Tag Archives: Devotional

The Same Wisdom

creation

In Proverbs 8, the chapter scheduled for my reading today, wisdom is personified as a woman. The same thing happened in previous chapters as well, i.e. 3:13-18 and 4:6-9. However, in this chapter, she says the following of herself,

22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
    when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master workman,
     and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

Such beautiful imagery! I don’t want to restate all that’s been said already, but go back and look line by line at how she describes herself and her relationship with the LORD.

Now, a few verses prior to that, verse 17, she says that she

…loves those who loves me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Understand what she is saying here. Those that seek her “diligently” will find her…and she loves them. Various places in the previous chapters of Proverbs encourages people to seek after wisdom. One specific example is in Proverbs 3:13, which says, “blessed is the one who finds wisdom.”

What does this mean for us today?

Last Wednesday night, we covered James 1:1-8 during bible study. James 1:5 is a verse with which many of us are familiar –

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

James is encouraging us to ask for wisdom if we’re lacking it. The very wisdom that causes the one who finds it to be blessed. The very wisdom also personified above in v22-31! (Go read it again)

The very wisdom we are encouraged to seek after and ask God for if we’re lacking, was the wisdom that was with God – even used by God – in creation. How comforting is it to know that our Great God and King gives us the same wisdom He used before the foundations of the earth? There aren’t two different kinds of wisdom – He gives us His! How blessed are we?

Seek God today. In doing so, realize that as we are striving to know more about Him and how He can be glorified in our lives, He shares His wisdom with us.

Praise His kindness!

Living By Three C’s

Prior to preaching for the first time, my pastor gave me some advice which I call “The Three C’s” –

1. Be clear.
2. Be concise.
3. Be consistent.

He advised me to keep these points in mind every time I sit down to prepare a sermon. Additionally, these points should also be in the back of my mind as I am standing before God’s people delivering His word.

Over the past few months, as I have had further opportunities to preach, I’ve kept this advice close to me, and in doing so, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only in a preaching or ministerial context that these questions apply. These concepts can also be applied to my day to day activities, and ultimately, to my life in general.

1. Am I Clear?

Ambiguity breeds confusion – it is a friend of no one. It is important that those around me understand where I am coming from. At least, I think it’s important. Whether it’s verbal or non-verbal communication – clarity is important. I’m sure we’ve all seen cases in which a message was communicated, but it was so unclear that the desired results were way off the mark.

So, I take this thought process into my interaction with the major relationships in my life, i.e. my bride and my children. I am myself – am I clear regarding how I feel about God? How I feel about our family? How I feel about them? Am I doing our dating anything that would cause them to question my love for them or my desire to see their relationship with Christ continue to develop and grow? When further with day to day interaction – do I give them my time and attention when they need or want it, or do I give it when it is convenient for me? And really, similar questions can apply to the other relationships in my life, i.e. extended family, friends, people I meet throughout the day, etc.

2. Am I Concise?

“Stop talking me to death!” was a phrase some friends and I adopted when I was a teen. This phrase was our way of telling someone that they were doing too much talking; the listener was being “killed” with all the unnecessary talking being done. Admittedly, I find myself still using the phrase sometimes. Albeit, more in a joking manner than not.

But, I have to examine myself in light of this second point; am I guilty of doing the same to others? Do I unnecessarily drag on a conversation past the point of interest? Do I wear out my welcome when I visit with people? Do people find it a delight or a chore to talk with me? I can’t stand wasting my own time, so I try to be extra cautious when it come to other people’s time. When you really think about it, the long and short of it is this: we all get the same 168 hours each week. I don’t want to take up more time that someone is willing to give me. Everyone’s time is valuable – I don’t want to waste it. In return, I believe that I am showing people that I value the time that they did give me.

3. Am I Consistent?

One of my many desires is to be unwavering in what I believe – especially when in hard times. I’m sure we’ve all met people who confused us regarding their stance on a topic. They were pretty indecisive when it came time to “choose a side” on an issue. People who stake claim in this camp breed confusion in everyone with whom they associate.

