No doubt about it! There is such a thing as a blessed life! Most all of us (when we're honest) would quickly and easily admit, "Yes, I want to be blessed!" And by that we mean, "I want to be happy, healthy, and well-off financially." It's natural to want a blessed life, a blessed marriage, and a blessed career or bank account."
The good news is that our God is a God of blessing and the Bible is a book of blessing. Without hesitation, I can declare, "God wants to bless you!" Adam and Eve were blessed by God and commanded "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Abraham was blessed and promised a blessing for all nations (Genesis 12:1-3). Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord all night and received a blessing and a new name--Israel (Genesis 32:22-32). Jabez cried out to the Lord for blessing and increase and God heard his prayer and blessed him (1 Chronicles 4:10). Terms for blessing occur over 600 times in the Old Testament. Most of these terms are related to the word meaning "to kneel" because in ancient times one would kneel to receive a blessing. The New Testament continues the theme of blessing, but focuses more on the eternal and spiritual blessings of knowing Christ Jesus, rather than physical blessing.
Aaron, the High Priest was taught to bless God's people in this manner . . . "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26) From this priestly blessing we learn that God's blessing includes (1) His protection, (2) His presence, (3) His personal favor, and (4) His peace.
Jesus continued the theme of blessing in his so-called Beattitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. Interestly enough, Jesus' words on blessing focus more on the inner character or attitude of the disciple rather than physical abundance. He included a blessing for the persecuted as well!
So what is the blessing? Is it a promise of financial prosperity and earthly happiness? Or is it something more? I would say "something more!" God's blessing begins with spiritual abundance, rest, and wholeness which produces a truly joy-filled and satisfying life.
Now here is the bad news--It's easy to get off course! There are many things in life which promise blessing but leave us empty. Just read Solomon's account in Ecclesiastes. For the religious or the do-gooder, its also easy to get off course. Far to many people spend their life seeking the blessing without seeking the God of blessing. It's also easy to fall into the trap of "doing good" as a means to experience blessing. After all it fells good to do good; but this is not the blessing!
The blessing of God is underserved and comes to us as a gracious gift-- it is God's personal favor in our lives; His love and acceptance. All we need to do is receive and rest in his blessing. We receive by faith; we rest in obedience to His word! We all want to be blessed, but are we willing to walk with God and rest in His blessing?
After I posted this over the weekend and taught from Proverbs on Sunday, I was reminded of the importance of trusting in the Lord once we have made a decision (Proverbs 3:4-5). It is easy to look back and second guess ourselves, especially when things don't work out exactly as we planned-- so TRUST THE LORD regardless of the outcome.
so #7: Trust in the Lord to direct your path (Proverbs 3:4-5). Once you’ve made a decision, trust God for the outcome!
Seeking wisdom is a lot like seeking God. 1 Chronicles 22:19 encourages us with these words, "Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the LORD God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the LORD." When we spend time in prayer and Bible study, we are seeking the Lord. When we "build the sanctuary of the Lord" into our lives by participating in church, we are seeking the Lord. Jeremiah the prophet proclaimed, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (29:13)
It's not as if God is hiding from us! The Bible teaches us that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere at once). Nature itself reveals the glory of God to us (Roman 1) and God desires for us to "know Him" (Hebrews 8:11). It's not difficult to recognize the handiwork of God all around us. And yet, God wants us to seek Him!
Proverbs 2 begins with a focus on "seeking the Lord". In the first four verses, eight phrases or words emphasize the importance of our response to wisdom or our willingness to pursue wisdom. They are . . .receive, treasure, incline your ear, apply your heart, cry out, lift up your voice, seek, and search.
Think of it like a treasure hunt. One day a pile of coins wash up on the seashore. You find a handful of treasure and you're thrilled. You do a little research and discover that one of the Spanish ships from the 1400s was shipwrecked right off shore. Turns out this ship was carrying millions of dollars worth of gold. what would you do next??? You'd make plans to go on a treasure hunt, right?!
That's what our attitude should be in relationship to wisdom. We should seek wisdom and seek God as if its the greatest treasure! So the next time you attend church or open your Bible, don't just go through the motions -- seek God as if He is the greatest treasure in your life!
The Fear of the Lord is a foundational principle in the book of Proverbs and through out the Bible. Proverbs tells us that the "fear of the Lord" is the beginning of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding leading us away from the folly of a foolish life (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). The Hebrew term yirah: meaning "fear" has a range of meanings in the Old Testament. 1) It can mean “dread, terror” (Jonah 1:10), 2) It can mean "to stand" in awe or reverence of a king (1 Kings 3:28), and 3) it can mean " to revere or to respect parents" (Leviticus 19:3).
