As a wise parent, Solomon continues to admonish or to gently reprove his children. Why? Because “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.”[Prov 22] If we truly love our children, then we will spend our lives teaching life principles using the inspired, God breathed scripture which is useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. It cannot be done once but over and over, precept upon precept, line upon line. [Is 28].
Solomon zeroes in on the two commandments that are easily broken when one’s eyes are led astray: “thou shalt not commit adultery and thou shalt not covet.” Once again he begins “be attentive, pay close attention” for we are easily distracted and foolishly think we are master of our own souls. He who would be wise would heed and run from the whispers of the evil one: “The Lord does not see this.” [Ps 94] But, God does see: “the ways of a person are in front of the Lord’s eyes” [Prov 5:22] And not only does he see but he records the names of those who respect the Lord and distinguishes between the one who chooses to serve God and the one who does not. [Mal4] “He, the Lord, weighs all that person’s path.” [Prov 5 21]
In order to be protected from the lies of the evil one, we must “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” In this way, we may discern what is true or false and be assured of keeping the Commandments.
A common saying goes like this: When one door closes another opens but in the meantime we just stand, wonder and ask what are you doing here God? At those times wonder no more but step out in faith knowing that God has a plan and all He asks is that we trust Him. Acts 16 is an example of a door slammed shut by the Holy Spirit. Dr. Luke does not tell us how or why, which is fitting since we too sometimes cannot explain the reasons behind God’s actions. But, this one thing we do know, God had a plan for Philippi and it entailed both a woman named Lydia and a Philippian jailer who needed to hear the words of the gospel message.
Both of these precious soon to be saints provide us with how the Spirit works in the hearts of men: “The Lord opened her heart to respond.” Both Lydia and the jailer’s hearts were pricked and they responded to the offer of salvation. But, it does not stop there. Lydia invited the missionaries: “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” The rejoicing jailer took Paul and Silas, washed their wounds and fed them. In both cases we see the words of James: “faith was perfected by works.” Thus a principle: once saved we are to prove that faith in our works.
Beloved, open your eyes to see the doors God has opened and then walk through trusting Him.
It seems that between Acts and Psalms we are being reminded daily of our need to praise God. Listen to the psalmist: 21:13 “We will sing and praise your power!” 22:3 “you sit as king receiving the praises of Israel.” And now the command is given by the earthly king to and for the heavenly king: 22:23 “You loyal followers of the Lord, praise him!” 22:26 “Let those who seek his help praise the Lord!”
Praising the Lord is a reminder that God alone is sovereign and in control of our very being. Nothing comes across our path but what has been ordained by God and filtered through his fingertips. He desires that we stop and praise Him for what He has done and what He will do. For He is the Lord God ALMIGHTY, the BOUNTIFUL AND BLESSED Savior, He is CREATOR and we are created. He is the COURAGEOUS CHRIST who died for our sin and in doing so became our DELIVERER who is ETERNAL. He is FAITHFUL, He is GOD, He is HOLY, He is IMMUTABLE. Do you see the ABC pattern? Continue on starting with “J until you reach Z.” Let these words flow forth as you praise Him.
Stop and Praise Him for His goodness to you this day.
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It seems that no matter where we turn we are faced with the false lies of the enemy of our souls. Satan is not only a master deceiver but he is a master at distraction. Just as Jesus said, he will plant tares among the wheat and therefore, we should not be surprised when we come face to face with them as Paul and Barnabas did in Iconium.
Even though Paul and Barnabas were Holy Spirit anointed sent missionaries, they still came face to face with the dichotomy of the false vs the true. When this occurs in your life, what do you do? Take a lesson from them: they spoke courageously with reliance upon the Lord. They relied upon Him for their words and the power behind the words. They testified to His grace trusting that God was hearing and answering this same prayer: Acts 4:29 “Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage”
We are often are surprised when others misunderstand the gospel message. Don’t be. Just remember, our God is greater and nothing is impossible with God’s help. When faced with the counter-evangelists, pray as the early church did; put your armor on and go forth into the battle. “A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory is from the Lord.” [Pro 21:31]
“Do You Believe in Prayer or Not?”
King Herod, of Herod fame, inflicts harm on the early church to please the Jews. But, God is at work both in and behind the scenes as we read this chapter and see the fulfillment of the words of Jesus “Upon this rock I will build “MY” church and the gates of hell shall not prevail.” [Matt 16] Satan may seek to bring the church into disfavor but he fails to realize that what he seeks to disarm God will use to bring about good. [Rom 8:28]
But, just as then, we are often befuddled at God’s working. Why did God allow James to be executed but released Peter? This is one of those “secret things” that belongs to God alone and will be revealed in eternity. [Deut 29:29]
Dr. Luke refreshingly gives us some comedic relief of the persecution of the early church with his account of Peter’s release from jail. While Peter sleeps, King Herod gleefully waits for daybreak of the day after a solemn religious holiday to murder him. Sound familiar? We remember that was the plan for Jesus as well. Into this mix we find the church persistently praying for Peter. But after an angel miraculously releases him and he arrives in the middle of their prayer meeting they tell Rhoda “she has lost her mind.” Again, like the account of Jesus’ resurrection, it is called nonsense.
Dr. Luke gives us this chapter to show us that God not only hears the prayers of the church but opens the windows of heaven.