So again, I have to do some self examination – am I guilty of the same thing? Do my family, friends, and even co-workers know where I stand with my worldview, or do I jump to the side of convenience when my convictions are tested? Do I hesitate voicing my views because I know they might be in the minority? It is in the times of struggle and strife that our beliefs are tested, and in that testing, we truly realize where we stand on the things that matter. So I feel strongly enough about something to “fall on my sword” about it? Regardless of the subject matter, and regardless of the environment or audience – do I maintain the same principles and standards? Even further, am I the same person at home as I am in public? These things are important.

Am I Successful?

No – I’m not. Sitting here right now, I can’t tell you that I’ve been clear, concise, and consistent in everything I’ve done. I know that I haven’t been clear, concise, and consistent in everything I’ve said. I’d be lying if I claimed to have been. Without naming all the factors that contribute to my inability to success in my efforts, the underlying reason in all the factors is sin (Romans 3:23). However, I’m thankful I serve a God who is clear, concise, and consistent – always has been and always will be!

Am I Committed?

All of this is well and good, but it means nothing if I am not committed to living this way. If I don’t actively pursue God and trust Him to strengthen me as I strive to live these guidelines, then what am I telling the world I am trying to reach with the gospel?

What am I telling my family?
What am I telling my friends?
My co-workers?

I’m telling them that they can go alone and be alright. I’m telling them that, in and of themselves, they can make sense of their life and live it trusting in their own power. But, that’s not what God says.

When we want to be clear about who we are, God speaks to us in Galatians 1:10. When we want to be concise in what we say, God speaks to us in Proverbs 10:19. When we want to be consistent in our actions, God speaks to us in 1 Corinthians 15:58.

I pray you’ll seek God in guiding you, just as I seek Him in guiding me, to be committed to a life of being clear, concise, and consistent. Let’s trust in, and lean on, Him and His everlasting word. I believe it is possible, but only with the grace He provides to allow it to happen.

Grace and Peace,
John

With A Cup of Coffee…

Below is some content I’ve enjoyed over the past week or so. Maybe you’ll enjoy them as well.

1.“The Slender Man Made Me Do It”: Compelled to Violence by an Internet Myth by S.D. Kelly

This is extremely disturbing. The idea that a make believe figure on the internet has captivated the minds of young people in such a way that they commit such hideous crimes to “please” him. This is just another reason that parents MUST be involved in monitoring their childrens entertainment habits.

2. 12 Questions to Ask Before You Watch ‘Game of Thrones’ by John Piper

This article is a transcript from the Ask Pastor John podcast. Great content here. All 12 questions are applicable in all forms of entertainment. All 12 questions convicted me.

3. on daughters and dating: how to intimidate suitors by Jen Wilkins

Great article from Jen. I, too, found the “Application to Date My Daughter” funny…I still do, if I’m honest. However, I truly appreciate Jen’s exhortation to protect our daughters in a more secure and Godly way.

4. LOL Interwebz: Six Things You Can Stop Telling People to Stop Posting on Social Media by Luke T. Harrington

This is just funny…and so relevant. Admittedly, I thought some of the same thoughts mentioned here.

5. The Briefing – 06/20/2014 by Al Mohler

I’ve recently started listening to Al Mohler’s podcast. This particular broadcast is on the recent decision by the PCUSA to recognize same-sex marriage and a forthcoming movie called “Obvious Child”, Hollywood’s bold attempt to normalize and downplay the seriousness of abortion. Regardless of where you stand on either issue, take about 15 – 20 minutes to listen to this podcast.

6. What If The Earth Stopped Spinning?

I thought this was just cool.

7. “The Friendly Church”

On 7 Jun 14, my church took part in “Crossover Baltimore”. It was an outreach event that Southern Baptist Convention churches across Baltimore, MD participated in the weekend before the start of the SBC Annual Meeting 2014, which also took place here in Baltimore. My church held a cookout for the neighborhood. This is a short video done by the Baptist Press on our event.

God’s Love and Valentine’s Day

loveNow that Valentine’s Day has passed and I’ve had time to think honestly about it, I willing to bet that I am probably in the minority with this thought:

It is inaccurate to associate God with Valentines Day purely on the basis of love.

Excluding the obvious days of the year – i.e. Easter, Lent, Christmas, etc – God is rarely purposely associated with any other day of the year.  That is not to say that God cannot be associated with other days of the year.

For example, although the namesake of St Patrick’s Day was a Christian, we don’t associate God with this day of the year. The idea of St Patty’s Day usually brings to mind a leprechaun, a pot of gold, an incessant amount of the color green, and spending the evening in an Irish Pub drinking beer. How does God fit into this tradition?

