Running Towards Wisdom

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Proverbs‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Like most teenagers, I had my rebellious moments with my parents. For some reason I earned a doctorate in pushing my dad’s buttons. It was not like I wanted to provoke my dad, I was just really good at it. One day after several months of tension and anxiety, my dad calmly sat me down and asked me if I wanted to be wise. “Of course, I want to be smart,” I blurted. My father smiled like a fox who was about to trap its prey.

He then replied, “I didn’t ask if you wanted to be smart, because I know you are. I asked, if you wanted to be wise. Do you want wisdom?”

“What is the difference,” I asked?

My dad then read this verse.

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” James‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NASB‬‬

He then asked, “Does this represent you?”

That wise fox! He got me. My dad loves wisdom. He knew how to cherish it wisely. His questions were piercing my heart, leaving me with no ground to argue.

“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding.” Proverbs‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Our behavior towards others needs to contain the attributes of seeking righteousness, seeking peace, being gentle, and being reasonable, Christians need to show mercy. We also need to be unwavering in truth, without hypocrisy. Our truth is bound in the knowledge of scripture. In that knowledge we must live out our lives without the hypocrisy of indulging in worldly behavior. We don’t run from Godly wisdom, we run towards it.

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs‬ ‭11:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So often in life we don’t want to be corrected, we accuse people of judging us, rather than seeking the wisdom of Godly correction. The Christian, who seeks God, must run towards correction and wisdom. The foolish person hates correction and wisdom. They falsely reject it as judgmental harshness.

“Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.” Proverbs‬ ‭13:10‬ ‭NASB

There is a difference between judging and correcting. Correction is wisdom based on experiences or knowledge. It is done in the hope that positive change will be made. Correction is encouraging a change in behavior that is sinful in the eyes of God. A wise person will take correction, reflect on the council they received and go to God with a humble and repentant heart.

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21 NASB

As Christians we are not to judge the value of someone. We are never to judge someones salvation. For God values us all and He is the one who judges the heart. We judge behavior that goes against God, but we love the person. We do this in remembrance of our own sinful past. We are all sinners. It is only because of Jesus that a person is saved from their sins.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans‬ ‭5:8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

So what is our role? Our role is to be an ambassador. We are ambassadors of reconciliation. Since we have been reconciled to God through Jesus, we have a duty to bring the ministry of reconciliation to the world. We are to appeal to the hearts of the lost with love and gentleness, as Christ did for us. We make this appeal using wisdom, mercy, grace, and peace. There is no room for harshness, only love.

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:18-20‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Be an ambassador, let the proof of your faith shine with Christ.

God Bless,

Stephan

 

When Prayer Becomes Authentic.

Do you speak to God with the clarity of speaking with a friend. Authentic prayer is empowered by the knowledge of scripture and guided by the understanding and wisdom of a loving Father.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread.”

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew‬ ‭6:7-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

My earliest memories of my parents faith is their prayer life. Prayer was always at the top of their list of things to do. They would pray about everything and anything. It was such a normal activity, that even the family dog would act as if she were praying. She would sprawl close to my mom, with paws crossed during her prayer times.

My siblings and I were raised  on the numerous stories of answered prayer. These life changing accounts filled our minds with the belief that God answers prayer. It was not until I turned 12 that I saw with my own eyes the first of many miracles; my mother completely healed of the crippling disease, Myasthenia gravis. This forever doomed me to the knowledge that Christianity was real, Jesus was real and God answered prayers of righteous people. I could never deny that God was real, so I was left with no excuses. Although I rebelled often as a youth and young adult, I could not ignore where my selfish behavior was leading me. Sin can seem fun. It can also lead to destruction. We still have the free will to choose our path. I know that the tearful prayers of my parents worked.

Thank God, I finally straitened out.  Thankfully it was His goodness that allowed me to see sin as He does and bring me to repentance through Jesus Christ my Lord.

Now that I am older and wiser I return to those memories of my parents prayer life and the lessons I learned. Prayer should always be the first thing you do when facing a crisis or before making a decision. I wrote about this in a previous post: The Crazy Chaos of a Busy Life… It also needs to be persistent and enduring, which you can read in: Enduring and Persistent Communication…

Lately I have been asked, “How can my life change, so that I am really walking with Jesus?” “Why do I keep struggling with my faith?” These questions reflect a need in the church body to understand authentic prayer and Biblical based meditation on The scripture. Real changes come when people read the Bible consistently, meditate on what it says and add its understanding to their prayer life.

Isn’t it interesting that the Christian who prays every day, reads the Bible every day, memorizes scripture and shares his faith; never shows or expresses any doubts about his salvation. The knowledge of knowing the Father has given that Christian an assurance of salvation in Christ alone.

Do you want an authentic relationship with God?

So lets take a look at the example Jesus gave us on how to pray with authenticity.

