difficult to understand for many people.

Like feeding a toddler, you can try pushing the food into their mouth, but they can close their mouth or spit it out. Also, there's a big difference between feeding people and equipping them to feed themselves.

Jesus, as always, is our example. His primary method for establishing the church was to disciple twelve men. This included teaching, but much, much more. Eleven of those twelve, and thousands who followed them, were well-fed. They continued what Jesus began with them.


Here are some related posts related you might find helpful—

How Did Jesus Teach?

Discipleship—How Did Jesus Do It?

Lasting Fruit

Here are a couple of links of people I trust regarding inductive Bible study (aka IBS)—

Dan Finfrock

Jeremy Brummel

If you'd like a copy of the workbook I've developed for IBS, contact me and I'll let you know how you can get one.

Who Is Jesus...Really?

Photo credit: Unsplash.com_mhull Surveys. Opinion polls. Americans seem to have an insatiable appetite to know what other people think about... fill in the bank.

For all the mining of opinions and the flood of information available, what do we really know? Are we truly the most informed generation in history?

We know a lot of minutiae about a lot of things. This helps us in trivia games, but doesn't answer life's big questions.

A valuable question

At the beginning of this story (Matthew 16:13-20), Jesus asks His disciples a question, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” He wanted to know what the disciples heard among the people.

Yet, He was far more concerned with what the disciples thought, as seen by His second question to them.

In sharing the gospel with others, we need to be mindful of what people are thinking and saying about who Jesus is. It is valid to ask people what their perception of Jesus is before launching into a presentation of the gospel.

Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should be a factor in how the gospel is told or related.

[bctt tweet="Knowing how other people perceive Jesus should factor into how we share the gospel"]

The wrong approach

When zealous believers approached me during my spiritual search, I would hear, “you can become a Christian and still have fun!” One time I was approached while in an altered state of mind and told I could still “own a sports car and become a Christian.”

Having a sports car was the farthest thing from my mind at the time! It did not attract me to Christianity.

Although well-intentioned, this approach to share the gospel was off target. My biggest need was getting my eyes off what I wanted, or what I thought could bring fulfillment in my life.

A frame of reference

Genuine questions can reveal where people stand on spiritual matters, and their opinion about Jesus.

Asking about a person’s life can open them up to hear God’s Story. If a person’s life story is full of difficulties, or reveals a searching for spiritual truth and significance in life, it opens an opportunity for connecting them with God.

Presently in America, more and more people, especially young adults, have a limited understanding of Jesus. They may know more about Buddha or Mohammed than Jesus. Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth.

[bctt tweet="Everyone needs some frame of reference, a touchstone, to understand spiritual truth"]

Spiritual truth is conceptual, abstract, and intangible, yet we live in a material world. If we don’t perceive what their perception is about Jesus, the Bible, or other spiritual truth, we give them information they can’t process.

We need to know

In contrast, we may pay more attention to what others have to say than we should. Many people are intimidated to share their faith story, fearing rejection. Others are unsure of what to say or how to say it.

Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed—an understanding rooted in a genuine personal relationship with God.

[bctt tweet="Every believer needs to know what he or she believes about Jesus, and why it’s believed"]

When the gospel is shared with sincerity of heart and in simple words, it is more apt to be heard.

Who do You say Jesus is?

Then Jesus asks His second far more pointed and important question, “Who do you say that I am?”

It was a question of progress for the apostles. Were they grappling with the same question, or were they sure in their hearts? Ultimately, everyone must answer this question. One day, all people will answer this question in God’s presence.

What is your belief?

Other opinions aside, what is your belief? What others say may be of interest, but what is your own belief? How would you answer the question of who Jesus is?

If you are a Christian believer—that is, you have a personal relationship with the Lord, and you’ve experienced a spiritual rebirth—you should be able to answer this question. But, how would you answer? How would you describe who Jesus is to someone else?

Truth is revealed by God

Spiritual truth can only be conveyed if a person understands it in his or her own spirit. As the apostle Paul says, “ . . . not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:13).

It is not knowledge of words, written or spoken. God through the Holy Spirit must reveal spiritual truth. It is expressed in words, but understanding and acceptance is God’s work in a person’s heart and mind.