Despite its namesake also being a Christian, Valentine’s Day is not associated with God because of St Valentine’s Faith. I can only assume that God is associated with Valentine’s Day is because God is a God of love and Valentine’s Day is a day of love. If there is another idea or reason for associating the two, it is not as prominently displayed. Now, this idea about God being a God of love is spot on. He is a God of love. Even more specific, God Himself is love (1 Jn 4:8). However, I think associating God with Valentine’s Day solely on the basis of love is inaccurate, and doing so does not increase the appeal of His love as some might hope, but in actuality, it minimizes the magnitude of His love.

What is Love?

We use the word love everyday. There’s really no getting around it. We all love someone or something and through our natural desires of friendship and intimacy, we have a tendency to make our feelings of love known to others. A point we must understand regarding love, is that everything we say we love is not loved in the same way.

In one instance, when we say how much we love a friend or a spouse, it is usually because we have strong feelings for them. These feeling usually cause us to want to spend more and more time with said person. Maybe they make us feel a certain way or they do something special for us that causes our feelings to gravitate to them and our emotions to radiate for them. That is perfectly understandable.

In another instance, when we say how much we love a movie or a song, it is usually because the subject matter makes us feel a certain way. Because of this, we tend want to hear the song or watch the movie order and over. Again, perfectly understandable.

The word “love” in each example is relevant and applicable as it is used, but the meaning of the word within the context of each situation is specific to that situation. Meaning, we don’t we love a movie as much as or in the same way as we love a spouse and we don’t love a song as much as or in the same way which we love a friend.

To explain it more explicitly – the way I love my bride is not going to be the same way I love my child, and the way I love my child is not going to be the same way I love my brother. These are different levels and intensities of love which are subsequently expressed in different ways. The same occurs in the bible.

There is only one word for love; however, there are various ways in which the word “love” is used. This occurs in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It’s same word, different expressions and intensities.

Types of Love

1. Phileo *(#G5368) – The word “love” when used in this way describes a friendship or brotherly love; the kind of love shown to or received from a friend or relative. Used in this context, “love” is developed over time and in many ways, it thrives and grows based on the treatment of one person to the other. The city of Philadelphia is derived from the word “phileo”, hence the city slogan – “The City of Brotherly Love”.

2. Agape *(G26) – This word “love”in this context, describes the kind of love “that God has for His Son and His people, and the active love his people are to have for God, each other, and even enemies.” (Strongs, pg 1587) This kind of love is not grown or developed; it exists as such from its inception. There is nothing that can be done to strengthen it or diminish it. It just is.

3. Eros – The word “love”, used here, is not in the Bible, but still holds relevance to this topic. Used in this context, “love” describes a romantic kind of love. The kind of love that someone feels for a spouse or significant other. This is similar to phileo, in that it thrives and grows based on how one person treats the other; but, it’s more applicable in regard to the love a man and woman in a committed relationship or marriage show each other. This love is strictly for one other person, not a group of people. This is the word from where the word “erotic” is derived.

God’s Love Is Greater

Love is love. But as previously said, it varies in expression and intensity. The kind of love I show my brother (phileo) is not the same kind of love I show my bride (eros). The kind of love my bride shows her friends (phileo) is not the same kind of love she shows me (eros). And we do not love our spouses (eros) and friends (phileo) with the same kind of love which God loves up (agape). Conversely, we should love God with the same kind of love He shows us (agape).

So, when we place the kind of love that God shows for us in the same category as the kind of love we show for others, I believe we minimize the depth of God’s love. His love is on full display throughout all of scripture. It is shown in everything from when He created man in His own image (Gen 1:27) to when He sent His Son to die for our sins (Gal 4: 4-5) and everything in between. God did not leave us with doubts regarding the love He has for us. The kind of love He has for us is so far above our own, that the love that we have for each other is pale in comparison.

Let’s Not Lose Focus

I don’t want to take anything away from Valentine’s Day. This article isn’t meant to be an “anti” Valentine’s Day rant meant to change the mindset of those who celebrate this day. In and of itself, I think it is fine. I celebrate it with my bride and my daughters. My youngest was born on Valentine’s Day, so it holds a special significance in my family.