We know from the Old Testament that Moses spoke with God as a man speaks with a friend (Exodus 33:11). This should reassure us that God doesn't want us living in perpetual fear of His presence. Instead, He wants us to enter into his presence with a sense of "awe" and reverence. After all, He is the creator of the universe! The "fear of the Lord" parallels what Jesus taught us in the New Testament when he said, "Seek first the kingdom of God". (Matthew 6:33)
A "high regard" for God in your life will produce some key benefits . . .
(1) it is the beginning of knowledge about God and life (Proverbs 1:7),
(2) It will cause you to run from evil and disaster (Proverbs 8:13),
(3) It will prolong life and produce a fountain of life within you (Proverbs 10:27, 14:26-27).
Here's some practical steps to developing a "high regard" for God in your life . . .
(1) Read the Bible and get to know more about God's character (His holiness and goodness).
(2) Attend church on a regular basis with other believers. Give 10% of your income to God as an
expression of honor to God.
(3) Invite the Holy Spirit to make you more aware of Jesus and His teaching in your life.
(4) Seek to follow the teachings of Jesus as the grace of God transforms your life.
Living with a high regard for God will change the way you live and benefit you and those close to you!
Let's face it, life is just more interesting with friends! This Sunday, we will continue our series on God's Wisdom for Life from the book of Proverbs. Our topic -- Avoiding Bad Company--flows out of Proverbs 1:8-19. I came across an interesting article "5 Reasons Studies Say You Have to Choose Your Friends Wisely” by Amy Morin. Here's her list . . .1. Strong-willed friends can increase your self-control, 2. Having fewer friends increases the likelihood that you’ll take financial risks, 3. Having too many social media connections increases your stress level, 4. Close friends may be the secret to longevity, 5. Friends greatly influence your choices.
Definitely an interesting list. It got me thinking about the biblical reasons to choose your friends wisely, so I came up with a few. Here they are . . .
5 Reasons to Choose Your Companions Wisely
Let's try something . . . This week I want you to write down your 5 closest friends. Then, ask yourself is this person helping me grow as a Christian? Is this person helping me reach my goals in life? If they are pulling you down rather than lifting you up, then perhaps they shouldn't be on your best friend list. They can still be your friend and you can lift them up, but you might want to pray about finding another friend for your list.
Friends . . . they can pull you down or lift you up! Jesus and his friends will lift you up! See you Sunday! Pastor Tom
Solomon is remembered as one of the wealthiest (2 Chronicles 1:14-17) and wisest men of all history. He wrote more than 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs, plus the Song of Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes (1 Kings 4:29-34). Solomon was the tenth son of David, and second by Bathsheba. He was the third king of Israel who reigned for forty years (2 Samuel 5:14; 15:24). during his reign, he built the Temple, multiplied his fighting forces, his wealth, and his wives.
Solomon was also known as Jedidiah meaning, "beloved of the Lord." Solomon was gifted and favored by God, but he allowed sensuality to sideline his wisdom, his joy for life, and his Godly influence open others. In his pursuit for purpose in life, he concluded that all was vanity, except to "fear God and keep his commandments." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) for me, Ecclesiastes 12:13 represents more than a wise saying, but rather a statement of Solomon's repentance from his wanderings!
A few stories from the life of Solomon stand out . . .
(1) Solomon's request for wisdom -- 2 Chronicles 1:7-13 [also see 1 Kings 3] records how God granted Solomon wisdom on the night of his inauguration as king. God was very pleased with Solomon as he asked for wisdom rather than, wealth, long life, or victory in battle. What a great lesson for us all. Jesus taught something similar in Matthew 6:33 -- "But seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you as well." When we seek God and God's way, God fulfills us and takes care of our other needs along the way.
(2) Solomon's prayer at the Temple dedication -- 2 Chronicles 6 records the dedication of the Temple. This was a big day for Solomon and all of Israel. David had wanted to build a Temple to the Lord (6:7-9), but it fell to Solomon to accomplish this task (6:10). Solomon's prayer demonstrates the deep theological understanding which he possessed -- even the heavens cannot contain the glory of God, and yet, God chose to dwell with His people (6:18).
(3) Solomon's wise decision -- Some of you will remember from Sunday school the story of Solomon and the two women (1 Kings 3:16-28). The king had a very difficult decision to make--two women had given birth in the same house. Sadly, one child had died in the night and now a mother was claiming that her living baby had been taken by the other mother. What should the kind do, since no one was present to judge rightly? Asking for a sword, King Solomon was able to discern who was the rightful mother. If you haven't read the story, I hope you will.