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them;”

It is not the amount of words we use or the vocabulary, but the genuine heartfelt utterances that we speak to God. These are the words that matter to our Father. We do not pray mantras but sincerity from our heart and soul. We speak the languages of brokenness, honor, humility and we speak them with tears, thankfulness and praise.

“for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”

We are to pray with the anticipation of knowing that God is paying attention to our lives, He knows every detail. We pray with the expectation that His will, will be done; because we know that He loves us. He is our Father, who is in Heaven.

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

We surrender to His will, and offer thanksgiving and service to our Father’s Kingdom. We honor Him as our King, supreme in all authority, wisdom, knowledge and power. His understanding surpassing any situation we will face. We recognize that we are not alone, we belong to the Kingdom of God and are supported by the righteous right hand of God which is Jesus Christ our Lord.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

God wants us to express our needs, concerns and fears. He want open and honest communication from us. He is never busy, always ready to listen. We remind him of the promises of Jesus.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

We seek forgiveness for ourselves and for the grace to forgive and love others. Granted to us through the blood of Jesus.

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We ask for deliverance from temptation and endurance to overcome the trials and tribulations of living in a sinful world. We pray for healing and for strength.

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

We finish our prayer with praise, worship, and thankfulness, because God always wins. He is faithful and true, His love reigns supremely.

May your prayers be authentic and transforming. May people see Christ revealed in your life. May the proof of your faith be the Christ in you, the Hope of Glory.

God Bless,

Stephan

When God Grows Love…

The moment we respond in anger or hurt, we have dismissed love from our life. True love looks beyond the disagreement and builds a bridge that demonstrates the Christ with you.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)

Two years ago I had the privilege of preaching through the Gospel of Mark in tandem with the senior pastor at the church where I was volunteering. It was a great experience for me. I was always a huge believer in expository preaching; but to actually explain the text verse by verse, was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.  My walk with Christ radically changed during this period. You may find this humorous, but most of the sermons I preached, affected me. It seemed that every sermon preached was at myself. I began to wonder if the passages assigned to me were done out of an intentional purpose. Did the senior pastor see something in my life that needed to be changed? I found out later that it was all the work of the Holy Spirit and the pastor was oblivious to what was happening to me. One of the passages that was life changing for me was Mark 12:28-33.

It has been over three years and that sermon still stirs within me. It convicts, encourages and transforms. This passage teaches us how to love. It gives us understanding of how to accept the love of God and where true love comes from. This may take a few posts to explain, so I plan on keeping each post easy to read. (Yes I am A.D.D. and feel your pain.) The subject of love is important for a number of reasons. Our society has forgotten how to really love one another and how to love God. It has forgotten that God loves us and what that love truly looks like.

Jesus breaks this passage down in two ways, surrendering to God and loving God. In this passage we learn that Jesus is making an absolute statement, that the greatest commandment is to live in total love and to live a completely surrendered life to God.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

For many, Christianity is a list of rules that no one one can live up to. Most people view us as hypocrites. They despise our hypocrisy because they view our moral code as changing in order to meet our own selfishness. This is not supposed to be the case. Some people try to live by a moral code. But even the best moral code fails when there is no love. The scribe was seeking righteousness through moral living. God wants us to seek righteousness through surrendered living.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)

So what does this mean?

Simply put, Jesus is asking us to deny selfishness in any form or behavior, lay your life down for others and follow His example of unconditional love. Think about how contradictory that is to what the world is telling us through social media and Television. Is it loving to be on your phone texting, when you are with someone else? Of course not! We have become so self absorbed as a society that we cannot even see when others are hurting. Self love is being promoted in the absence of genuine compassionate love for others. This is denying otherness. Jesus is calling us to deny oneness, selfishness, pridefulness and our egos. Our world has become so self centered, that anyone who breathes, must conform to the collective mindset or be destroyed. Selflessness allows others to foster opinions different from our selves; yet embrace those individuals with unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated that love to us, by dying for us even though our sins were contradictory to the nature of God.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:8-10‬ ‭NASB)

Recently, after an online Bible study, a young man asked the question, “Am I really saved?” After spending some time asking questions, it became clear that he was living with guilt and shame over his personal struggles with sin. The more we love God with our total being; heart, mind, soul and strength, the more God’s love, grace and forgiveness strengthens our resolve to follow Him in righteousness. We don’t have to worry about if we are saved, if we live in committed love towards God. We do not need to worry about our salvation, if others see the light and love of Christ in us. If our mind is dedicated to His word, and our soul to worshiping God, then our strength is in Jesus. When our heart belongs to Him, then our love will be pure and faultless. This is not earning salvation. This is living in the works of our faith out of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. Our salvation was earned by Jesus, as a free gift for us, but we must have the free will to receive it. The choice we make either brings us life or it leads to death.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the last eight years, the life I desire is to be a disciple of Jesus. I desire to be known by my love and not my anger, selfishness or tone. It is in my love for others that I demonstrate the reality of a fulfilled relationship with Jesus. My love is the proof of my faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