Additionally, I think it’s great that so many people think about God and His love on this day. Praise God for the people whose thoughts are inclined toward Him on any given day of the week, let alone on Valentine’s Day. As God’s creation, we should always have our thoughts honed in on our Creator. 

But on this day, as many people are celebrating the romantic or eros kind of love they have for their spouse, and others are celebrating the brotherly or phileo kind of love they have for their family and friends, let’s not reduce the Godly or agape kind of love that God has for His children, by associating them all together as if they are equal. God’s love is a love too great to be minimized. It is a love greater than we deserve. It is a love that we cannot fully understand. It is a love that saves us from our sin, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son whom He sacrificed, because He loved us so much

In Christ,
John

*Strong, James LL.D, S.T.D. The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Zondervan: Michigan. 2001.

The Bible Study Site. http://www.biblestudy.org/question/what-are-three-types-of-love-in-new-testament.html. Accessed February 14, 2013.

A Right View of the Power of God

Preparation Timewpid-20140213_082025.jpg

Last night, as I sat at my dining room table working on homework, I couldn’t help but think about the impending storm. I thought about how everyone, myself included, stopped at the store on their way home from work to stock up on food and supplies just in case the storm left us to deal with the worst. I thought about those in Georgia and other southern states that were already dealing with the beast that was yet to reach us here in Maryland.

As many of us watched the news for updates, I wondered how many of us were thinking about the storm in terms of the destruction that was potentially about to take place. Were our thoughts with those who were going to be without electricity because of damaged wires from fallen trees? Were our thoughts with those who were going to be stranded in their vehicles when the roads became too dangerous to travel? Were our thoughts with those whom were without a roof over their heads during one of the biggest storms of the last few years?

It’s Here

This morning, I was one of the many people whom were out shoveling their cars from under the snow. From our front doors to the street, my neighbors and I trudged the many inches of snow that had fallen over the past few hours. As we steadily shoveled away, my neighbors and I held casual, yet cordial conversation with each other. It was nice. I made the comment that shoveling snow with others at nine o’clock in the morning is much better than shoveling snow alone at four thirty in the morning. It genuinely is better.

I’m sure we were all thinking about family and friends whom were affected by this storm system. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering how others were doing. I saw a few Facebook posts about some who did lose their power. All we can do from here is pray for them. But, I also wondered about how many of us thought about God and how He controls nature (Psalm 29). Do we look at this storm as a nuisance or as a display of God’s power? Do we look at this storm as an inconvenience or as a testament to His greatness? Yes, if our power goes out because of fallen trees, we see it as a nuisance. Yes, if we are stuck in the house because the streets are too bad to travel, we see it as an inconvenience. It’s a natural reaction for a natural people who have natural wants and needs.

My First Thought

We have lived in our current home for almost a year and a half. Since being here, we have lost power multiple times. We usually lose power because of extreme weather, i.e. a rain or snow storm. I guess that’s normal. Other times, we’ve lost power because something somewhere overheated. I guess that’s possible. Once we lost power for a reason that no one could explain. You can guess I was upset. In times like that, I am quick to complain. My frustration comes out pretty quickly. Honestly, I try my best to stay positive and maintain composure for the sake of my family. You know, do my best to set the right example, but deep down – I’m mad and I know it.

It is times like this that I have to be reminded, in some way, that God is sovereign over everything (Psa 115:3). As a believer, I am never outside of His hand (Jn 10:28). He is my shield (Psa 5:12). So, why are my first thoughts negative? What is it that causes me to develop a thought process that doesn’t bring God any kind of glory?

A New Vision

It’s sin (Gen 3:6). It’s ever present with me (Rom 7:21). It causes me to shift my focus from God, who is eternal, and place it on my situation, which is temporary. I lose sight of He who made heaven and earth (Gen 1), and zero in on the problem that holds no worth. It’s a wrong vision of what’s important. My priorities are shifted.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t deal with our circumstances. We must deal with them. If we don’t address them, there’s the potential for them to fester and possibly grow unmanageable – depending on the issue, of course. Our problems must be dealt with head on, but we must deal with them with God taking the lead. As stated earlier, He is in control of all things – including the things that bother me on a daily basis.