What are your thoughts about Jesus? Do you know who He is?

Do you know Him personally and tell others about your relationship with Him?


Next week I'll continue to look at who Jesus really is. This post is an excerpt from my book on the Essential Gospel. Here's another related post– The Core of the Gospel

To learn more about Jesus and the gospel, get a copy of my book– The Mystery of the Gospel

 

The Deep Things of God

Photo credit: unsplash.com |Jeremy Bishop The blogosphere is filled with theological debates and diatribes based on biased and dogmatic positions. They are not true discussions. It reminds me of the religious leaders in Jesus' time who asked questions to test Jesus, not because they sought the truth.

Reading through the devotional book Daily Light, by Samuel Bagster, I came across this verse for the evening devotion for December 16—

The deep things of God. (I Cor. 2:10 KJV)

What's deep? The love of God. It's far deeper than we'll ever comprehend.

Can it really be that simple?

The famous theologian, Karl Barth, when asked (in 1962) to summarize all his writings reportedly said, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Here is the last Scripture selection for the evening devotion mentioned above—

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Notice it says, "...the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge...."

Seekers and believers often make the simple complicated, and the deep shallow—far too often.

Why do we complicate things? Simple truths are often much deeper than we realize.

What's the key to the deeper things of God?

Let's take a closer look at 1 Cor 2:10—

...these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

Truth is revealed by and through God's Spirit. We see the role of the Holy Spirit here as Jesus told His followers it would be (John 14:26; 16:13).

[bctt tweet="Truth is revealed by and through God's Spirit."]

It is not gained from God because of intelligence, experience, or education. Those things are helpful, but are not requirements. What is required? Relationship with God. Intimate relationship with Him.

Intimacy with God

If you want to know the deep things of God, then your relationship with God needs to deepen.

Various spiritual disciplines are valuable, but the more important thing is intimacy with God. This involves spending concentrated, focused time with the Lord.

[bctt tweet="If you want to know the deep things of God, then your relationship with God needs to deepen"]

Looking at the second part of this verse, we get a glimpse of the intimate relationship of the Triune Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

The relationship of the Triune God is our gateway to the deep things of God. Consider their relationship with one another—

  • The Father— God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)
  • The Son— Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will also know my Father. (John 14:6, 7)
  • The Holy Spirit— “The helper whom I will send to you from the Father will come. This helper, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, will declare the truth about me. (John 15:26)

[bctt tweet="The relationship of the Triune God is our gateway to the deep things of God"]

Going deeper

In what way can we go deeper and more intimate in our relationship with God?

It's simple, don't complicate it or spiritualize it.

How would you deepen your relationship with another person? Yes, spend more time with them, but it's also the quality of the time. King David gives us a word-picture of what His relationship with God looks like—

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; 
all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (Psalm 42:7 NIV)

Do you see the picture?

As we become immersed in our relationship with the Lord, it will deepen, and God will reveal both Himself and His truth to us.

Have you experienced a time of immersion in your intimacy with God?

Have you pursued God to gain a more intimate relationship with Him?

Do You Long for Justice?

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Cries for justice rang out in the streets of Baltimore, MD recently, but they were mingled with the chaos of rioting. Cries for justice ring out throughout the world every day, but often go unheard.

I've heard many say, "If God is a God of love, why is there so much evil and injustice in the world?" Yet, a more important and vital question is, "What is the basis for true justice?"

Too often, cries for justice are a mask or desire for revenge or retaliation. But true justice can't be based on emotion, nor on a singular cause. True justice must be based on genuine, honest, and objective truth.

Scripture

The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions. When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops. To reject the law is to praise the wicked; to obey the law is to fight them. [vss 1-4]

Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely. Better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and rich. Young people who obey the law are wise; those with wild friends bring shame to their parents. Income from charging high interest rates will end up in the pocket of someone who is kind to the poor. God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. [vss 5-9]

Those who lead good people along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the honest will inherit good things. Rich people may think they are wise, but a poor person with discernment can see right through them. When the godly succeed, everyone is glad. When the wicked take charge, people go into hiding. People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who fear to do wrong, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble. [vss 10-14]

A wicked ruler is as dangerous to the poor as a roaring lion or an attacking bear. A ruler with no understanding will oppress his people, but one who hates corruption will have a long life. [vss 15-16]

(Proverbs 28:1-16 NLT) [Context– Proverbs 28]

Key phrase— When the godly succeed, everyone is glad

[bctt tweet="When the godly succeed, everyone is glad"]

Digging Deeper...