The author of Hebrews reminds us we must be trained by experience as we gather wisdom from those who are themselves mature, in fact, the aged, or the elder amongst us. They have learned to discern both good and evil and now are passing on that to the next generation as the psalmist said to do. [Ps 78] Daily we are in a spiritual battle against unseen foes and need both our armor and wisdom to defeat this deadly foe. We find it in the Word of God which is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. [2Tim 3] God’s promise is sure; He is always ready to give his children wisdom.[James 1]
Solomon knew this well for that is the one gift he asked of the Lord. Two times he reminds his children, and us, that it begins when one actively listens with mind and body. Just like our heavenly Father, Solomon tells his children that they are to listen so that they may gain discernment which is being able to judge between good and evil. They are to acquire wisdom which is the supreme gift and to do that they must lay hold of his words and hide them in their hearts. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” [Ps 119]
But why is wisdom so critical? Without wisdom, we are fools for Satan’s sake. With wisdom, we are wise for Christ’s sake.
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What is it that we do not learn from Jonah and what do we learn? We don’t learn to obey God instantly—no questions asked. We do learn that “God does not show favoritism in dealing with people!”
Peter falls into the Jonah Syndrome in a vision of four-footed animals and reptiles of the earth and hears “Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!” Peter vehemently tells God no and we say “NO???” Instead of being shocked by Peter’s response, we must remember that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We too often say the same. God asks us to speak to our neighbor or an office mate and we come up with all kinds of excuses—just like Jonah. But, God is adamant about obedience as Peter will learn when Gentile strangers show up at the door asking for him. We smile to see God’s sense of humor. Hmm, Peter you didn’t get it yet so, I have a real life lesson and it includes you and Gentiles.
But then into this mix are the naysayers, the circumcised “holier than thou” Jewish believers. It is then that he hears and we hear: “how c-o-u-l-d you do that!” But, God has a plan that is as true then as now: “He loves ALL people!” God did that in Nineveh, in the home of Cornelius and now in Jerusalem with these believers.
Be careful of saying “no” to God or you might find yourself in a Jonah situation and have to take a real life lesson walk. You don’t want to miss God at work!
We lovingly remember Peter from the gospels with all of his faults, but God is in the changing business with each of us as Peter will learn.
As Peter has learned to encourage, lift up and challenge believers outside of Jerusalem, it seems he is pilgrimage alone. Along the way, he will learn what men call unclean God will clean and use for his glory. In Lydda he meets a man whose body is dead due to paralysis and Peter says “Jesus Christ heals you, get up and walk.” A few miles away in Joppa another death occurs; this one is a death of the body/soul. Men come to ask Peter’s assistance. What did they think he could do now that Tabitha was dead? But God knows that a life will be restored to show the power over even death. Peter, like Jesus, in raising Jairus’ daughter, sends the mourners out. Also like Jesus, Peter says “Tabitha, get up.”
It was after this that Peter faced his most difficult of tests: a death of prejudice. God graciously gave him a taste of it when Peter elected to stay with Simon the tanner—considered unclean by the rabbi’s. But, like us, Peter is slow to get it; it takes God three tries for him to realize that men like Simon the Tanner and the Gentile Cornelius might be considered unclean by the rabbi’s, but not by God.
All three show us the power of the Holy Spirit to change us and others. Where is God in the changing business with you?
One day in the teaching ministry of Jesus, he told a parable about a Pharisee and a Publican to illustrate the truth of those who were confident in their own righteousness while they looked down on others. In much the same way, Saul, whom we meet in Acts 9 is a picture of that Pharisee. His prayers might have sounded just like the Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people:” …in addition, God I thank you I am not one of those followers of that Jesus pretender. And so with that mindset, Saul set out to murder the Lord’s disciples not only in Jerusalem but also in Damascus. But unbeknownst to the high priest and Saul, God had a different plan. He needed a Jew who was a scholar, fluent in both Greek and Aramaic, knowledgeable in the Torah and the Prophets. Who better to fit that bill than Saul! Clearly, Saul must have overlooked Is 55 “my ways are higher than yours, and my plans are superior to yours.”
And so it was on a dusty road that Saul met Jesus first hand and it radically changed his mind, his heart and his lifestyle. He wrote later: “I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ,”[Phi 3:8] Saul, soon to be Paul, now picked up where the martyred Stephen left off unapologetically proving Jesus is the Christ.
Beware lest you think like Saul—Jesus may meet you and your life will be forever changed.
From the outset, Jesus had to deal with 12 unruly men who argued and passionately desired to be the greatest, but when the Holy Spirit came and indwelt them, all of that changed. Their desire now was to study, pray and impart wisdom to the new fledgling church.
But just as the church is growing and becoming a strong witness, Satan’s ears perk up and he thinks he is invited to enter not to encourage but to distract. The church then and the church now encounters his orchestrated problems. Some are caused by us; some are caused by circumstances beyond our control such as widowhood. In the early church, widows were in need financially and in prayer support just as the widows we read about in the Book of Ruth.
God cares for the orphans and widows and He always has a plan. God is never “a day late and a dollar short” to overrule Satan’s plans. This new fledgling NT church became the source of help to teach us the following principles: “Honor widows who are truly in need.”[ 1Ti 5:3] “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their adversity.”[Jam 1:27]
The apostles could have stopped their ministry to help. Instead, they chose to include others in the solution thus teaching the church the principle that we are a body with many gifts. “Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another” [1Pe 4:10] Today our churches employ this same principle.
Where are employing your gift to serve others in the Body of Christ?
This will be posted here on Feb 9th. Come and join us as we read through the NT/Ps and Proverbs each day.