Who am I to think that God isn’t concerned with what troubles me? Better yet, who are we (as a people) to think that God isn’t concerned with what troubles us? We’re made in His image (Gen 1:26), He’s given us dominion (Gen 1:28), in the midst of our sin, He still cares for us (Gen 3:21), and most importantly, He’s given us a way out of our sin to be reconciled back (Eph 2:16) into a right relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ (Matt 27, Mk 15, Lk 23, Jn 19)

How can we presume to know what God is not concerned with regarding His children (Eph 1:5)? Let us no longer presume anything regarding the mind of God, but let us hold fast to that which He has promised us in His word – deliverance on the day of trouble (Psa 50:15). God is awesome. He is magnificent in all things. So, let’s not forget that because of God’s power, Christ’s work on the cross was sufficient to save us (Jn 3:16) and allow us to now be members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). Amen.

In Christ,
John

How do you view God’s power in your life? Do you see the problem first or God’s power first? Share it below. Thanks.

Rough Morning

I couldn’t journal this morning. prostrate

It’s not that I didn’t want to or that I didn’t have my journal and a pen…I just didn’t feel I had anything to say. My normal routine begins with a prayer of thanks to the Lord for another day, then I’ll begin journaling. It’s becoming more commonly the first thing I do when I wake in the morning. I will write about something that the Lord has put on my heart or I’ll write about something that happened the night or day prior or whatever comes to mind. I didn’t write about anything this morning…pen in hand, blank page ready…and nothing.

So, I figured I would read the scripture readings assigned for this morning through my bible reading plan. I had to read Proverb 22…twice. Understand, the reading only calls for reading a chapter of Proverbs a day. I had to read it twice because I didn’t remember what I read the first time. It was like my eyes just glossed over the words n the pages. Many times over the past few days, there has been a verse or two that had just rocked me in the respective chapter I was reading! Nothing today.

Hmm…ok…I go to the Psalms…Psalm 13. The Lord always talks to me in the Psalms. Still nothing. Since Psalm 13 is a mere six verses, I determined to read it again…and again…and again.  Not moved.

So, I go into prayer. I have a prayer list in my phone that I go through a few times a week, some prayers I pray every day. So as I am preparing – I have the app on my phone open, I have the prayer bulletin from my church laid out, I have my “31 Biblical Virtues to Prayer Over Your Child” card next to it – and (mentally) I’m not there. I don’t feel in my heart that I am ready, dare I say willing, to go before God in prayer.

Now, this isn’t usual. I have usually been able to write something in my journal. There is usually a proverb or two that jumps out at me. The psalms are LOADED with goodness from God. And my prayertime?? Praise God that I can even have the confidence to come before His throne (Heb 10:19-20).

Back to this morning – as I lay prostrate on the floor, I was determined not to get up until I prayed…and prayed for a good amount of time. So, I just prayed whatever came to mind. An unbelieving family member, a friend, my bride, the church…whatever came to mind. Sometimes, I dozed off. (I know because when I looked at the clock, there were some unaccounted for blocks of time.) Other times, I was focused. Other times, I dozed off again. In general, it just wasn’t a good prayertime.

I was quite bothered. What was my problem? Why can’t I get “into it” today? I mean really, I couldn’t do anything on my list of things I like to do during my devotional time? Sad…just sad…disappointing, even.

I put my bible away. Tucked away my journal. Locked my phone. I start getting ready for work. As I’m getting ready, I’m reflecting on what happened so far this morning, and then it hits me! The Lord showed me what was wrong with my morning devotional routine. It’s a routine! It’s rote. It’s mechanical. I’m so focused on what needs to be done first and “allotting” enough time for the next “event” that I am not focused on the prize, namely Christ. My routine is getting in the way of my relationship.

I can’t remember the last time I spent an hour or more just reading and praying over the bible, or just in prayer with my Lord and King, or journaling my gratitude for His kindness to my family and I, or just sitting in absolute silence and waiting for the Lord. Instead, I’ve been trying to cram all these things into and hour or so before I go to work for the next 8 – 9 hours. I was trying to check the block on my devotional time so that I can move to the next block on my schedule. It’s wrong. I’m robbing myself of the chance to abide in God’s love (John 15:9). I’m dishonoring God.