What seems to be the recommended basis for true justice, according to these verses?

What do these verses say about the character of those who are a blessing as leaders?

What is the description of the character of those who treat others poorly and are bad leaders?

Do you think the wisdom expressed in these verses is true, and have you seen it proven out in a general sense?

Reflection...

When you vote for leaders in an election, are you just concerned with what the candidate's party affiliation is? Are you more concerned with what their stand is on certain issues, or do you weigh their character and how they carry themselves?

Good character, and so a good leader, doesn't develop in a vacuum or in some random fashion. The wisdom expressed in these verses in Proverbs 28 indicate good leadership is based on good character, and good character is shaped by genuine truth. The principle of rule by law, held to by most any form of democracy, has its roots in the Law of God.

The people of God, who were defined by a covenant based on law, were to reflect their Creator. They were to be a light in the midst of darkness. The light of true justice will penetrate the darkness of oppression, ethical and moral corruption, and benefit those who love the truth. If we want true justice, we need to have a sure foundation for it—an impartial basis of truth.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

What is your experience with good or bad leadership, and with true or corrupt justice?

How do you respond to ethical or moral corruption? Do you ignore it, or resist it, or take a stand against it?

How do you personally promote genuine justice? What is your attitude towards the poor and those who are oppressed?

What is the basis for justice as you see it? Is it a reliable and stable foundation for justice?

A Sham and a Shame

WS-devo_PMSThen the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

"Guilty!” they all cried. “He deserves to die!” Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. “Prophesy to us,” they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away. (‭Mark‬ ‭14‬:‭60-65‬ NLT)

The arrest and trial of Jesus by the Jewish leaders was a sham. No justice or truth was pursued here, only their own agenda.

There is much injustice in the world, yet there is no one as innocent as Jesus. And yet He was unjustly accused, shamed, and condemned.

God always understands injustice far better than we do. No one can claim He doesn't understand, for His Son endured true injustice for all humanity. ©Word-Strong_2015

Re-framing John 3:16—a follow up

Photo credit: lightstock.com How can we (believers) communicate the truth so others hear it and understand it well? There are many different forms of communicating the truth of God's Word—conversation, tracts, Bible studies, preaching, biblical storying, blogs, and more.

We need to choose a way that fits the person we're talking to and the situation at hand. Using only one approach or method forces people to fit into our grid, as if one-size-fits-all. Each of us is different in our own way, and so are the people we come in contact with everyday or randomly.

So, we need to be ready to share our faith, and share the truth of God's Word, with whoever we come in contact with, wherever we might be.

Re-framing John 3:16

Last Monday's post included some practical guidelines on making the truth of God's Word (the Bible) simple and clear. This is a follow-up to provide an example of following those guidelines. Hopefully it will help you communicate Scripture truth so others hear it and understand it.

[bctt tweet="There are many different forms of communicating the truth of God's Word"]

Here are the summarized guidelines—

  • Read (or listen to) the Scriptures in different versions of the Bible
  • Identify key words in a verse and how they are interrelated
  • Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings including Bible dictionaries)
  • Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture explanation
  • Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

[see the second half of last Monday's post for more details on each guideline]

Making it simple and clear

[bctt tweet="We need to share the truth in a way that fits the situation and person we're talking to"]

I'll apply these guidelines using John 3:16 as an example—

Read (or listen to) the Scriptures in different versions

[All references taken from https://www.bible.com/ | for audio versions try– Listener's Bible]

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV) [also available in audio]

  • For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. (John 3:16 AMP)
  • God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NCV)
  • God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. (John 3:16 GW)
  • For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NLT) [also available in audio]