Solomon was a precursor to Christ Jesus. All of his wisdom points us to Jesus, our savior and Lord. Solomon's life also reminds us that we need the help of our Savior to live with wisdom in all of our decisions. We can know to do right and still wander from God's path. Worse we can go through the motions of "doing right" with a heart of of discontent or evil and loose out on the joy of Godly living.
Colossians 2:3 -- "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
As we discover God's wisdom for living in the pages of Proverbs, I encourage you to seek Jesus as your Savior an dLord today-- It's the wisest decision you can make! See you Sunday! Pastor Tom
This Sunday we kick of a new series from the book of Proverbs. I'm looking forward to digging in and learning all I can about God's wisdom for life. I hope you explore the wisdom of Proverbs with me!
Proverbs is a book in the Old Testament written around 950-700 BC by Solomon and a few others. According to 1 Kings 4:32, Solomon spoke thousands of proverbs and songs. His "proverbs" (i.e. a condensed comparison or parable) cover topics such as . . .
(1) the fear of the Lord,
(2) avoiding bad company,
(3) trusting and honoring God,
(4) showing kindness and generosity to others,
(5) finance, wealth, and poverty,
(6) sexuality and pleasure (now I've got your attention, right?!), and
(7) the joy of wise living.
Plus many other topics as well.
This Sunday, we begin with the "fear of the Lord", so I will leave you with Proverbs 1:7, "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Lord make me wise as I learn to walk in the "fear of the Lord". Pastor Tom
On Friday, things weren’t looking good! (see John 19:28-30 and John 19:38-42).
Jesus had been betrayed by one of his own followers. He was arrested, falsely accused, flogged, crucified, and buried! Jesus was dead! And so were the disciples’ Messianic hopes and dreams. Everything Jesus taught and his place in history was in question! Somewhere around the 9th hour on Friday (3 PM), Jesus uttered, "It is finished"; he was dead!
On Sunday morning things looked different! (see John 20:1-8)
The tomb was empty! Mary Magdalene, the other women, and the disciples were in shock and dis-belief! Where was the body of Jesus? Then, Jesus began to appear to the disciples and then others. Nothing would ever be the same! Jesus was dead, now He was alive!
We all love great comeback stories. I remember watching the video of a college track athlete who fell down during and 800 meter race. Amazingly she got back up and caught the runners in front of her and won the race. Jesus' resurrection just might be the most surprising comeback of all time. He was dead and then unexpectedly alive -- that one reality can change your life today!
Let me share with you four Great Comebacks that I've been thinking about from John 11.
1. I can comeback from death (John 11:1-16) — Lazarus’ Resurrection
In John’s gospel, we read about another resurrection. Jesus’ friend, Lazarus was sick. BTW . . sickness, death, and sin all run together in the same pack! What I mean is that we all have these things in common . . . They are a part of the human experience—we live in a sinful world that pulls us down to death and despair! That’s why the words of Jesus “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) and the reality of his resurrection are so powerful!
Sickness and death were common in those days, just as in our day. Death is a serious matter! There is a finality to death that we just don’t like. But we all have “death” in common. 120 years from now, we will all be dead! So what happens after death really matters! Because of Christ’ resurrection, I can comeback form death!
When Jesus heard of this sickness, he purposefully delayed and so Lazarus died. But that wasn’t the end of the story. Jesus was coming to set Lazarus free from death. He would rise to life as an example of what Jesus would do for all those who believe in Him!
Lazarus died so that God’s glory might be revealed and many believe! Jesus said to his disciples, “"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (11:11) and again he said to them, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” (11:14-15)
2. I can comeback from despair [11:21-22, 32]
The opposite of despair is hope. Humans need hope! We survive and thrive off of hope. The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope to overcome any obstacle in our lives! Because Jesus delayed, Mary and Martha despaired. They lost hope. When Jesus came, hope came with him!
A counselor once said that when a couple comes to see him, no matter how damaged the marriage is—even if it’s 100 percent damaged—he has only one goal. If he can get that couple to have 10 percent improvement, they’ll make it. Because when somebody gets 10 percent improvement, they get hope.
3. I can comeback from defeat [John 11:14, 33]
We don’t know much about Lazarus. Only that he was a friend of Jesus and a brother. As we meet him in John 11, he is sick and soon dead. He is defeated! His time on earth is over. Whatever he was going to do with his life, he has already done! But, then Jesus came and orchestrated an unexpected comeback. Jesus came and Lazarus received a new “lease on life”! We do know that his resurrection caused a great stir, such that the chief priests made plans to kill him along with Jesus (John 12:9-11). Lazarus was dead, but not he was alive. He was defeated, but now victorious!