I thank God for this morning. I thank God that He showed me how unfeeling I’ve been in my coming to him. I thank Him for showing me my error in developing processes of worship and missing the benefits that come from realizing that I even have the opportunity to worship. He reminded me that it’s a privilege, not a right…an occasion given through grace, not earned through my works. And I thank Him that He was merciful in doing so.

As I sit here writing this, the sun is still making it’s way above the horizon. A blatant reminder of the grace that He has given us to live another day. If you have breath in your lungs and you are reading this now – you have already received more than you deserve today, as have I. Let’s not forget that. And let’s not get wrapped up in the routine of worship, but more importantly, let’s become engulfed in the One whom we are made to worship!

Before I sat down to write this, I took an opportunity to read over Psalm 13 again. Verses 5-6 says this,

“5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Thank you, Lord, in dealing “bountifully” with me, your servant…

In Christ,
John

“The Gospel Project” on Android! YES!!!

logo-defaultIt seems as though everyone in the “reformed” camp are *Apple fans. Nowadays, it’s commonplace to see everyone from Pastors to rappers communicating on their iPhones and preaching or speaking from their iPads.

Most, if not all, of the apps developed by reformed ministries are released on iOS before any other platform – including Android. I have to admit, as an Android user, it is quite frustrating. I can’t tell you how many apps are currently on the iOS that I would love to see on the Android platform. Take a look through the comments section of the many of the articles that introduce a new app released on the iOS platform – Android users are screaming for some love!

Enter “The Gospel Project” finally released on Android. I first learned of this project from the The Gospel Coalition website. I am extremely excited about it and I am grateful to Lifeway Christian Resources for releasing it on another platform. Lifeway is a great organization. Their resources are always biblically-focused, Christ-centered, and grounded in the gospel! As the education arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, they are dedicated to providing first-rate material for evangelical Christians. I’m sure you’ve seen the Lifeway Christian Stores in your area.

For those unfamiliar with this initiative –

The Gospel Project is a Bible study resource that invites Adults, Students, and Kids of all ages to dive deeply into God’s story of redemption through Jesus Christ. In every lesson, participants are immersed in the gospel and learn how when the gospel works on them, they become a part of the story, too, the very hands and feet in God’s gospel project.

Led by General Editor Ed Stetzer and Managing Editor Trevin Wax, The Gospel Project is designed to unify an entire church under a single Christ-centered curriculum. Separate study plans for adults, students, and kids ensure the proper focus and depth for each age group.

– The Gospel Project Website

Again, I am extremely excited about this program finally making its way to the Android platform and I look forward to eventually incorporating it in my family’s devotional time, as well as my personal devotional time. When you get a chance, take a look at their site and see how this resource can fit into your devotional life and even the life of your church. Grace and peace to you.

In Christ,
John

*I love my brother and sister Apple users. Y’all are good people! 😉

24 Jan 14 – Update: On 21 Jan 14, I made a comment on the original blog post regarding getting an message in the Google Play store about the adult app not being compatible with my device. (I am running a Galaxy Note 8.0 w/ Jelly Bean 4.2.2 – the app requires 4.0 and above.) My post was answered the same day and I was informed that someone was looking into the problem. Today, a Gospel Project (GP) representative (Erica) responded saying that the adult app should be fixed. It was! Thanks to the GP Team for such a prompt response and appropriate fix to the issue. Just another reason to pick up this app – the response time from the GP Team is remarkable!

There Is Disgrace in Pride, But Humility in Wisdom.

I’m sure I’m not the only person who has started a new Bible reading plan for 2014. The plan I am using calls for me to read a chapter of Proverbs each day of the month which, if I stay on schedule, will allow me the opportunity to read the Book of Proverbs every month by thehumility end of the year. As of today, I’m about a day or so off of my schedule. I am reading Proverbs 11 and 12 in order to be caught up for tomorrow’s reading.

As I was reading through Proverbs 11, my attention was caught pretty quickly by the second verse.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

This verse is speaking about how the result of pride, whether it be a prideful heart or just a general attitude of pride, is disgrace. In what ways are we prideful? Any time we believe that we are owed something or that we should have more than we do, we are suffering from pride. For example, when we covet, we want something that does not belong to us and we secretly desire to have it. For some reason, we believe we deserve it, therefore it is sin (Ex 20:17). When we lust after someone, we secretly desire to have that person; this is usually if they are not ours in marriage. For some reason, we believe we deserve them, therefore it is sin (Matt 5:28). When we see and object we want and it doesn’t belong to use, we take it. For some reason, we believe we deserve it, therefore it is sin (Ex 25:15).  We are prideful in our belief that we deserve more than with what God has blessed us.