Identify key words in a verse and how they are interrelated

  • Key words– God / so loved / world / gave / only Son / whoever / believes / not perish / eternal life
    • most of these words are straight forward, but some need further insight into their original meanings in the Greek, which I've put in bold
    • one of the best online Bible text study tools can be found at– My Study Bible (when you hold your cursor over a specific word, a pop up box will give you further insight into its meaning)
    • the progression of words all stem from the first key word– God
      • God so loved the world
      • God gave His only Son
      • whoever believes in the Son (God's only son) should not perish
      • whoever believes...have eternal life

Use a dictionary and thesaurus (for word meanings–including Bible dictionaries)

  • Ex– believe from <G4102> (pistis); to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ) :- believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with
    • [this is taken from My Study Bible and shows the Greek word (pistis) and the corresponding number (G4102) in a Strong's concordance]
  • Ex– only from <G3441> (monos) and <G1096> (ginomai); only-born, i.e. sole :- only (begotten, child) [also taken from My Study Bible]

Reframe words and phrases within an expanded picture explanation

This is especially important with words that are somewhat generic or have broad meanings, like God, love, world, gave, only Son, etc. Here are a couple examples of what I mean by reframing and expanding the explanation with a picture.

  • Ex– God Which God? One of the millions of Vedic gods of Hinduism? Or the God of Deism? It's important to consider words from the perspective or point of view (POV) of others (especially non-believers).
    • In John 3:16, the apostle John speaks of the Father, who is also the Creator– (see John 1:1-3, 14)
  • Ex– love Which kind of love? In NT (koine) Greek, there were four different words describing for kinds of love— agape, philia or phileo, storge, eros. In John 3:16, the Greek word for love is agape (agapao), which is often referred to as unconditional love, or a love that is willed more than felt.
    • God has an all-encompassing love, which is non-exclusive, intentional, and unconditional. It is similar but greater than a mother's love for her child (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

Understand the Scriptures in your own words (IYOW)

  • Here's my IYOW version of John 3:16—
    • The Creator of the universe showed great compassion on those whom He created by sending His one and only true Son as an expression of His love, so those who put their trust in Him will not experience eternal judgment, but everlasting life beyond their life on this earth.

Keep it simple and give it a try

I've given a lot more information than you might want to use, but I wanted to provide some clear ideas about how I approach putting the truth of Scripture in my own words (IYOW).

You don't need to go through this long process each time, especially as you become more familiar with the whole Bible. As you gain more experience and understanding in God's Word (2 Tim 2:15 NIV), and read various versions, it will become more natural.

Again, keep it simple, but give it a try!

Post your own IYOW version on social media or in the comments section below.

Feel free to share this post with others– http://word-strong.com/re-framing-john-316-a-follow-up/ –and thanks for reading!

How to Add Years to Your LIfe

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The health and vitality business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Why? I guess we Americans are still looking for the fountain of youth.

Americans are living longer, and obsessed with looking younger, fit, and living healthy. We're not just a consumer culture, we've become an obsessive-compulsive culture.

Are we happier? Do we live more fulfilled lives? What do you think?

Scripture

“If you correct someone who makes fun of wisdom, you will be insulted. If you correct an evil person, you will get hurt. Do not correct those who make fun of wisdom, or they will hate you. [vss 7-8a]

But correct the wise, and they will love you. Teach the wise, and they will become even wiser; teach good people, and they will learn even more. [vss 8b-9]

“Wisdom begins with respect for the Lordand understanding begins with knowing the Holy One. If you live wisely, you will live a long time; wisdom will add years to your life. The wise person is rewarded by wisdom, but whoever makes fun of wisdom will suffer for it.” [vss 10-12]

(Proverbs 9:7-12 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 9]

Key phrase

understanding begins with knowing the Holy One

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are we told is not a good course of action? What do these actions lead to?
  2. What is a better pursuit than the first course of action? Do these things appear opposite to what a person might expect?
  3. What are we told is the key to gaining wisdom and understanding? What are the benefits of this pursuit?
  4. Is any of this advice hard to understand or surprising to you?

Make it personal...

What has been your experience in giving advice or counsel to others?