4. I can comeback from doubt (John 11:25)
On Easter morning the tomb was empty, Jesus’ body was missing, and the angels declared, “He is not here, He is risen!” Could it be?! Could Jesus’ prediction about his death and resurrection really be happening?! All the evidence was pointing to the reality of the resurrection. Would the disciples believe this? Thomas refused to believe until he saw the risen Jesus face to face!
Likewise, in Lazarus' resurrection, the real issue was faith. Could Mary and Martha believe in Jesus as the resurrection and the life?
This Easter, I hope you choose to belief that Jesus is the resurrection and the life! Make it personal.
The Holy Spirit is a helper who wants to bless and benefit, rather than hinder or harm your life.
In John's gospel, Jesus teaches us much about the Holy Spirit's role in the life of a believer. The Holy Spirit is a comforter, counselor, guide, one who convicts, and one who leads into Truth. In John 14, we read that the Holy Spirit is a "helper" (14:16, 15:26, 16:7 NKJV). Jesus says, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, . . ."
The original greek term here can be translated advocate (NIV), counselor, comforter (KJV), helper (ESV), or Paraclete. In ancient days, a paraklétos was a legal advocate who made the right judgment-call because he was close enough to the situation. The Holy Spirit is a Paraclete coming along side us to help us in our time of need.
The description of the Holy Spirit as "helper" got me thinking about Genesis 2:18 where Eve is called a "suitable helper" for Adam. It also has me wondering about a biblical definition of "helper". Perhaps being labelled a helper is not a statement of weakness, but rather a statement of strength.
In Genesis 2:18, 20, Eve is referred to as a suitable "helper". The Hebrew ezer is quite simply "one who helps". Not surprisingly, God is labeled a "helper" or deliverer numerous times in the Bible (See Genesis 49:25, Exodus 18:4, 2 Chronicles 14:11-12, Psalm 30:10-11, Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 41:13). The author of Hebrews wrote, "So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6) The greek term boéthos is a transliteration of the Hebrew ezer meaning "a helper bringing the right aid in time".
The Holy Spirit fulfills many roles in the life of the believer including . . .
I think of the Holy Spirit's role in my life like this -- Father God fulfilled His plans and purposes for me in His Son, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit makes the plans and purposes of God "come alive" in my life today. In other words, the Holy Spirit is my helper because He applies the promises, plans, and purposes of God in my life. Thank God for the Holy Spirit!
Well, what joy! This was going to be a really terrific blog, but my computer died and didn't save the draft. Kinda funny since I am writing about "joy" regardless of the circumstance. So . . . this will be the short version of the really terrific blog. Enjoy!
Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) says, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." During difficult days for Israel, Nehemiah the governor declared, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10). Paul repeatedly encouraged the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord." (Philippians 4:4) And James challenged believers to "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds . . ." (James 1:2, ESV)
If your like me, "rejoicing in every circumstance" can sometimes be a challenge (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). But there is good news -- the Holy Spirit leads us into joy! The Holy Spirit leads us into joy in two specific ways -- 1) The Holy Spirit leads us into a greater awareness of God's grace which produces thankfulness, and 2) the Holy Spirit empowers us in fruitful ministry to others.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), so it's no surprise that the Holy Spirit leads us into joy. The greek term for "joy" in Galatians 5 is chara meaning joy, gladness, or delight. It is significant that the greek term for "grace" is similar (charis). Joy is the increased awareness of God's grace and favor in your life! The Holy Spirit works in a believer's life to affirm that they are a favored child of God. The result is loads of rejoicing!
In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus declares 5 specific aspects of anointed ministry that produce joy.
1) Anointed ministry brings good news to the poor. "Poor" in the Greek is literally "one who covers". The good news of the gospel empowers a believer to stand up straight and live as a child of God--that's joy!
2) Anointed ministry brings healing to the brokenhearted (i.e. the one with a crushed heart). the greatest healing are the inner healing of our emotions and our spirit. A person can be sick in body and still have joy, but if they are sick in spirit, they are unable to have joy!
3) Anointed ministry delivers spiritual captives from the bondage of sin. Here, the "deliverance" is primarily spiritual, rather than physical.
4) Anointed ministry sets free those who have been oppressed by life.
5) Anointed ministry proclaims the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25).
More soon on the subject of the Holy Spirit and joy!