The second half of the verse speaks to those whom are not subject to the first half of the verse. As believers, we trust God everyday to keep us from pride. We want to live our lives in a manner pleasing to God. To do so, we must remain humble in all circumstances. This verse is telling us that those who are humble have wisdom.

How do the humble get this wisdom? From where does this wisdom come?

If we look back at Proverbs 9:10, it says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” What this is telling us is that the humble, those who strive by God’s grace to avoid pride and the disgrace that follows, can only do so because they first fear of the Lord! This fear is the beginning of wisdom.

This is significant. The Bible is telling us that in order for us to be wise and act in a manner which is not only pleasing to God, but is glorifying to Him, we must first fear Him. Understand – this “fear” that the Bible speaks about is not a “fear” as we fear man. Yes, we can fear a man to take our life just as we can fear God to take our life. (Although my intent is not to compare the two in any manner. If man takes a life, it is because of his inherent wickedness. If God takes a life, it is because of His inherent righteousness.) The “fear” that the Bible speaks about relating to God is a reverential fear. A sincere and deep appreciation of God for who He is and for what He has done and continues to do.

The Book of Proverbs speaks about the “fear of the Lord” even earlier than chapter nine; specifically in chapter one where we read in verse seven that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” So, in light of these two verses, there is a question. How can “the fear of the Lord” be the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom? This seems to be a contradiction of sorts. But, it is not a contradiction, for as evangelical Christians, we hold to the Orthodox belief that all scripture is inerrant. It is perfect.

When I study, I use the ESV Study Bible as my “go to” resource, among others. This study bible has been invaluable to me. I am so thankful for it. Well, in the notes at the bottom of the page, it reads:

“ ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Wisdom’ are closely tied together in Proverbs: ‘knowledge tends to focus on the correct understanding of the world and oneself as creatures of the magnificent and loving God, while ‘wisdom’ is the acquired skill of applying that knowledge rightly, or ‘skill in the art of godly living’…The reason that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom is that the moral life begins with reverence and humility before the Maker and Redeemer.”

If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, then through what we are able to know about Him and His world, we have the opportunity to act in a manner which is pleasing and glorifying to Him, namely humble and gracious in our circumstances. As believers in Christ and what he has accomplished on the cross for our sake, we are in no position to have a prideful attitude about anything; for what we have we did not earn nor do we deserve.

I pray, that by the grace of God, that we will bow in fear before Him, and through knowledge and wisdom He gives us, we are kept from the pride that leads to disgrace. In doing so, we are able to properly represent Christ as His disciples.

Grace and Peace,
John

Fifty-Eight Days Into 2013: How’s Your Bible Reading Plan Coming Along? Part 2 (Well…now it’s 61 days into 2013, but you know where I’m going with this.)

So, what are our pre-established thoughts regarding reading the Bible reading?

  1. Challenging endeavor.
  2. Time consuming effort.
  3. Long process.
  4. Boring material.
  5. Un-natural pursuit.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit…those are pretty negative thoughts. I know that when thoughts like these start creeping into my mind, it’s not long before I cast aside the object of those thoughts. At that point, I have pretty much made up my mind that I want nothing else to do with whatever is making me think those things.

But, what if those thoughts about reading the Bible are true? What does that say about our feelings toward the author – God? Do we also find Him challenging…time consuming…boring? Some people do. Think about it. Many people, young people in particular, do not give their lives to Christ because the life they are living is fun and exciting and they don’t want to lose that fun and excitement. They really believe that life as Christian should be saved for when there is nothing else to live for. (This is definitely a topic for a later post.)

bible reading

How do we past the negative thoughts and on to positive thoughts? There must be a way. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people claimed to have read the Bible from cover to cover and enjoyed it. What did they do to get to that point? Are they reading a certain translation? I think we’d all agree that some translations are easier to read than others. Are they in reading groups? Sometimes a book club can make any reading more enjoyable. I don’t know. Whatever they did worked for them. Regarding the limited people I know, I can’t even say that any of them have read the entire Bible. I’d like to think that some people have, but I’ve never asked nor has anyone ever shared if they have. However, I can tell what I do in order to keep those negative thoughts from influencing me.