Why do you think those who already have wisdom tend to gain even more?

Do you pursue wisdom as something to know or pursue God to gain wisdom?

In what ways are you pursuing God in a personal way that benefits you with wisdom?

Reflection...

For all our attempts at clinging to life (most of us), it doesn't seem to be paying off. Demand for prescriptions of antidepressants and tranquilizers is at an all-time high. Not just that, but our children battle ADHD and obesity. Americans, in general, are not a bunch of "happy campers."

All our effort at getting and having more still leaves us with an empty feeling. Our obsession with social media and digital awareness doesn't take away our sense of loneliness and lostness. Why? We're so focused on ourselves, we've neglected the most valuable of relationships. The most important relationship of all—our personal relationship with God—can too often be given lip-service more than genuine attention.

Before the Earth Began

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What we usually hear of prehistoric times—before humans came on the earth—is based on theory. And there's a few theories.

But what if there was an eyewitness account? You might say, "They'd have to be pretty old"! And you'd be right.

And yet, there was an eyewitness. Actually, there is an eyewitness. This eyewitness isn't just ancient but eternal, and saw how earth was formed and inhabited.

Scripture

“The Lord already possessed me long ago, when his way began, before any of his works. I was appointed from everlasting from the first, before the earth began. I was born before there were oceans, before there were springs filled with water. I was born before the mountains were settled in their places and before the hills, when he had not yet made land or fields or the first dust of the world. [vss 22-26]

"When he set up the heavens, I was there. When he traced the horizon on the surface of the ocean, when he established the skies above, when he determined the currents in the ocean, when he set a limit for the sea so the waters would not overstep his command, when he traced the foundations of the earth, I was beside him as a master craftsman. [vss 27-29]

"I made him happy day after day, I rejoiced in front of him all the time, found joy in his inhabited world, and delighted in the human race." [vss 30-31]

(Proverbs 8:22-31 GW) [Context– Proverbs 8]

Key phrase

I was appointed from everlasting from the first, before the earth began.

Digging Deeper...

  1. Who is speaking in these verses? [hint– look at the previous verses or last week's post] What is this person telling us about?
  2. What is described in the first several verses? How is it expressed? What does all this tell us?
  3. How is this person described in the latter verses? Do you understand who it speaks of?
  4. What does this person bring to God? In what three things does this person find joy?

Make it personal...

What is your view of how the earth began? What do you base it on, and how are you sure of it?

Has wisdom become personalized for you, yet? If so, in what way? If not, would you like it to become so?

If you could be certain about wisdom becoming personalized—how would an ancient yet eternal wisdom be valuable to you?

Have you experienced the joy of the Lord in your life? Do you believe God delights in you, as He does all humanity?

Reflection...

Philosophers—literally, lovers of wisdom—abound with a variety of thoughts. There are ancient, modern and postmodern philosophers who are studied in classrooms and libraries throughout the world. Scientists throughout the centuries have made their best guesses about how the universe and earth began. Both groups of learned people are giving us their own view of things, their own opinions.

None of these has a vested interest in humanity as God does. He is  known as the Ancient of Days, and He alone is eternal. Yet, too often, God and His wisdom is ignored or viewed with contempt by many in the world. Humanity, as a whole, always seems to think they know better. But we don't.

God's Spirit was the agent of creation in the very, very beginning (Gen 1:1-2). God's Son is the very One who spoke heaven and earth and all humanity, into being (Gen 1:3; John 1:1, 14). What better source is there for wisdom in daily life than the Originator of wisdom and all that is created, including us?

Wisdom isn't a collection of abstract thoughts, but an understanding of the truth given to any person willing to respond to God's call—the call of Wisdom (Proverbs 8:1). God delights in humanity—His creation—and desires to impart wisdom to any one who seeks it, and seeks Him (James 1:5).

Priceless

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We live in an age of information overload. That's an understatement. It is impossible to take in all the knowledge available today, especially in digital media.

But do we really need to know everything? How much of what we hear is redundant and useless information? What makes any knowledge valuable?

Although knowledge and information are abundant, understanding, insight, discernment, discretion and integrity seem to be in short supply. This imbalance will only change one life at a time, one day at a time, and with the choices we make.

Scripture

“I, Wisdom, live with insight, and I acquire knowledge and foresight. To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, evil behavior, and twisted speech. [vss 12-13]

Advice and priceless wisdom are mine. I, Understanding, have strength. Through me kings reign, and rulers decree fair laws. Through me princes rule, so do nobles and all fair judges. [vss 14-16]

I love those who love me. Those eagerly looking for me will find me. I have riches and honor, lasting wealth and righteousness. What I produce is better than gold, pure gold. What I yield is better than fine silver. [vss 17-19]

I walk in the way of righteousness, on the paths of justice, to give an inheritance to those who love me and to fill their treasuries. [vss 20-21]

(Proverbs 8:12-21 GW) [Context– Proverbs 8]

Key phrase

I love those who love me.

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are three things wisdom is linked with? What else is wisdom associated with and what things does wisdom hate?
  2. What other things does wisdom "have"? How is wisdom a benefit to people in general through those who govern them?
  3. Who does wisdom "love"? What do you think this means? What are the benefits and value of having wisdom?
  4. What is the "path" or "way" of wisdom? How is wisdom personified in a practical way? What is the way a person would gain this kind of wisdom?

Make it personal...

What are ways you can acquire godly, valuable wisdom?

Do you have a respect and awe for God? If you do, how does it benefit you in your daily life?

Do you have a love for godly wisdom, or are you easily distracted with information and knowledge of questionable value? [hint– how valuable is the knowledge gained through social media?]

How do you consistently choose to live by godly wisdom and counsel?

Reflection...

In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a woman in contrast to someone like an adulteress, who lacks discretion. But not all foolishness or lack of discretion involves sexual immorality. Sadly, wisdom is too often lacking in the most basic, mundane parts of life that matter.

They matter because patterns and habits are established through the choices we make and our decisions, whether by intent or default (lack of intent). When we embrace wisdom on a daily basis, even in the simplest ways, it establishes a path of wise living.

The question we need to ask ourselves on a daily basis is—Where do I gain wisdom? What is the source of my insight and understanding? This is where a healthy fear of God comes in, that is—respect, awe, and wonder of God. It helps give us perspective when the world around us is skewed by darkness, cynicism, and hopelessness.

Do You Hear the Call of Wisdom?

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Some people study for years in pursuit of wisdom. Other people may see themselves as dispensers of wisdom.

Sadly, many people seem to be without wisdom at crucial times in their life. Some even ignored it when it was available.

What about you? Have you heard the call of wisdom? If you did, how did you respond, or did you ignore it?

Scripture

Wisdom calls to you like someone shouting; understanding raises her voice. On the hilltops along the road and at the crossroads, she stands calling. Beside the city gates, at the entrances into the city, she calls out: “Listen, everyone, I’m calling out to you; I am shouting to all people. You who are uneducated, seek wisdom. You who are foolish, get understanding. [vss 1-5]

Listen, because I have important things to say, and what I tell you is right. What I say is true, I refuse to speak evil. Everything I say is honest; nothing I say is crooked or false. People with good sense know what I say is true; and those with knowledge know my words are right.[vss 6-9]

Choose my teachings instead of silver, and knowledge rather than the finest gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies. Nothing you could want is equal to it. [vss 19-11]

(Proverbs 8:1-11 NCV) [Context– Proverbs 8:1-36]

Key phrase

Listen, everyone, I'm calling out to you...

Digging Deeper...

  1. How is wisdom personified in the first few verses? What are we told wisdom is doing and where this is happening?
  2. What does wisdom cry out? To whom is she calling to? Does this seem to be in contrast to the seductive adulteress in Chapter 7?
  3. What are seven things than can be gained from heeding wisdom's call? What are we assured is not in her words?
  4. What is wisdom's value compared to? Why should wisdom be pursued rather than these other valuable things?

Make it personal...

Are there times when you've been impetuous and not sought the wisdom of others you can trust?

Are there godly people in your life whom you can seek wisdom?

What is your usual source of wisdom, if you have one?