1. I thank God.
“John answered and said, ‘A person cannot receive one thing unless it is given him from heaven.’” – John 3:27

God doesn’t owe us anything. He doesn’t owe us this life He has given us, He doesn’t owe us His self-revelation through the Bible He has inspired, and He most definitely doesn’t owe us the salvation he provided through His Son – nothing! So, that is my first thought when approaching scripture. When I pick up my Bible, I purposely think to myself, “This is God’s revelation to me. He wants me to know Him. It is a privilege and an honor to hold a book such as this in my hands.” I want to constantly remind myself of these things; it’s only natural to think otherwise.

2. I get into the right mindset.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matt 6:21

All I have, I owe to God. My life, my health, my family, my “possessions” are all possible because of God. If I place my worth in anything other than God, I am not giving due reverence to God. I am placing the creation above the Creator; the gifts above the Giver. If my value is in God and the things of God, my focus remains on God. I want to constantly remind myself of these things; it’s only natural to think otherwise.

3. I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear.
“Open my eyes that I may behold the wondrous things out of your law.” – Psalm 119:18

God still speaks. I believe that. God speaks to different people in different ways and when I approach scripture, I pray that God will allow me to see and hear what He says to me. Maybe He will speak through the words on the page, maybe I will hear a “still small voice”, maybe something someone says later in the day will give me insight to what I read. However God chooses to make it happen, it happens. I want to constantly remind myself of these things; it’s only natural to think otherwise.

And through my time reading scripture, I am looking to get the meaning of the text and how it applies to my life in Christ. My outlook on reading scripture is totally dependent on God and the work that He does in me. As I stated before, seeking God is a super-natural act that by nature, we cannot do without God. Firstly, if you desire God and you are having trouble doing so, I’d like you to see that the desire you have is because God desires you. That is of first importance. We cannot seek God without Him first giving us a desire to do so. Secondly, pray for Him to strengthen your desire for Him. He’ll do it. Depend on His strength, not your own in your seeking. Finally, trust that He’ll do what He promises. His promises are all throughout scripture. Not only noted in Proverbs 8:17 and Jeremiah 29:13 (mentioned in part one), there is Psalm 1:1-2, Psalm 2:12, and Proverbs 9:10 to name a few.

I haven’t read the Bible from cover to cover. But, I’m trying. If I was to put a percentage on how much of the Bible I HAVE read, it would be less than 50%…possibly 40%. And trust me – that’s not an effort to boast about anything other than the fact that God has given me the grace and the desire to read any of His precious word at all. But, I’m trying. And I believe in my very spirit that God will continue to pour His grace upon me to be able to one day succeed in reading the Bible from cover to cover – but, it will be by His strength, not my own. (Phil 4:13)

So, if I can offer a word of encouragement; be blessed in your pursuit of God and all that you do to find Him. And remember what the Lord said in Isaiah 40:8,

“The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of God will stand forever.”

Pray for me and I’ll pray for you.

Grace and Peace,
John

Solid Joys (Smartphone App)

Technology.  A wonderful resource when used properly – especially smartphones.  I use my smartphone for so much.  Just like anyone else with one –  I text, check email, update social media, play games, catch up on the news, etc.  However, I also use my phone in my devotional time via my bible reading application (You Version) and an application called Solid Joys.

soild joys

The Google Play store describes the Solid Joys app as “…a daily devotional app from the ministry of John Piper. These short but substantive readings aim to feed your joy in Jesus every day of the year.” The readings are taken from past sermons and/or books that Pastor Piper has preached and/or written over the many decades of his ministry. If you have an android-based smartphone and you enjoy good ministry resources, I highly suggest this app. It’s free, but even if it wasn’t – it is worth the download.

desiring god app

For those with iPhones, Pastor Piper has app for you as well: Desiring God App (iTunes). I’ma be honest here – I am a bit jealous. The iTunes app has a significant amount of more resources than the android app. 🙂 Its basically the Desiring God website that you carry with you on your smartphone.

For those who do not know of Pastor Piper, his ministry resources can be found at Desiring God Ministries. You can spend hours upon hours upon days at this website.  It is filled with wonderful resources, most of which are free. Please take a look when you have the time.

Grace and Peace,
John