Has God's written Word become a valuable source of wisdom for you? If not, why not?

Reflection...

A simple, working definition of wisdom is understanding what we have come to know in a useful way. You won't find this is in a dictionary, but I think it's a simple and clear way of viewing it.

Too often wisdom is put in such a lofty sense it seems out of reach for the average person. In Proverbs, as in this chapter, wisdom is extended to anyone who will hear it. Ah, there's the problem—hearing it.

Sometimes we need to shut off the voices around us, like the TV, radio, MP3 player, podcast or whatever, and be still. So many voices vie for our attention, both outside our heads and inside. How can we hear Wisdom's voice unless we stop to listen?

An Internal Plumb Line

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A building needs a level and solid foundation, so that everything built upon it will stand. Everything built upon it must be measured against a plumb line— the vertical level that is square to the horizontal level.

What is the plumb line for your life? What enables you to stand firm and move forward in a good and true way?

Scripture

Then you will understand what is honest and fair and what is the good and right thing to do. Wisdom will come into your mind, and knowledge will be pleasing to you. Good sense will protect you; understanding will guard you.

It will keep you from the wicked, from those whose words are bad, who don’t do what is right but what is evil. They enjoy doing wrong and are happy to do what is crooked and evil. What they do is wrong, and their ways are dishonest. It will save you from the unfaithful wife who tries to lead you into adultery with pleasing words.

But wisdom will help you be good and do what is right. Those who are honest will live in the land, and those who are innocent will remain in it. But the wicked will be removed from the land, and the unfaithful will be thrown out of it. (Proverbs 2:9-16; 20-22 NCV) [Context– Proverbs Chap 2]

Key phrase

Wisdom will come into your mind, and knowledge will be pleasing to you. Good sense will protect you; understanding will guard you.

Digging Deeper...

  1. What are the benefits of getting the understanding that comes from gaining wisdom?
  2. How, in a general sense, will gaining wisdom be a protection? What can it protect us from?
  3. How does wisdom become a plumb line of guidance for a person's life?
  4. What are the far-reaching benefits of gaining wisdom, and consequences for ignoring it?

Make it personal...

Where do you find wisdom, or do you pursue it all? Are the Scriptures a plumb line for your life?

Since it's a matter of wise choices that bring understanding, how will you begin to pursue this wisdom?

How committed are you to gain wisdom and receive its benefits? What will you do to gain wisdom?

Reflection...

The Proverbs contain general truisms rather than iron-clad promises or guarantees (see Proverbs Study Guide). The key to gaining the benefits of wisdom is to have knowledge combined with understanding. The Proverbs are not just rules or theories for having a good life, but practical guidance for a better life. These guidelines lead to understanding for making wise choices in life.

Missing the Obvious

Photo credit: http://radicalart.info/kinetics/gravity/Drop/MotionLawExperiments.html Some things are as plain as day and easy to grasp.

We've all experienced the effect of gravity, either by dropping something or something falling on us. But understanding what causes the force of gravity requires some knowledge of physics, and yet is still a theoretical mystery.

Understanding truth, theological or biblical truth, is similar. A certain level of understanding is plain and obvious, but a fuller understanding may elude us.

 An encounter with Jesus

On the same day Jesus rose from the dead, two of His followers travelled from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles away. As they walked, they tried to sort out everything that had taken place.

Jesus came along and joined them as they talked with each other, but they didn’t realize it was Him. “You seem so absorbed with what you’re discussing. What are you so concerned about and why do you look so sad?” Jesus asked.

The two halted and Cleopas said, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who doesn’t know what happened recently?!” Jesus simply replied, “What happened?”

They answered with amazement, “All that’s gone on with Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet working powerful miracles, and who spoke the truth with real authority! He was highly favored by God and the people respected Him, but our ruling priests and leaders had Him arrested and insisted He be put to death. So He was crucified, but we had believed He was the One who would deliver and restore our nation, Israel.

It’s been three days now, since all this took place. But today we were shocked to hear some of the women, also His followers, had gone to His tomb and found it empty! When they returned from the tomb, they said they had seen angels who told the women Jesus was alive! Some of His apostles also went to His tomb, but found it empty just as they said, and didn’t see Jesus.”

Then Jesus spoke sternly to them, “You are thinking like little children, unable to believe everything spoken through the Prophets. Isn’t it clear the Messiah needed to suffer all these things before His glorious reign?”

Then Jesus explained how the Law and the Prophets pointed to all of this, and gave them understanding of the Scriptures that spoke of Him as the Messiah. (Luke 24:13-27 paraphrased*)

[*This paraphrase is taken from my bookThe Mystery of the Gospel]

Heard but not understood

This dialogue between Jesus and two of His followers is revealing.

Jesus told His followers what was going to happen to Him before it took place, on more than one occasion (Matt 16:21). These two disciples retell what Jesus told them, though they didn't realize they were talking to Him.

They heard. They believed in Jesus. Yet, they only believed at a certain level. They didn't comprehend what they were told and heard.

Is this not you and me?

As Christian believers, we may hear the truth and believe it, until something happens counter to our understanding of it. This was the case of these two followers.

So, why does this happen? Why do we miss the obvious more times than we'd like to admit?

The simple answer is because we are human, not divine. We are more familiar with this world than the Kingdom of God.

This sets us up for disappointment when it comes to spiritual truth. Why? Because we often have misconceptions based on false expectations of our own.

Some simple things seen in this story

  • The disciples retold the gospel message, but didn't fully understand it (Luke 24:19-24)
  • Jesus rebukes them for not believing and understanding what they were told (Luke 24:25)
  • Jesus explains what happened to Him as He told them before (Luke 24:26-27)
  • It was through personal revelation that the disciples understood the truth (Luke 24:30-32)

How can we stop missing the obvious?

I don't know of any short cuts to stop missing the obvious with biblical truth. But, here are a couple things I've learned from this story that might help—

  • Read and reread the scripture you're studying in different versions—observe it again from different views
  • Learn to put biblical truth in your own words (IYOW) [reading other versions will help]— by doing this you will process (purposely think about) what you are reading
  • Go back to what you know already (see Luke 24:30-32 & John 6:5-12; 35-40)
  • Pray! Ask God to reveal things to you by His Spirit

[If you'd like to read more about this, consider buying my book, or downloading it as an e-book]

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Here's another take on this story and the topic of this post— click on this link– http://goo.gl/g4L2fo and scroll down to the link titled– "The Doubters on the Road to Emmaus") — It's a chapter from the book Unfollowers, written by a writer whose blog I follow— http://edcyzewski.com/my-books/

Don't You Understand Yet?

WS-devo_PMSJesus warned them, “Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” His followers discussed the meaning of this,.. Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your minds closed? You have eyes, but you don’t really see... ears, but you don’t really listen. Remember... the five thousand? How many baskets did you fill with leftover pieces of food?” They answered, “Twelve.” “And... the four thousand...?” "Seven.” Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand yet?” (Mark 8:15-21 NCV) We can be so focused on what we are doing—what concerns us—that we don't realize what God is wanting to teach us. Faith is not intended to carry us from day to day, but to the very heart of God. ©Word-Strong_2014

Able to Understand

WS-devo_PMSSince we have a great high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into heaven, let us hold on to the faith we have. For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it. (Heb 4:14-16 NCV) Here is great assurance! Jesus is able to understand our weaknesses because He has been tempted, as we have. He can handle our deepest needs and struggles. He is approach-able at any time, with any need. How amazing is His mercy and grace! ©Word-Strong_2014

Do You Understand?

Word-Strong Devo “Let the person who has ears listen!” When he was alone with his followers and the twelve apostles, they asked about the stories. Jesus replied, “The mystery about the kingdom of God has been given ⌊directly⌋ to you. To those on the outside, it is given in stories: ‘They see clearly but don’t perceive. They hear clearly but don’t understand. They never return to me and are never forgiven.’ ” Jesus asked them, “Don’t you understand this story? How, then, will you understand any of the stories I use as illustrations? (Mark 4:9-13 GW)

Parables are simple stories that teach a simple truth. Understanding them requires a humble heart before God. Are your ears and heart open to God? ©Word-Strong_2013